How to Set Up Your Road Bike for Winter

How to prepare your bike for winter

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how to keep your bike running and looking like new through winter, as well as our top clothing picks and our favourite lights. All of these things will help get you through winter, but what about the bike itself? Take one look at your “summer” tyres or go for a ride sans mudguards and tell us it was fun. It wasn’t fun, was it? You got covered in muck, slid all over the place, possibly crashed and your brake pads turned to mush and didn’t really slow you down much, if at all.

Oh, and if you went out on your road bike, you perhaps didn’t think about the effect the conditions would have on your gorgeous carbon wheels. The less said about the better, as given the price the consequences can be wince-inducing to say the least… In this guide we’ll take a look at the ways in which you can make a few subtle changes to your bike that’ll help it perform better through the winter months.

Tyres

Conditions under tyre are wildly different in winter compared to other times of the year. Mountain bike trails often more closely resemble the Somme than the smooth, buff singletrack you so fondly recall from the summer and roads are littered with thorns, road debris, salt, grit and mud washed down from fields or verges. Basically, if you’re on the road or off it, you’ll want some appropriate rubber to help ensure you don’t get on first name terms with the ground.

Our favourite mountain bike rubber for winter comes courtesy of Maxxis. With a massive range of tread patterns and compounds it’s easy to get confused, but our favourites for winter are the Shorty and Forekaster. The Shorty is an aggressive mid-spike tyre, ideally suited to hard-charging enduro and downhill riders who relish steep, loose terrain. For general XC and trail riding we’re big fans of the Forekaster; it’s light, tough, fast-rolling and the open tread design grips tenaciously in most conditions.

Out on the open road, you’ll want to look for a tyre with more puncture resistance to cope with road debris and perhaps something a little wider than usual to provide a little extra comfort and grip. For years the favourite of many riders around the world has been the Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons. It might be designed as all-rounder, but the Season really excels in winter, providing reliable grip and excellent puncture resistance while rolling almost as quickly as a summer tyre. Those with the necessary clearance for 30mm or bigger tyres should check out Challenge’s Strada Bianca. With a double layer of puncture protection and a grippy herringbone tread, they provide tons of grip, masses of comfort and are as tough as old boots.

Winter road wheels

Rather than risk damaging or prematurely wearing your fancy rim-brake wheels on your road bike, it’s often worth investing in a cheaper set of wheels for winter and save the best wheels for summer. A set of aluminium rims with durable hubs will see you through many winters worth of abuse and will help keep your best wheels performing for longer. Our current favourite is Novatec’s Thirty Limited Edition Wheelset. With a 30mm deep aluminium rim and stylish matt black & silver finish, these solid wheels are tubeless ready, durable and reasonably light so they won’t feel like you’ve tied an anchor to your bike on climbs. Another solid choice is the Shimano RS100. Shimano’s cup and cone hubs are easy to maintain and will last a lifetime, while the aluminium rims provide excellent durability and braking performance. It also makes for a great spare wheel for a turbo trainer!

Shimano RS100

Mudguards

While dedicated winter clothing is great for keeping the elements at bay, prevention is better than cure as the saying goes. Mudguards stop you getting covered from road or trail spray in the first place. Brilliant at stopping mud and debris flying into your eyes and up your back, mudguards are essential for fun winter riding. RRP make a huge range of mudguards for mountain bike use and their latest Proguards are perfect for keeping the crud out of your eyes on fast descents. The rear is also great for keeping your back clean as well as protecting the shock and linkages on full suspension bikes.

Mudguards for the road are a god-send on a wet or rainy day, and for many club rides a necessary requirement; cycling clubs often have a strict no guards, no ride policy. Many road bikes have dedicated mounts for mudguards, but if yours doesn’t, then not to worry as Crud Catcher’s excellent MK3 Mudguard Set are just the ticket. Easy to fit to a whole range of road, gravel & trekking bikes, the MK3’s work with most brake systems and accommodate tyres up to 38c. If your bike does have mudguard mounts, you won’t go wrong with SKS Bluemels. A modern classic, the Bluemels fits a massive range of bikes, are easy to install and perform brilliantly.

So, if you’re taken the time to read through and absorb our winter-ready articles, both and your bike are now ready to attack winter head on! It might seem like hard work at times, but you’ll be fitter, faster and likely have better bike handling skills come the summer, all of which are big wins in our books! You never know, you might even enjoy it!

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