How to dress your bike for winter

Mudguards, lights, winter tyres, pump, and lubricant



The importance of a well maintained chain cannot be overestimated, particularly in the winter months, when it will come under attack from corrosive forces including rain and road salts. A lubricant can help to hold off the worst ravages of the season, but should not be considered a substitute for regular cleaning. A spin in the chain bath is always a good idea, particularly when the lubricant applied before the ride has become garnished with grit.

A wet lubricant will be thicker and harder for the rain to wash from your chain, but will be a magnet for dirt. Lubrication is not a substitute for regular chain cleaning

Lubricants are characterised as ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ and this demarcation is worth considering throughout the year: it rains in the summer too, particularly in the UK. During winter, a ‘wet’ lube, characterised by its greater thickness, should make it harder for rain and road spray to wash off. The bad news is that this same viscosity means a wet lube holds a magnetic attraction for any kind of grime. We come back to where we started: regular cleaning. A ‘dry’ lube doesn’t hold the same attraction for dirt, but will wash off more easily when out on the road.


The chain is the most obvious target for lubrication, but cables should be protected too, especially if those on your machine are externally routed and open to the elements. Exposed sections of cable are most susceptible, but moisture can find its way inside protective cable ‘outers’.

Ride mechanic, Andy Phillips, recommends turning the bike over before lubricating the front brake cable, allowing gravity to do its work in carrying lubricant into the barrel adjuster, and uses a thinner lubricant. For the rear brake, he pivots the bike in the workstand, disconnects the cable from the frame, and slides the cable outer so all of it can be lubricated.

The chain is an obvious target for lubrication but it’s important to protect cables too

The same principles apply for gear cables. Andy warns against relying on a silicone spray, which he says isn’t thick or heavy enough to protect the cable. Internally routed cables clearly enjoy greater protection, but are not immune from water ingress, either from riding or from washing. Maintenance is likely to involve replacement rather than lubrication.

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