Preparing Your Road Bike For Winter

Our coworker's bike hits all the marks. Saddle bag, metal wheels, beefy tires, and lights. Extra points awarded for a frame pump.
Our coworker’s bike hits all the marks. Saddle bag, metal wheels, beefy tires, and lights. Extra points awarded for a frame pump.

With wet, winter weather hitting most parts of the country earlier than usual this year, it’s high past time for most of us to start thinking about getting our bikes ready for winter. We got a start this past weekend, and are pretty grateful we got our road bikes all set up and ready– just in time for some wet nasty weather.

A few simple changes can make a big difference, and help prevent premature wear and tear on your components. It does take some time, but it’s worth it in the end.

1.Switch Out Your Wheels

Winter is the time to put away your nice carbon or alloy wheels, and opt for something more durable and less costly. Winter weather can be incredibly hard on wheels, especially carbon ones. With wetter weather, more grit gets kicked up on to your bike and wheels, which drastically increases wear on your brake track. This is a problem for alloy wheels, but it can be catastrophic for carbon rims.

The Cheap Fix: When you upgrade your wheels, hang on to the OE wheels that came with your bike, and turn them into your winter wheels.

Or ride disc brakes—in which case you can ride your nice wheels all year, since rim wear isn’t a problem.

The Performance Wheelhouse Mavic Open Pro/Shimano 105 wheelset is an excellent option for winter training
The Performance Wheelhouse Mavic Open Pro/Shimano 105 wheelset is an excellent option for winter training

2. Tires

This should be a no brainer, but if you’re changing your wheels over, you should probably change your tires as well. Some favorites for winter riding are tougher, beefier tires like the Continental Gatorskin or the Vittoria Pave. These tough, hard wearing tires are perfect for putting in long miles, and for resisting flats.

We also always like to run the biggest tires our frame will fit, which gives you extra traction in wet or icy conditions.

The Continental Gatorskin is perfect for winter riding
The Continental Gatorskin is perfect for winter riding

3. Grease It Up

There are five really important areas of the bike to regrease for winter riding.

Your lower headset bearing

Your bottom bracket

Your seatpost (carbon posts will ALWAYS need fiber grip instead of grease, as do alloy posts in carbon frames)

-Your water bottle cage bolts

Your cleat bolts

These are areas of the bike that tend to get really subjected to corrosion in bad weather—especially if they salt the roads around where you live.

Old school wisdom used to be that you should regrease every bolt on your bike before winter, but today that’s not necessarily the case. Thanks to the proliferation of carbon components, you should check with the manufacturer of your seatpost, frame, or handlebars before greasing your seatpost collar or stem bolts. Lubricating grease can mess with the amount of force needed to reach a certain torque value and can lead to over tightening, so it’s worth it to double check whether the torque values are for a dry or greased bolt.

And don’t forget about that chain. During the winter, use a wet lube and use it often.

Greasing your bottom bracket can help protect it from salt and road spray, improving performance and prolonging wear life
Greasing your bearings like your headset and bottom bracket can help protect them from salt and road spray, improving performance and prolonging wear life

4. Repair Supplies

During the winter months, we always roll with a lot more repair supplies. As we said above, winter conditions are hard on bikes, which means part failure could be just a part of life. We opt for a larger saddle bag in winter, and stuff it with:

2 tubes

Patch kit

2 tire boots

Quick connect chainlink

Multitool

Tire levers

-Zip ties

Frame pump or Co2 (we generally only use mini pump as a backup during winter)

Carrying plenty of repair supplies can be a saving grace when flat in cold, wet conditions
Carrying plenty of repair supplies can be a saving grace when you flat in cold, wet conditions

5. Lights

So now that we’re back on standard time, it means it’s getting dark an hour earlier. But even if you leave with plenty of time before sunset, bad weather or cloudy conditions can lead to darker conditions that may well warrant using lights.

During the fall and winter months, we usually roll with a larger 500 lumen light and a really bright tail light in the 1-3 watt range on the bike, plus a set of smaller back up LED lights in our pockets, just in case.

Check out our buyer’s guide on lights to help you find the right ones.

Lights can make a huge difference in visibility not only when it's dark, but when it's cloudy or raining as well
Lights can make a huge difference in visibility not only when it’s dark, but when it’s cloudy or raining as well

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