Winter Bike Setup and Maintenance Tips

Winter: It’s happens every year. Prepare yourself properly and it can be the most fun of all of the seasons. When it comes to riding mountain bikes or fat bikes in great Winter conditions, the experience can’t be beat. No flies, no overheating, and even the sounds and smells of the forest change completely in the Winter time. An experience for all your senses.
As seasons change, it’s always a good time to give your bike a solid inspection. If you’re like most of us, and only use your fat bike in the winter time you’ll want to dust it off before the snow flies, and be prepared.
Let’s start with a clean bike. We generally recommend a quick rinse with a hose, then start wiping things down with clean rags. Get everything except the drivetrain nicely dried then give your chain and cassette a spray with your favorite degreaser. We’re big fans of Finish line Super bike wash because it is safe for all surfaces of your bike including carbon. Once your drivetrain is cleaned and degreased it’s time to put on a fresh coat of lubricant. For winter riding, we recommend Muc-Off -50 Chain lube because it’s ideal for cold winter conditions and is suitable for, chains, cables, shifters, pedals, and cleats.
Now that your bike is clean and lubed we can give everything a visual inspection. The welds are all looking good. Usually, any clunks, grinds or rattles can indicate something wrong. Hunt those down and fix them properly. You do not want to be walking or carrying your bike out of the woods on a winter ride, or be the buffoon in the group whose bike is constantly breaking down.
Let’s talk a walk through your bike now. This is where decisions need to be made on who will fix what. As a general rule of thumb we recommend at the very least having a qualified mechanic guide you through any of these steps for your first time.
We recommend a few key tools to have in your quiver. You’ll want a good sharp set of allen-keys, a good biodegradable degreaser, chain lube and some rags. We strongly recommend having your own torque wrench. It will more than pay for itself in the long run. We recommend the Park Tool ATD-1 or TW-5.2 for a wider range of torque settings and arguably superior tool.

Grips: Inspect for wear. If they’re worn, replace them. A sure fire way to guarantee cold hands is holding cold metal. Grips are typically two types: slide-on and lock-on. Slide on grips typically get a little spray of alcohol and slide on. Once the alcohol is gone, it is intended that they stay in place on their own. Lock on grips utilize collars on either or both ends. The collars are typically secured by a small allen-head bolt. If your grips are in good shape but coming loose, sometimes you can simply loosen one of the collars and twist the grip one way then re tighten the collar.

Winter Bike

Pro-Tip: if you are adjusting the collars be absolutely sure you have a sharp allen-key and it’s fully inserted into a clean bolt head. We can’t count the number of collars we’ve had to cut off as a result of folks stripping the heads. 

Handlebar/Stem: After a quick visual inspection, take a good look around the stem itself. Often times it will display torque specifications. That’s when you grab your handy torque wrench and make sure things are snugged to specification. We do not recommend free-tightening these components unless you’ve got a really good handle on approximate torque. When it comes to more expensive parts - especially carbon we can not recommend enough that you never over torque your components.
Headset: In general - most modern headsets require little to no maintenance. They’re often sealed-bearing units and often any grinding or play in these units signifies time for replacement. Most reputable headsets will have replaceable sealed-bearing units. Free bearing units can often be rebuilt by replacing the ball bearings and grease. Upon inspection of your headset if you notice any grinding or play in the bearings we do recommend having a professional technician inspect. You can perform a quick inspection by setting the bike on the ground and with the front brake fully engaged rock the bike forward and backward with your other hand wrapped around the headset. Do this around the top and bottom of the headset.
Seat / Seatpost: There are few things more annoying on a bike than a squeaky or loose saddle. If you’re switching from clips to flats for winter riding you might also want to drop your seat ½ inch or so. This is a handy compensation for having your mid-foot on the pedal as opposed to your forefoot in clips. If your saddle is loose in the seatpost it could simply be loose. Inspect and tighten the bolt / bolts to specification. Note that as you tension these bolts you might be changing the angle of your saddle. Be mindful of your comfort position before you begin. If you’re spending a lot of time on your bike, it never hurts to get professionally fitted.
Wheels / Tires: No matter what’s happening up there on the bike - down on the ground there are only two tiny contact patches interacting with the ground as you roll. Your tires absolutely need to be in good condition for winter riding. That means good tread and solid sidewalls. Inspect both seasonally, and replace as necessary. Depending on the winter conditions you’re riding in, we highly recommend having studded tires.
Cranks / Pedals / Bottom Bracket: The power center of your bike. At the core of this system is your bottom bracket. It’s located right inside the bike. Modern bikes all use a cartridge style unit which isn’t serviceable, however the BB can come loose. Attached to the BB are the crank arms. If they’re creaking - we recommend removing and cleaning them. Once things are all cleaned and tightened if there is still creaking or play, it’s time to head to the bike shop. Pedals should spin freely without side to side wobble. Less expensive pedals are usually unserviceable, however most higher end ones can. If you’ve done a walk through of this area of your bike and still experiencing issues - you guessed it: bring that bike to your shop and have a trusty mechanic take care of it.
Cables: We’ll keep this one simple. Replace your cables every season. There are few things which can ruin a ride quicker than failing gears or bad brakes. If you’re interested in learning more about this, your local bike shop likely covers most of this in their maintenance courses where you can learn the basics to keep you on the trails. 
Some of our best rides have been on snow in the winter time. Getting yourself dressed properly, and having your bike in top condition are key to setting yourself up for a great time. Don’t let the cold, and snow get you down. Your inner-child is waiting, and your bike is the vehicle to get you there. Set yourself for some serious smiles this winter, and be prepared for some amazing adventures on your bike.

Drop in to the shop or give a ring. Let's get you set up for Winter Fun!

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