Building A Winter Road Bike

Born from the deepest, darkest depths of the parts bin, this employee winter road bike is built to get the job done

Born from the deepest, darkest depths of the parts bin, this employee winter road bike gets the job done

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.

The spare parts bin is where ever winter bike should start it's life

The spare parts bin is where ever winter bike should start it’s life

STEP 2: Order What You Need

Go to Nashbar.com. We have a wide selection of both newer and older components, so there’s a good chance you can find what you’re looking for.

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.

nashbar_cyclocross_frame

Things to consider when building your winter road bike:

1. Lower Your Gearing

During the winter I usually like to use a compact crank and an 12-27 cassette. The off-season is the time to spin and do cadence work, not high intensity smashing.

A compact crank and easier cassette are probably a good way to go during the winter

A compact crank and easier cassette are probably a good way to go during the winter

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.

A lower-cost cassette and chain make it easier to say goodbye at the end of the winter

A lower-cost cassette and chain make it easier to say goodbye at the end of the winter

3. Wheels

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.

Some low-cost, super durable alloy wheels are a good way to go...whether they match or not

Some low-cost, super durable alloy wheels are a good way to go…whether they match or not

4. Tires

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.

Any tire with a tough, durable casing and flat protection belt is a smart investment for the winter

Any tire with a tough, durable casing and flat protection belt is a smart investment for the winter

5. Lights

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.

Front and rear lights are a must for a winter road bike

Front and rear lights are a must for a winter road bike

6. Saddle Bag and Frame Pump

During the off-season I use a saddle bag and frame-mounted pump instead of carrying everything in my pockets like I do in summer. I do this for two reasons:

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.

A frame pump and saddle bag ensure you'll have (almsot) everything you need to fix your bike on the side of the road

A frame pump and saddle bag ensure you’ll have (almsot) everything you need to fix your bike on the side of the road

7. Fenders

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.

Even the venerable "beaver tail" fender can make a big difference

Even the venerable “beaver tail” fender can make a big difference

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.

See this stuff? It should go on anything with threads on your bike.

See this stuff? It should go on anything with threads on your bike.

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One comment on “Building A Winter Road Bike
  1. Steve says:

    “Ammonia makes a great de-icer” Ammonia has alkaline properties and is corrosive. Ammonia gas dissolves easily in water to form ammonium hydroxide, a caustic solution and weak base. Not something you want to put on your bike; something you want to protect your bike from.

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