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Mid-Winter Bike Maintenance Check

We’re deep into the worst of the winter weather now, so it’s a good time to give your bike a mid-season check-over to see you safely and comfortably through to spring.

Winter weather takes its toll on your body and your bike. After a few months of pedalling through wet weather, mud and gritty roads it’s worth spending some time giving your bike a deep clean and a thorough check. Staying on top of your maintenance will help ensure your bike remains in good working order, ready to tackle the final months of bad weather.

7 essential bike safety checks

Tyre Checks

Wet roads are often littered with grit, glass and broken branches – all things that can lead to tyre damage. It is really important to check your tyres for small cuts, abrasions or even thorns that could lead to a sudden blow out. To do this, spin the wheel to look all around the tyres for worn areas or cuts in the tread and sidewall. Some tyres have wear marks on them so you can see how worn down they have become, but you can also tell by looking at the texture of the rubber – if it is rough or flaky it is time to change the tyre. Also, as a rule of thumb, if you start to have frequent punctures it is time for new rubber.

If you get fed up with punctures in winter it might be worth exploring tubeless wheels. They are the closest cycling has come (so far) to a solution to punctures. You need specific wheels that are suitable for use with tubeless tyres – talk to your bike shop if you fancy giving them a go. Tyres must be seated in such a way that they are air-tight and then latex fluid poured into the tyre. If you get a small puncture the latex fills the hole and seals it when it comes in contact with the air.


Mudguards are great for keeping both you and your bike clean. They prevent mud spraying up onto the chain of your bike and keep your feet and bottom dry. If you haven’t yet fitted any, consider doing it now as part of your maintenance session.

If you already have mudguards, check that they are securely fitted, don’t wobble and don’t rub on your wheel. Badly fitted rattling mudguards are annoying but can also be a hazard if they catch on your tyre.


You can make your chain last longer by looking after it. Grit, mud and salt on the roads can damage your chain but a quick clean and relube after every few rides will help you to keep on top of it. However, the occasional deeper clean is necessary in the winter months. Don’t waste time scrubbing your chain – use a chain cleaner that clamps on and pulls your chain through a series of brushes and a bath of degreaser, they make it really easy to get great results.

Once your bike chain is clean, check it has not ‘stretched’ as this can lead to your cassette wearing out more quickly. A chain-wear checking tool is a really simple way of keeping an eye on the health of your chain. They are cheap and easy to use, so even if you aren’t a natural home mechanic you can manage this task. You can pick one up (and a demonstration on how to use it) from your local bike shop.


Check that all your gears work smoothly and they don’t skip or jump under pressure. You can do this while riding on a flat road, clicking through from the easiest to the hardest, or by putting your bike in a work stand and turning the pedals with one hand while changing the gears with your other. If you’re having problems, the gears may need indexing – here is a handy how to video. Look at the cables to make sure they are not frayed or broken at the ends. You can help to keep them clean and moving smoothly by spraying a little bit of lube along them.


In bad weather your brake pads will wear down much more quickly, so it is necessary to check them frequently to enable you to change them in good time. Start by spinning your bike wheel by hand then pulling on the brake to check the wheel stops firmly and quickly. After that, pop your wheel out to look at the surface of your brake pads. Look for any dirt on the pad and sharp objects embedded in the surface. Ensure there is enough braking surface left for your type of brake.

Be very careful cleaning your rims or disc rotors and use a specific bike cleaner or neat alcohol on a lint-free cloth to scrub them. Any contaminants on the surface will transfer to the pads, so be careful not to touch your disc rotors or rims with oily fingers while cleaning your bike. Contaminated pads don’t brake very well and they can make an awful squealing noise!


You can turn your bike thanks to the moving bearings in the headset that provide the interface between the front wheel, forks and handlebars. However, if the headset bearings get worn, or damaged by dirt or water getting in, they can become stiff. Check this by lifting your front wheel off the ground and moving the handlebars through their full range. Put your front wheel on the ground, pull on the front brake then push your bike forwards and backwards, turn the front wheel sideways and push again. If you feel any knocking, stiffness or the movement feels sloppy then it is time for your headset to be checked out by a mechanic.


Your pedals attach to cranks that are joined together with a spindle that runs through the bottom bracket of your bike, enabling you to push the pedals around. Because of the position of the bottom bracket, it will get splashed by water and grit, or even submerged if you ride through a deep puddle. When water and dirt get in, the bearings can be damaged and this stops the smooth movement of the spindle. Hold a pedal in each hand and wobble the cranks side to side to see if you can feel any knocking. Spin each crank backwards by hand to see if you can feel any notches or roughness in the movement. If you spot any problems, ask your bike shop for a second opinion. Depending on the age and style of your bike the mechanic will need to clean or replace part, or all, of the bottom bracket.


Look after your bike and it will look after you. If you have any concerns about what you discover during your mid-winter bike check, head to your local bike shop or service centre who will be able to advise you.

For more information about our services or to start your claim, call 0808 100 9995 and speak to one of our specialist solicitors. We’re here to help. You can email us or schedule a callback.

Written By:

Cycle SOS
Cycle SOS only deal with cycle accident claims. We understand cyclists, and believe that cyclists have the right to be safe on the roads. Cycle SOS The Cyclists National Helpline is made up of a highly trained team of specialist personal injury cycling lawyers that have recovered millions of pounds for people making bicycle accident claims.