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  1. #1
    dcr
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    Winter Biking is a skill.

    I've tested my new commuter bike (with its new studs) in a variety of conditions--blizzard helped--and I now know winter biking is tricky! There are numerous variables at play--slush, snow, and ice-- with every ride and conditions change as temp drops. Add cars, trucks,and buses to this stew and this is challenging scheise. I walked some sections of my ride just to be safe.

    But when the bike trail is packed or its just icy and those studs dig in, I love it! I've always taken biking for granted, but this is different. This requires a new skill set.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcr View Post
    I've tested my new commuter bike (with its new studs) in a variety of conditions--blizzard helped--and I now know winter biking is tricky! There are numerous variables at play--slush, snow, and ice-- with every ride and conditions change as temp drops. Add cars, trucks,and buses to this stew and this is challenging scheise. I walked some sections of my ride just to be safe.

    But when the bike trail is packed or its just icy and those studs dig in, I love it! I've always taken biking for granted, but this is different. This requires a new skill set.


    I just picked up my first pair of studded tires (Hakkapelittas) from a Craigslist seller today. I'm excited, now I want it to snow! We usually only get a handful of days that I'd need them for, but I want to be able to ride everyday. Besides, relying on the buses here when it snows is iffy at best.
    ISO: 22" GT Rebound frame, year 2000 model

  3. #3
    Super Moderator tractorlegs's Avatar
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    Winter biking is a skill? Tell me about it!! One time here in West Texas it was actually below 60 degrees F on a winter day! A few years ago, there was an actual snowflake; but most of us think it was probably a feather. One time (and I ain't kidding here) I actually had to wear a light jacket. Yes, winter bicycling in El Paso takes a lot of skill!
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    Tractorlegs, I'd welcome you to come up to Sioux Falls and we'll go for a ride. Once you get the hang of it it's kind of fun to "read" the snow so you know what set of skills will come into play. Trouble is, sometimes there's ice or other nasties lurking under the snow so you get a chance to develop new skills like recovering from a front wheel skid!

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tractorlegs View Post
    Winter biking is a skill? Tell me about it!! One time here in West Texas it was actually below 60 degrees F on a winter day! A few years ago, there was an actual snowflake; but most of us think it was probably a feather. One time (and I ain't kidding here) I actually had to wear a light jacket. Yes, winter bicycling in El Paso takes a lot of skill!
    If you've never seen a real igloo or built a snowman - you just haven't lived! So ..... does Santa wear shorts and sunscreen in your area?

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    Super Moderator tractorlegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    If you've never seen a real igloo or built a snowman - you just haven't lived! So ..... does Santa wear shorts and sunscreen in your area?
    I don't know, because I've never seen him - but I do know he uses a helicopter instead of a sleigh!

    Burton and labrat, I grew up and bicycled for years and years in the Denver area. I lived in a little tourist-trap mountain village called Idaho Springs, Colorado and so I have a lot of bicycle/cold/snow experience. But now I'm in the desert so I like to make fun of my snow-bound friends! Ride Free!
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  7. #7
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by dcr View Post
    with every ride and conditions change as temp drops.
    Think of it as the cure for your boring three-season commute.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


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    It does take practice and like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

    As long as I can see the ice, I am comfortable riding across it without studs. It gets me once or twice a winter if it is under uncleared snow and I don't know it is there. This almost always happens under difficult conditions at a slow speed. I'd much rather have a thump or 2 than use studded tires.

    I also don't like fat knobby tires. The best ones for me year round have been the cheaper ones with some rubber on them, not slicks.
    mainlytext.com/bike.html Bicycling in winter, the entertainment version

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    good info to me ,Think of it as the cure for your boring three-season commute,thanks you ,Merry Christmas

  10. #10
    Senior Member robert schlatte's Avatar
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    It may require certain skills to keep the bike upright but I still do not biking in snow, ice or slush. Actually, I would enjoy it if it were not for the damn cars. On my way home last night, I thought it would be such a bikers paradise if there were no cars to worry about. In my paradise, cars would be banned. Snow plows could make a single pass and bikes would not turn everything into a sloppy, dirty, mess as cars do.

  11. #11
    Senior Member jrickards's Avatar
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    Yes, it demands more of me too, both in terms of skills as well as effort. When there's fresh snow, it is harder to plow through. Today, the footprints on the paths were "hard" so the ride was like cobble stones. I'm very slow going around corners because I know I'm going to lose it, almost did on my first day in the middle of the street turning on to my street (no cars so I'd just end up with a bruise and embarrassment).

  12. #12
    ****** squegeeboo's Avatar
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    I feel like studs solve 95% of the skill issues, the rest is just will power.
    In the words of Einstein
    "And now I think I'll take a bath"

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    LOL I have just discovered that I completely lack both the skill or will power required to navigate unplowed streets with a foot or more of fresh snow on them. I got no more than a few blocks before deciding 'these boots were made for walking.'

    Funny - but futile. There's just too many of those funny little white crystalline thingies and they swarmed the wheels! The studs just made it take a little longer for me to realize I wasn't gonna win this one!
    Last edited by Burton; 12-27-12 at 10:03 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member david58's Avatar
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    I can do the wet, but that white stuff usually wins.
    2011 BMC SR02; 2010 Fuji Cross Comp; n+1 on hold today, due to college tuition and a wedding. Some day, some where, over the rainbow, I will get that 29er....

  15. #15
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
    I feel like studs solve 95% of the skill issues, the rest is just will power.
    I dunno. I think winter technique differs in at least three ways with studded tires.

    1) You're not going to carve corners with them, wet, dry, snowy, or icy. So just forget that.
    2) High cadence and light pedal effort works best for me in both the moving forwards and the staying balanced departments.
    3) When it gets dicey, I shift back on the bike, unloading the front--just the opposite of what you ordinarily do on a roadie. This lets the front float and wander a bit, finding its own path. Otherwise it tends to follow ruts, or if the ice or hardpack is loose on the street, it will plow it along on the street. Plus, if the bike breaks through hardpack, it always causes a sideshift. It's easier to recover from the rear sideshifting rather than the front.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
    I feel like studs solve 95% of the skill issues, the rest is just will power.
    ^ has obviously never ridden in extreme winter conditions.

  17. #17
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Hmmmmmmm ..... so after managing to do a couple blocks and then checking the news and confirming that it wasn't my imagination - that this storm actually broke all records for snow accumulation - I'm thinkin' the most important skill is knowing when to stay home!

    Wait! I still have to shovel the parking lot! I feel sore already!

  18. #18
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    3) When it gets dicey, I shift back on the bike, unloading the front--just the opposite of what you ordinarily do on a roadie. This lets the front float and wander a bit, finding its own path. Otherwise it tends to follow ruts, or if the ice or hardpack is loose on the street, it will plow it along on the street. Plus, if the bike breaks through hardpack, it always causes a sideshift. It's easier to recover from the rear sideshifting rather than the front.
    Interesting. So you keep weight to the back.

    So what happens when you hit something you can't go through?

    I'm usually back there, sort of ready to have feet hitting the ground. Usually that means a forward slide off the saddle.(We've had some heavy snow lately and a lot of remnants around. Lucky to do 5-6 miles in an hour and even then it's quite a workout.)

  19. #19
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    LOL I have just discovered that I completely lack both the skill or will power required to navigate unplowed streets with a foot or more of fresh snow on them. I got no more than a few blocks before deciding 'these boots were made for walking.'
    !
    You discover you aren't Superman. Winter cycling can sometimes be a humbling experience... at least IMHO.

  20. #20
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Interesting. So you keep weight to the back.

    So what happens when you hit something you can't go through?
    I said I do this when it gets "dicey". "Impassible" is something different entirely. For that, I re-route.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Hmmmmmmm ..... so after managing to do a couple blocks and then checking the news and confirming that it wasn't my imagination - that this storm actually broke all records for snow accumulation - I'm thinkin' the most important skill is knowing when to stay home!

    Wait! I still have to shovel the parking lot! I feel sore already!
    I'll ride in just about anything and I took the bus today. Just too much snow to plow through for a 13km ride. My neighbourhood hadn't been plowed yet this morning with about 10-15cm on the ground with more to come. We broke records here too with 25cm of snow.
    Last edited by DJ Shaun; 12-27-12 at 10:22 PM. Reason: typo

  22. #22
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DJ Shaun View Post
    I'll ride in just about anything and I took the bus today. Just too much snow to plow through for a 13km ride. My neighbourhood hadn't been plowed yet this morning with about 10-15cm on the ground with more to come. We broke records here too with 25cm of snow.
    We just got 40 in one shot with another 5 expected overnight. Anyone wanna come up and help dig things out? Started shovelling yesterday and already have snow piled higher than the six foot fence. Had to quit - apparentky one guy my age already collapsed while shovelling and I don't wanna mess up my chances of making it to 601!!!

  23. #23
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    I use the bike for fitness, stress relief, and to save money. I'm into winter number six and enjoying it. Wouldn't mind having a melt for the ridges of ice though. New snow on top of those old ridges is quite interesting. Y'all have a safe and prosperous New Year. Blues Froggie
    " If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand which feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countryman " Samuel Adams, 1772

  24. #24
    ****** squegeeboo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattH View Post
    ^ has obviously never ridden in extreme winter conditions.
    Six years of Rochester winters, but mostly on roads.
    In the words of Einstein
    "And now I think I'll take a bath"

  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    Interesting. So you keep weight to the back.

    So what happens when you hit something you can't go through?
    Yes, you want to unload the front wheel. For really deep snow, you are almost constantly doing a wheelie...a little one. For the stuff you can't get through, you walk. I find that I can ride in snow from 6" to 12" with it getting progressively harder as the depth increases. That's Colorado snow, however. Our snow tends to have a low moisture content and is pretty easy to ride in.
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