Ride Out The Winter

When faced with winter, a triathlete generally makes one of three decisions about cycling: keep riding; move the bike inside to the turbo trainer; or shift emphasis to a different activity - Wii Fit, anyone? - until the warmer weather returns. No matter which category you fall into, your bike will work better if it's cared for all year round. Here's a plan to keep your bike spinning smoothly, whether you ride it every day or once a month.

If you plan to... load up on outdoor base miles

Dry your bike after wet rides. Check your brake pads for wear and embedded debris. Keep moving parts cleaned and lubed, and make sure your tyres are properly inflated. 

Your winter checklist

Safe brake Winter road grit clings to brake pads, so give yours a good look and pick out any dirt stuck in the compound. If your pads are close to being worn out, replace them. Also, rub your thumb along each rim's braking surface. If it feels concave, invest in new wheels. 

Drop your chain Remove your chain from the chain rings and spin your cranks slowly. If the resistance is light and fluid, all is well. If it feels rough - or worse, you hear something grinding - head to the bike shop for a bottom-bracket overhaul. 

Go down under

Flip your bike over and check the down tube, bottom bracket, back of the fork crown and so on for gunk. Clean it, then if you spot any cracks, dents or rust, seek professional help from your local bike shop. 

If you plan to... ride the turbo trainer

Remember to wipe the sweat off your bike after each turbo-training session. And use a cheap tyre - why burn expensive rubber training indoors? Make sure the clamp that holds your bike on the trainer isn't too tight. 

Your winter checklist

Feel your rear tyre Slide your thumb across the tyre. If the centre tread is flat, replace the tyre. If you ride rollers, be sure to check the tread on both the front and back tyres - and pump them up before that first outdoor ride. 

Spin your hub Most turbo trainers clamp around your rear wheel's quick-release skewer. If you overtighten this clamp (it should merely be snug), you risk tweaking the quick-release and putting potentially damaging pressure on the bearings. When you remove your bike from the trainer, check the quick-release for damage. Also, remove the rear wheel, hold the axle ends with your fingers and give the wheel a spin. If it's smooth, you're ready to go; if it's gritty or bumpy, take it to the bike shop.

Inspect your cables Your sweat can corrode exposed cables. If that happens, be sure to replace them.

If you plan to... take the winter off

Swim and run to maintain your fitness levels so you're ready to go when the warmer weather finally returns. 

Your winter checklist

Get cracking Has your bike been unused for a while? Check your tyres' sidewalls for cracks. If you find any brittleness replace the tyre. 

Do a once-over Exposed lubed parts will attract some dirt, even if the bike has been sitting idle in your hallway. So clean and re-lube your chain, and wipe away any dirt that has accumulated. Check the pressure in your tyres and start the season off right with a service at your local bike shop.