The key differences between a race bike and a winter trainer
Winter training can cause more wear and tear on your road bike than the damage done by several years of summer riding. All that grit, road salt, rain and spray wears out moving parts right before your very eyes. Brake blocks and rims are devoured by that abrasive paste found on the roads from October through to March. Why ruin your lovely race bike for a couple of months training in the wet, when you can use a specific training bike that can cope with the wear and tear and still feels god to ride? Saving your racing pride and joy until the spring, when dry roads and daffodils beckon.
You don’t have to buy a new bike specifically for winter training, an old race frame built up with spare parts is ideal.
Keep your position
There’s no hard and fast rule about what type of frame to choose in terms of frame material or style, if you’re serious about racing or riding hard, then try to stick to the same type and size of frame you’ll be using the rest of the year. A riding position similar to your race bike position is a good idea so you feel comfortable on both bikes and can train properly in the same position. This prevents injury and keeps your muscles working as they would on your race bike.
Choosing the same pair of bars, stem length and height can aid this, and the same saddle you usually ride is essential for continuity and comfort. You can opt for cheaper and slightly heavier models of your race kit if you want to save money. Take plenty of care positioning these contact points so that you can glide effortlessly from one bike to the other, saddle height is another important feature especially if swapping between different shoes and pedals. Measure from the inside of the shoe bed to the saddle for an accurate position, and try to keep cleat alignment the same too.
If you’re planning on long rides then a couple of water bottle bosses are useful, but apart from that you can use any old frame that fits you well, an old racing frame is an ideal choice and maintains your riding position without compromise. Some people even ride fixed-wheel bikes during the winter for a change and to aid fitness, but most racers will want a bike with the same range of gears and feel as their normal bike. Weight isn’t so much an issue in winter or when training, a bit of weight resistance will make you appreciated your lightweight summer bike again.
Having a winter training bike also means you can fit mudguards and lights without worrying about weight and looks too, they are ideal for training in bad weather and at night. Mudguards not only keep cold water and spray off your body but also prevent gritty water from spraying moving parts too, plus it’s more sociable when riding in a group.
Wheel and tyres
Wheels and tyres need to be somewhat tougher than your usual race and summer choice, if you’re building or buying a pair for winter training then opt for a thicker rim wall to ensure longevity with enhanced wear from water, grit and salt. A good quality sealed hub is essential to complete the wheel and we’d recommend slightly wider and tougher tyres too with more grip than smooth race tyres. Try tyres with added sidewall protection from punctures, there’s nothing worse than getting a puncture in the cold and rain.
This is really the most essential feature of a winter bike. Riding in the wet is no fun at all, but getting soaked through to your skin from the spray kicked up from your tyres can quickly turn a ride into a battle to stay warm and focused. Mudguards can be retro fitted to any bike, with various clip-on style mudguards catering for all bike designs. A true winter bike though, will have mounts for fitting a set of full-length mudguards which offer much more protection than clip-on guards.
The concept behind having a dedicated winter training bike is to be ready for all weather conditions without having to spoil your best bike: reliability coupled with your usual riding position is a perfect choice for the cold winter months.