How to Prepare Your Bike for Winter

Whether or not you need to prepare your bicycle for winter depends entirely on where you live. If you live somewhere like California, Arizona, or Texas, preparing for winter might just mean throwing on a jacket. Lucky you.

For much of the country, colder weather, shorter days, and unpredictable weather are almost upon us. For some, that means locking their summer bike in the shed and switching it out for something more rugged - but for many others, their bicycle needs to survive various seasons.

Cycling in winter can be rough (both on your bike and yourself) and even though winter reliably arrives every year, many cyclists find themselves caught out when December comes and they’ve forgotten to prepare their bicycle.

Here are our top tips to ensure your bike stays in good shape throughout the colder months.

Fit Mudguards

Some cyclists don’t like the look of mudguards, but do you know what’s worse? Having mud or water kicked up into your face and back. Riding wet isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but riding wet and cold in the winter months can sap your motivation for cycling pretty quickly.

But it’s not just about you. Riding without mudguards can also kick up debris onto other cyclists on group rides or, if you’re commuting to work or riding on mixed-use paths, onto pedestrians. It’s pretty much guaranteed to make you the least popular person on the path.

And don’t forget about your bike - water and mud can get into your drivetrain which, if you let it dry, can start to corrode your chain, cassette, chainrings, derailleurs, and brake calipers.

Wipe Your Bike After Riding in Snow

Yes, every time. Some cyclists swear by cleaning their bike after every ride regardless of the season, but if that’s too much for you, you should at least be wiping down your bike after every ride.

Snow, slush, and road salt can all do to your bike in winter what dust does in summer: It gets into nooks and crannies and starts to rust or seize parts. You should be particularly aware of snow and water because in the winter months, the weather isn’t warm enough for them to evaporate before they work their way into parts that are tricky to clean. 

While road salt is important to break up ice on the roads, it can be corrosive to your bike. Along with wiping it down, take a sponge or toothbrush to your drive chain along with other smaller components.  

In short, it saves you a lot of time and effort to give your bike a quick wipe-down after every ride rather than doing a big clean every now and then, because by that point the damage might already be done.

Keep Your Lights On

In most US states, you have to have a white front light with a beam that can extend 500 feet and rear reflectors for visibility. While all cyclists will know to use their light in poor visibility or in the evenings, it can be easy to forget that in winter you may need it during the day too.

Remember, lights aren’t just to illuminate your path. Half of their purpose is to ensure that you’re visible to motorists. In winter, weather conditions can change quickly and sunset might sneak up on you, so a good rule of thumb is to always have a light source with you even if the day starts off bright.

Stay Warm (But Not Hot)

The most important factor for winter cycling is keeping yourself warm. After all, there’s no point in winterizing your bicycle if you’re miserable, cold, and uncomfortable because you’ll likely lose all motivation after the first couple of rides. As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Figuring out how to keep yourself warm (without getting too hot or sweaty) is an art and can only truly be achieved by learning what works best for you. Here are some tips you can try for finding your perfect balance:

  • When it comes to winter cycling, waterproof, windproof, and thermal clothing are your best friends. Thick clothing may be tempting, but you’re likely to find yourself getting sweaty even when the weather is freezing - so breathability is vital.
  • While the old wive’s tale that you lose 30% of your body heat via your head isn’t totally accurate, you do lose a lot of heat from your head. Consider wearing a cycling cap, helmet cover, or aero cover to keep the warmth in.
  • Layer, layer, layer! There’s nothing worse than being stuck in clothes that are too warm. You should also bring a spare jacket along with you, even if you don’t think you’ll need it.
  • Cycling in cold temperatures your eyes water - literally. Wear a pair of glasses (ideally with clear lenses if there isn’t much sun) and a buff to keep your face and eyes from getting icy.

Get Winter Tires

One of the most reliable markers that winter has officially arrived is when you start to see more and more cyclists fixing punctures on the side of the road. Not only are your tires probably a bit worn from summer use, but more debris on the roads increases your chances of getting a puncture.

Although they add a bit of weight, it’s a great idea to get yourself an extra set of heavy-duty winter tires that have good tread. 

If you have a mountain bike with fat tires, winter is the perfect time to make the switch. But if not, it’s probably not worth buying an additional bike just for winter use unless you cycle or commute reliably every winter.

If you do have an additional bike, remember to add it to your Sundays Insurance policy so you can save with our multi-bike discount.