With these 11 easy steps, you can make riding in the cold and wet fun again
There are three principle problems when mountain biking in winter: reduced vision, reduced traction and additional weight. Tackling these problems head on will make riding through the next six months nearly as much fun as summer riding.
Yes your bike will wear faster in the winter. But provided you’re sticking to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance regime, there’s not too much you can do to extend the life expectancy of consumables such as suspension components, brake pads, drivetrain and bearings.
1. Wash your bike
Clean your bike. It’s a good chance to check the whole thing over. You’re looking for any signs of wear on the drivetrain, brake pads and rotors. Buy a chain checker to measure chain wear. That way you can replace it when worn out and prolong the life of your cassette. You can usually get two chains out of one cassette.
2. Degrease your chain
Degrease your chain so you can start from scratch with new lubricants. Use a wet lube — dry lube will wash away faster than you can say, “My chain’s squeaking.”
3. Service your suspension
There’s less grip in winter, so you need your suspension at its optimum. Make sure you replace old, worn seals because you need to keep winter mud out, and on a wet ride it’ll be harder to see if there is any oil weeping from those seals. Watch our videos on suspension service on our website or get the pros to do it for you.
4. Fit mud tyres
The single most effective thing you can do for your bike is fit winter tyres. Read our mountain bike tyre guide for the lowdown and our pick of the best rubber. Mud tyres give more grip in the wet so you won’t feel like you’re in danger of crashing every five feet. It’ll cost you about £60 more in the first instance but they will mean your summer tyres last longer.
5. Fit a mudguard
Even a cheap plastic flap zip-tied to your fork brace will do the job — they’re light and help keep muck out of your seals and off your stanchions. But you can’t beat a full mudguard from the likes of DFender or Muckynutz for keeping crap out of your eyes, because they wrap closely around the tyre and catch the most spray.
6. Swap your brake pads for sintered metal
Save the organic ones till next summer — sintered will survive in the grinding paste of winter, while resin pads will quickly disintegrate.
7. Gaffer tape
Anything that’s good enough for concealing Lady Gaga’s more intimate bits is certainly good enough for us. Use the gaffer tape to seal smaller crevices, including the space between the saddle rails and the bottom of the steerer tube. The backs of some cranks are particularly hollowed out too, as is often the case with the bottom bracket axle, hollow dropouts, seat tube brace and forward shock mount: seal it all off.
8. Fill your crevices with moto foam
Moto foam is a lightweight foam designed to prevent mud from clogging and stop your bike getting heavier. Start with the bottom of your fork steerer, any gaps around the suspension linkage, and under the saddle — stuff in the foam and tape it off.
9. Clear lens glasses
Clear glasses keep mud out of your eyes, prevent infections and help vision, but after the first puddle they get covered in spray. Motocross racers and downhillers get around this by using tear-offs, but leaving a trail of clear film-strips behind you is hardly environmentally responsible. For a more permanent solution, your eyewear needs to be paired up with some form of mudguard.
10. Make your own DIY brake cover
Protect your pads from the winter grind paste with our mbr unpatented design — trialled all last year, it really does work: we burned through just one set of pads all winter.
- Eat beans for dinner — not those snap pots but a proper tin with a ring pull lid; it’ll make the next step easier.
- Give the top of the can a clean (watch for sharp edges) and put to one side.
- Make a cardboard template of your rear brake caliper — the open area above the pistons.
- Use the template to mark out the lid of the can.
- Add a tab to the long side of the rectangle. With a 3mm bit, drill a hole in the tab.
- Using tin snips (and gloves to stop you slicing your fingers to ribbons) cut the shape out of the can.
- Carefully file down all the edges of the cover.
- Fold the tab over 90° using pliers.
- Remove the pin that holds the brake pads, put it through the hole in the tab, and reinstall in the caliper.
- Congratulate yourself and uncork all that trapped wind.
11. Silicone lube
Silicone lube does a great job of renewing your bike’s showroom shine. It also acts as a (short-term) lubricant for your stanchions and shock body, and helps reduce the general build up of dirt and mud. But before you go mad spraying it everywhere, make sure you protect your brakes: seal your calipers in a plastic bag and remove your wheels to a safe distance or you can forget about stopping. It’s also great when you’re cleaning the mud off your bike later, as it slips off more easily. Concentrate on the underside of the down tube and the mudguards.