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  1. #1
    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    How do you commute in frosty conditions?

    I really don't have any problem riding in the 20's F with the gear that I have. That problem that I am facing is ice and frost. I know that a lot of you commute in these temperatures a lot more than I do (I'm in Portland, OR). Do you all have Nokians or is the humidity so low that the roads are dry at those temps?

    I have always been cautious, but I had a pretty good crash last week on some black ice. I have not commuted this week because both mornings so far have been in the 20's F and everything is covered in frost, including the road. There has been no precipitation to speak of, but there is often fog that makes everything pretty slick when the temperature drops. I'm also a little jittery from last weeks crash. This weather isn't typically around for a long time here in Portland, so I can't justify studded tires. Do I just hang up the bike in these conditions?

    By the way, I start my commute at 5:30 am, and my work schedule is not flexible enough that I could wait until it warmed up to ride in.

    nate

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    How far is your commute.

  3. #3
    aspiring dirtbag commuter max-a-mill's Avatar
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    wow that is not something we have here on the eastcoast. the nokians sound like a good solution!
    - the revolution will not be motorized -

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    No one carries the DogBoy
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    I still have my nokians (w106) on my bike, but keep thinking of going back to non-studded tires. We've been getting rain/snow mix and the dew-points have been such that its kind of foggy/misty at night. The roads are fairly slick in spots. I can't say how much of my traction comes from the studs and how much comes from low-pressure knobbie tread, but I have had no problems on this type of surface. If you have wider tires, I'd suggest dropping the pressure a bit to give more of a contact patch. If you've got road bike tires, I'm not sure what to suggest. I ride my hybrid because I'm still afraid of black ice on my road-bike.

    If it were me, I'd probably just hang up the bike until conditions returned to normal. What does your local weatherman say about the upcoming week?

  5. #5
    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by motorhommmer
    How far is your commute.
    It is 15 miles in the morning. The reason that I crashed last week is because it was 40 F when I left my house and I was a little overconfident. I could feel it getting colder as I rode SW to work. I didn't think the temp had dropped that much, but I crashed about 2/3 of the way into work. The temperature at work was 28 F. I should have been more aware of the conditions that morning. Probably should check wether.com for both zipcodes to see what the conditions are. If my commute were only a few miles, I could leave a little early and take some extra time. I don't really have that option with my commute because if I were going to take it slow, I'd have to leave another hour earlier.
    Last edited by rainedon; 02-15-05 at 10:02 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DogBoy
    I still have my nokians (w106) on my bike, but keep thinking of going back to non-studded tires. We've been getting rain/snow mix and the dew-points have been such that its kind of foggy/misty at night. The roads are fairly slick in spots. I can't say how much of my traction comes from the studs and how much comes from low-pressure knobbie tread, but I have had no problems on this type of surface. If you have wider tires, I'd suggest dropping the pressure a bit to give more of a contact patch. If you've got road bike tires, I'm not sure what to suggest. I ride my hybrid because I'm still afraid of black ice on my road-bike.

    If it were me, I'd probably just hang up the bike until conditions returned to normal. What does your local weatherman say about the upcoming week?

    I ride a regular road bike and am running 23c tires on it. I know that is my main hurdle. For my commute, a hybrid wouldn't really be practical, especially since I don't have one. My cross bike is in pieces right now, but I could put it back together for a little help in these conditions.

  7. #7
    Rebel Thousandaire Ya Tu Sabes's Avatar
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    Having lived in Portland and Boston, I can confirm that while it's colder here, PDX gets much more black ice. We get some, but mostly either it snows or it doesn't. Seems to me a good (relatively) low-cost option might be to get an extra front wheel and put nokians (or some other studded tire) on it. That way you can check the weather report in the morning and put on the appropriate wheel for the day.

  8. #8
    Retrogrouch in Training bostontrevor's Avatar
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    The other thing is a lot of places that don't get a lot of snow and ice generally don't do a lot in the way of surface treating.

    Salt can keep water liquid down to 0F (that's how zero on the Farenheit scale was chosen) though in practice it's not quite so good. But anyhow, a city like Boston that tends to have a colder winter climate will be more diligent about salting and sanding than a place like Portland where the cost of having the equipment and crews to do it may be cost prohibitive versus the actual use it would see.

  9. #9
    Get the stick. darkmother's Avatar
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    Here's my $.02: I don't think you *need* studded tires, but they will help. Personally, I use 28c slicks for most of the year, then I switch to hybrid or CX tires for the snowiest part of winter. Ice is the most dangerous, and most nerve fraying road condition I face-but I have never felt the need to buy expensive studded tires, at least not yet. I do think you can adapt to riding on ice. You have to be very aware of the road conditions around you. You need to keep your riding as smooth as possible, and minimize the need to brake or manouver. Be especially wary of sidestreets, where low traffic volume makes ice more likely. Intersections on low volume roads often have polished ice near area where cars try to stop, and skid. Adjust your riding style-you can ride straight on very slick ice with little trouble, but try to brake or turn, and you're on your butt. Another useful technique to master is the "tripod". I use this when I have misjudged the road condition, and end up with too much speed on slick ice. Shift your body to the center of your bike, standing on one pedal, and use the other foot as an outrigger.

  10. #10
    Senior Member balto charlie's Avatar
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    Hey: On my commute in Maryland I ride through a local river park with steep sides. The fog settles, then cold air moves in and a light ice forms. Doesn't happened everyday but regularly. I ride a mnt. bike with 1.5" width tires. They seem to grab fairly well through the light ice but suck with the thicker stuff(melting snow that refreezes). I don't know how thick your ice is tho'. I think a beater mnt bike would be cheaper than studded tires and probably just as slow. Sometimes having a bike for the right occasion is the best solution. You are more apt to use it. If you've got the space. Get rid of your bed and move in the new bike;-)

  11. #11
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Howdy from Portland, Maine, to "the other Portland"!

    This probably depends a lot on the roads you are commuting on, and how well they are maintained by the local crews. Around here, they are pretty well maintained. I ride mostly on primary roads between towns, and usually they are either dry, or wet but not frozen, due to cars driving on them. The only exception is sometimes the first morning after a snow storm. The dryness of the East Coast relative to the Northwest probably helps, too, as do colder temperatures. I've actually come home in sub-freezing temps on wet roads, and the same roads are dry the next morning, even though the temp is still below 32F. I can only figure it evaporated in the cold overnight. Cold does tend to pull moisture from the air.

    There are 1-2 days every other week or so that I could probably use studs if I had them, but since I don't, I just use the car on those days. Even if I did have studs, I'm not sure I want to trust that some car is not going to slide into me.

    The small neighborhood streets are a different matter. Patches of hard-pack snow, inches of loose slush (the worst), frozen puddles... Fortunately, it's only the 1/2 mile closest to my house, and there's not much other traffic on them.

  12. #12
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Maybe it also matters that I don't ride until 7:30 - 8 AM. By then, the sun and many passing cars have warmed up the pavement a bit.

    I also had a slip on black ice back in December. Fortunately, given our harsher climate, most of the ice around here is more obvious for most of the season!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rainedon
    It is 15 miles...40 F when I left... crashed 28 F.
    Similar, tires, commute and conditions here. White and green frost (frozen moss) seem to be OK it's just the patches of ice and black ice that are bad. And "taking it slow" or braking seems to make it worse. The weather cams and web sites don't show ice for road sides. So I've been driving the icy part and cycling the last 5 miles for the past few weeks.

    Also it's helpful get have a helmet with a jaw protector. You can get a regular helmet with an add-on attachment for the jaw...then when summer comes, leave off the jaw protector.

  14. #14
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    My route has lots of hills (with ice and slippery sand). What sort of rolling resistance are the nokians?

  15. #15
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrkelley
    My route has lots of hills (with ice and slippery sand). What sort of rolling resistance are the nokians?
    Quite high. I notice it more from the lack of speed on the downhills and flats than on the uphills though. (this for the w106 700-38 variety). The difference between hybrid and road commuter is about 3 mph (12 mph vs 15 mph). Differences: 700-25 road slicks vs nokains, road frame vs hybrid, road gearing vs hybrid, usually it was light with the road-bike so no batteries/lights (5 lbs). Hope that helps. The weight of the bikes themselves is not that different, since road commuter is a heavy steel bike.

  16. #16
    Senior Member rainedon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vrkelley
    Similar, tires, commute and conditions here. White and green frost (frozen moss) seem to be OK it's just the patches of ice and black ice that are bad. And "taking it slow" or braking seems to make it worse. The weather cams and web sites don't show ice for road sides.
    It is the fog that settles and freezes on the road that is killing me. The kind of ice that is really know problem to walk or drive on, but is scary on a 23c tire at 110psi. You know the road conditions where you can stand there and twist your feet underneath yourself with very little friction? It is the stuff that if I were able to wait just an hour or two for the temp to come up just a little, it would not be an issue. I like the idea of splitting the commute between riding and driving, but my commute is potentially icy the whole way with a fair amount of elevation gains and losses.

    nate

  17. #17
    Rebel Thousandaire Ya Tu Sabes's Avatar
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    In response to those who said (rightly) than studded tires are spendy, you could always make your own with carpet tacks or something. Your good friend Google will help you find instructions.

  18. #18
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    I've crashed HARD on ice 3 times this winter, ouch! All three times, the bike slipped out from under me either when cornering (no big surprise), or just when pedaling seated. I was on the ice sliding before I knew it, that's how fast it happened. Sliding on ice headfirst on your stomach, is a new experience after falling off you bike, and watching it slide alongside you.
    For some reason, I was really afraid of sliding on the ice, I flailed my arms and tried to claw my way to a stop on the ice. Scary Stuff. Sliding off the patch of ice and onto bare pavement is also scary. And painful.

  19. #19
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    http://www.icebike.org/Equipment/tires.htm

    Instructions for making studded tires are at the bottom. I doubt you can find suitable knobby tires for a road-frame running 700-23s though unless you still have tons of room for clearence.

  20. #20
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    I've tried mtb knobbies, homemade studs using carbide car studs in mtb tires, homemade studs using steel screws in mtb tires, mtb tires with tire chains, commercial studded mtb tires, 700 x 35 kenda kross supreme tires, 700 x 32 vredestein sport flex tires, wtb all-terrainasaurus 700 x 32, and a lot of others.

    My experience: most black ice is too thin to be gripped by studded tires, a "properly pressurized knobby" works as well. Studded tires do however seem to be better at letting you know audibly when road conditions change (you can quickly hear a change from dry to iced or snow covered pavement). The noise of the studs is also a constant reminder to pay attention and not day dream. Most crashes on ice are caused by carrying too much speed into a turn or braking with the front brake. Only experience (practice) will help you learn how fast you can go, and only by really knowing the route you are riding do you have a chance of planning ahead. I always ride more slowly to work the first day after the weekend, have to relearn the road. I also pay close attention to the weather forecasts especially the temps and humidity.

    If I'm riding on ice a lot I replace my clipless pedals with flat bmx style pedals for several reasons 1) much quicker to remount bike and pedal off at full power with a flat pedal than struggle to reclip on slippery ice 2) less likely to overpower the bike and lose traction on uphills and 3) faster to put a (or both) foot down. If you are using studded tires you should also stud your shoes/boots, 'cause if the tires slip and you try to stand you are likely to fall anyway. You might also want to remove or loosen or disconnect your front brake, even touching it at too high a speed in a turn will put you down but fast.

    Tires thinner than about 32mm are just too easy to break loose (it might be that the higher tire pressure and smaller contact patch cause more melting of the contact surface) on ice and hardpacked snow surfaces. My personal opinion is that most road bikes steer too quickly to be safe on ice, a cyclocross bike is better and even some of them are too quick.

    If I had better balance my opinion(s) might change!

    this is what I ride on the roads in winter http://hometown.aol.com/vtwjksr/myhomepage/index.html

  21. #21
    Senior Member ollo_ollo's Avatar
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    We had the same conditions Monday, it had rained late Sunday afternoon then cleared up & froze overnight. I usually drive if its icy out but got caught as you did. I left home above freezing but quickly found myself riding on black ice & just plain slick ice. I did everything that's been mentioned above. Keep speed down, don't use front brake, turn carefully & use the tripod effect with inboard leg during slow turns. I was fortunate to be on a bike with 28 size tires & only fell once at a slick spot. When I got up, I was barely able to keep my feet to walk my bike away to a less slippery place to remount & ride off. Main problem is the necessary slow speed increases the commute time so much. Plus its pretty scary when the traffic around you starts sliding around out of control. Falls on ice are almost instantaneous & there doesn't seem to be any "silver bullet" solution for us in the Northwest, we just don't have enough ice days to make it worth our while to equip for them. Don
    visit my homebuilding blog: www.monoplanar.blogspot.com

  22. #22
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    rainedon, that sounds like a tough call. You would definitely benefit from studded tyres on the icy patches, but you will hate the added rolling resistance everywhere else. Cost may be a factor too. Homemade studded tyres are not likely to last long if majority of your mileage is on black ice / wet pavement and not on snow.

    Perhaps you could try it out with just one studded tyre in the front? In my experience Nokian W106s are good for on-road commuting.

    --J
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  23. #23
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    How about just a front Nokian W106? I've found that the drag penalty is minimal with just front studs and the increase in stability on black ice is very large. Since your riding position is much more forward than mine, this effect may be more pronounced.

    Ive commuted for seven winters, the last two with studs. I fell quite a few times my first winter, but can't recall any falls during my other four years without studs. Riding on ice without studs really helps your bike reflexes. However, life is much easier with them.

    I just put my Nokians on in December and take them off in March. Of course, black ice is an everyday thing in my area.

    Paul

  24. #24
    All Bikes All The Time Sawtooth's Avatar
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    It gets that cold occassionally here in Boise, but we are usually pretty dry so you can go as fast as you want. I took a long slider on a snow day,however, and burned a big hole in my windprooof glove. It was on campus and I was bowling for co-eds that day.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by VermontRides
    Most crashes on ice are caused by carrying too much speed into a turn
    VR,
    Wow you have great ice-bike tips. So how fast would you recommend going on a 90degree turn?
    I also have problems on the cutsey curvey corporate driveways they have here at work. These curve in and out and with even a light frost, I'm never sure just how fast is OK.

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