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  1. #1
    Senior Member undisputed83's Avatar
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    Single Speed Winter Bike?

    Good idea? Bad idea? I live in Maine and generally deal with a decent amount of snow. I know single speed is lower maintanence, and I don't have to worry about my derailers freezing up. But is it common for people to trudge through snow in single speeds?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member sirtirithon's Avatar
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    I am actually building a 3 speed winter bike right now. Took an old Trek mtn bike garage sale find and stripped the frame down. Im going to paint it and just keep the front 3 ring crankset and modify the 5 speed cassete using spacers to only have a single rear speed. I will use the old rear derailleur as a tensioner. I plan on using the cantilever brakes that came on the bike and running some Innova Ice Huskies or some 2.3" knobbies i found new at the co op for a quarter each. I also picked up some drop bars and a stem there. Total investment so far is $12.

  3. #3
    Bike Junkie aadhils's Avatar
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    I haven't ridding in the snow before but wouldn't a fixed gear bike be better than a single speed for snow? I've ridden a fixed gear bike commuting to work for the past 4 or 5 years now. Riding a regular geared bike that coasts would be a VERY weird feeling.

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    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    It's my understanding that SS will be a better choice than dealing with a rear der in the snow, but a FG is better- something to do with pawls?
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  6. #6
    GATC
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    I haven't had my SS hub slush up the way my derailer used to but I generally ride fixed in the winter anyway. More extreme conditions than we get might tip the balance toward fixed but for a relatively temperate place like here it's a coin toss pretty much.

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    I live in Michigan , I love riding single speed vintage Schwinns such as a Typhoon in the winter, through snow more than a couple inches is hard to do,,but I do it. I usually ride a 16 mile round trip route 5 times a week at night in the winter.

  8. #8
    nashcommguy
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    Maybe a Surly Pugsley would be the bike for you. They do come in a variety of configurations. It doesn't snow enough consistantly here in TN for me to invest in one, but if I still lived in Chicago...

    That being said I have a Univega 3x7 mtb picked up @ a thriftstore for 10.00 that's been converted into a bad-weather winter commuter. I'll need the gearage as there are a couple of 18%ers on my homeward leg.

    Michigan/Chicago would be ideal for a ss/fg fatty bike like a Pugsley. Nokias and a Pugsley. Bad*** combination.

    Opps, didn't notice you lived in Maine. A little more hilly terrain, but still ideal weather potential for the Nokia/Pugsley combo.
    Last edited by nashcommguy; 07-08-12 at 11:45 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member blakcloud's Avatar
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    I ride all winter here in Toronto Canada and one of the best things I did was go single speed (the second was the use of disk brakes). When I used a derailleur system it would freeze up or skip because the cassette would accumulate with snow and ice. The only thing I would have like to done differently was to add at least one tooth on the single speed freewheel to compensate for the slower speed that is inherent when riding through a lot of snow as compared to my other three season single speed.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Can you live with only 1 gear, on the route You have to take?
    in Maine, your route, I suspect, is not flat like Chicago.. [&Toronto?]

    IGH like SA 5 speed, Shimano 8 will broaden the ratio selection.

    My Winter, Ice, bike: old MTB, drum brake hubs (F&F has no disc mount )
    Nokian Studded tires..

  11. #11
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    I live in a hilly area, I commute everywhere on a fixed gear.

    Commuting Fixed Gear is a little like driving in the snow with a manual transmission or limited slip differential. Without the freewheel, you'll have the ability to feel when your rear wheel is losing traction in the snow, usually far before it causes a handling issue, so it's probably closer to limited slip.

    You can feel the loss of traction on any bike, but in my experience I'm able to sense it alot faster on my fixed gear bike.
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    I live in New Hampshire, so we get about the same amount of snow as you. Last year I started commuting year round on an old Kona Unit that I bought on craigslist. I have to go up some hills, and I never found it too difficult. I threw some 26x1.95 Nokian Studded Tires on there, and the thing was pretty unstoppadle! Granted, last year we had a light winter, so we'll see if I change my tune after this next one. Here are some shots of it in action:

    Night Bike 15 Color by UnbreakableComb, on Flickr


    Night Bike 15 by UnbreakableComb, on Flickr

  13. #13
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blakcloud View Post
    I ride all winter here in Toronto Canada and one of the best things I did was go single speed (the second was the use of disk brakes). When I used a derailleur system it would freeze up or skip because the cassette would accumulate with snow and ice. The only thing I would have like to done differently was to add at least one tooth on the single speed freewheel to compensate for the slower speed that is inherent when riding through a lot of snow as compared to my other three season single speed.
    I didn't get to ride in very much snow/ice this past winter, but just the weight and rolling resistance of the studded tires had me gearing down from what I expected to use. I ended up at 58 GI, whereas I usually like 63-70.
    Last edited by ThermionicScott; 07-09-12 at 09:16 AM.
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  14. #14
    One Man Fast Brick hubcap's Avatar
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    My only gripe with single speed in snow is when the snow is quite deep I want lower gearing than when the roads are clear or close to it. Since the roads are clear the vast majority of the time in winter around here, I want my gearing close to what I use the rest of the year. But I really appreciate those lower gears on my mtb when trudging through miles of snow several inches deep. My derailleurs do get frozen up with ice sometimes. I have been thinking about a winter build with an IGH, but I understand those can get sticky in really cold conditions too.

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    Have had ss freewheels fail on me in the deep cold (below about 10 degrees Fahrenheit before the windchill). Though they've always started working again quickly, it's a little disconcerting when the pawls don't engage - especially in the thick of city traffic. Admittedly it's only happened twice, and I ride every day through the winter. I'd recommend riding fixed over single speed if you're going to deal with deep-freeze cold. I also gear down a bit for the winter - but being in Chicago I have to travel pretty far to have to deal with any hills.

  16. #16
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I got 'all weather sports' snow cat [45mm wide] rims for my wheel build project.
    1.9" Nokian studs take on D shape section . wider tire contact.

    out here black ice is occasional, not consistant..

  17. #17
    Senior Member john4789's Avatar
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    Yes, this is a great idea. I bought a mountain bike not long ago with dropouts that I can convert to a SS in the winter.

    As people will say, cables and derailleur will simply not hold up in the freezing rain / salt. Removing all cabling on the down tube (gearing cables) which are most prone to wear in the winter will seriously improve your ride durability.

    I did one winter on a hybrid and the salt ate it up. I did another winter on a SS bike w/o problems. That bike had 700x25s that I didn't like on ice, though. So for me it is going to be SS Mtb this winter. Also a BA rain bike in the mean time.

  18. #18
    ride for a change modernjess's Avatar
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    Single speed is my drive train of choice for 3 seasons only, never again in the winter.

    I ran my cross check as single speed commuter for three winters, mounted up with the 35mm studs and a lower gear ratio. Of course it was bomb proof but eventually it just made me weary. I got fed up with the struggle, with the drag of the studs, with the daily headwinds, with the snow ice and all the rigors of winter cycling. There were too many times when I felt like I was hammering as hard as I possibly could and I was barely f'n moving and I was still a long way from home in the pitch dark. Oh, and screaming obscenities into the wind doesn't help at all.

    So I figured riding in the winter around here is hard enough, clearly I'm stupid for making it harder on myself. So I bought an Alfine 8 speed wheel threw it on and I've never looked back. Yes it is heavier but so what. It has been just as bomb proof as the SS and it's made the whole winter commuting experience so much more enjoyable. Being able to pedal at a cadence that is comfortable regardless of the conditions that winter throws at you is worth well it for me. Of course YMMV...

    FYI - After 3 three winters plus, and now that it's summer I just had the hub preventative overhaul and re-lube done, it cost me $60. When I ran SS I replaced my freewheels after every winter. So while an IGH wheel is a larger upfront cost, the ongoing maintenance costs are pretty much a wash. Again YMMV.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    Go with an IGH instead- you get most of the benefits of single speed, namely that the drivetrain isn't affected by accumulated ice, with the advantage that you retain variable gearing.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

  20. #20
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    3 speeds typically run the shift cable down the seat stay, so not as low
    as derailleur shifter schemes that usually run down the chainstay,

    so only the last bit is at hub height. to not be fouled by saline slush.

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    I run a 1x8 for one of my winter commuters. Headwind, studded tires and changeable snow/ ground conditions would be make 1 speed unfavorable. 17 miles one way with some slight hills.

  22. #22
    Senior Member john4789's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by modernjess View Post
    FYI - After 3 three winters plus, and now that it's summer I just had the hub preventative overhaul and re-lube done, it cost me $60. When I ran SS I replaced my freewheels after every winter. So while an IGH wheel is a larger upfront cost, the ongoing maintenance costs are pretty much a wash. Again YMMV.
    Cheaper yet, FG.

    I've heard that IGHs can also get salt infiltration and ruin them like a freewheel, have you? If IGHs are more durable than freewheels, then I would agree with what you are saying.

    Lastly, in terms of gearing. I look at winter riding as a good time to work on your spinning technique. Pick a gear ratio that works when the snow is deep and then spin for the win on clear days. It will only make you a better cyclist the next season.

  23. #23
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john4789 View Post
    Lastly, in terms of gearing. I look at winter riding as a good time to work on your spinning technique. Pick a gear ratio that works when the snow is deep and then spin for the win on clear days. It will only make you a better cyclist the next season.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by john4789 View Post
    Lastly, in terms of gearing. I look at winter riding as a good time to work on your spinning technique. Pick a gear ratio that works when the snow is deep and then spin for the win on clear days. It will only make you a better cyclist the next season.
    I find that 30 gear inches is right for getting through deep snow. So 15 mph is what, 200 rpm? Passed a whole bunch of nuts with FG bikes pushing them through the snow last winter....

  25. #25
    Senior Member john4789's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dscheidt View Post
    I find that 30 gear inches is right for getting through deep snow. So 15 mph is what, 200 rpm? Passed a whole bunch of nuts with FG bikes pushing them through the snow last winter....
    I rode last year on 72 GI and never had to walk it, although it was tough at times. The skinny tires helped cut through the snow though:
    photo(3).jpg

    I think 30 GI seems silly small to me, then again I have no hills to deal with. I am shooting for 55 this winter which will be 16mph @ 100 rpm, should be perfect.

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