Winter Maintenance Primer

A few hundred years ago, someone a lot smarter than me coined the phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  When it comes to taking care of your bicycle, that expression definitely rings true–especially in winter.  Performing a little preventative maintenance will save you time, money, and frustration when it comes to foul-weather riding.

Let’s face it, most of us would rather ride than clean or maintain our bikes.  And come winter, riding time is even more scarce.  To help make the most of your off-season riding opportunities, we asked the industry experts from Finish Line and Pedro’s for tips on how to keep your bike rolling during the winter.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike bicycle winter maintenance
Photo courtesy of David Pertuz.

Gravelbike: For winter conditions, what type of preventive measures do you recommend?

Finish Line: For wet-weather riding we suggest using a wet-style chain lube.  A lubricant like Finish Line WET Lube has special polymers, anti-wear additives, and friction modifiers to create one of the strongest, longest lasting, most water-resistant lubricants on the market.  All of this insures that no matter the terrain or weather, you drivetrain will stay lubricated and running smooth.

If the ride will be particularly wet or muddy, we also suggest using our Showroom Polish on the bottom of the down tube.  This helps create a barrier that will stop mud from collecting and building up on the frame.  Doing this keeps the frame clean, and makes for easier post-ride clean-up.

Pedro’s: We recommend using a high quality automotive wax to protect the frame, no matter what material.  In the case of titanium, you can use a silcone-based spray polish like Pedro’s Bike Lust.  For all other materials such as aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber, they most likely have a clear coat finish, so you might wonder, “Why wax?”  Wax will help by creating a slightly thicker barrier between the frame and the elements (water, mud, ice, etc).

Secondly, with colder temperatures it is easy to forget to keep your tires to the proper inflation.  Keep those tires at the right pressure to help protect your rims, and reduce the chance finding yourself struggling to change tubes by the side of the road on a wet/nasty day as you commute to work.

Finally, keep the chain, chainrings, and cogs clean.  Yes, this means washing your bike weekly to keep it performing.   Soap and water do wonders to remove built up mud, etc.  Get a 3.5 gallon bucket and fill it with hot water and suds.  Don’t be afraid to scrub.  Once the bike is clean and dry, lube the chain and let it soak in overnight.  Most cyclists will lube their chain before a ride, but the proper way to make sure the chain is protected and running smoothly is to lube post-ride.  Let the chemicals do their job.  The following day before you ride wipe the chain, chainrings, and cassette of excess lube.  Remember, the lube needs to be inside the rollers of the chain and between the side plates, not all over your leg, your chainstays, your brake’s rotors, your tires, your rim … you get my jist.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike bicycle winter maintenance
Photo courtesy of Max Beach.

Gravelbike: What post-ride maintenance or clean-up procedures do you recommend during the winter?

Finish Line: Post-ride maintenance is critical, especially during the winter months.  It should start with wiping down the entire bike.  You want to make sure to remove any mud and water from the frame to prevent rust and premature wear on components.  We would suggest using a product like our Super Bike Wash to make cleaning faster and easier.

You should also wipe down the chain with a rag.  Since wet style lubricants stay wet, they attract more dirt and require a little more care.  By wiping the chain, you will be able to remove most of the accumulated grit and grime.  If the chain is still dirty after this, it is probably time to clean the chain with a degreaser.  We would recommend using our Shop Quality Chain Cleaner to do a fast and thorough job. You only need 60 seconds to have a clean chain and extend the life of your parts.  If you do degrease your chain, make sure to rinse it with water to remove any residue before you reapply lube.

When you clean the chain, you will also want to take care of your derailleurs, cassette, and chainrings.  To make this easy we recommend our Speed Degreaser.  It comes out at a high velocity and does most of the cleaning without needing to scrub.  It dries without leaving behind a residue, so you can simply degrease and lube.  No need for a water rinse.

Remember to reapply lube every 100 miles or so.  The exact mileage depends on conditions and type of lubricant used.

Pedro’s: It is good to wash your bike.  The 1/2 hour of your time will ensure your investment takes care of you.  The motto at Pedro’s is, “Run silent, run safe, and run clean.”  We have developed both tools and bike care products over 23 years to help cyclists accomplish this task.  Don’t be afraid to scrub a-dub-dub.  You do it every morning before work, so why not treat you ride to some post-ride love?  In many cases, your investment is worth several thousand dollars.  The best way to keep it running well is preventative maintenance.  It is much cheaper to maintain than replace.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel bike bicycle winter maintenance
Photo courtesy of Mark Bulgier.

Gravelbike: What’s the number one mistake people make when maintaining or servicing their drivetrain (regardless of season)?

Finish Line: The number one mistake is simply forgetting to do it.  There are a large number of people who simply do not take the small amount of time needed to clean and maintain their bicycle.  By ignoring things like lubing a chain or degreasing a cassette, there is a decrease in efficiency, and a decrease in drivetrain longevity.  The key to bike maintenance is do short and simple cleaning efforts.  Spending five minutes after every ride is easier than spending a few hours once a month.

Pedro’s: Several things come to mind.  Quite often riders do not lubricate their chain enough, and when they do, they go overboard thinking the more lube, the smoother the ride.  Wrong!  Too much lube attracts dirt and mud, no matter the brand or type of lube.  Again, lube the day before and wipe clean before you ride.  Yes, I understand sometimes you just “need” to lube before a long ride, but change up your lubrication habits and you will quickly find your ride will like you better.

Secondly, be sure that your bearing are running smooth and quiet, especially in the bottom bracket.  Be sure all the bolts in your chainrings are tight, along with the crank bolts.  Be sure your cassette lockring is torqued correctly, too.  In most cases they’re loose, and it negatively impacts your index shifting (no matter what brand).

Thanks to Matt at Pedro’s and Derek at Finish Line for their contributions to this article.

What's on your mind?