Most bikes don’t like the winter. Between the salt, grime, wet, ice, and snow, there’s a lot on the roads that can put some hurt on a bike.
For this reason it’s not uncommon for many riders to have a separate winter road bike that they use during the colder months. This bike isn’t pretty, and it isn’t high tech—but it can take a beating and it gets the job done.
Now, having a second bike just for the winter might seem excessive—until you begin to weigh the cost of building a beater bike against replacing components. Salt and road grime can quickly chew through chains, cassettes, derailleur jockey wheels and chainrings, and salt and road spray can play havoc with bottom brackets and headsets. And none of that stuff comes cheap when it comes time to replace stuff.
But don’t worry, building a winter road bike doesn’t have to be expensive…in fact it probably shouldn’t be. You can easily put together a super durable, super capable machine that can take some serious abuse with just the stuff you have in your parts bin and a quick trip to Nashbar.com.
STEP 1: See What You Already Have
Go to your basement/garage/shed and look through your parts bin to see what you have laying around. It doesn’t all have to match per se, but you should make sure that it will all work together and everything will fit.
Make a list of anything you still need, including adapters and shims.
STEP 2: Order What You Need
If you need a frame or fork, we have a wide assortment to pick from, including our Nashbar Cyclocross Frame, which would be a versatile platform to start a winter bike build with, since it has plenty of clearance for wide tires and a rugged design.
Things to consider when building your winter road bike:
1. Lower Your Gearing
2. Semi-Disposable Drivetrain
I usually use cheaper, lower-spec cassettes and chains on my winter bike. They’re going to get ruined, so why worry about it? And since the cost is lower, I can usually stock up on a spare or two, just in case.
More spokes, more metal, more durable. Some low-cost alloy wheels with a high spoke count are more likely to survive the winter (and less likely to cause financial strain if they don’t) than your nice wheels. Added bonus: when you switch to your good wheels in spring, your bike will feel much lighter and faster.
Expert Tip: look for wheels with brass nipples. Alloy nipples corrode quickly in a salt environment.
Tires are the one exception to the “don’t splurge” rule of the winter bike. Invest in a good, durable tire like the Conti Gatorskins, with a puncture resistant belt under the tread. It’s worth it to spend the extra money on tires to avoid standing on the side of the road in the cold trying to change a flat.
If you live somewhere icy or snowy (we’re looking at you, Buffalo) consider getting some studded tires for extra traction in the winter.
It’s getting darker earlier, so I usually keep a set of front and rear blinky lights on my bike at all times. If I’m getting an early or late start, I add a more powerful front headlight, just in case.
6. Saddle Bag and Frame Pump
1. I always have more stuff in my pockets, so there’s not a lot of pocket room for repair supplies.
2. My rides tend to be longer in winter, so I roll with more repair supplies to deal with just about any emergency.
I usually hold off on these until the depths of winter, but I do mount fenders on my bike. Not only do they keep you dry, but they also protect your components from the worst of the road spray. If your bike has fender mounts, then you’re in good shape—you can run some actual, full coverage fenders. If not, don’t worry—there are plenty of clip on options out there.
8. Grease and Lubricants
If it’s on your bike it looks like it’s made of metal and threads or screws into something, grease it. If you don’t grease it, lube it. If you don’t grease or lube it, wax it. Use carwax on the frame, beeswax as a threadlocker/sealant. If you’re riding a steel bike, look at getting your frame framesavered. Lube your spoke nipples. Grease your water bottle bolts. Try putting some beeswax on fender mounts and rack mounts. Look at using a “wet lube” instead of a dry one on your chain for extra rust protection. Ammonia makes a great a de-icer.