Mountain biking during the winter season is tough on your bike. It is due to the heavy rains and muds that can corrode the components quickly and contribute to accelerated wear and tear.
It’s crucial to regularly clean your bike in winter, and it’s best to head into winter with a clean, lubricated bike in top condition.
Service Your Bike (Clean and Lubricate)
Whether you’re road or mountain biking, it is crucial to clean your bike in all the weathers but especially in winter. Getting mud, dirt and water off helps to keep things working longer. Dried-up mud and water can have a corrosive effect on your frame, chain and gears. Cleaning your bike immediately after your ride helps to keep it going longer. It would be a shame to have to replace certain parts just because you didn’t feel like giving the bike a thorough cleaning.
A good clean also improve your bike’s performance. The final step in the mountain bike cleaning process is lubricating your chain and gears. This is an essential aspect of bicycle maintenance.
Basic Inspection and Maintenance
Check the wear and tear on your components before you take your bike out and adjust them if necessary. Start off with your chain. If you haven’t replaced it in a year or more, it’s time to do so. Over time, the individual parts in the chain will get worn out, increasing its effective length.
The chain is no longer able to conform to the cog and the teeth of the chain ring as this occurs, so it wears those teeth out to fit the chain profile. You’ll save yourself from having to replace high-priced cogs and chain rings if you can replace the chain before it stretches too much.
Now, check the bearing surfaces. These include your bottom bracket, hubs, and the headset. Each of these should turn without a problem with no play in the system. Before checking the bottom bracket, make sure each cranking arm is snugged tight. Next, hold on to the crank arm (not the pedal) and wobble it back and forth. If you hear any clicking or if the crank arm binds, the bottom bracket needs to be adjusted.
Do the exact same thing with your hubs. Take the wheels off the bike, spin the hub axles, then feel for any free play or binding. If you feel play or binding, you need to make an adjustment. To check the headset, start off by putting the newly adjusted wheels back on the bike.
While you’re looking, check the condition of your cables and housing. The cables should be rust free and the housing shouldn’t be cracked or kinked. If you see any of this you should replace the offending device, as if you don’t your shifting and braking will be sluggish.
Now, grab the front brake and pull and push the handle bars back and forth. There shouldn’t be any play. If you lift the front end off the ground, the fork should turn very smoothly. If it feels rough, it needs to be either adjusted or replaced.
Last, you should inspect your brake pads. Most pads will have ridges or indicator marks that will let you know when they need to be replaced. Brake pads that are worn out will compromise both safety and braking efficiency.
INSTALL Winter Tires
In winter you may need MTB tires that will cut through the gloop to give you the traction you need. The need for special studded tires depends on your area and the area where you’re riding.
The best winter MTB tires can make a big difference to your enjoyment, performance and control. In the wet you need mud tires with spiked tread and softer rubber compounds.
The efficiency of a tire to clear slop is almost as significant as its ability to bite into it.
A tread pattern designed to suit winter riding is perhaps the most obvious feature a winter tire must have. This means longer, deeper knobs/spikes that are further spaced apart, giving the tire the best opportunity to dig in and grip in the wet while preventing the tire from sticking to mud and jamming your fork or rear stays.
When setting up for winter some mountain bikers will choose a mud tire for the front wheel for grip and control where it’s needed and then run a regular tire at the rear.
Install Front and Rear Mudguards
The fenders are the most important accessory you may install to reduce the amount of spray flying off the wheel and up towards your face, but they also protect your fork stanchions and bridge from dirt and grime.
Fenders also help to keep the rest of your bike dry which means less time spent cleaning after your rides.
Check Front and Rear Bike Lights
The winter months bring shorter days and earlier sunsets. You’ll inevitably find yourself riding in the dark even if you don’t plan to. Front and rear lights ensure you’ll be seen by drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists. If you’re riding in rural areas where streetlights are few and far between, invest in a front light powerful enough to light your way.
Check your Spares - Always Carry Tubes and a Pump
You should do this year-round, but it’s especially important in the winter months when being stranded on the side of the road in the freezing cold is a much bigger problem. Fixing a flat in the cold is no fun, but it’s better than walking home.