Ask the expert: Liz Colebrook helps you look after your bike in winter

Bike builder and mechanic, Liz Colebrook is here to help you keep your cycle on the road in winter
Our bicycle agony aunt Liz Colebrook shares her knowledge as a qualified mechanic by answering your questions about bike maintenance through winter and beyond

I’ve got my pride and joy bike and I really want to look after her…You’ve been for a ride, you’re both a tad muddy. When you get home it’s chucking down. What is the absolute must do before your bike gets put away? — Donna

Donna, definitely do the cleaning up while you’re mucky. An absolute must is to get the grit, salt and mud off using anything from a bucket of hot water and an old washing up brush to a cycle-friendly pressure-wash system. Don’t use a super high-pressure jet wash designed for cars, as these blast the grease out of your bearings. Next, dry your bike with its ‘bike towel’ (equivalent to a dog towel) – unless you have a fancy motorbike hairdryer!

Sitting your bike on newspaper in a warm room to drip dry will do – just don’t leave it wet in the cold as it will cry orange tears (of rust).

Once dry, you can re-lube the chain with a dripper applicator (remember I said don’t use spray lubes if you have disc brakes because they can mist onto the disc). Always wipe off the excess lube as that just attracts dirt from the road. The lube is actually only needed on the chain’s internals.

My bike is kept in the garage. As the weather is turning colder, should I bring the battery pack inside? — Amanda

Amanda, that’s a good idea. Some batteries cope with the cold better than others, but I wouldn’t leave a battery outside long term. It will serve you better if kept out of chilly environments.

Liz, what is your post-ride bike cleaning regime in the winter? And what chain lube do you use in the winter? — Yasmin

Yasmin, I’ve got a low pressure washer to remove any grit, mud or salt. Alternatively, I fill a bucket with hot slightly soapy water (more for my own benefit) and then start at the top and work down with an old washing up brush or sponges (but don’t use the scouring side!).

I do have some special bike brushes, but they are pretty much worn out now, and they don’t do anything an old J-cloth and sponge can’t do. A dry J-cloth is good at drying the bike if you haven’t got a demoted tea towel.

With lubes, use a dry lube in summer and a wet lube in winter, but buy the ones that are the dripper type (not spray). The key thing is to wipe off the excess and only put it on the pivots of your mechs and the little jockey wheels just at the centre where they pivot round.

Hey Liz, I’m going to have a go at stripping off the chain and cassette to give them a really good clean. Any tips? — Lyndsey

Good for you, Lyndsey! I’m blessed with a Rozone small parts cleaner, but there’s nothing wrong with an old ice cream tub, a toothbrush and some WD40 – it does a great job of flushing out that grinding paste that makes your chain give you those inadvertent calf tattoos.

Alternatively, you could use a biodegradable degreaser solution, but make sure you wash it off thoroughly in hot water and then let it dry before refitting and re-lubing – chains much prefer less lube than to be doused in it.

For the cassette, you can use string and WD40 to ‘floss’. Or, if you have the tools to remove it from the freehub, then give it the ice cream tub treatment as you did with your chain, but just dry with a rag and refit.