Keeping clean: ways to protect you and your bike through winter

Over the colder period of the year, looking after your bike becomes even more important

This article is part of Cycling Weekly's Love Winter week, guiding you through setting up your bike and yourself for riding through the winter months. There's plenty to enjoy about riding in winter, and we'll show you how to get the most out of it. For more Love Winter articles, click here.

Winters can be tough on your bike. Roads are often wet or damp. They’ll be dirty too, with mud and grit washed into them by rain and that road muck will get sprayed over your bike’s delicate parts and you too as you ride.

So it’s worth looking to up your protection levels and increase your maintenance regime for your winter cycling. Here are our top tips to keep things running smoothly.

Fit mudguards

Number one on your winter tick list to keep yourself cleaner and drier should be to fit mudguards.

They’ll not only keep the wet off you but help your bike too, avoiding the constant spray of dirty water from the front wheel caking the bottom of your down tube with grime.

The wet will also wash over your chain, chainset and bottom bracket and find its way into your headset bearings. Not only will that wash lubricants off them, risking rusting and premature wear, but road grit will stick to them increasing wear. In the worst case, you can end up with an abrasive paste that will wreck your components.

Mudguards will help protect your bike's delicate parts
(Image credit: ccc)

Many bikes, even racier ones, now come with mounting points for mudguards and enough clearance between the tyres and frame to fit them. If you don’t have mounts, you can still fit close clearance mudguards like the Crud Roadracer, although it can be difficult to stop them from rubbing and mud can get stuck between them and the tyre.

There’s no shame in riding a bike with guards in the winter and your riding mates will thank you for not spraying them with dirty water too.

Use an Ass Saver

A cheaper option that will fit a wider range of bikes is a clip-on mudguard. They often fit to the back of the saddle rails and help keep mud and wet off your back and seat. There are designs that clip to the seat post too and similar options that will protect you from front wheel-spray.

These will help keep you a bit cleaner and drier, but won’t do much to protect your bike from road muck.

Keep your drivetrain clean

Keeping your chain, cassette, derailleurs and chainwheels clean and lubricated is the single most important thing you can do to keep your bike running smoothly and efficiently over the winter. You should regularly degrease the chain, to remove any build up of debris.

That’s easiest using a chain cleaning device paired with a specialist chain degreaser. Running the chain through the cleaner’s brushes will remove much of the gunk that can accumulate over winter. You can follow that up by using a brush to clean the cassette, derailleur jockey wheels and chainrings.

Wipe the chain dry, then apply a thin layer of new lubricant. You can buy a lubricant specifically designed for wet weather which will stay in place better in the rain.

Keeping your drivetrain clean and running smoothly is the most important thing you can do for your bike

Lubricate any exposed lengths of cable too to keep your shifters working well. That’s particularly important under the bottom bracket, where many bikes have cables running unprotected, even if they otherwise run internally in the frame.

Lubricate the cable where it runs from the back of the frame to the rear derailleur too. Again, that’s prone to contamination. If there’s an external run of cable before the mech, you can pull the short loop of outer cable out of the guide on the bottom of the chain-stay, push it towards the front of the bike and lubricate the inner cable.

Also lubricate the pivot points on the front and rear derailleurs with a spray like WD40 or GT85 to keep them moving smoothly.

Wash your bike

It’s not just your drivetrain that you need to take care of over winter. You should keep the frame clean too, so that delicate parts don’t get clogged up or corroded. It’s something you should do after a longer ride, before you put your bike away, or if you’re using your bike every day, once a week.

It’s worth giving it a wash down with a specialist bike cleaner like Muc-Off Nanotech or Weldtite Pure Bike Wash, to help remove grease and dirt effectively. You can buy specialist bike cleaning brushes to help get at awkward places like wheel hubs and between spokes.

Muc-Off and other brands also sell bike protection sprays that help repel water and stop road grime from sticking to your bike.

Keep it under cover

When you’re not using your bike, keep it under cover to keep it running smoothly. Exposure to rain will quickly wash lubricant off the chain and cause it to rust and will degrade performance of other components too.

If you can keep the bike in a shed or a garage, that’s a good option. You can also buy bike sheds, small enough to shelter your bike without taking up too much space. Those from Asgard are made from heavy gauge metal and designed to provide theft protection too.

Storing your bike indoors or under cover is a must
(Image credit: Simon Richardson)

If you want to keep your bike indoors but have limited space, a bike hook will let you hang it from a wall, where it will be less in the way.

If you don’t have access to a permanent shelter, you can buy a bike cover. Those from brands like Oxford are inexpensive and will keep your bike protected from the worst of the elements.