What is a winter bike?
Updated: Oct 13
Around this time of year you might hear some of your cycling mates say they are getting their ‘winter bike’ out, but what is this ‘winter bike’ thing? And, more importantly do you need one or is it just another (valid) excuse for n+1 (Rule #12 https://www.velominati.com/).
A ‘winter bike’ isn’t a specific type of bike but rather a term used to describe one that is equipped or adapted for use during the winter months, especially in countries with cold and wet weather (yes, the UK). These adaptations primarily make it safer and more comfortable riding in winter conditions but also mean that your best bike(s) are not exposed to harsh winter conditions, including gritted roads and potholes. Winter is hard on bikes, and there's nothing worse than watching your pride and joy slowly deteriorating.
In this article we will outline some common features and reasons why you might consider having a winter bike.
Winter Tires - choosing tyres with more tread or wider profile obviously gives you more grip and makes riding much safer in colder, wetter and icy months. These tyres also provide better puncture protection on roads that obviously have more debris on them that can damage tyres. Most tyre manufacturers now offer winter specific tyres. You might also want to consider going tubeless as wider tyres with lower pressures are ideal and tubeless does offer better puncture protection.
Wheels - your wheels will take the full force of poor winter conditions, so why would you want to ruin your best deep section carbon wheels? Many people will fit more robust alloy wheels that can deal with the weather and the poor road conditions to their winter bikes. A cheap set of alloy wheels make the perfect winter wheel and many people just use old wheels if they upgrade to new ones. Just changing your wheels and tyres for winter is a simple cost effective option.
Mud Guards - mud guards can ruin the look of a road bike but unfortunately are an essential part of any winter bike. They reduce the water, slush and mud splashing onto you and your bike, keeping you and your bike cleaner and drier. And don’t forget if you ride with others they will appreciate the reduction in spray when riding behind you! There are options that can bolt straight to your frame via mounting points and others that can be fitted if your frame does not have these.
Lights and Reflectors - we recommend using lights all year round but in the winter they are an absolute must at ALL times. They may not help you see other road users but they will help them see you. Modern LED lights are amazingly bright and efficient compared to the old lights that many of us remember from our childhood. They really are a must have on any bike that you use over the winter.
Frame - some winter bikes have frames designed to resist corrosion from salt and dirt on the roads. Many people who have upgraded to carbon frames simply keep their older alloy framed bikes as a winter ride. But remember that to fit mudguards and wider tyres you will need enough frame and fork clearance. Another option is to choose a titanium frame that will never tarnish or corrode even in the worst conditions, these really are a four season bike.
Brakes - disc brakes are obviously better for winter riding as they provide consistent stopping power even in wet conditions. But well maintained rim brakes are still sufficient in most cases and if the weather is that bad then either ride slower or stay indoors!
Storage and Tools - many winter bikes come with additional mounting points for adding panniers or racks to carry winter gear like extra clothing and tools. Carrying more spare innertubes or a better pump are worth considering, as you will get more punctures in winter.
Whether or not you need a winter bike depends on your location and how you plan to ride during the winter months. If you live in an area with harsh winter weather and want to continue cycling during this time, a winter bicycle will make your rides safer and more enjoyable. Many people don’t buy a winter specific bike, they just repurpose their old ‘best bike’ when they upgrade to a new one (it’s always about n+1). However, if you are looking to purchase a new winter specific bike then gravel / adventure bikes are an excellent choice.
Even if you don’t want a specific winter bike, making some of the adaptations above, such as changing your tyres, is worth considering. Plus remember, one of the key things to maintain your bike in top condition during the winter is to clean it every time you use it, even if that is just a quick spray down with the hose to get the worst of the muck off, that will help. Plus having it serviced before winter is always a good idea.
If you need any advice on riding in winter feel free to drop into the shop and have a chat with us or visit our website.