The air is colder, the days are shorter and the leaves are changing colors. Take the cue and do some routine maintenance on your bike so you can keep riding through the winter. Slop, snow, frost, dirt and general dampness will do a lot more to your rig than make it dirty. Ignore them and before you know it, your wheels will be squeaking and your components rusting. So before you layer up for the trail, make sure your bike is winterized with these tips from two mountain bike mechanics who have worked in the industry since the infancy of the sport.
Think of bike cleanliness like checking the batteries on a smoke alarm, says Chris Mathis, lead mechanic for the CLIF Pro Team. People tend to beat their bikes up a lot in the summer and fall, so it makes sense to go into the winter with a reset. “Use this period once a year to clean everything up,” he says. “Change your brake fluids, clean your brake pistons and pads, replace cables and housing if necessary, clean the gunk out of the cassettes, clean your chain.”
Lube and Chain Maintenance
Whatever the season, if your riding is in wet conditions, make sure to dry your bike after every ride. If the cables, chain and suspension are not dried and cleaned, they can become corroded and freeze up, Mathis says. And any sitting water could seep into the bottom bracket and headset, eventually damaging the bearings. A little lube and grease in the cable and housing will prevent water from trickling through crevasses in the bottom bracket, headset, dropper post, and front and rear shocks. Finally, protect your drivetrain with a wet lube, which is designed to better stay on your chain in wet conditions.
Bigger tires with larger diameters are great for slick, snowy trails because more surface area means more traction. It’s the whole reason fat and plus bikes were invented, after all. But even your regular-size bike can benefit from some bigger shoes, and Mathis recommends 2.5 inch-diameter tires for winter riding, as long as they fit your fork and frame. You should look for treads with big, widely spaced knobs, which offer better grip on slick, snowy trails. Air pressure also makes a big difference. More air means less rolling resistance while less air means more surface area and more grip (and bigger chance of flats). There’s no golden number, so it all comes down to personal preference. Experiment until you find what pressure works best for you, but Mathis suggest running tubeless tires between 18-23 PSI as a starting point.
“Fenders are a wonderful invention,” says Brian Nakagawa, a local mechanic at Tahoe City’s Olympic Bike Shop. “They help to keep everything so much cleaner.” They’re also essential if you don’t want a face full of ice-cold water every time you ride on a wet and chilly day. While there are all types of fenders out there, finding the right one doesn’t have to be complicated. A mountain bike fender should be able to stand up to rocks and trail debris. Choose a fender that’s specific to your bike and cycling discipline.