15 ways to winterproof your mountain bike

Preventative maintenance for your pride and joy

Winter weather shouldn't be any reason to stop riding, but it is important to be aware of how tough these conditions can be on your bike and kit. Thankfully, a few simple and inexpensive precautions can prevent the mud, grit and moisture of winter from taking its toll on your pride and joy.

Follow our simple guide to get your bike ready for the toughest trail conditions – by doing so you could save yourself a whole lot of trouble later on.

You'll require

  • Time: One hour
  • Difficulty rating: Medium
  • Tools: Anti-seize; pedal wrench / 6mm or 8mm Allen key; 4 and 5mm Allen keys; P-handled Torx T25 key; carbon assembly paste; electrical tape

1. Removing pedals

Step 1: remove pedals
Step 1: remove pedals

Many pedals use a 15mm pedal spanner for removal, but there is an increasing trend for Allen key recesses to be used on the pedal axle. If the latter applies to your pedals, a long 6mm or 8mm Allen key makes removal easy. Whichever system your pedals use, the removal process is identical. Whichever pedal you are working on, undo towards the rear wheel – the left pedal has a reverse thread.

2. Check and go

Step 2: check and clean threads
Step 2: check and clean threads

Once the pedals are removed from the cranks, give the threads on the crank arm and the pedal axle a wipe with a lint-free rag. Check for visible signs of damage to the threads that may cause problems when you re-install. Apply a layer of anti-seize to the pedal and crank arm threads. Most manufacturers label pedals ‘left’ or ‘right’ to help prevent confusion as to which one goes where. When you’re refitting, tighten towards the front wheel.

3. Cleat condition

Step 3: check cleat condition
Step 3: check cleat condition

Those of us who ride clipped in will know that cleats take lots of abuse, which goes unnoticed and can cause real headaches if they get stuck in place. To remove them, use an Allen key (usually a 4mm) and undo the bolts anti-clockwise. If the cleats are drastically worn then removal can be trickier – in some cases having to resort to cutting or even drilling the cleats off the shoes. This can damage the sole so avoid letting it get to this stage by periodically checking their condition.

4. Refit or replace

Step 4: refit or replace cleats
Step 4: refit or replace cleats

Once you remove your cleats, wipe the threads with a lint-free rag and put anti-seize on the cleat bolts and the threads in the shoe plate. Shoes usually have four bolt holes in the sole plate for a range of adjustment, and despite only using two, it’s worthwhile to anti-seize all four. This can prevent unwanted water making its way into your shoes. If your cleats took a lot of work to remove, then fitting a new set may be a wise move.

5. Seatpost care

Step 5: look after your seatpost
Step 5: look after your seatpost

Dirt has an innate ability to get into areas where you don’t want it. Your seat tube can often fill up with mud, grit and water which, when combined, can hold your seatpost firmly in place. This can cause cosmetic damage when you adjust saddle height, and in extreme cases the seatpin can become stuck in place. This is not a good scenario to be in, so every so often remove your seatpost from the bike. Remember: prevention is the cure. 

6. Get the grime off

Step 6: remove grime
Step 6: remove grime

Once your seatpost is out of the bike, wipe as much of the grease, mud, grit and general grime off it as possible, and the same goes for the inside of the seat tube. Apply a layer of anti-seize to the rim of the seat tube and to the lower section of the seatpost. If you have a carbon seatpost or frame, then don’t be tempted to use grease or anti-seize on it; instead, use carbon assembly paste that is specifically designed for this application.

7. Remove skewers / thru-axles

Step 7: remove axles
Step 7: remove axles

The axles of your bike perform a vital role in its function yet plenty of people leave theirs untouched for months on end. If you've got a quick-release axle then start by pulling it away from the spokes, just as you do when removing your wheels for punctures. Hold one end in place while turning the other end of the skewer anti-clockwise. Eventually the non-levered end will unscrew all the way off. Be careful not to lose the springs that sit at either end of the skewer, though. For thru-axles, different designs remove in different ways but most will simply unthread once the cam at the end of the axle is opened.

8. Stopping things from seizing

Step 8: stop things seizing
Step 8: stop things seizing

Once the skewer/thru-axle has been removed from the wheel, wipe it clean with a rag and apply a fresh coat of anti-seize to the main body. Put a blob on the threaded end of the axle, as this will get spread down the shaft when the skewer passes through the axle and will prevent the threads seizing in place. If you do drop the springs of a quick release axle then remember they fit with the wider section facing outwards from the centre of the skewer.

9. Rotor bolt condition

Step 9: check rotor bolt condition
Step 9: check rotor bolt condition

With your wheels out of the bike you've now got the perfect opportunity to check the condition of your disc rotor bolts. If your bike has a six-bolt rotor then use a Torx T25 or appropriate size Allen key to undo the bolts. Once they are out, apply some Locktite to the threads and refit. If it’s a Centerlock rotor, use a cassette removal tool to undo the lockring and apply anti-seize to the splines before refitting, avoiding getting any on the rotor itself.

10. Lubricate those nipples

Step 10: spoke/nipple lubrication
Step 10: spoke/nipple lubrication

Wheels get submerged in puddles and mud, so it’s no surprise when a nipple gets stuck in place. Before riding through the winter, take some chain lube and drop a small amount onto the spoke, just above the nipple head. This will run down, coating the spoke threads and helping preventing them from fusing with the nipple. Leave it to soak for a while then wipe off the excess so as not to attract dirt.

11. Chainring bolts

Step 11: chainring bolts
Step 11: chainring bolts

Drivetrain wear is a given consequence of riding bicycles, and at some point you will need to replace a chainring. Wear rates increase during winter, so to remove your chainring bolts you will need a 5mm Allen key/Torx key and a peg spanner. The peg spanner sits holding the rear of the bolt still when you try to undo it from the front. With the spanner in place, turn the bolt anti-clockwise so that the two parts separate.

12. Careful installation

Step 12: reinstall carefully
Step 12: reinstall carefully

Once a bolt has been removed, clean and anti-seize it ready to reinstall. Removing all the bolts allows you to wipe the chainrings clean of excess dirt that’s built up. When you re-install chainrings, ensure they are mounted the right way round. The text referring to its size is stamped on the inside of each ring. On the outer chainring there is a peg sticking out, which should sit under the crank arm.

13. Prep your frame

Step 13: prep your frame
Step 13: prep your frame

Before installing mudguards, protect your frame from the abrasive effects of winter. Dirt can and will get everywhere, especially between frame tubes and gear/ brake cable housing contact points. Head tubes are a particular area to protect. You can use clear adhesive patches or neatly-cut gaffer tape. Although gaffer tape is waterproof, you may find it eventually wears through.

14. Be guarded

Mudguards will protect you and your bike from the worst of winter:
Mudguards will protect you and your bike from the worst of winter:

Some might frown at it – normally for aesthetic reasons – but fitting mudguards/fenders to your bike can help to ensure you and your bike stay cleaner in the worst conditions. Not sure on what 'guards to get? Here are six of the best on sale.

15. Keep things clean

Try and clean your bike properly before you put it away:
Try and clean your bike properly before you put it away:

Some of the best preventative maintenance comes from the moment you end your ride. Try and leave yourself enough time to wash your bike at the end of each ride, and if that's not possible then at least be sure to lubricate the drivetrain and remove any excess muck or water before you store it.

Related: How to clean your bike quickly

Further tips

  • Remove cable ties from your fork stanchions because dirt can build up underneath and cause wear. Zip-ties are a great way to measure sag when setting up forks, but remove them straight after it’s done. The scratches and gouges they cause are not good and a zip-tie is a whole lot cheaper to replace than your fork stanchion.
  • When installing carbon parts, use carbon assembly compounds to help stop your bars or seatpost slipping. Don’t be tempted to use regular anti-seize or grease.
  • Wet weather riding can result in water seeping through the eyelets of your wheel rims. This adds excess weight, perishes rim tape, can seize nipples in place and makes puncture repairs a real mess. Next time you puncture, take the opportunity to wipe any excess moisture out from inside the tyres and rim tape.
This article was published by BikeRadar, the world's leading source of bike reviews, gear reviews, riding advice and route information
  • Discipline: Road, Mountain, Urban, Womens
  • Location: UK, USA, Australia

Related Articles

Back to top