If you intend to ride your bike all year round, you’ve committed to cycling, saved yourself a fortune in transport costs and will prevent any seasonal decline in your fitness. So well done, give yourself a big pat on the back.
But what about your bike? Have you considered how it might deteriorate through a long, hard winter?
As early as November, the rain has washed mud from the verges into the lanes to form a runny, gritty paste that wrecks chains and cassettes, wreaks havoc with braking surfaces and causes chaos in cables.
Come February, the threat of ice and snow means work for the gritters, who coat the roads with salt, one of the most corrosive minerals known to man and metal.
With the perils of next winter in mind, we asked seven of the best bicycle-specific cleaning companies to send
us everything we need to keep our bikes tip-top, whatever
Four of them are ready-made kits costing £30-£40 each, while the remaining three are made up of items selected by the suppliers up to a total value of £40.
What to look for
If you’re buying a kit, choose carefully. Muc-Off, Fenwick’s and Weldtite all produce a number of cleaning kits to meet the needs of different riders and cycling niches. While they’re all very similar, there’s little point in paying over the odds for a kit that includes products that you’ll never use, for example if you only ride road bikes, suspension lubes or disc brake cleaners might be superfluous.
In a nutshell, have a good look through the kit’s content list before you buy. For example, some come with chain lube, some have brushes — fine if you have neither already, but if you only really need a couple of the consumable items from a kit, it may well be worth looking to buy them separately.
Top-ups and refills:
Running out of everything in the kit at exactly the same time is extremely unlikely, so look at the cost and availability of refills.
In some cases, the kits are so heavily discounted (to encourage you to buy into the brand) that replacing individual items proves disproportionately expensive — to the point where it’s cheaper to buy another complete kit.
By the same token, other brands take a less wasteful, more responsible approach to the environment and packaging by supplying refill packs to replenish, rather than pump dispensers, and by offering discounted deals on large containers of degreaser and cleaning solution (always the first things to run out).
Halfords Bikehut Complete Bike Cleaning Kit at £30 has everything you need to clean your bike
Purple Harry five item cleaning kit that comes to a total cost of £37 does a good job to give
The Fenwick’s Stealth Road Bike Kit includes all the basic products needed to give your grimy bike the TLC it
Finish Line eight item bike cleaning kit costing a total of £39
Ammo's four item bike cleaning kit comes to a total cost of £27
The large tin of hugely effective, citrus-scented degreaser scored the Weldtite kit some early points.
We weren’t convinced that these kits would be significantly different from one another. But we were wrong, as there are many important differences in their smaller details. Winter cleaning is always something you want to get done as quickly as possible, so we were looking for a kit that worked fast.
Finish Line scored well with its degreaser, but its other products were found wanting, while the otherwise-acceptable Weldtite kit was let down by an ineffectual pump. The Halfords kit was a big-name disappointment, whereas relative unknowns Purple Harry and Ammo scored very well; the latter lost out on our coveted ‘Best on a Budget’ award by only a single point.
The award for value goes to Fenwick’s — its kit providing up to 12 litres of cleaning solution. But this test’s overall winner, by quite some margin, is Muc-Off. Fast-acting and easy to use, the firm’s excellent ‘8-in-1’ kit worked swiftly and effectively every time.