24 February 2021

How to set up your bike for winter

Word by Fulcrum Wheels

Pedalling in winter: how to choose the best wheels and tyres for the job

Winter riding with its low temperatures, slippery tarmac and severe weather conditions is not only a challenge in terms of keeping warm and dry, especially hands and feet, but also in terms of the right wheels and tyres to use on the road. In the depths of winter a bike’s handling can change drastically and you must be aware of the drop in braking power, stability and grip. But, just like the right choice of winter clothing can make or break a ride, there are a few tricks that you should be aware of, which can ensure you can pedal safely and avoid unpleasant surprises.
Rollers and Zwift challenges are always valid options when the weather turn really nasty, but there’s nothing like the satisfaction of pedalling outdoors, and an energising ride with the biting wind on your face, even in the depth of winter.

Low profile aluminium wheels

Winter is not the season for worrying about weight and aerodynamics. In order to continue training effectively you should choose wheels that guarantee safety in all conditions. Even though disc brakes have in part resolved the problems of braking with rims that are wet or covered in road grit, we still recommend fitting lower profile aluminium wheels, such as the Fulcrum Racing 3 or the Racing Zero (available both in rim brake and disk brake versions). Low profile rims are less likely to be affected by the wind and therefore will not be prone to sudden swerves and will allow you to save considerable energy in case of wind and rain, as well as providing more comfort over longer distances. Another advantage is that a second set of aluminium wheels can be used on traditional rollers for those days when even the most determined motivation falters against the brutality of winter.


Winter tyres 

Let’s have a look at the differences between winter and summer tyres:
→ compound
The softer compound of winter tyres is designed specifically to work at lower temperatures. A softer rubber mixture allows the tyres to remain supple despite the drop in temperature and therefore improve grip on cold roads, especially in turns;
→ puncture protection
A protective layer (usually Kevlar) placed under the tread provides greater puncture protection when you need it most, on winter roads full of gravel, salt and debris;
→ tread pattern
The tread pattern found on winter tyres ensures that you maintain grip with sandy and dirty roads. Moreover with an increase in rolling resistance the tyres get warmer than a summer slick tyre, so that the grip of the softer winter compound can work at its best;
→ size
Winter tyres are usually wider, between 26mm and 32mm, providing a larger contact surface and increasing stability in situations with poor grip as well as comfort. Therefore the best option is to fit the widest tyre possible that your frame will allow.  

Wet, cold and dirty roads can be treacherous for cyclists but a good set of winter tyres are your secret weapon to improve the grip, control and braking power of your bike. Matched with a low profile wheel, winter tyres are the ideal setup for long winter rides, even on mountain roads. You will be able to feel the benefits of the low profile rims whilst climbing and when you turn back down the hill, the greater grip of the winter compound will make you feel safer in the turns. To get the most out of your winter tyres you should also run them at slightly lower pressures, up to 1 bar less than summer tyres (always within the manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressures).
In other words the magic formula for winter riding is a combination of low profile aluminium rims and larger and sturdier tyres. Whilst it might seem exactly the opposite of performance, this solution will keep you riding safely in all conditions and building your form for the summer season: winter miles = summer smiles. And when you go back to your carbon wheels with lighter tyres, you’ll be flying, in full #fulcrumfast style.
Thanks to:
Jan-Niklas Jünger, Continental Product Manager
Alexandre Cuif, Hutchinson Marketing & Product Manager
Davide Valsecchi, Pirelli Sport Marketing Manager
Felix Schäfermeier, Schwalbe Product Manager
for their technical support on winter tyres.