Certain things are inevitable in life. Death and taxes are good examples, but for we who ride – winter time woes are also inevitable. For example, if you ride at all in the winter chances are good you will flat. Chances are also good you will need to adjust your brakes and derailleurs much more often than normal. All this is due to water and grime gumming up your cables and causing debris to cling to your tires. There are ways around these winter cycling frustrations, and although I haven’t gone a full winter yet on the products I’m about to share with you, chances look good for a low-frustration year.
In general it’s a good idea to change your tires and tubes, cables, and brake pads for the winter time. It’s best to have tires that can stand up to a constant barrage of pebbles, thistles and thorns, and anything else you’ll find on the road. The wet weather causes objects that your tires normally roll over in the summer to stick to your tires and remain there for a while. To combat this, I’m trying out some Schwalbe Ultremo DD tires. A little background on the DDs; DD stands for Double Defense and is Schwalbe’s most durable race tire. It features two layers of defense.. shocking right? The first is a super densely woven puncture belt underneath the tread patch. The second is Schwalbe’s Snakeskin fabric from bead to bead, which is similar to the Duraskin we’re all familiar with on Conti’s but doesn’t look any different than a normal sidewall – which is quite nice actually. What makes the DDs a race tire is they still weigh a svelte 225 grams in 23c width, feature a folding bead, and use Schwalbe’s Triple Nano Compound tread. Recently, there has been a ludicrous amount of road construction going on in our area. I don’t mind the road repair (though I prefer it when it’s necessary) I just wish Cal Trans would clean up after itself. Instead, they leave little fresh chunks of asphalt strewn across the bike lane and shoulder. It’s one of the best proving grounds for road tires.
I’ve had these tires on for two months and put around 800 miles on them, including a gran fondo. They corner well, roll smoothly, and I haven’t flatted yet in spite of 2 wet rides and picking up a staple. What’s more encouraging is when I closely inspect the tread, there are no visible slashes or cuts after repeated asphalt abuse. I would highly recommend these to any one who needs a durable tire for the winter.
The go-to brake pad for the winter is the Swissstop GHP II pad. These are amazing wet weather pads. If you’ve ever needed to stop quickly in the wet, more than likely you’ve noticed greatly increased stopping distances and virtually no stopping power. These pads respond in the wet like normal pads do in the dry. Enough said. If your winters are wet these are a must, if you live somewhere like Arizona the Original Black pads will better suit your needs.
Lastly, let’s talk about the Gore Ride-On Professional Cable Kits. These immediately made a huge difference in my shifting and braking performance. What’s interesting is that Sram does some clever marketing saying that these cables come with their RED groups. I have Sram RED, bought it aftermarket and can confirm that that is not true at all. What comes with the RED group is a hybrid system that is closest to the Gore Ride-On Low Friction Cable Kit. The Professional kit is a whole different animal. For starters, it’s a fully sealed system. Second, it’s compression-less. The Pro system was designed to appease Pro Tour mechanics who wanted a fully sealed system that was lighter than the Low-Friction Sealed system. The Pro system uses 4mm shift housing to accomplish this and saves about 20 grams per cable. The housing is pre-lubed which would normally make for an easy install; more on that later. Another nice feature exclusive to the Pro Kits is the Teflon coating starts a few inches down the cable.
The reason for this is the Teflon coating eventually comes off – especially where it comes in contact with mechanical zones such as the shifter mechanism. This is typically where the Teflon coating will come apart and sometimes gum up the shifter. Starting the coating outside the shifter body solves this problem.
Installation was slightly annoying. The cables come with Campy ends and Sram/Shimano ends so you have to cut off one of the ends to fit your system. However, inserting a shift cable into Sram shift levers is one of the biggest pains in road bike maintenance and it’s only exacerbated by a freshly cut cable. After 30 minutes of coaxing I got the cables through. It was smooth sailing after that. Once installed, the Professional Kits made my shift action light and quick. And it hasn’t changed at all since. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about it changing because the system is totally weather sealed. I’m definitely most excited about this change to my bike. I really like these cables!
These are the basics of getting your road steed ready for winter. Not only is it nice to get your bike running fresh again, but these changes will make it more enjoyable over the long haul. For more information on the products mentioned visit our website at artscyclery.com.