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  1. #1
    The spirit is willing... engo's Avatar
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    Cold weather tools?

    Story: Heading home last night, and I quickly notice that my rear tire flatted over the course of the day. Take the wheel off, get the tire levers out to replace the tube, and SNAP - break one of the levers. No problem, right? I'll just try pumping up the tire and limp home. Pump goes on to the valve stem, and SNAP, pump breaks - and this isn't a Walmart pump either. Too far to walk, so it's time to phone for a ride.

    In hindsight, I should have stopped after the first break. I should have taken the hint that plastic left outside all day in -20C (-4F) weather is too brittle to use, but I guess my brain was a bit frozen at that point as well!

    The question is, was this forseeable? Should I be bringing all my gear inside during these cold Ottawa days or is it a lost cause? Are there tools more suited to cold weather?

  2. #2
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    I say CO2 instead of a pump. They drop to -20C from the pressure change anyways.

    The loss of digits is not worth $5.00.

    In general though, winter repairs suck. I can see why a lot of guys here ride the bicycle equivalent of tanks in the winter, although I like to maintain some semblance of performance myself. I carry my tools and pump in the pack. Tools encrusted in ice and road salt aren't the greatest thing either.

  3. #3
    Senior Member curt in denver's Avatar
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    My fingers would have snapped off in -20c
    "People who speak in metaphors should shampoo my crotch"
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  4. #4
    Dog is my copilot. GGDub's Avatar
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    co2 all the way in winter. I use ambrosio tire leavers. They're wide, flat and strong. Perfect for cold weather.

  5. #5
    The spirit is willing... engo's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips. I am loath to use CO2, just because of the waste associated with all those spent cartridges. Aside from that, I can understand why it would be quicker and easier.
    I'll also look around for those levers.

  6. #6
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    The cartridges are aluminum or brass, and can be recycled with other metals.

    Like the pile of rusty 7-speed chains in my basment I've been meaning to get rid of.

    Energy-wise they're about the same manufacturing process as a pop can.

    Broken pumps end up in landfills.

    Think of all the medical waste from the hospital if your fingers freeze off (okay, I'm reaching)

  7. #7
    The spirit is willing... engo's Avatar
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    Hmmm....food for thought....

    Thanks for the details.

  8. #8
    Barbieri Telefonico huhenio's Avatar
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    I will fill my tires with water in when those temperatures hit home

    Bumpy, but for sure I will not have any leaks.
    Giving Haircuts Over The Phone

  9. #9
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    You can get tyre levers with a metal core. Maybe they get less brittle than the plastic ones. I feel a destruction test coming on....

  10. #10
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Our city buses have bike racks, and I always carry bus fare in my seat bag. I've also never had a flat with my Nokian snow tires. Heck, their sidewalls are so stiff I could probably limp home on them with no air.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 11-25-05 at 03:21 AM.

  11. #11
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Below freezing there are problems with co2 cartridges. They freeze up too much and ice up before the tire is filled. In the cold temperatures they barely fill a tire anyway. It needs to be warm. I have been able to get them to work below freezing by warming up the inflator under my coat (98.6 f ) And then using it quickly, but you don't get enough expansion to fill some tires. It depends on the size of the tire and the size of the cartridge.

    That should be the last thing you want below freezing. Careful use of a pump with the nozzle adjusted correctly to be not too tight is what you want. Also practice changing tires in the warm temps until you can do it without tire levers. Have a bike shop show you how to do it.

    A flat in the cold still rots. Bring the bus fare anyway.

    I have not had a flat with my Nokians either. I raise the pressure after riding on bumpy ice, to high pressure for the road ride home. Even that is a pain.

  12. #12
    The spirit is willing... engo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    That should be the last thing you want below freezing. Careful use of a pump with the nozzle adjusted correctly to be not too tight is what you want. Also practice changing tires in the warm temps until you can do it without tire levers. Have a bike shop show you how to do it.
    I think this was part of the problem-the pump was set too tight. However, I'm not sure I would be able to get this tire off without the levers. It was a tight fit in the summer. Add stiffness to the rubber from the cold and...

    I will check with the shop anyway. Maybe I don't know as much as I think I do.

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    Hmm. I'll try the co2 again at a lower temperature... worked okay for me last time. Is this a 700c or a 26" tire?

    As for tire levers, I don't carry them either, but there are some tires that just fit too tight to be removed without levers. I avoid these combinations when possible.

    But I think that some winter tires tend to have particularly heavy sidewalls, especially the Nokians, and on some rims you'll need levers, and good technique on top of that.

    I have a Nokian 296 on a Sun Rhinolite that is particularly tough to get off. If that goes flat I'm walking home.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Do they still sell the QwikStik? That seemed to be made of a more pliant material than standard levers. It would solve one of the problems.

  15. #15
    Dog is my copilot. GGDub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    Below freezing there are problems with co2 cartridges. They freeze up too much and ice up before the tire is filled. In the cold temperatures they barely fill a tire anyway. It needs to be warm. I have been able to get them to work below freezing by warming up the inflator under my coat (98.6 f ) And then using it quickly, but you don't get enough expansion to fill some tires. It depends on the size of the tire and the size of the cartridge.

    That should be the last thing you want below freezing. Careful use of a pump with the nozzle adjusted correctly to be not too tight is what you want. Also practice changing tires in the warm temps until you can do it without tire levers. Have a bike shop show you how to do it.

    A flat in the cold still rots. Bring the bus fare anyway.

    I have not had a flat with my Nokians either. I raise the pressure after riding on bumpy ice, to high pressure for the road ride home. Even that is a pain.

    The no lever method is really tough in cold weather. One because bare hands are a must and also because the tire warms up during rides making them easier to peel off (a mechanic friend o' mine once took one off in the Nevada desert in like 20 seconds). You're right about the CO2, but in my experience I've gotten enough to ride it out with. Truth is, most of the time when I have a mechanical during winter, I either ride it out or start running. In the time it takes me fumbling around trying to fix it, I could have either returned home or gotten to work.

  16. #16
    Senior Member bhchdh's Avatar
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    When all else fails, use your quick release levers as tire levers.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by engo
    I am loath to use CO2, just because of the waste associated with all those spent cartridges.
    yeah . . . i dunno. under these circumstances, less or more than the waste of fossil fuels involved in someone coming to give you and your bike a ride? when i think of how much hot water it took to make me normal again after half an hour at -20, i think you could justify it this time around
    ain't no man can help being born average. but ain't no man got to be common - satchell paige

  18. #18
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tokolosh
    yeah . . . i dunno. under these circumstances, less or more than the waste of fossil fuels involved in someone coming to give you and your bike a ride? when i think of how much hot water it took to make me normal again after half an hour at -20, i think you could justify it this time around
    Safety is the key in extreme cold. I'd rather swallow my pride than lose a finger. And preparation is the key to safety. Winter cyclists musts have backup plans. This is a good thread because we all should know exactly what we'd do in case we got a flat.

    I have three more ideas:

    The fix-a-flat stuff they use for cars work? You'd have to have either schraeder valves or a schraeder valve adapter. Maybe you'd have to keep the stuff inside between trips, and it might mess up your tire/wheel long-term. But it could get you home safely.

    If it's too cold to work outside, bring a lock. Lock up your bike, but take the flat tire with you. Take the bus or get a friend to get you where you are going. Fix the flat where it's warm. Take the bus or get a ride back to your bike. Ride home. (If you are lucky enough to live where the buses have racks, just put the whole bike on the rack.)

    Bring one of those chemical hand warmers along so you can warm up your hands or equipment as needed.
    2manybikes has another good point. Pay a lot more attention to your tire pressure (and all other bike maintenance issues) in the winter. That can help prevent you from needing the ideas in this thread.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 11-25-05 at 02:21 PM.

  19. #19
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    The ultimate winter bike repair tool.

    CELL PHONE

    don't forget to program in the number for the local cab company.

  20. #20
    Year-round cyclist
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    Quote Originally Posted by engo
    ... SNAP - break one of the levers.
    Try to find a set of steel tire levers. Besides my set of 2 plastic levers, I have a set of 2 metal levers that are made with relatively thick and rigid steel. I can't tell you of a brand name because my father bought them some 40 years ago, but I have seen similar ones on bike shop repair stands.

    Pump goes on to the valve stem, and SNAP, pump breaks....
    What pump was it? I had the stem of a Topeak Road Morph break on me at -20 C. It litterally exploded apart.
    I bought a Twinhead Floor Pump Upgrade Kit, replaced the hose and in the process, I got a pump that is not only frost-resitant, but also more easily convertible from Presta to Schraeder. The hose itself comes with 3 different fittings that allow it to be installed on a few other pumps including a Topeak floor pump and a Zefal floor pump.
    Michel Gagnon
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  21. #21
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    You could carry titanium tire levers. The two of them weigh less than one plastic one. They are super strong and the design gives more leverage than the other types. They actually work better than all the others. Much easier in the cold. I still vote for the cell phone though.


  22. #22
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    I'm afraid I'd damage my rim with metal trie levers. But then again, at zero degrees, it might just be worth the risk.

  23. #23
    Señior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    I have a set of cheap steel tire levers. I probably got them as part of a patch kit from wally world or something. They work fine. I've never used anything else and haven't damaged anything yet.

  24. #24
    The spirit is willing... engo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    I'm afraid I'd damage my rim with metal trie levers. But then again, at zero degrees, it might just be worth the risk.
    I had the same concerns with metal levers. In fact, I tried the lever from the skewer, but didn't want to push it with the aluminum rim.

    Anyway, I got some new levers this weekend (park tools), and they seem much more solid than my last ones. I also fixed my pump by cannibalizing an old one for parts (never throw anything away!). As soon as this freezing rain stops, I'm back in business.....as long as it's above -20!!!

    Thanks all for suggestions and advice.

  25. #25
    Portland Fred banerjek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    You can get tyre levers with a metal core. Maybe they get less brittle than the plastic ones. I feel a destruction test coming on....
    I use these in cold weather. They are not indestructable, but much better than plain plastic. I always carry extra tire levers in the cold just so a little bad luck doesn't make life really miserable.

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