We know you’re not ready for winter, but getting your bike ready will help ease the pain? Let us help winterize your rig and get you on the trails this winter and off the trainer.
Slush and snow cover the roads, once that hits your backside and feet, you’ll WISH you had something to help. Fenders; the near-perfect butt and lower leg protector for inclimate weather. Most fenders are quick, easy to install and will run you anywhere from 20.00-40.00 depending on the quality and what kind of setup you desire.
“What if my bike won’t except fenders?!” Don’t worry; there are many solutions for this. My personal go-to for trail riding is SKS S-Blade Fixed; will cover your backside from mud and slush and clips easily on most seat posts (dropper may have trouble). For road/gravel, my go-to is SKS Race-Blade Pro XL; this will cover 30-45mm tires and adjustable to minimize toe over, just use the rubber pieces to attach to your fork and seat stays.
The rubber and tread you choose for winter can save you time and a headache, choose wisely. Set your bike up for the conditions that you’ll face in the winter but also the changing terrain as the freeze-thaw happens. As you know, when you wake up at 7:00 am and roll to work or hits the trails there’s a 99% chance they’ll be frozen solid with patches of ice. If you roll out mid-day or are on your way home from work chances are the conditions have changed and what was ice is now sloppy ruts and slush. Tires that excel in conditions like these have a minimum centerline tread but are sciped to push out water and offer better purchase on wet terrain. Puncture protection is a must have as no one likes to change tires in the winter time and tubeless; though great, can offer up unique challenges when the weather reaches the teens.
For road/gravel, my go-to is Michelin’s StarGrip 700×40; the tread offers increased rubber tread block mobility and localized pressurization to maximise grip. The star shape of its tread blocks allows for extensive stopping, providing for multi-directional movement for maximum grip.
Though all trails and conditions differ in the winter months a tire that I reach for consistently for my 29er is Schwalbe Ice Spiker, though there are many great options available.
Fit and reach
Getting aero or pushing the limits of your fit is all well and good for the summer time but in winter you want predictability and control on your ride. Shorting the saddle to handlebar length a is a way to gain more control and stability. For drop bar bikes try rolling your bars back, some riders like the feel of the levers in their hands this way. Doing this can cut down on uncomfortable wrist angles and put the rider in a more upright position. Since trail riding, mountain bike fit is based on feel; I suggest adding a 5mm spacer under your stem and raising the bars slightly. This will require you to rearrange your cockpit slightly but will put more weight on your rear wheel and help with traction. In fitting as well as touch points on the bike, these are very personal features and will take some time to figure out what works best to make you comfortable and confident in the snow.
Gear range and durability
Considering that the winter season tends to trash most equipment it is smart to look for economic drivetrain and better pedal efficiency for inclimate weather. Look for lower-end versions of the groupset that you have now. You will find a little weight added and shifting could lack, but you will save money for more summer kit and not trash your good stuff. Look for broader gear range options, not because you got fat over winter (hopefully not) but rather to not spin out on steep climbs or make sludging through the 6 inches of fresh power enjoyable.
Look for battery powered and reflective illumination options for your winter ride. Even the daylight hours you want cars and people to know that you’re around. FIKS Reflective and other stick-on reflective options are nice small upgrades that won’t make you look like a garbage truck but let everyone know you’re on the road. Best daylight illuminated options pack a solid lumen to size ratio and have a few different flashing patterns. My go-to’s are Lezyne Femto Drive front and rear. For night and dark rechargeable and high lumen is the best, Lezyne Micro Drive XL 1000 is a great option along with the Femto Drive at a pulse. https://www.lezyne.com/products-led.php
Lube and cleaner
Winter riding conditions call for different choices for drive train maintenance rather other than summer months. Look for lube and cleaner that will work with your riding and cleaning habits. Is the garden hose frozen, power washer put away for the winter or team bus and wrenches not around? Check out the Pedros Chain Pig II; you can clean your chain in your kitchen (I’ve done this many times) keep the floor clean and contain the mess to the pig. After the chain is clean lube is the next question. Think about your riding conditions and demands; are you in slush often or are you on dry, frozen roads? Do you clean your chain often or wait until the last possible day to do so? For slushy, wet riding go with something that will stay on the chain for longer than run of the mill wet lube. Personally, I reach for Morgan Blue Rolls Pro or Dry Lube super thick, meant for cyclocross in winter this stuff will stay on. As for the “non-cleaner,” I would reach for something waxed based that will last, White Lightning Epic or Pedros Enduro lube. Wax based lubes will keep a cleaner chain but need to be applied more often. This lube will also work for the road warrior riding frozen roads, keeping the chain silent and smooth.