Fixing Up the Winter Bike: All the Broken Things

Like my bike, but mine isn’t as clean or blue and I’m not the rider in the pic… I’d not use such a stupid gear either.

Every cyclist worth their salt has a Winter Bike1. This is the (slightly) unloved machine that gets all the Winter training miles in through grim weather, mud, salt and general unpleasantness. It’s only reward is to be cast aside as soon as the nice weather arrives and the Summer Bike comes out of the shed to rule the roost.

However, the sins of the cyclist catch up eventually and my bike was in a terrible state due to last Winter’s mud-bath and general neglect. Optimistically, I thought that it just needed a deep clean, a new chain and a few squirts of oil & grease. If only…

After a lengthy session with water, detergent, scrubbing brush and solvents it was clean, but wasn’t looking so good mechanically. The bottom bracket was shot, the front and rear brake pads were down to the limit, the rear mudguard was loose and rattling2 and the cassette looked a bit “hooky”3. So, a bit more work than expected.

All the broken things…

Time to take things off and pile them in a heap of shame.

The chainset is a marginal case – it’s an original Shimano 105 Octalink V14 with 50/39 rings.  It has lasted pretty well5, but there are 2 snags with it nowadays since it is long-obsolete: a) The new bottom brackets are quite expensive6, b) Octalink V1 is pants as the splines aren’t deep enough (or tapered) so un-fixable play develops between the bb and crank.

All-in-all, I decided to avoid buying a new bb and instead to replace the lot with another chainset + bb that I happened to have in my parts box.

Right back at the start of my cycling obsession hobby I built my first road bike with a compact chainset7. I quickly discovered that a compact chainset is hopeless for flat areas since the small ring is just too small, so that chainset has been languishing in my parts box ever since. It’s in good nick, I have a bottom bracket to fit and also a 36T inner ring that I bought on a whim with a vague plan to go cyclocrossing8 so job’s a good ‘un. The gearing may be a bit odd, but this will also be helped by the fact that I had a new 12-21 9-speed cassette in my parts box to fit; the sizes will probably cancel out or something.

Next issue was the brake pads. I use Koolstop Salmons on my Winter bikes since they are the best of a bad lot in the wet. Swapping new ones into the existing shoes would have been an easy job if it hadn’t been a Winter bike where everything corrodes and the tiny pad retaining screws hadn’t seized in9. So I had to buy a new couple of sets of Ultegra shoes+pads10 and replace the pads with the Koolstops.

Once the brakes were sorted it was just routine re-assembly of the rest with antiseize copper grease and a good oiling. Putting things together when they are clean and new is always easy and fun 🙂 As expected, the new chain skipped on the old cassette. I tried it to see if I could get away with it, but my initial eyeball estimate of wear was accurate & it was too far gone.

The replaced chainset on the bike & ready to go.

The (moderately) ingenious mudguard repair is not quite visible in this pic. I had some thick plastic card handy that was display packaging for a Lezyne minipump, so I made a curved section that fitted under the mudguard, a flat section that went on top under the fitting clamp and then drilled a couple of holes through the mudguard to clamp it all together with some button-head bolts. Worked a treat and I reckon I can eke the mudguard out for at least another year before having to replace it completely11.

The resulting fixed-up bike is a lot nicer to ride again with the annoying rattly squeaking from the rear mudguard gone. The gearing is very slightly lower, but I think it is actually a touch better than the previous ratios for the area that I mostly ride this bike in. A success!

Next up in Bike maintenance world is getting the Summer bike back on the road for the start of May. That should be a much quicker process as I think it just needs a new chain and a bit of a clean… I hope!



  1. I actually have 2, this is the old one.
  2. One of the weak spots of SKS mudguards is that the rear metal bridge fitting vibrates and chews it’s way through the plastic guard.
  3. I’d had 3 new chains on that cassette already without skipping which is usually the limit.
  4. See St. Sheldon for info.
  5. At least 8 years of winter service.
  6. £32 for a 105 at Chain Reaction
  7. A Stronglight Impact with 34/48 rings to be exact
  8. 36/48 is quite a common cyclocross gearing.
  9. And the design is rubbish since the screws have a too-small allen key size that strips out if you just look at it wrongly.
  10. Cheaper shoes+pads are 1-piece, so unusable. The pads get chucked away as standard Shimano pads don’t work well in the wet and they chew the rims up with aluminium fragments to boot.
  11. The metal fitting clamp sheared through completely on my other Winter bike due to vibration, so I think it’s just a matter of time before this goes the same way.