Get the best from your winter riding and make sure that your bike survives with these essential tips to prepare your road bike for wet and salty roads.
When the winds turn to chilly northerlies and darkness overpowers daylight, you know it won’t be long until the arrival of more rain, possibly snow, and the colder temperatures that inevitably bring out the gritting lorries.
This is the time to make your bike winter-proof, so we’ve gathered tried and true methods, with an old-timer trick or two and a few more obvious procedures.
For those of you prepared to go the extra mile in order to protect your bike, performing all of these steps can significantly prolong its life, but even adopting just one or two will help your enjoyment and safety.
Most of these steps should be within reach of the confident home mechanic, and the tools required are pretty straightforward. However, if you’re in doubt about anything, an experienced shop mechanic can work wonders with a seized bottom bracket or really close-fitting mudguards. Bring on the winter!
Six ways to get your road bike ready for winter
- Bottom bracket removal tool
- For fasteners and other components: 3, 4, 5, 6mm Allen keys and/or 8, 9 and 10mm standard spanners
- Phillips or flat screwdriver
Frame Saver or similar
First, remove the cranks, bottom bracket and wheels. Get a can of Frame Saver, and spray it inside the frame. Neil Godwin / Immediate Media Ltd
Steel and even aluminium frames can corrode from the inside out, and oxidation can spread from scratched braze-ons and eyelets.
One useful product that is worth having in your arsenal is Frame Saver. Available in a small can with a pipette, you can treat approximately two frames with a can.
Be sure to read the instructions and, in particular, make sure to wear protective eyewear in case it blows back at you when spraying. This is nasty stuff!
To make access and handling of the frame easier remove the cranks, bottom bracket (BB) and wheels. You can then dribble or spray the ﬂuid into the tubes.
Following this, plug the BB and seat tube with rags or paper. Now gently move the bike around to coat the inside evenly. Allow it to settle and then wipe off excess.
This isn’t an issue on carbon frames, though alloy frame parts can still corrode. We recommend popping the crank and bottom bracket out periodically to make sure no water is collecting in the bottom of the frame.
Second, fit mudguards. They’ll prolong the life of your bike, components and clothing. Neil Godwin / Immediate Media Ltd
Mudguards are probably the most important winter accessory. They’ll prolong the life of your bike, components, and in particular your chain, not to mention improve your comfort.
Don’t forget mudﬂaps. These simple devices can help keep your feet a lot drier, and are useful as a courtesy to riders behind you, especially on group rides.
Some attach simply by means of two bendy tabs, others require the drilling of a hole and installation with a screw and nut.
Next, take steps to prevent punctures. Neil Godwin / Immediate Media Ltd
Getting a ﬂat on the way home during a cold, dark and rainy night is no fun.
The onset of winter brings thorny hedge clippings and sharp road grit too, making some kind of puncture protection essential.
Swap lightweight summer tyres in favour of hardier winter rubber and, if you have the right wheelset, you could even consider upgrading to tubeless.
When replacing tyres, remove wheels, tyres and old tubes. Inspect your rim strips for wear and make sure they adequately cover the spoke holes. Inspect your tyres for thorns or glass if you plan to reuse them.
Seal those cables with new end caps to keep out the muck. Neil Godwin / Immediate Media Ltd
Cable wipers and seals are a simple way of keeping your shifting smooth and slick regardless of the weather. Most modern groupsets and bikes ship with these as standard but are a worthwhile upgrade if you don’t have them already.
Make sure that the end caps match the diameter of your outer cables. Snip off the end cap and loosen the anchor bolt holding the cable. Withdraw it from the mech and slide off the outer in question.
Replace your standard end caps with the new ones, and slide the rubber wiper onto the cable ﬁrst before threading it back into the outer with the help of a few drops of oil. Anchor and adjust.
There’s more than a good chance that you might need to replace your cables at this point because they’ll have been damaged by the anchor bolts and could be frayed, so give them a good inspection. If they do need replacing, choose cables that will withstand wintry weather.
Add reflective aids
Fit some reflectors – most bike shops will sell their spare ones to you at a knock-down price. Neil Godwin / Immediate Media Ltd
This bit of advice might be unpopular with some, but when winter hits, so does early nightfall, and this simple step will make a massive difference to your visibility.
Dig out those old reﬂectors if you still have them. If you don’t, some shops are only too happy to sell on old ones, but expect to pay at least a little something for them.
Pedal reﬂectors are particularly visible, and reflective stickers make a good alternative if you want to preserve the clean lines of your bike. Install them on seatstays, fork blades, on rims between spokes, and even helmets and rucksacks.
Lights work, but there’s no harm in going the extra mile.
Apply car wax
Finally, apply car wax or silicone spray to the frame to help mud slide off – but keep it away from disc brake rotors. Neil Godwin / Immediate Media Ltd
Old fashioned but effective: apply a generous layer of car wax to the entire bike, especially under the down tube and in the bottom bracket area. You can also treat components, even spokes. Harmful grime, grit and dirt are prevented from gaining a solid foothold thanks to the super slippery surface created by the wax.
Make sure the bike is clean ﬁrst, then simply spread the paste or liquid with a cloth, allow to dry to a haze, and wipe off. Repeat, then buff to a high polish.
You can also use some of the spray-on after-wash coatings based on light oils or silicone that are currently available; these involve a bit less work but might require more frequent cleaning and re-application. Avoid braking surfaces!
Do you have any other tips for getting your bike ready for winter? Or will you be stuck steadfastly on Zwift till the spring? Let us know below!