Don’t let the winter blahs keep you from getting out there on your bike. Vince Attree is here to tell you that a little preparation and a little TLC can make a world of difference.
Often neglected parts of your bike can suffer in the harsh weather. This time of year can really rip a bike apart if you’re not diligent in your upkeep. Take a few moments to check everything over and not only will your bike thank you, but it will lead to a smoother ride.
You will need
- Water dispersant (WD40 for instance)
- A sharp pointed thing for picking out gritty bits
- A multi-tool or Allen key set
- One hour, approximately.
The simple stuff
When it rains, crud like glass and other sharp nasties stick to your tyre and threaten to puncture. But you can catch them before they do with a regular check of your rubber. Spin slowly and look for little cuts. Take a sharp pick and flick out the foreigners before they dig deeper. Too many cuts to count? Time to change your tyre. It’s only a short period of time before you will be getting repetitive punctures. If you really want to keep yourself out of trouble, buy “puncture proof” tyres from any number of manufacturers. These have in-built tyre liner material.
Chain and cables
Keep everything lubed for smooth running. Chain, cables, brake and derailleur pivots should be cleaned and freshly lubed regularly. This keeps winter grit from entering and causing wear. Choose a good quality lube, either “wet” or “dry”, and stick to the program. Resist temptation to splash on excess lubricant or it will just become a greasy mess. Less is more. Here’s how to test, clean and lube your chain.
Cables are lubed by carefully dribbling lube along the cable inside the casing. Look for spots where you can release the cable care from the frame stops to produce slack to aid the process. If you really get out in the wet stuff, consider running full length outer casings to cover the exposed cable as much as possible.
The big stuff
Giving your bike a really thorough clean going into winter isn’t a bad idea. Scrub off all the grit, grease and energy-drink residue to reveal a clean frame and wheels. Take a moment while it’s clean to inspect for any damage. Frames shouldn’t have any cracks or dents, and rims should be straight with lots of material on the braking surfaces. Check the tension on spokes, and spin the wheels to feel for roughness in bearings.
Once clean, you can help keep it that way by placing a barrier on it to shield it against winter’s worst. A quick coat of polish will set up a layer so the next time you clean it, muck will just wipe off. A spray of WD40 or the like onto a rag and a wipe down of componentry will do the same for cranks, derailleurs and brakes.
Does it go without saying to avoid braking surfaces and tyres when applying polish?
If you suspect water is in your frame, you can try to get it out by removing the seat post and turning the bike upside down at different angles. Allowing it to breathe (yes, like wine) will allow condensation to escape. Good quality steel frames should undergo an internal weatherproofing once a year. This is best done by a shop, with a specialty product applied to the inside of tubes.
You can seal the frame somewhat by putting a “boot” over the seat post and frame junction. You can buy these, but people have used everything from old tubes to heat shrink material available from electronic suppliers. This is going to extremes in a sense, but if you do ride a lot in the wet, it can help.
The little stuff
Cast your eye over the bolts on your bike. Check with an Allen key that everything is tight. If bolts are badly corroded, replace them with new ones. Surface corrosion on bolts is only cosmetic. You can pull all the bolts out and give them a clean and light coating of lube or bearing grease as well, if you have the time.
Another option is to replace bolts that hold accessories like racks, water bottle cages and mudguards with stainless steel. These bolts are available from shops (or bolt stores) and not only look really good, but won’t rust out in the wet. This is a great if your bike is left out in the elements regularly.
The bright stuff
Yes, another reminder that lights are not only important and necessary, but also need regular checking. If your batteries are half run down and light is fading, replace them. Batteries are cheap, your health is not. If your lights need replacing, here are Ride On’s recommendations.
Add a secondary light to your set-up. Then failing batteries won’t render you invisible on the ride home.
While you’re at it, make sure the clamps are tight and keeping the light facing squarely at the traffic, not down at the ground. If the clamps are broken, don’t attempt to tape the lights back on. It’s dangerous and silly, and again, lights are cheap… Replacement clamps are tricky to acquire unless they are a major brand, so don’t get upset if you’re local bike shop cannot get them.
The other stuff
Saddles can cop it hard in the winter. If you ride on a leather saddle you can decide to weather the storm or dry dock it until spring. “Brooks” style leather saddles really suffer, and they can be covered with a waterproof shell. Synthetic coverings can hold out better and are good if bikes are left out in the conditions.
Grips and tape
A sure way for a ride to end in disaster is to ride with torn or worn grips and tape. Handlebars are slippery when wet, and grips will turn or slip. Replacing them now and then not only mitigates this risk but is more comfortable. The same goes for tape, although you can save it sometimes by unwrapping and resetting the position. Here’s how.
Make sure your pedals have good contact points if you ride flats, and that clipless pedals engage and release cleats easily. A little silicone spray on clipless pedals works wonders in the winter.
Forget what people say, mudguards are cool. What is not cool is a strip of rather dark matter running up the back of your work clothes on rainy days.If you want to be prepared in all conditions, don’t skimp on mudguards. Buy the best quality, full length guards you can afford, and bolt them on.
Full guards can be tricky to mount on road bikes, but a couple of brands, such as Crud, have products designed especially for this purpose.
Let’s face it, a couple of winter clothing items won’t hurt. A storm shell is crucial and can be very lightweight and inexpensive. Warm gloves? Easy. Shoe covers? Nice touch. Keep your apparel flexible and versatile. Leg and arm warmers can be more effective and cheaper than buying full leggings and a long sleeve jersey. Remember to enjoy the cool weather while you can.
Ride On has recommendations for many of these items, if you’re looking to replace.
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