Winter is a testing time not only for your motivation but for
your bike and equipment too. Bicycles really don't like all the water,
grit and gunk that comes their way during the winter, but you can help
out by using the best equipment and following a simple maintenance
routine. Get things right and you'll be riding smoothly and safely
through until spring.
Okay, so they’re not the most stylish or, dare we say it, fashionable
thing you can stick on a bicycle but if you want to stay dry then keeping
the surface water off your butt and lower legs/feet will make a huge
difference to your comfort and enjoyment. What 'guards you fit depends on
If you have mounts and have the space and clearance you could fit
traditional full-length mudguards like SKS Chromoplastics. If your frame
doesn't have mounts, don't worry, there are lots of mudguards that will
clip on to any bike, like Crud’s Race Guards.
The SKS Chromoplastic mudguards are one of the best known, and very
highly regarded, full-length options. They’re made by sandwiching
aluminium strips inside a plastic housing. The resulting profile is quite
deep which makes it stiff and sturdy. Stainless steel stays fix them in
place and the Secu-Clips on the front means they pop out of the mount if
somehting gets caught between the mudguard and tyre, rather than locking
the wheel and putting you on your face. You get a generous mudflap on the
front mudguard and a reflector on the rear. They’re available in several
sizes to fit around tyres from 20 to 45mm wide.
The other popular option is the Crud Roadracer. As long as you've got 4mm
between the top of your tyre and the inside of your brake caliper, the
Roadracers will slide in.
You don't need mudguard eyelets. Roadracers attach to the frame with
Duotech 'Interloc' strips, which are a bit like industrial strength
Velcro. That makes the Roadracers incredibly light at just 262g for the
The weight is saved because Roadracers do not use the four stiff metal
stays used on conventional mudguards to keep the guards from touching the
wheel or tyre. Instead, the Roadracers have four flexible plastic stays
and are designed to 'float' above the tyre, with some little strips of
soft brushing on the inside of the stay-clip to rub very gently on the
rims and keep the guards central.
The all-plastic construction means Roadracers are more fragile than
chromoplastic guards, an issue for some riders.
Guide to Mudguards goes into great detail on the pros
and cons of the different mudguards available, and will help you choose
the right one for your bike.
Punctures are easily the most annoying thing about cycling through the
winter. They're more common during the winter, because the rain washes
more sharp flints and pieces of glass on to the road and water also acts
as an annoyingly good lubricant for sharp objects to slice through a tyre.
Look for a tyre with a thick reinforced breaker belt sandwiched between
the rubber tread and carcass. This will help prevent flints and glass from
puncturing the delicate inner tube.
Tyre pressure is important, and especially so in the winter when the
roads are most likely to be wet. As a general rule, the wetter it is, the
lower the pressure you want to run your tyres at. While it might be fine
to ride tyres inflated to 120psi during the summer when the roads are dry,
it's a good idea to go a little lower the wetter it is. It's not unknown
to go as low as 80-90psi.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres are essentially heavy duty, ultra reliable
commu-touring tyres that inspire unprecedented confidence without feeling
sluggish or barge-like, despite their 970g/pr weight.
A lighter option is the Continental Grand Prix 4 Season. A tough Duraskin
mesh and two Vectran anti-puncture layers beneath the tread make this a
good choice. And at 220g it's a good weight, for the rider wanting a fast
winter tyre. Conti's max grip silica rubber compound provides a good level
of grip. A good choice for winter and one that can be used in spring and
autumn too. If you want even more protection, the
Continental Gator Hardshell (see
review) is a good option, with a third layer of Polyamide in the
Saddle pack with maintenance essentials
That last thing you want to do on a ride is to have a mechanical and not
be able to sort it out. We always make sure we have a saddle bag packed
with at least one spare tube, a few patches, tyre levers if the tyres
demand it, and a quality multi-tool with a chain breaker. We carry a quick
link or chain pin and tyre boot as well. Those are the essentials and
should see you able to fix most roadside mechanicals.
By putting everything in a saddle pack you can simply leave it on the
bike for the whole winter and it will always be there if and when you need
it, and it beats stuffing your pockets, saving them for really important
stuff like food and money for a coffee/cake/pint.
A good pump is a necessity at any time of the year, but winter is really
not the time to skimp on your pump; invest in a high quality model. I once
punctured 40 miles away from home, it was raining hard, and the mini pump
I was testing completely failed me. A tiny pump may be attractive because
it's light and doesn't take up much space in a jacket pocket, but they're
not always much cop when it comes to quickly inflating a tyre to a decent
pressure. If you're riding in company its also unfair to keep everyone
waiting and getting cold while you struggle with an inadequate pump.
There are lots of very good mini pumps these days. Personally I think a
traditional frame pump is best. Yes, it's heavier, but you can inflate a
tyre to 85-100 psi every single time, and quickly too. If you can’t manage
a frame pump, at least ensure you’ve invested in a high-quality pump that
you’ve tested properly before hitting the road, or carry a CO2 cartridge
The Birzman Velocity Apogee is a crackingly good all-round pump for both
road and mountain bike use - with the usual caveats about maximum pressure
and comfort of grip. The Velocity Apogee shines as a no-faff,
solidly-connected, accurately-gauged, flexible-hose pump that will work
for road, mountain bike or suspension fork use, but like any mini-pump it
takes a while to get to 100psi and it's extremely hard to get beyond that.
Legendary US bike shop Rivendell
Cycles calls the HPX "the biggest commercial mainstream normal
zero-snobbeury bicycle success that has ever come out of France" and we
can't argue with that. The narrow barrel makes high pressures easy, the
thumblock grabs the valve firmly and the switchable sprung handle means no
The design's been around since the early 1970s. HPXes are tough and
durable enough that we wouldn't be surprised if there are still a few of
the first batch in use.
The Genuine Innovations Proflate 16 may not look the smartest, but it's a
very cleverly designed CO2 pump that instills trust and makes you feel in
control. It uses 16g non threaded cartridges (which are slightly cheaper
than their threaded equivalents) and works on both Schrader and Presta
The Proflate 16 has a host of really well designed features: it
auto-detects Schrader or Presta valve; it's got a little indicator that
tells you if the cartridge is punctured and the pump is therefore charged;
it's got a trigger, protected by a security catch; you can store
cartridges upside down in the body avoiding the risk of accidental
puncturing; you can't accidentally unscrew the body with a
charged/punctured cartridge; and it's got an automatic dirt/water shield.
Even if you’re not planning to ride in the dark, it can be very gloomy on
some grey, overcast days, so we’d recommend always riding with a set of
lights. Even if they’re small single LED blinker lights, you have the
reassurance of being able to put them on if it doesn’t turn out to be the
blue sky day you'd hoped for.
And sometimes, even with the best intentions, you might find yourself
racing to get home before the sun sets and not quite succeeding. We’ve all
been there and know what it’s like. It's best to play safe and get some
lights on your bike throughout the winter.
Here are a few of our current favourites.
Here's a great little rear light that you will find very useful. The Moon
Alcor is simple, bright and has a nifty magnetic mount. It has five modes,
including a flash that's bright enough to use as a daytime running light,
and steady modes that are plenty bright enough for general use. It
recharges by plugging straight into a USB port so you don't have to find a
The Moon Arcturus Auto is a super little rear light for commuting and
general riding. It's useful for a variety of scenarios, with seven modes
in total – two main modes each with three sub-settings, plus a daytime
mode for added safety. The single button is perfect for on-the-move
We tested the Arcturus Auto on an unlit commuting run that includes a mix
of A roads and narrow country lanes. The Moon's 35-lumen modes are easily
bright enough for pitch black riding, while the extra-bright 70-lumen
double flash is great for daytime. This is enhanced by the Auto Mode
(hence the name), which switches the light on when it senses very low
light. This came in really handy when going from sunshine into heavy tree
cover, giving that bit of extra safety against drivers adjusting to the
An extra couple of quid gets you the
Moon Arcturus Auto Pro, with a 100-lumen daylight mode
but shorter run time.
Be sure to check out our rear
light buyer's guide
The Moon Meteor C3 is a compact, eight-mode front light capable of
delivering 300 lumens in constant and an equally impressive 400-lumen
daylight flash. Build quality is superb throughout. The diminutive
dimensions, comprehensive mounting options and generally usable run-times
ensure it can play a wealth of roles, from a single commuter light to
support act for a powerful main system.
The Magicshine MJ-858 is a tiny gem of cast, black anodised aluminium
with a small light aperture and base that pumps out 1,000 lumens. It runs
for 3.5 hours on full brightness with its 4.4Ah battery, and you can
easily extend this by reducing the output. However if run time is
paramount to your requirements, then just upgrade to the bigger 6.6Ah
battery to get well over five hours of bright, well-distributed beam on
I finished a ride the other day and actually had a tidemark along the
down tube. There was even a bit of driftwood in the muck. Yes, riding
through the winter clearly places a lot of stress on all the moving
components so you’ll need to embrace a regular cleaning and servicing
Ideally ,you should give your bike a very thorough clean straight after a
mucky ride to prevent rust setting in. A bucket, some soapy water and a
sponge/brush will do for a basic clean. There are plenty of specialised
cleaning products on the market that will make cleaning your bike easier.
Keep it lubed
Even if you don’t wash your bike regularly, you’re going to need to keep
the drivetrain will lubed. Hear that squeaky chain? That’s not a good
sound; you don’t want to be hearing it.
Buy a good-quality bicycle lube and use it, this isn't the time to skimp.
Wet lubes are good because they last ages, but can attract muck and grit
to the chain and need more thorough cleaning. Dry lubes might not seem the
obvious choice in the winter but a good one can work well and has the
benefit of keeping your chain clean. On the down side, it does need much
more regular application and can be more fussy to apply in the first
Carbon Pro Heavy Duty Lube is very clean-running for a truly hell'n'high
water lubricant. It laughs at thunderstorms, river crossings and similar
antics. Most surprising of all, it doesn't impair the feel of sportier
Green Oil proudly boasts that it contains no environmentally harmful
chemicals, such as PTFE, and no palm oil, which is implicated in the
destruction of rainforest. What it actually does contain is a secret.
Green Oil only admit to "naturally occurring plant extracts" and no animal
derivatives. But this is all detail; what matters is that it works really
well, whether you care about its green credentials or not.
Check that chain
If you’re riding a load of miles in the winter, it’s good to keep an eye
on the chain wear. A chain will slowly stretch over time as the components
A chain checker tool is reasonably cheap and could save you a lot of
money in the long run. If you leave a chain to wear unchecked, the chain
rings, cassette and jockey wheels will wear out and and eventually you’ll
have to replace the whole transmission. Costly!
Park Tool's Chain Checker lets you monitor the condition of your chain so
you can decide for yourself just how cautious you want to be about the
effect of its wear on the rest of your drivetrain.
Alternatively, if you change the chain regularly, you can extend the life
of the transmission hugely. Some people will fit a new chain every three
months if they’re do lots of miles. A new chain - and it doesn’t need to
be a posh one - is a small price to pay compared to a Dura-Ace cassette,
Inspect tyres and brake blocks regularly
The brake blocks (or pads) will take a beating through the winter and
wear out much faster. Every time you wash your bike, pay particular
attention to the blocks and replace them before they get too worn. It’s
also worth checking the tyres for holes, cuts, gashes and flint/glass
lodged in the tyre.
Kool Stop Dura 2s are aftermarket upgrade brake blocks with the dual
compound providing good braking performance in a range of conditions and
decent longevity too.
Follow this guide and you should sail through the autumn and
winter months quite happily. If you've got any of your own tips, feel
free to add them below.
The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.
Our guides include links to websites where you can buy the featured products. Like most sites we make a small amount of money if you buy something after clicking on one of those links. We want you to be happy with what you buy, so we only include a product in a if we think it's one of the best of its kind.
As far as possible that means recommending equipment that we have actually reviewed, but we also include products that are popular, highly-regarded benchmarks in their categories.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.