Essential Guide: Prepare your mountain bike for the winter

David Arthur David Arthur

Riding through the winter can be fun. Yes, really, it can.

As the rain falls, the snow settles or the wind goes gale force, it’s all too easy retire to the warm  sanctity of the sofa. But break out into the outdoors and you can be rewarded with one of the best seasons for mountain biking.

It pays to be prepared though. There are many hurdles to getting out there in the winter. In this guide we’re going to try and remove one of the obstacles, by ensuring that your bike is winter proof. With a few changes your bike can be ready for whatever the winter is going to bring. So read on to find out.

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Lights

An obvious one. It gets pretty dark in the winter, and unless you are able to do all your riding during normal work hours, any weekday riding is going to be conducted under the cover of darkness.

Equip yourself with some decent lights, and don’t worry they don’t need to cost a small fortune, and you’ll see that winter night riding is one of the most enjoyable aspects of mountain biking.

As a rough rule, brightness is what really matters with a set of mountain bike lights, how much illumination will be provided. Generally speaking, the more you spend the more light output you’ll get. 150-200 Lumens is ideal for a helmet mounted light while anything in excess of 300 is enough that you can keep a decent pace on trails you know.

Tyres

Your contact with the ground will be the first thing to change, but is perhaps the trickiest to decide on. You’re not short of choices, so first decide what riding you’ll be doing, before spending your money.

Many tyres aim to cover that intermediate period between seasons, and depending on how wet the winter will get, can be used a long way into the season. More heavily spiked tyres will be ideal in thicker mud conditions, but if your trails consist of lots of root-ridden trails, those spikes will be super slippery.

Tyre width too is another area of debate, with some preferring a thinner tyre to cut through the muck and find some firmer ground below, or a wider tyre to float over the mud. Whatever you choose, make sure you take all the factors into consideration.

Chain

Your chain can quickly become the weakest link in your winter riding fun, so spend a little time looking after it and it’ll look after you, in a manner of speak.

Pay special attention when cleaning your bike post-ride, and pay a little attention lubing the chain. A wet lube is out tip for lasting smoothness. Replacing your chain every few months will increase the lifespan of the cassette and chainrings.

Mudguards

Yes, we agree, they’re not the best looking things to attach to your pride and joy. But what price would you put on a dry bum? For the cost of an inexpensive set of mudguards, you can massively increase your enjoyment of riding through the mud. Unless you like getting your arse covered in mud?

Brakes

Check your brake pads every ride before setting out to make sure your pads are in good health. Mud and grit can destroy a set of brake pads in very little time (even in one ride!), and we’d advise carrying an extra pair of pads, especially if venturing out on a long ride.

Cables

The biggest impact on a miserable ride can be shoddy shifting and braking due to mucky cables. Full cable outer from lever to brake’s can prevent water ingress, and sealed units are available to keep shifting and braking smoother for longer. Cables are cheap though can are easily replaced.

Pedals

We’ve had pedals clog with mud, and the mud freeze in the pedals, making clipping in and out an ankle jolting task. So pay regular attention to your clipless pedals, and treat them to a squirt of oil after every ride and wash to keep them working nicely.

Alternatively, flat pedals are a good choice in the winter. They’re never going to clog, and can avoid those crashes that occur when you can’t get out of your pedals.

Bearings

Headset, bottom bracket and wheel bearings will take plenty of abuse from being drenched in water, so regularly check to ensure they’re running smoothly. You might find you’ll have to service, or replace, these bearings more often through the winter, but it’s a small price to pay for a smooth running bike

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