A fair few of us will consider not riding once the clocks go back due to the shorter days. Riding in the dark can be great fun though as long as a little thought is given to what we need to say safe, visible and warm. There are lots of lights and reflectives on the market and Steel Town Cycles will advise you as to what is best for your budget. Clothing is really just about layering. If you use a base layer, short sleeve top with arm warmers on the Autumnal days with a shower proof jacket its covering most situations. Layers can be taken off and put back on also. I prefer cycling tights when the mercury dips into single digits, before this shorts with knee warmers.
As important as making sure you are prepared, your bike needs to be sorted too. The Autumn and Winter are hard on bikes components and your bike is going to need a little more care to get it though, whereas in the Spring/ Summer we may somewhat neglect bike care, so we recommend washing of the frame, components, wheels/tyres and relubrication after this. Again there are many products available to clean, degrease and polish your machine. A dizzying array of lubricants – Wet, Dry & Wax to name some types of chain lube. But don’t worry I am going to explain and try and cut through some of the spin.
Bike cleaners aim to soften up muck and light, greasy deposits, and are best used to clean
the frame and wheels/tyres. Most are designed to be used with the bike already rinsed with water. So, start with a wet bike, and apply whatever wash you use. I don’t recommend the use of Washing-Up liquid as this has salt in it which can scratch frames – it happened to me – pick a bike specific cleaner that suits your budget (Steel Town Cycles can advise). Spray the cleaner on and leave it to work in for 30-60 seconds. Use a Soft brush or sponge to wipe around your frame and components then rinse it off.
In doing this you are washing off not only the dirt but also any salt that has got to the frame and components during use. To put this into perspective, if you only wash your bike once a month during the winter there’s a high chance you’ll need to replace some components come spring.
I like to also use a de-greaser to remove old chain lube and gunk that builds up on your drivetrain – Cassette, Chain, Chainrings and derailleurs – (see pic). If you think about the combination of oil, dust and soil, mixed together they form an abrasive paste which more quickly wears out your cassette, chain and chainrings.
After all this cleaning, which can take 15 minutes, or more depending on how thorough you want to be it is important to drive out the water from your chain. There are several brands here but perhaps the best know is WD-40 Spray. There are others but they do the same thing. They are, in very few circumstances suitable for lubricating a chain, so use of a specific chain lube is advised here. If you use WD-40 or similar the lubricant part is extremely light and will leave your chain dry and running metal to metal, significantly shortening the component and chain life.
Once you’ve driven off the water make sure you lubricate the chain with a good quality chain oil. If in doubt about which type to use speak to your local bike shop who will be pleased to advise and sell you the right oil for your purposes. I prefer the drop bottle type (see picture) and drop the oil onto the chain rollers, working from the rear derailleur forward to the chainrings. Try to avoid the outer plates and move the chain backwards by pedalling backwards. Do this a few times until the chain is visibly coated. Take an old rag (I use old T-shirts or T-Towels) run the chain backward through it with a gentle grip to remove the excess and lightly coat the outer plates of the chain.
Depending on how much your bike is in use repeat this procedure periodically.
If you wish to protect the finish on your bike there are also bike polishes which will protect frame and components between cleans.
Here are some examples of the lubricants I use and sell: