Some people take the cold weather as a sign to shove their bike in the shed for several months.
We call those people 'cowards'.
Ah, just kidding. But still, there's no reason why you can't keep rolling through the wet weather months. However, you do need to use a bit of common sense and some preventative measures.
Here's our handy guide on How To Avoid Your Bike Falling Apart Post-Winter.
Assuming you're not running a waxed chain, you need to lube your chain more often in winter than you do in dry weather. Why? Because wet weather (or riding through a river) washes lube out.
Chain lube does two things: 1) it prevents premature wear and tear on your drivetrain (thus saving you money); and 2) it's nice to not sound like a bag of hammers while you're rolling along.
You may also need to switch to a more weather-appropriate lube if you're currently using a light one; go for something like Rock N Roll Blue if you're running disc brakes or Morgan Blue Rolls Pro if you've got rim brakes. (And, yes, it is a complete coincidence that they both have 'blue' in their names. ....OR IS IT?)
Regardless, remember the golden rule: try to lube your chain once a week in winter.
You may have heard us bang on about this before (we're mechanics; we can't help it) but it's true: if it gets inside your frame, water is an excellent way to destroy your bike. Not only does it work its way into bearings, but it also funnels dirt or road grime into moving parts (e.g. your gears). This is bad, and also costly.
At a pinch, don't ride in heavy rain. (Ideally don't ride in the rain at all, but we understand that sometimes you've just got to get to work/training/the pub.)
If you know you're heading out into crappy weather, a piece of old bicycle tube slipped over your seat post slot will help stop gunk getting inside your frame. You're welcome.
Mud guards not only help prevent stuff spraying all over your bike, but also help keep your clothes clean, as aptly demonstrated by Pete, below.
And, yes, roadies, we can hear you complaining about ruining the line of your stealth bike or whatever, but there are many lightweight and unobtrusive mudguard options. (Come and check them out at the shop! #shamelessplug) Besides, do you really want to get your Rapha jersey covered in crud?
So you rode in the wet, and now your bike looks like it crawled out of some primordial swamp. You need to wash it, but with a few caveats, as followed.
Hoses are great at forcing water past suspension seals and bearings. You don't want that. Use a bucket of soapy water and a sponge instead.
If you must hose, make sure to use a fine mist. Don't aim and shoot like you're trying to put out a fire.
An upside-down bike not only risks a soaked saddle but also helps water run into your headset. That's bad.
Silicon spray is brilliant. Applied to your frame, it acts like a Teflon coating and makes cleaning your bike much, much easier - the muck just slides off.
Note: keep it away from your brakes. Slippery frame: great; slippery brakes: not so great.
Speaking of brakes, brake pads can wear very quickly in the wet, and if you ain't got brake pads, you ain't stopping. Make sure to inspect them regularly.
(Not sure how to tell? Drop past the shop and we'll check 'em out for you.)
No, not in the 'I feel seen' meme sense. We mean it literally: make sure you're visible. Crappy weather means even more crappy drivers, so keep your lights bright and your clothes reflective.
If you're riding all-year round, we recommend bike servicing twice a year; pre- and post-winter services are perfect as they prepare your bike for the wet season and then fix it up afterwards. You know what to do.
And there you go! Simple steps which will make the difference between coasting happily into spring or limping out of winter. Remember: you've got to stay one step ahead of the magpies, right?
After buying a brand new bike from overseas, I was very disappointed with the brakes. I took it to my LBS and was told to throw the brakes away and put some others on it. I took it to BMCR, who gave them a quick bleed and adjustment. They went from Formula Frigged to Formula Frigging Awesome. Best…Charles Hatcher