17 Nov 2017


Winter brings new challenges not just for your resolve, but for your hard-working bike too. Here’s how to make it easier, safer and less corrosive for you both!


Even if you’re not riding in the dark, overcast and wet days can make it hard to see. Today’s LED lights are impressively lightweight and bright, and many feature stretchy rubber clamps you can fit and remove in seconds; a no-brainer. A solid white light at the front and a flashing red at the rear is recommended. Multiple lights work well – add some at head height for maximum visual impact. It also pays to wear bright, reflective clothes – never underestimate how little a bad car driver will notice!


The longer they are, the drier you stay and the cleaner your bike remains, although shorter guards are lighter and easier to fit/keep aligned. How much protection you want is up to you, but even the smallest mudguard keeps you drier, warmer and more comfortable. If your frame and forks have the necessary eyelets, fitting is easy – if not, there are plenty of options with clamps, zip ties or even Velcro.


A clean, well-lubed chain is far less likely to squeak, jump the sprockets or snap than a filthy one. For winter, use thicker ‘wet’ lubes, which don’t wash off in the first puddle.

Rain drags moves muck out of the gutters and into your drivetrain so regular cleaning and re-lubing is a must. Clamp-on chain cleaners remove hassle; while a rough sponge and degreaser work almost as well. With the bike firmly in a stand, clamp the sponge around the chain in one hand while spinning the cranks – you’ll soon clear out the gunk. Rinse with water, then re-lube. 


Winter tires with heavier, puncture-resistant casings, softer compounds and reflective sidewalls are a benefit – nobody enjoys fixing punctures in the cold or rain; and their larger contact patches, combined with sticky rubber for grip in low temperatures, improve confidence when cornering and braking.

Lowering pressures broadens the contact patch, and allows more ‘give’ in the sidewalls – increasing what your tire can absorb before being forced up and off the surface. A wheel with no downward pressure can’t grip, and on slippery roads even a momentary loss of traction could start a full-on slide. 

While you might run road tires at 100-120psi (6.8 bar-8.2 bar) in the dry, going as low as 80 (5.5 bar) or 90psi (6.2 bar) can help in the wet. Drag is increased over smooth surfaces, as is confidence and grip – both increase speed.


Keep an eye on brake blocks; they wear more quickly in wet, dirty conditions. Don’t skimp on quality replacements, either – burning through expensive blocks is painful, but not as painful as crashing!

Disc brakes are a brilliant upgrade for winter commuting. Not only are they more powerful (especially in hydraulic form), but their wheel-centered position keeps them away from road dirt and water, making them more consistent and slower-wearing. Quality discs have enough power and feel to work in all conditions with longer-lasting sintered metal pads, and don’t need short-lived resin/organic pads to perform.

Cables, cleaning & M-Check

Cables are easily forgotten yet vital to smooth-running gears and strong brakes. Sticky, draggy and stretched wires make life hard, so check and lubricate what’s there or replace completely.

Finally, for preventative maintenance, cleaning is probably the most important thing – the easiest time is as soon as you finish a ride when everything’s still wet and loose. While a full clean after every ride isn’t always possible, rinsing the drivetrain and wheels with water, scrubbing/lubing the chain, and spraying water-dispersant (such as WD-40 or GT-85) on the mechs is a five-minute job that pays dividends – and remember our advice about the M-Check.