How-to Guide to Prepare your Bicycle for Winter

Cycling, for the most part, is a warm-weather sport. For this reason, many bikes get stashed away over the winter and are relatively forgotten until the spring thaw.

Winterize Bicycle

To Bike or Not to Bike?

While there’s no shame in hanging up your bike for a while once it gets cold, there are a couple of things that are important to do if you want your bike to be ready to ride as soon as it gets warm again.

For those of you that love to bike all year round we have tips to make your bike more winterproof with the addition of a few bits of modern technology and some great winter clothing.

Winters, no matter how severe can take a toll on all mechanical equipment, and bicycles are certainly no exception…

Here’s our guide to prepping your bike for winter and you’ll see a number of videos to help explain further.

Clean Your Bike Frame

In general, it’s a good idea to get your bike tuned up at least twice per year. And there’s no better time to do so than the changing of the seasons. Any good tune-up will start with a thorough wipe down of the bike’s frame and components.

This will make sure the frame is clean and free of dirt, oil, salt, and other road grime that accumulates over the summer riding season.

Hanging your bike up for the winter with a clean frame will make it less likely that either the frame or any of the components will corrode over the winter.

How to Clean a Bicycle Properly

How to Give Your Bike the Perfect Wash

Ensure Your Bike is Clean for Optimal Performance

Secondly, if you rode your bike a couple of times per week or more over the summer, it would be a good idea to change your cables and cable housing.

Change Your Cables and Housing for Better Gear Shifting

These components ensure your bike’s gear shifting is always crisp and accurate, so keeping them fresh and clean is one of the best things you can do to help keep your machine running smoothly and to help your bike rides be an enjoyable experience.

Additionally, hanging your bike up for the winter with a fresh set of cables and housing will help ensure your bike is ready to go on the first nice day of spring.

How to Change Bike Cables & Housing

How to Change Bike Cables & Housing

Improve Your Gear Shifting by Changing Cables & Housing

Install fenders/Mudguards to Your Wheel

One of the first pieces of winter-specific equipment you should install is a good set of fenders. Road maintenance crews do everything in their power to keep roads free of ice and snow during the winter.

They do this, in large part, by laying down treatments of salt and other chemicals, which help keep water from freezing on the road. This, of course, means that the roads are often wet.

Fenders help keep both you and your bike dry in the winter by blocking the spray from your tires. Preventing this spray from drenching yourself and your bike does two things.  This helps the rider stay warm and dry.

Fenders/mudguards prevent road salt and other chemicals from coming into contact with your bicycle.

Salt is highly corrosive, so it’s very important to do everything you can to keep it from getting on your bike in the first place and to quickly wash it off when it does.

How to Install Fenders on a Bike

How to Install Fenders on a Road Bike?

Fenders can Help Prevent Damage from Salt & Chemicals

Invest in Winter Bike Clothing

Cycling clothing has evolved dramatically over the last twenty years, and modern fabrics, for the most part, do a great job keeping riders warm and dry during the winter.

There a few key pieces that every cycling enthusiast should own if they’re serious about continuing to ride during the winter.

  • Insulated Skull Cap

The first is an insulated skullcap to fit underneath your helmet. The human body loses a substantial amount of heat through the top of the head and keeping your head covered is one of the best things you can do to keep your body warm.

You can find an example of one here [hyperlink: Cycling Skull Cap Helmet Liner Bicycle Hat Thermal Fleece Windproof]

  • Thermal Biking Jersey

Working our way down the body, the next essential piece of winter clothing is a thermal jersey. These pieces help keep your core temperature warm even when temperatures are very low. You can find a good thermal jersey here.

[hyperlink: PEARL IZUMI Men’s Quest Thermal Cycling Jersey]

  • Cycling Wind Vests

Every cyclist should own a wind vest. You can wear the warmest thermal jersey in the world, but if the wind cuts through it, it’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing. Wind vests are designed to block the wind, the importance of which we cannot stress enough for staying warm in the winter.

They’re also very lightweight and easy to fold, meaning that if the sun comes out during your ride and it warms up, it’s very easy to take the vest off, fold it up, and place it in your jersey pocket for the rest of the ride.

You can find a quality wind vest here.

[hyperlink: Castelli Men’s Road Bike Cycling Squadra Vest – Wind Breaker Vest for Winter, Summer, and Spring]

  • Good Quality Cycling Gloves

The hands and feet are two of the hardest body parts to keep warm while cycling, but modern manufacturers have developed some remarkably warm products that are up to the task. You can find a warm pair of gloves here.

[hyperlink: Pearl iZUMi Men’s Elite Softshell Gel Gloves, Black]

Now that we’ve covered the upper body, it’s time to take care of the lower body.

  • Full-length Cycling Bib

These are particularly useful when temps get very low, as they often have some wind-breaking properties built-in, on top of being made from a heavy, warm fabric.

[hyperlink: PEARL IZUMI Men’s Select Escape Thermal Cycling Bib Tight, Navy, Small].

  • Leg Warmers

These are essentially sleeves for your legs that slip on to turn your cycling shorts into full-leg coverings. These are great if you’re anticipating variable temperatures during your ride, or if it’s simply not cold enough to break out the thermal tights.

[hyperlink: GORE WEAR C3 Unisex Leg Warmers].

  • Wool Cycling Socks & Shoe Covers

Finally, to keep your feet warm, you’ll need a good pair of wool socks [hyperlink: Giro Seasonal Merino Wool Socks], and set of shoe covers.

Wool socks, of course, help to insulate your feet from the cold outside, while shoe covers help to block the wind from penetrating your shoes.

[hyperlink: Fizik Winter Shoe Covers]

Change tires

Just as winter tires are essential to safe driving during the winter, it’s important to use proper tires on your bicycle as well.  Winter is a great time to work on building a base for the coming season. You also likely won’t be racing much, so you can afford to sacrifice a little speed for a more durable tire.

It’s a good idea to switch to a tire with a bit more tread than the tires you run in the summer. The heavier tread helps you to maintain traction on wet roads in the winter and also provides added protection against punctures caused by extra debris on the road in the winter.

How to Change a Road Bike Tire

How to Change a Tire on a Road Bike?

Here's How to Switch Out a Tire on a Road Bike

For road bikes with skinny tires, this tire is a solid choice for winter riding.

For hybrid bikes with more tire clearance, this tire is one of the best.

Frequently asked questions

When should I winterize my bicycle?

It’s generally a good idea to prep your bike for winter sometime late in the fall, at least a week or two before you first anticipate encountering harsh conditions.

But keep in mind that if you plan to take your bike into your local bike shop to have them do the work, other people probably are, too! Because shops sometime experience service backlogs late in the fall, it’s often best to get your winterization done sooner rather than later.

Are cold temperatures going to damage my bicycle?

Cold does make materials brittle. So, whether your bike is made from aluminum, steel, titanium, or carbon fiber, the cold will take a toll on it if the bike is left outside.

The damage will obviously be worse if it’s exposed to elements like ice and snow. Don’t worry if you don’t have room to store your bike inside your house or apartment. Storing your bike in the garage or a storage closet should still offer adequate protection.

Final thoughts

Bicycles, like any other piece of machinery, are an investment, and it’s important to properly maintain them. Doing so will help your bike last season after season.

Making sure your bike is clean, dry, and protected from the elements before you put it away for the winter will ensure that it’s ready to go as soon as temperatures warm up in the spring.