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Winter Cycling Preparation for Your Gravel Bike

December 26, 2023

The brilliance of sunrise against the crisp, cold landscape, the invigorating rides in the chilly air, and the ghostly short night trips through forested trails—few things match the thrill of cycling in winter. For many, cycling on gravel roads during the winter season is a prudent choice. Compared to road biking, the risk of encountering icy surfaces is reduced. It also helps maintain and enhance your fitness compared to the more technical mountain biking. Plus, if you eventually venture onto roads, why not enjoy the muddy escapades of off-road exploration?

However, if the idea of winter cycling fills you with dread, there are measures you can take to prepare your gravel bike for the cold and damp weather, making your rides more enjoyable.

Why Winter Maintenance for Your Gravel Bike?

Anyone who's ridden a gravel bike from the dusty summers to the dark and damp winters will attest to the benefits of adjustments.

These modifications aim to alleviate discomfort during winter rides. They help improve traction for gravel tires, keeping you dry even on wet gravel paths. Ensuring visibility in low-light conditions and minimizing the risk of unwanted tire repairs on wet and cold roads are also part of the equation.

Tire Selection

As the only part that interfaces with the ground, tires significantly influence a bike's off-road performance on various surfaces—gravel, asphalt, rocks, grass, mud, or hard-packed earth. For most riders, considering the substantial weather changes from summer to winter, tire swaps make perfect sense.

As winter sets in, opt for tires with deeper treads, larger contact patches, and better grip for muddy conditions. Dense tread patterns help maintain good riding characteristics on asphalt. The arrangement of tread patterns on tires aids in better water dispersion.

If you want less mud clinging to your tires, wider-spaced tread patterns assist in easy mud shedding. Nowadays, there's an increasing array of gravel tires tailored for winter conditions offered by many brands.


Mudguards aren't limited to commuter or winter road bikes. They not only keep your rear dry on the ride home but also prevent awkward mud stains on café chairs. Installing mudguards on your gravel bike helps protect you and your riding companions from mud splatters, aside from steering clear of rough road and muddy trails.

For gravel bikes, there are three main types of mudguards. The smallest option is a short, clip-on mudguard, like the Mudhugger Gravel Hugger, which can be installed on almost any bike. Another type, the full-length fixed mudguard, resembles traditional road bike mudguards but requires frame and fork mounts for installation. For those seeking extended coverage without frame and fork mount points, a clip-on, long-cover mudguard is a good compromise between the two. Greater coverage can keep your face, feet, back, and the rider behind you dry and stain-free.


Bicycle lights ensure you're visible and illuminate the road ahead, crucial for safety during dark winter rides. Even if you plan primarily on daytime rides, investing in a good set of front and rear lights is essential. Dim, low-light conditions reduce visibility, hence using lights on the road, even during the day, is a smart move.

If you're riding on gravel paths amidst trees where sunlight might surprise you even during the day, a front light helps you see the path ahead more clearly. And if you get delayed due to unforeseen circumstances and find yourself riding at dusk, never get caught without lights. Also, maintaining good charging habits is key.

Tubeless Tires

No one wants to spend half an hour fixing a flat tire in harsh weather conditions. Hence, reinforcing winter tire maintenance is highly worthwhile. Some gravel tire brands offer options with added puncture resistance, but the real game-changer lies in tubeless tire design.

With tubeless tires, the self-sealing liquid typically plugs small punctures before you even notice them. Dealing with tubeless tires requires practice (or consulting a trusted mechanic), but in the long run, they save you a lot of hassle.

Additional Bike Packs

Due to the more variable weather conditions in winter, you might need more gear. A waterproof phone case, extra gloves, or additional storage space can come in handy, often requiring extra storage solutions.

Relieve your back's burden, stash things in bike packs, and enjoy a more comfortable, practical ride. Top tube bags, handlebar packs, and saddlebags are highly popular options. For instance, if you already have a top tube bag or handlebar pack, those could suffice.

Flat Pedals

If your area involves technical gravel mixed with mud, consider swapping out clipless pedals for flat ones during winter on your gravel bike.

Why? Flat pedals, akin to those used on mountain bikes, allow you to pedal faster and easier while transferring weight onto the bike, handy on tricky trails. However, this might decrease efficiency. Additionally, if you frequently ride or walk through mud, you needn't worry about flat pedals clogging up. It's not for everyone, but some riders prefer the switch.

Prepare Cleaning Kits

The worse the riding conditions, the dirtier your bike gets. It's almost unavoidable—just clean your bike more often during winter. Neglecting bike maintenance with dust, grit, grime, and salt can corrode your drivetrain and other components rapidly, shortening their lifespan and costing you more in the long run.

Have cleaning and maintenance kits ready for more convenient bike cleaning after rides in rough conditions. Also, don't forget to apply wet lubricants as they're less likely to wash off from the chain in puddles.

Winter cycling on gravel roads can be an exhilarating experience if you're well-prepared. With the right tires, guards, lights, tubeless systems, additional packs, pedals, and cleaning kits, you can enjoy the thrill of winter rides while keeping your bike in top shape.

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