Autumn and winter riding can be hard on your bike – gravel and dirt is often flicked up into the moving components, causing wear and corrosion if you aren’t careful.
However, there is plenty you can do to keep your trusty steed in good working order, and none of these jobs are particularly time consuming or costly.
1) Clean and lube your drivetrain after every ride
Wet weather riding means your bike picks up more dirt, so the simple way to address that is to clean it.
After every ride, hold an old rag against your chain, and run the pedal backwards, dragging the chain through your grasp and pulling of the worst of the dirt. If it’s been a particularly grimy ride, use some degreaser, or even better, a chain cleaner to get your metal shiny as new.
It is also worth wiping around the frame, paying special attention to the area around the bottom bracket, brakes, chain stays and cassette – as dirt tends to accumulate here. A regular wipe is much easier than a full deep clean when the crud has set in.
Once the chain is clean, and you’ve wiped the frame, you can apply some lube. Use ‘wet lube’ in wet conditions, and ‘dry lube’ the rest of the time. It is important that you complete the cleaning first, as adding lube to a dirty chain will only grease up the grit, and allow it to corrode the chain even more quickly.
You only need a very thin layer of lube, and should apply it on the inside of the chain, this avoids the sticky lube picking up everything on the roads minutes into your next outing.
2) Watch your brake pads and rims
If you’re lucky enough to have disc brakes, you simply need to keep an eye on the brake pads, as you would throughout the rest of the year.
If you’ve got brakes that meet with the wheel rim to bring you to a stop – v-brakes, calliper or cantilever brakes, unfortunately they will be slightly less effective in the wet. You need to ensure the brake pads have a good amount of rubber on them – you can see if they are wearing thin as they usually have an indicator line. Ensuring your pads are fairly new and keeping the brake cables relatively tight will ensure you have good stopping power.
Rim brakes can be compromised if grit or dirt gets stuck on the brake pad or the rim – this can slow your stopping, and dirt can also cause wear on the wheel rim. To avoid this, wipe both surfaces after every ride, and keep the rims clean, as this will improve braking power and longevity of your wheels.
3) Invest in mudguards
A set of mudguards will serve two purposes: protecting your frame, drivetrain, brakes and everything else from becoming clogged up with dirt kicked up from the road, and preventing your bottom getting wet and muddy from that same dirt.
If your bike has mudguard mounts, you can attach full guards to the front and rear wheel, these offer the very best protection. If not, there are various options which offer different levels of protection, right down to the tiny ‘Ass Saver’ (www.ass-savers.com) a thin piece of plastic that will keep the very worst off your bike, whilst being incredibly light and easy to remove.
4) Choose the right tyres
Appropriate tyres for wet and cold weather riding are an essential ingredient – you want tyres that are puncture resistant, and grippy.
Don’t just look for tyres with a thick tread and lots of ‘grip’ marks – these don’t necessarily improve grip at all. Instead, look for tyres that use a dual compound – this means supple and comfortable to ride soft compound is mixed with tough compound to ensure you get an enjoyable ride and puncture protection.
Quality winter ready tyres will have a Vectran or Kevlar puncture proofing belt, too. Including this makes for a more weighty tyre that gels with the road less, meaning rough surfaces are more noticeable – but it also means you’ll spend less time beside the road.
The final ingredient to a good winter tyre is an appropriate TPI (thread per inch) on the outer casing, which is made of material and often nylon. Sub 100 TPI makes for a tough, hardwearing winter tyre, over 100 TPI tyres are much more likely to be comfortable to ride, and supple – but they’ll be more likely to go flat unless particular care and attention has gone into developing the puncture proof layer.
Over winter, it’s a good idea to swap skinny 23mm road tyres for 25mm, or 28mm if you ride a hybrid, cyclocross bike or a relaxed sportive geometry bike with enough clearance to accommodate them. You can also reduce the tyre pressure by around 10 PSI – and making both these changes will provide you with a wider contact patch, giving you more grip.
Riding through autumn and winter is a great way to keep your immune system healthy over the cold and flu months, and it’s just as time efficient and inexpensive as it is over summer – these small changes will keep rolling 12 months of the year, safe and worry free.
Photo Credits:Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, rosipaw