For most of us, the race season is already over...or never started at all. We might as well get the road or cyclocross bike ready for late autumn and early winter riding with a few quick tweaks.
The top half of the planet is bracing for more rain, more grit, and short days. Depending on where you live, it can start to feel like winter in November, and where we’re at, even earlier. We’re committed to riding outside as long as we can to keep the monotony of winter trainer rides to a minimum, and we like to do just a few things to make our regular road bikes better prepared for bad weather.
For riders, the challenges of winter riding are really down to the cold and the wet. For your bike, soggy roads and the added grit and grime of fall can also wreak havoc. There’s also the safety concern of such short days, especially when most of the United States “falls back” in early November. Here are a few things to get your bike ready.
Rubber Up. Those 200-gram road tires you bought to win the local hill climb? They’re going to get eaten alive. If you have more than one wheelset, it might be time to hang up your racy wheels and tires and swap in something a bit sturdier. This time of year, many riders opt for tires that offer increased puncture resistance to better handle the grit and debris washed onto the roads. The threat of a flat is higher, but so is the challenge of fixing it; cold hands, wet tires and wheels, plus a dusk that seems to rob you of light in a hurry. Opt for wide, puncture-resistant tires and consider packing an extra tub, a patch, and even a pump to make sure you’re not stranded roadside.
Lube Up. All that moisture gets from the road and onto your bike, ultimately settling in every nook and cranny, cable and pulley you can think of. Take time to grease or lube high-friction parts of your bike like the headset, bottom bracket, and any exposed bolts like your seat clamp and bottle boss bolts. This will avoid any rust that could build up due to wet and muddy rides, especially if your bike has a tendency to get put away wet.
It’s also a good time to really clean up your chain. Using a degreaser, get your chain as clean as you can and then reapply a ‘wet weather’ lube or even a wax to keep water at bay and improve the life of your drivetrain.
Fender Up. Fenders, or mud guards, are a great way to keep riding without being completely soaked and sprayed on wet roads. If your bike has bolts for mounting fenders, simply find a set that comfortably fit and clear your chosen tire width. If your bike is a bit more racy, it may not have the normal eyelets for a rack. If that’s the case, there are a number of clamp-on options that will attach to specific points on your bike’s frame. These tend to be slightly more likely to rattle or shift during a ride, but they still work really well. Fenders can reduce the amount of spray that get to your bike’s frame and components, plus they’ll also make you extremely popular on any small group rides; your spray won’t shower everyone else in the bunch!
Shine Up. While it’s simply the law to ride with a red taillight and white headlight, you can do a little more to help stay visible. Using 3M reflective tape, cut small 1” strips of the tape and put them on key points of your bike to help motorists spot you at dawn, dusk, or in the dark. We tend to put these strips at 2-3 points on seat stays, and 1-2 more on the upper part of each fork leg. It may also be smart to add a small strip or two on each side of the top tube for more coverage.
You can also add small strips of reflective fabric to your favorite riding jacket, gloves, or bibs. Many manufacturers now have reflective piping or other pieces that offer more visibility.
Pack Up. If your bike is ready, you should be, too. In addition to riding with layers of clothing that will allow you to adapt to changing weather conditions, bring more of, well, everything. On rides in temperatures less than 40, we typically pack
- 1 extra tube
- 1 extra CO2 cartridge
- 1 extra gel, banana, or bar
- 1 extra rain jacket or shell
On rides that may go over three hours, we also bring a small battery pack to recharge phones, just in case there’s a mechanical issue that we can’t fix roadside. It’s only been used one but it was worth having on that day; 42 degrees, rain, and three flats.
Every bit of preparation helps keep cold weather riding fun and keeps you safe, too. Five minutes before a ride is much better than a nightmare cold and wet flat repair or evac that takes a lot longer!