Mention the phrase “winter bike” to a non-cyclist and you’ll probably get a puzzled look in response, or maybe a laugh. After all why on earth would you need a separate bike for winter? It can all be washed and, if need be, replaced.
And that’s all very true.
However, the absolute bare minimum you’re probably going to need to replace are your chain and cassette, and there’s a £60 difference for these components depending on if you opt for Tiagra or Ultegra. If you’ve got even fancier components, ie Dura Ace or Sram, the difference compared to budget parts could be over £200. That’s not even including the cost of replacing chain rings or bearings!
Then you’ll probably want some gripper wider tyres to make life a little more comfortable on wet, icy, muddy, or gritted roads. Does your high-end bike allow for increased tyre clearances? Oh and mudguards, unless you want a suspicious looking stain along your backside, and it might be a struggle finding some that fit on your super-duper aero frame.
And then, with the wet, icy, muddy, and gritted roads and decreased visibility comes the increased risk of an accident. It’s something you don’t want to have to plan for because hopefully it never ever happens, but the risk is definitely greater when the conditions are worse. Even at low speeds, a small patch of ice could bring you off and ruin the most expensive parts of your bike.
That’s where the old reliable comes in. The winter bike. A noble steed that you can take out in the absolute worst conditions and ride in comfort, safe in the knowledge that it costs only a fraction of the price of your summer bike to repair.
No, it’s not absolutely essential but it’s a pretty good idea. Especially if you’re planning to keep riding through the winter like me.
Building my own winter bike
For myself, I decided I would get stuck in and try and build up my own winter bike from a mish mash of old components, a second hand frame, and some bargain purchases.
I had an old Tiagra groupset which was largely intact from my first road bike, although the frame was in no fit condition to be reused. It was ugly and heavy anyway, so it was an excuse to get rid.
My first port of call for a new frame was one of the Buy and Sell groups on Facebook (personal favourite being Yorkshire Cycling Sales). Yes, Facebook are probably spying on us and stealing our data and manipulating our minds, but these groups can be gold mines. After a very small amount of negotiation and a drive to Chesterfield, I managed to get a Giant Defy carbon frameset for £190.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any second hand budget wheels and I wasn’t patient enough to wait around. Instead, I settled on a set of Fulcrum Racing Sports which were down to £99 on Wiggle. 1.8kg with cartridge bearings seemed to be about as good as I could get for that price. Mavic Aksiums were my preference but for a wheelset that seem to ALWAYS be on offer, at the time I was building my bike I couldn’t find them anywhere for less than £180.
For the tyres I went with 28mm Continental Gatorskins. They’re a tyre with a good reputation for puncture resistance, and when it’s -2° and my fingers can’t remember what blood circulation is, the last thing I want to be doing is pulling a tyre from the rim. These came in at about £50 with two innertubes.
To complete my Tiagra groupset I just needed a braze on front mech (£19.99), 11-25 10 speed cassette (£19.99), and a 10 speed chain (£11.99). Brake and gear cables (£22) and bar tape (£10) were the finishing bits.
All in all, I was able to build myself a decent carbon road bike with a dependable Shimano groupset for less than £430. Yes, I did already have some of the parts lying around, but with a little more patience it wouldn’t take long or cost too much to get hold of a cheap second hand groupset.
Alternatively, you could buy a whole new bike, but I would definitely recommend building your own. It’s great fun sourcing all the bits and putting them together, and it’s a brilliant way to learn how to fix your bike. It’ll usually be a little cheaper too. And regardless of how much of a bodge job you create, you’ll be proud to ride what you’ve built.
And remember, it’s a winter bike. A bike intended for riding in poor conditions. So go for the cheaper parts. When you’re riding through utter shite with a bike caked in mud the last thing you will be thinking about will be saving watts. Plus there’s none of the summer snobs about to judge; there is nobody to impress. And besides, it’s impressive enough that you’re even out riding in this weather!
What do you ride in winter?