If your email inbox is anything like ours, it will be crammed with bike retailers pushing their winter wares and end of year discounts. Naturally, we’ll all be tempted to pick up a few bits and bobs to keep ourselves warm on cold, crisp days (check out our article on kit for the colder weather if getting ready for a ride is giving you a headache), but what about the bike? More specifically, what about winter bikes?
It could be said that retailers and bike manufacturers are taking advantage of the bike lust that every single cyclist suffers from, that presenting certain models as ‘ideal winter bikes’ is simply a clever marketing ploy to maintain sales. Well, not entirely.
Just as we need to be dressed appropriately for the cold and wet weather, you do need to think about your bike. Whether you’re riding a £5,000 De Rosa, have moved up to a carbon frame or just really, really love your bike and buy wet wipes to keep it squeaky clean, you should be aware of the additional wear and tear on its moving parts from rain, spray from surface water, road salt and all the gunk that collects on the roads at this time of year. You can of course ‘winterise’ your bike by attaching a mudguard and changing to more robust tyres and tough inner tubes. But if the thought of your pride and joy being pelted by the elements is just too much then you might want to consider investing in a winter bike, especially if you’re planning to ride regularly throughout the winter months.
Naturally, budget has a significant part to play in this decision. But a winter bike doesn’t have to be top of the range or be fitted out with the highest specification components on the market – it doesn’t have to, and really shouldn’t, cost more than your best bike.
There are various ways the clever cyclist might approach the issue of adding to their bike collection – especially if it’s at the risk of annoying the other half by diverting funds for next year’s holiday or buying Christmas presents to satisfy yet another cycling itch!
- Invest in a new ‘best’ bike. Maybe you’ve had yours for a few years now and fancy a change (for whatever reason!). Right now retailers are heavily discounting stock to make way for next season’s – there are plenty of fantastic bargains to be had. And don’t forget that many stores offer 0% finance or you might be able to qualify for a cycle to work scheme, both of which will soften the financial blow. You can then demote your current best bike to your winter bike, maybe with those few changes suggested above, and still be confident that you’ll have a great time when you’re out on the roads.
- Check out all those discounted bikes and find one that will work well as a winter bike. First and foremost, it needs to be robust and reliable. Weight doesn’t really need to enter the equation for a winter bike, so forget the carbon, don’t ogle bikes with a Dura-Ace groupset – that should help keep things affordable. Winter framesets are typically made from steel or aluminium. And remember to make sure that you choose a model with mudguard eyelets. A true winter bike will not be sporting clip-on guards, full-length mudguards offer more protection against all the grime kicked up off the tyres, which means less wear and tear of components. At the same time, you want to feel suitably inspired and excited by the bike to get up on a frosty morning for a 50-mile ride, so it’s about striking the right balance between price and performance.
- Allow your inner bike mechanic to shine and build a bike! Again, end of year sales can be a great time to pick up a cheap frame and separate components to then build to your own specification. It can also be well worth trawling through eBay for bargains, even to the extent of buying a second-hand bike that can be stripped down and adapted. Make sure you invest in wheels with a thicker than usual rim wall and tyres that will give good grip and resistance to punctures.
- And if you need to further justify costs, either to yourself or your significant other, remember that a winter bike can also double up as a summer tourer, especially if there is the option to attach panniers!
Finally, a note on safety. Please make sure you are visible to other road users at all times. Daylight hours are short enough at this time of year, but visibility can change at any time so equipping your bike with decent lights is essential. And if you’re commuting or training early in the morning or at night, make sure you invest in a front light of at least 500 lumens so that you can see where you are going.