Riding though the winter
Riding through the winter is different, its not so much about the speed of the summer rides its about getting out there when the rest to the world if tucked in with the heating on high. Trust me you’ll feel better and you’ll start the next season in better condition.
Ideally you’ll have a winter bike, cyclists collect bikes anyway right? It doesn’t need to be anything special and when the better weather comes you’ll feel the benefit of switching back to your best bike. Sure you can buy specific winter bikes from the likes of Ribble and Dolan but in reality any bike can be set up to suit the winter conditions.
Winter road conditions are hard on components particularly the brakes and the transmission so start the winter with them in tip-top condition, new pads are a cheap upgrade and give the cables (brake & gear) a check and replace if there is any sign of corrosion or fraying.
Tyres choice makes a difference if you normally run 23mm tyres in the summer try switching to 25 or 28mm, the extra width gives a bit more protection from the poor road surface and reduces the chances of punctures. Models like Continental Gator Hardshell and Schwalbe Durano Plus offer better puncture protection and tougher sidewalls to resist cuts you seem to pick up in the winter.
Mudguards are pretty much compulsory unless you enjoy spending hours with a wet bum and your riding mates complaining about the spray. If your bike has the clearance and eyelets for mudguards go for conventional fitted guards they give the best protection and are quick to remove come the better weather. The Rolls Royce of mudguards are SKS which I’d recommend, they fit, stay put and keep the spray to a minimum which is pretty much all you need from a mudguard. Allow an hour or so and a couple of cups of tea to get them fitted though but once fitted that’s it.
If you haven’t got eyelets or your bike has very close clearances around the brakes then you have to accept a compromise, clip on guards don’t have the complete coverage of the fitted ones though they are getting better. Options available are Crud Road Racer and SKS Raceblades
If this reminds you of being prepared and the boy scouts its intentional. Your trying to reduce the chance of a mechanical whilst you are out on the road as its amazing how long it takes to change a inner tube when your hands are numb or how cold you get watching one of your friends thumble to adjust gears. Also pack your lights with the limited amount of day light in the winter a small issue could mean you are still riding come dusk.
When you are back from your ride you’ll need to give the bike a little tlc before you head back in to the warm. Dry the chain and dispel the water with something like WD40 or GT85, remember they are not lubricants but we’ll come back to that. Check the tyres for cuts and anything embedded, best to find the problem now than on the next ride. Put a little oil on the pivots of the derailleurs, brakes and clipless pedals. Then return to the chain, wipe off the excess WD40 and apply a little chain oil to the pivots of each link, remember you are trying to get the oil inside the chain not cover everything in oil. Too much oil acts as magnet for dirt and grit which just grinds the transmission components down even quicker.
So with a little prep you can ride through all but the worst the winter can through at you. Some of the best rides I’ve experienced have been in the winter when its cold but dry the sky is clear and you have the roads to yourself plus the coffee and cake tastes better when you’ve had to work for it!