We're getting over the hump of winter and into the new year now, but that doesn't mean that winter is over yet. It does mean though that if you like to really enjoy riding through the winter season, you're going to need to carry out a bit of preventative maintenance on your bike to keep it running at its best.
Riding in the winter slop can be fun, but a little more demanding on your bike!
First of all, give your bike a decent tune-up. Riding through the winter can take a toll on your bike, and it pays to do some preventative maintenance. Water ingress and mud can wreak havoc if you don't keep on top of it, but if you're diligent you can ride year round without trouble.
Some of what I mention here is fairly basic, other parts not so much. It's worth remembering that we have a workshop full of skilled and experienced mechanics that are happy to give advice or take care of these things for you! Some key areas to address include:
- Drivetrain: Strip and degrease this for winter, and reapply a wet chain lube. Make sure you have plenty of lube to get you through the season! Regular cleaning of your chain can drastically increase the life of your drivetrain, especially through winter
- Through axles: easily forgotten, these can be a nightmare if they get stuck. Make sure your through axles always have a thin layer of grease to prevent them from getting stuck.
- Headset: Strip & clean your headset and reassemble with a generous amount of quality grease. Replace bearings if they feel rough
- Bottom bracket: This will take a real hammering over winter, so don’t be surprised if you have to replace it because the bearings are rough or seized. Otherwise, strip and grease as above.
- Hubs and/or freehub: Again, strip and grease those bearings. Be sure to only use a small amount of lightweight grease on the freehub.
- Pivots: If you have a full suspension bike, it’s worth stripping and greasing those suspension pivots. They don’t move much so they’re susceptible to seizing up. Make sure all the bearings turn freely and reassemble with grease on the shafts and thread locker on the threads if you can.
- Cables: Drop some lube down your cable housing or replace them altogether with new inner cables. It’s worth using sealed end caps if you can for extra longevity.
- Brakes: wet winter conditions can wear your brake pads down considerably faster, be sure to check them regularly.
- Suspension: It’s worth performing a service if you haven’t recently. Fresh seals or at least fresh oil and grease will help prevent dirt ingress over the muckiest months.
- Bolt check: This should go without saying year round, but it can be harder to tell when bolts are loose when the trails are slippery. You should check your bolts regularly to make sure nothing is loose. Loose bolts can cause serious problems if left to fall out!
Clean on the left, dirty on the right. Headset bearings can get surprisingly nasty! Clean & grease them regularly to keep them fresh.
Once you've addressed these parts, it's absolutely worth checking them every now and then depending on how much riding you do. Things like through-axles should be checked every few weeks. Headsets and bottom brackets could be a couple of times a season.
In terms of preventative maintenance, it’s worth cleaning your bike when it’s muddy, at least getting most of the heavy mud off, and clean and re-lube your drivetrain. It doesn’t have to be sparkling, but regular cleaning and re-lubing is one of the most important things you can do. Just make sure when you clean your bike, you don’t use a jet wash, and if you do, keep it well away from any bearings!
Just a regular garden hose is all you need to clean your bike - keep away from jet washes/pressure hoses.
A brush (the muc-off ones work great), a bucket and/or hose and some brushes is all you really need. Bike cleaner such as Muc-Off Nano Tech cleaner can help to loosen up dirt in the hard to reach spots, otherwise soapy water works just fine. That said, be careful with what you put on your bike, you know that bike-specific cleaners are safe to use, but the same can't be said for automotive cleaners, especially on disc brakes.
When cleaning, you want to spray the bike over with bike cleaner and let it soak a little, or just wet it with a hose. You can then work the dirt off with a brush/sponge, and then hose it down again to get it clean, just be careful not to get any oily brushes etc. on your brakes. For maximum clean, dry your bike off with a clean towel/rag afterwards.
Muc-Off produce a great range of cleaning products. Their Nano Tech cleaner here is really effective and safe on disc brakes.
Don't forget to wipe and re-lube your chain after cleaning, otherwise it could go rusty. It’s also worth checking and re-greasing those bearings every few weeks, especially if you’re riding and washing your bike a lot. If you want to make your bike easier to clean in the future, you could use a finishing product such as Pedros Bike Lust. This gives the bike a nice shine and stops dirt sticking. Again, be careful around your brakes - i tend to apply finishing sprays to a rag and then wipe the bike down.
Some cleaner, a brush and a hose/bucket of water is all you really need to keep your bike clean.
Keep a regular maintenance schedule and checking it over for problems means you can keep riding worry free through winter, though it does take a little extra effort. For me it's totally worth it as you get to enjoy the trails while they're a little quieter!
As always, feel free to call us or come in store for our expert advice or servicing.