Winter Cycling - Winter Cycling in the Salt Belt
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08-23-08, 12:05 AM
I've commuted year round in Portland and know how to deal with rain, but I'll be moving to Michigan this December. How bad is the road salt on your bikes? Am I going to want to pick up a cheap used MTB and just let it rust out? What are your experiences with corrosion?
Also, how necessary are studded tires for the winter commute? Seems like some people swear by them, and others get by fine without. If you have a set of both, each on their own wheel sets, what criteria do you use to determine which one you'll use for the day?
Thanks for the input.
08-23-08, 11:16 AM
If it is really icy studs would be great. I do with out for now.
As far as salt goes, generally the frames do well. It is usually the components that get rusted and corroded.
Regarding studs, I think it depends on the rider as much as it does the conditions.
If you have transport alternatives, or you don't mind hopping off and walking past icy parts, or you have mad skilz, or can be really careful, you can get by without studs. I know a guy who does. Thinks I'm nuts for riding studs.
Me? I'm car-free so I have to ride no matter what the conditions, I don't like walking (which is the whole reason I ride I bike) and with my vision, I can't always see the difference between wet and ice until it's too late, and I tend to plow on through rather than go nice and careful. Therefore, studded tires are essential for me.
I also have two wheelsets, one for the studs (and a different cassette) and one with my road tires. I switch based on temperature. If it has been above freezing and it's supposed to remain so until after I get home, the road tires go on. Otherwise, I ride the studs. I can't depend on dry pavement for the decision. There's always melt and runoff on my route.
As for salt, I've ridden only two winters, and each winter on a different bike, so I haven't run into any corrosion problems except with chains and bottle cage bolts. That said, again I think it depends more on you than the bike or conditions.
I have no place to park my bike except the living room, so it gets hosed-down in the shower stall every time I get home. I don't think I'd ever have an issue with frame corrosion, even on an unpainted gaspipe bike.
But if you can't (or don't want to) keep it clean, and especially if it gets a chance to melt between rides, you'll probably have more problems with corrosion than I do.
For what kind of bike to ride, I think personal preference plays a bigger roles than anything. Most people ride MTBs all winter. I prefer road bikes, so that's what I ride through the winter. (Okay, it's closer to a cyclocross bike, but still, it's drop bars and STI.) The guy I referred to above rides an early 90s Bridgestone road bike all winter. He and I are probably the only ones who don't ride MTBs in the winter in this city.
In summary, there's adequate winter gear for all types of bikes. Your preferences probably count for more than any differences in equipment or materials.
What part of Michigan will you be in? the Weather can vary dramatically especially given the influence of the great lakes. I'm in SW lower MI and I can tell you that ice is seldom a problem, however rutted packed snow on roads can stick around for weeks on end. I'm not a committed winter commuter however I do ride if the roads are generally clear. I don't have studded tires, I am considering them for this year. If I get them I'll put them on a some what spare set of rims I have. And other than cleaning and lubing the chain more frequently, I don't see road salt as a huge problem. In my area major road ways are salted -- side roads are salted at intersections. This varies with time of year and budget constraints.
08-24-08, 04:06 PM
I'll be in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. I can't fit anything but slicks on my 90's Bridgestone, so I'm going to have to look at another bike. It's good to hear that with regular maintenance that the frame should be ok! I won't be rinsing it in the shower daily, but it will get regular cleaning.
For better efficiency, what do you think about running a studded front tire, with a wider commuter type rear? How do bikes equipped with studs handle on melted roads? (ie. good conditions in the morning, snow on the way home? Or frozen rain, etc...)
Thanks for the input!
I wouldn't want to race a bike with studded tires in a crit, but there's no problem with studs on dry roads for typical commuting and grocery-getting.
Tire width determines how the tire behaves in loose snow. Wider tires "float" over the top, narrower ones "sink" through to the pavement. Which is best depends on how much snow, for how long and what's underneath. I generally have no trouble with my 35mm tires in city and suburban riding. I run into trouble on unplowed, rutted and refrozen MUPs, (Darned XC skiers!) and occassionally when I go off-road.
Studs on bikes aren't for traction, they're to keep the bike from sliding out from under you. If you're going to run only one, put it on the front since it's nearly impossible to recover when the front end slides out. If the back slides out, it's easier to recover, or slower to fall down.
08-24-08, 10:31 PM
I've been riding through Ann Arbor winters for more than twenty years, so I've got some pretty relevant insight here! Actually, I think the other guys have given good advice, too.
First of all, we don't have a lot of snowy days. That is, it rarely accumulates on the road. They plow pretty quickly, and what they don't goes to salty mush. Ice on the roads is not much of an issue; you see it mainly on secondary roads at stops/intersections for a couple of days after a heavy snow, where the cars pack and glaze it. Most winter days, the roads are clear but wet.
Given that, I've found studs fairly useless most of the time, and exceedingly heavy (for MTB tires). I like a nice, open block pattern with square shoulders, like the old Panaracer Smoke or the WTB Velociraptor (iirc). Various other tires have worked well over the years, include the Onza Porcupines and Specialized Team Controls and Mud Controls. Keep widths to 1.95 or narrower so you can get that cut-in TLS was talking about.
All that said, the best thing for our slushy winter roads are 700C wheels shod with cyclocross tires. I run 32s, and have my second set of Kenda Kwiks on deck for this coming season. Ritchie Speedmaxes did alright, but I prefer the Kendas.
My flatbar, 700C, disc brake equipped Novara Buzz was a winter commuting revelation when I got it, and I still can't believe I wasted my time riding MTBs all those years. Yeah, it's that much better!
With regards to corrosion, as stated above, it's mostly the components that get the biz, not the frames. My bike setup tips would include stainless bolts for bottle cages and fender mounts, sealed cable housings, anti-seize on pedals/chainring bolts/seatpost & bolt/wheel skewers, wet lube (e.g Pedro's Synlube), and a can of WD-40 to keep the derailleurs in order (the paralellogram pins rust badly and impinge movement).
The biggest problem here is just the cold. Shifting can be unpredictable when cables freeze and brakepads turn hard and slippery. Get narrow knobbies, disc brakes, a balaclava, goggles, overpants, shoe covers, Gore-Tex gauntlet gloves and you'll be all set!
Drop me a line when you hit town and I'll be happy to show you some choice routes and help out any way I can.
08-25-08, 08:34 PM
Thanks for the low-down! That's exactly the kind of information that I was looking for! You guys rock. I think the cyclocross tires may be the way to go. It's good to hear that they really keep up with the roads. I plan on running a fixed gear snow bike so there won't be any shifting problems, and only a front brake to maintain.
I'll drop a line in december once I get into town! Now I'm excited about snow...
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