Bike Maintenance for Winter Riding

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Despite the unseasonably pleasant autumn we had, real-honest-to-goodness winter is now upon us. In addition to the different wardrobe now required for your favorite outdoor activities, nature’s change in mood also requires a change in habits when it comes to gear-upkeep.

Nothing beats a comprehensive overhaul by a professional bike mechanic—however, there are lots of bike maintenance steps you can do at home that will ensure your spring visit to the shop isn’t met with a look of horror from your local mechanic. All of the suggested fixes are easy, inexpensive and can be done in your home with the appropriate allen keys and grease.

Safety First

Winter riding means more safety concerns than summer spins; the roads are slicker and the light is dimmer. Double check the batteries in your lights and replace them regularly. Coin cell batteries have the annoying habit of dimming until death instead of just no longer turning on one day. There’s nothing worse than having your lights go out completely, 30 mins from home, in the dark, with flurries and a 15 mph headwind.

Similarly, check your brake pads on the regular. Regardless if you’re riding rim or disc, road salt does a number on this component. If you hear anything resembling a metallic ‘rattling’ on your discs, or the pads are close to or below the wear line on rims, swap them out immediately. Not only will you have much better braking power, but you’ll also save tons of wear (and destruction) to your wheelset.

Seal Up That Frame

Lots of frames have ‘modification’ options that you may or may not be using in your current setup. Have fender or rack mounts, but no fender or rack? Running electronic, but have cable openings for mechanical? Have bottle cage mounts, but no cages? You will want to seal up any potential opening from which water or salt could seep into the body of your frame. If the openings are threaded, just find appropriately sized bolts to pop in place. If it’s a matter of cable openings that aren’t being used, either find the plugs/grommets that will fit your frame or simply electrical tape them closed.

Lube and Grease Everything

Let’s start with the top: your seatpost. Seized seatposts are frustrating, expensive, and can potentially even ruin your entire frame. Luckily, they’re easily avoided! Remove the seatpost, clean it, and then use a waterproof grease (or if it’s carbon on carbon, an anti-slip grip compound). Do this at least three times—once at the beginning of winter, once in February, and again in the spring—and you’ll avoid this problem for life.

Next, lube and clean your chain on a weekly basis (if not more often, depending on your riding conditions and degree of road filth). If you see any tinge of orangey-rust appear, lube it some more.

Finally, clean those cleats and grease those bolts! This part of your bike has the most contact with the salty winter streets; if you neglect this upkeep, your cleats will be seized in your shoe or boot for life. There’s really no need to risk stripping the bolt, or breaking off a drill bit in your shoe as you attempt to dremel your seized bolts out of the cleat plate, and ruining a perfectly good pair of kit as a result. Adopt this as your new mantra: ‘Clean and grease, clean and grease.’

And remember: salt is your enemy, and if your bike is steel, it will rot it from the inside out. Even if your bike is carbon, it will destroy and corrode your components. Be sure to rinse off your bike with some warm sudsy water every week or two.

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