Winter’s looming, so it’s important to make sure your bike is ready to tackle the cold, wet weather. The winter season can be tough on your bike, and you’re likely to return from a ride soggy and with your bike covered in mud. Add in ice and snow, and not only will the roads be more dangerous, your bike will take more of a pounding too. This can lead to expensive repairs if you don’t take the proper precautions.
With winter comes shorter days, so it’s essential you remain visible to other road users when riding in the dark too. With all this in mind, we’ve put together our top tips to get your bike winter-ready to help you stay safe on the road.
How do I prepare my bike for winter?
A winter bike should make riding a little more comfortable. It should be your faithful companion through cold and wet rides, and with the salt, mud and grit on the roads, your bike will likely take a beating compared to riding in the summer months. You need something solid and reliable. But you don’t necessarily need to rush out and buy a whole new bike before winter hits. Fortunately, there are some low-cost tweaks and modifications you can make to ensure you’re all set to take on the elements.
Replace your brake pads
Your brakes will be working harder in winter to cope with rain, ice, and maybe even snow. Stopping distances will be much longer, so your brake pads will need some attention in order to ride safely. The combination of wet and dirt can quickly wear rim brakes down. And although disc brakes cope a little better in winter conditions as they’re further from the road and less susceptible to muck, wear here can increase in the winter too. So before you go out riding on a cold and wet day, take a look at your brake pads to see if they’re worn or have debris embedded in them. If either is the case, it’s a good idea to replace them to increase your stopping power.
Not sure which brake pads or other spare parts are compatible with your bike? Ask our Chatbot!
Fit some mudguards
A set of mudguards are a must for riding in wet weather. And in fact, some cycling clubs will not let you ride without them after October. Dirt and muck seems to be able to find its way into all parts of your bike, especially the drivetrain and headset. And muddy water can strip the lube from your chain, causing it to rust. But mudguards not only protect your bike from mud and dirty water, they’ll keep you drier and more comfortable too. And if you’re riding with others, mudflaps at the end of the mudguards will also help reduce wheelspray.
The Raceblade Pro XL Road Cycling Mudguard Set is ideal for 28” wheels and tyres up to 32mm, offering excellent protection and great stability. They’re quick and easy to fit (without tools), and they’re super lightweight too at only 365g, so they won’t affect the handling of your bike.
Not all mudguards will work with all bikes, so you’ll need to consider the type of bike you have and also the kind of terrain you’ll be riding on. Then think about where you want your mudguards to sit, or more simply, which bit of you you’d like them to protect. How to Choose Your Bike Mudguard?
Upgrade your tyres
Roads are often much more slippery in winter, so you’ll need to make sure your tyres are up to the job. It’s a good idea to upgrade your tyres with some that are wider and more grippy, like the Mud 5 Mountain Bike Tyre which has been specifically designed for muddy terrain by our in-house cycling brand B’Twin. With tall, well-spaced lugs to prevent clogging, this tyre is also puncture-resistant to ensure a comfortable and hassle-free ride. And the price is good too!
Heading out for a ride? Before you set off, make sure you've got the perfect tyres. Find out how to choose the right ones with Your Buyer's Guide to Tyres. Though it’s worth pointing out that most tyre brands don't actually offer a dedicated winter tyre these days. Instead, look for terms like ‘‘all-season” or “all-conditions” to indicate their suitability for use in all weathers and conditions.
Ride with lights
With shorter days, it’s a legal requirement to fit bike lights when going out cycling in winter (if cycling on a public road between sunset and sunrise). Even if you’re not planning on riding in the dark, bad weather will also limit drivers’ ability to see you. Clothing with reflective elements built in is sensible too to increase your visibility.
It’s worth familiarising yourself with the UK’s Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR) in order to stay safe and avoid getting yourself in trouble with the law. But when it comes to lights, you must have a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the rear. There’s also a legal requirement to have a red reflector on the rear of your bike and amber reflectors on your pedals. The law also states that the lights mounted to your bike must not be higher than 1,500mm from the ground.
Read our guide on How to Choose Your Bike Lights for everything you need to know to keep yourself and others safe when cycling in winter.
Keep it clean
Riding a bike in winter can often be dirty business, so it’s important to clean it regularly. Keeping your bike clean helps prevent corrosion from salt on the road, so give your bike a quick hose down after each wet ride.
For a proper clean, it’s a good idea to use specialist bike cleaning products, which will be more effective against grime and are formulated to avoid damage to parts. You’ll need to keep your chain and gears in check too because the combination of dirt and lubricant can form an abrasive paste. Using a chain cleaning tool and degreaser regularly will help you get the muck off your drivetrain. Then just wipe the chain clean and relube.
This chain cleaning tool is composed of two compartments, four rotating brushes, and a removable handle to eliminate all dirt from your chain and keep it in tip-top condition.
Bike protector sprays can also help to repel water and keep your frame and components cleaner for longer. Take a look at our full guide to cleaning your bike.
Swap your lubricant
Your bike’s drivetrain will suffer more in winter, so you’ll need to swap the lubricant you use to keep your bike running smoothly. A lightweight dry lube is fine for the summer months, but you’ll need a wet lube, or an all-weather bike lubricant for winter riding. It should have more staying power and won’t wash off so easily in the rain. Just beware, a thicker lube is more likely to attract dirt and muck, so you’ll need to make sure you clean your bike chain regularly.
As well as the chain, you’ll also need to ensure you lubricate your: headset, hubs, bottom bracket, freewheel, rim brake pivots, and pedal axles and releases. It’s also easy for water to seep into the top of your seat tube which can lead to corrosion. So, unscrew the bolt, pull out the post and give it a good clean, before applying grease to ensure it doesn’t freeze in place.
Carry the right tools
Punctures are more likely to occur when cycling in winter. Rain washes debris onto the side of roads, ready to work its way into your tyres. It’s useful to know the basics of bike maintenance and to carry a few essential tools with you on your rides so you don’t get caught out. And ensure you always have an emergency puncture repair kit on long bike journeys, especially if you're riding solo. On the road or at home, puncture repair kits provide peace of mind and a fuss-free solution to fixing deflated tyres.
Snapping a chain, or having your crank arm fall off mid-ride can also be very frustrating. But fortunately, you can do a lot of your own bike maintenance quickly and cheaply if you have the right tools. The Mini Tool 10 Bike Multi-Tool is very compact and lightweight, and is the perfect tool to help with quick repairs. It includes 10 essential tools, and is small enough to fit in your pocket.
It’s also a good idea to get yourself a waterproof saddle bag to carry your tools and any other essentials around in. From handlebar bags to pannier rack shopping bags, Decathlon has something for everyone.
Get it serviced
And finally, prevention is better than cure—as they say—so it pays to get your bike serviced regularly. There’s a lot you can do yourself to keep your bike running smoothly, while other jobs may require specialist tools and expertise.
Decathlon’s trusted workshop experts are ready to help fine-tune your equipment for a smoother experience. You can have your bike pedals replaced in store for as little as £3.99, or a full bike service from just £34.99. We recommend you service your bike at least once a year depending on your usage (it could be more regularly if you use your bike daily) to prevent premature wearing of parts.
And it’s not just your bike that needs a few extras come winter. Riders too need some weather-proof clothing in order to stay warm and dry. And the secret here is layering. It might be tempting to blow your budget on a top end cycling jacket, but that alone won’t keep you truly comfortable in all weathers. We recommend:
- Base layers: Available with short or long sleeves, base layers are perfect for cycling in both summer and winter. A good base layer will wick sweat away from your skin while also keeping you warm - so you’ll stay cool and dry in summer, and warm and insulated in winter.
- Tights: Next up are tights - or bib tights with shoulder straps which offer a more comfortable and secure fit. There are female-specific bib tights too, and ones designed for children. A good pair of waterproof overtrousers are also a must to keep you dry in the rain.
- Cycle jersey: If you have short-sleeved cycling jerseys for the summer, you can still wear these over your base layers as part of your layering system to keep you warm when cycling in winter. Although if it’s looking like a very cold day ahead a long-sleeved jersey is also an option, like this Triban RC100 Road Cycling Jersey, with a warm fleece lining for extra protection from the cold.
- Softshell jacket: With breathable, wind-stopping material, a good selection of rear pockets, and often some element of rain-resistance, a good soft shell is essential for winter riding.
- Waterproof jacket: A soft shell is unlikely to offer complete waterproofing, so a packable cycle rain jacket is a must. The longer back will stop your tights getting uncomfortably wet from wheel spray, and high visibility and reflective detail will ensure you’re seen at night and in overcast conditions.
- Gilet: If you don’t want to wear a jacket while cycling, a gilet could be a good compromise. Or if it’s an extra cold day, you can wear one under a jacket. A gilet is often made from windproof material to keep your body warm and protect you from wind chill. And it can be easily packed and stored away in your saddle bag when it’s not needed.
- Accessories: Full-finger gloves will ensure your hands are protected, and overshoes or oversocks will keep your toes nice and warm. Arm, leg and neck warmers will offer added protection, and don’t forget a winter hat (for under your helmet) and you’re all set for winter riding.
Read more on What to Wear for Cycling (A Beginner's Guide).
At DECATHLON, we have everything you need to enjoy cycling all-year-round. Whether you are a seasoned pro or just finding your wheels, we’ve got bikes and accessories to suit all ages and levels. Plus, get help and advice from our expert sales assistants in store.
We’ve shared our tips on how to prepare your bike for winter, but Do You Need A Winter Bike? Take a look at our article to help you make your decision.