Winter is considered as the hardest time to ride, in the northern hemisphere at least, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Those cold mornings when the roads are frosty and the sun is barely breaking the skyline, can be some of the most exhilarating and rewarding. Below is comprehensive guide to keeping those wheels turning throughout the winter months.
The Alloy Alternative: Although many choose to stay on their beloved technology laden carbon hoops, it may not be the best policy for the winter months. Poor conditions will mean a degradation of performance and any advantage you once had, will quickly evaporate as the grit and grime of filthy roads starts to increase. It is the time of year many cyclists swap out their carbon hoops for a set of weather hardy alloys.
An alloy wheelset will not only ensure you keep chalking up the miles throughout the off-season, they will also see you in good stead when the intermittent conditions of a UK summer take hold. However, much like their carbon counterparts, any wheelset will benefit immensely from a bit of love and attention therefore the following advice can be used for both sets.
Debris Free Brake Pads: The best way to prevent rim wear is to frequently check your brake pads for road debris, grit has a tendency to get embedded in the soft rubber and once the pads become contaminated, they act like sandpaper, scoring and wearing the rims every time you brake. Once a month or after several wet rides, inspect the pads and remove any embedded debris, at this point it’s also a good idea to check and replace overly worn pads before they glaze or harden, which will also increase wear to the rims.
Keep The Rim Track Clean: Keeping the braking track in pristine condition will increase the longevity of your wheels, it is therefore worth paying close attention to them. Regular cleaning of not just the wheels but also the brake pads is every bit as important as cleaning the mechanical components. Use a general bike cleaner or alternatively, hot soapy water and ensure you removed as much of the dirt and grime as possible. Isopropyl alcohol or a degreaser are also options and will clean the rims more thoroughly.
When to Change Pads: Regardless if you are running disc or rim, partially worn pads will disintegrate much faster in wet conditions. In both cases, once the pads wear down, they will need replacing. Rim brake pads have wear indicators, grooves cut into the rubber that let you know when the pads need replaced, using them below this indicator can cause damage to the braking surface of the rim.
If you are running a disc brake set-up, you will need to remove the wheel before checking the pad. We would advise removing the pad from the calliper, this will allow you to see just how worn they are. Disc brake pads generally have 3-4mm of compound, once that compound had worn to 1mm or less, they need to be replaced. Extreme wear will cause metal to metal contact and will significantly reduce braking performance and could cause unnecessary danger.
Rim Wear Indicator: Ever notice a small indentation on your alloy rim brake wheels? This is the rim wear indicator (usually at the valve hole) and once this disappears through wear, you will need to replace the rim.
Brass or alloy, which should you choose? This is a common question we get asked on a regular basis but regardless of what you decide to go for, both will benefit from regular maintenance, especially over the winter months. Brass nipples are much more durable and will not corrode like an alloy nipple when the salt goes down, but they are heavier than their alloy counterparts and only available in two colours.
Nipple Lubrication: If you are running alloy, to help prevent corrosion a simple application of lube will help keep your nipples tip top. To lube the nipples, touch a drop of light viscosity oil to the spoke as it enters the nipple, give it a few seconds to filter between the two before adding a second drop at the nipple-rim contact point. One you have completed the process with each nipple, spin the wheel to distribute the lube evenly.
Winter Specific Tyres: During winter, the tyres ability to cope with differing conditions intensifies. A single ride can encompass different elements, water, ice or even snow, all of which effects grip and performance. Winter riding can be a significantly different experience to summer, dealing with grit that's washed onto the road, grim and perpetually changing conditions. There is also the ever-increasing chance of punctures, so if you want to get the most out of your winter riding, an all-weather appropriate tyre should be top of your list.
Low Pressure Improves Grip: Another way to increase grip is to lower tyre pressure. Lowering the pressure will improve grip and comfort and might just stop an unwanted and dangerous fishtail. Unfortunately, a drop in pressure won't help much with puncture protection, but it most certainly should improve your overall winter riding experience. The most effective way to lower tyre pressure is utilizing a tubeless set-up.
The Benefits of Tubeless: Tubeless technology has been around for quite some time in MTB and although it's still going through the acceptance phase for road riding, tubeless technology will help reduce the amount of flats you'll get over the cold winter months. We've all been there. Once thing we would add here is to make sure you use the best tubeless fluid you can afford! The more expensive fluids have more fibres which help block any holes and it really is a case of 'you get what you pay for', so the money will be well spent.
Know How to Quickly Remove / Fit a Tyre: There's nothing worse than hearing the words 'flat!' when on a cold, wet weekend ride but if this is you, you'll want to rip that tyre off quickly, stick the tube in, and get moving again as quickly as possible. Check out the Scribe YouTube channel for more information on tyre fitment.
Our Full Alloy Range
Browse all of our alloy collections together and compare side-by-side, we’ve got you covered for all your winter and summer riding needs.