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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 07-16-05, 08:11 PM   #1
Pampusik
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Car free in winter

The lease on my car is up in a couple weeks and I'm thinking of ditching my cage all together.

For those of you who are car free in colder climates, how did you manage winter? Is winter without a car (and with a bike) a joy? Or, did it drive you mad?

(...another "wonderful" Minnesota winter is soon approaching...!!!)
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Old 07-16-05, 08:44 PM   #2
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I have not done biking in winter (I am going to try this year maybe, I have some snow pants that I got 2 years ago when I tried snow-boarding, a mistake I will not make again). But I was sort-of car free last winter (car was dead since October, and i did not ditch it till April, I could not drive the car, but I still had to pay the insurance) The way I managed was I walked most places. I live very close to things I need (store 5 minutes, work 10 minutes) Also I had friends that would give me a lift when it was absolutely needed. plus the place I work gives me a free bus pass.

Also I don't about how minnesota winters are but I think it should be similar to Pittsburgh's winter, we probably have it a bit warmer then you.
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Old 07-16-05, 08:45 PM   #3
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What distance do you travel to commute? How efficient is public transit? How well maintained are the streets in your area? What kind of bike do you have?

Montréal is a bit warmer but more humid than Minneapolis. The real Winter season lasts 3-4 months and each snow storm takes 2-4 days to clear completely, depending how big it is. We also have lots of salt on our roads and streets, which make them sloppy for a while, but clean and clear afterwards. So some winters like 2 years ago are very easy, others are a little bit more difficult.

I have not missed a day because of snow or cold, but my commute is about 3 km, and most of my other destinations (church, stores...) are 2-6 km from home.. Properly equipped, I have no problems riding "ad infinitum" down to -10 or -15 C (2-12 F), so when we get a few days of -20 C temperatures, I postpone my longer utility trips. As for purely leasurely rides, I do quite a few at below 0 C temperatures, but not too much when there is sleet, icing rain, blinding snow... I like winter riding, but I am not a masochist.

In terms of seasons, the worst season I find is Fall, with lots of cold rain.
If you want to know more, I'll suggest you look at the Winter Cycling forum here, as well as the Icebike website http://icebike.org and mailing list (see link on the http://icebike.org website). The website has some interesting information, but the mailing list is more down to earth for us mere mortal commuters and utility cyclists.
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Old 07-16-05, 08:47 PM   #4
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Yes, winter without a car is a joy, and yes, it can drive you mad. But the main point is that it can be done, and many find it to be pleasurable. You must learn to dress appropriately and prepare your bike. I reccommend both the Commuting and the Winter Cycling forums for lots of great advice.

I have ridden through two winters now, and probably "chickened out" only three days total. I walked to work on those three days, as the busses were running sporadically, and I looked like a snow man when I arrived. Truthfully, there were days when I made it through on my bike and some co-workers with cars did not. I work in a hospital, so I am under a lot of pressure to make it to work, no matter what the weather.

I won't lie--there are days when you look out the window, see the snow swirling, and you really just want to crawl back into bed. But that happens to cagers too! And they do not get that feeling of exhileration from the beauty of winter, nor do they get a glow of pride that helps to keep them warm in the coldest weather. (Also, they have to scrape off their windshields every time they go someplace. )

I think you need to be honest with yourself. If you really hate winter conditions, you won't be happy cycling in the winter. But if you already enjoy being outdoors in the winter--skiing, snowmobiling (ugh!), snowshoeing, skating, hiking, whatever--you will probably love cycling even more.

P.S. I'm in Michigan--probably equivalent snow but much less cold than you have.
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Old 07-16-05, 08:47 PM   #5
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Being from further south, I'm not qualified to have any opinions about winter riding. One point I'd like to make is that being carfree is an easily reversible decision in most circumstances.
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Old 07-16-05, 08:50 PM   #6
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I _know_ we have some MN folks on the forums.....have you checked out icebike.org?
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Old 07-16-05, 08:57 PM   #7
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I rode every winter. It's mostly a matter of layering... wicking, warmth, and windbreaker... for all parts of the body. If you get this part right, you can ride in very cold with very little discomfort. And once you build up speed, you almost can get too hot.

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Old 07-16-05, 08:59 PM   #8
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It can be done. I didn't live car free, but I cycled in the winter a lot here in Miseryapolis.

The keys are not only that you have a reasonable commute, but also that your supply needs are readily available. Back ups such as using the bus to get to work. Have you got a method to get groceries, to visit relatives, and things like that. If you haven't used the car a lot in the past year, it is very possible. What is there to lose if you let the lease complete and you give the car back? Will you lose some possible benefits or a discount on the next car?

Maybe go as long as possible without the lease, putting the bucks in the bank so that you can buy a used car with cash if you need to? Or rent one for a week if requied?

Just tossing out some ideas.
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Old 07-16-05, 09:05 PM   #9
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Winter cycling can be done, only thing that sucks, is studded tires are a little slow on concret. I live in Madison, WI, lots of snow and ice. Most of the trails by where I live do not get plowed, so I do more street riding. I use hunting clothing to ride, but I am going to buy some better colder cycling gear. I would not use any drink cages, they tend to brake, or bend when its cold. If you wipe out gets great, no road rash. Cheak your rims if your tires get wet, here in Wis. I have gone thought ice that broke and I when into a puddle of water, I didn't stop and cheak then when I got cut off I didn't have any breaks, I almost hit the car. Also disk breaks are your friend, I just have one on the back, its great.

Good Luck,

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Old 07-16-05, 10:41 PM   #10
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Thanks everybody!

Thankfully my commute is only 4.5 miles. I’m a grad student with a funky schedule. So, while our busses are relatively reliable and frequent in the city, I’m not as reliable due to my goofy schedule. I will thus need to rely on my bike a lot.

GrodyGeek and Platy make a good point... I can always change my mind.

I will give the car free life in Minnesota a try. Thanks!
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Old 07-16-05, 11:58 PM   #11
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I sometimes find the Chicago winter tobe better than the warmer months in a few ways. Since you can always put on layers. But you can not rip your skin off when it is soooo hot! When it is 95+ degrees outside and humid I wish for a quick death sometimes.

As long as I have good protection from the wind in the winter I am fine. The temp is not the problem if dressed properly.

Some helpful links:
http://www.xterragalactica.net/cdc/winter.html
http://www.bikewinter.org/main.php
http://www.rapidtransitcycles.com/winter.html
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Old 07-17-05, 12:59 AM   #12
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Here in Indiana we don't get nearly as cold as you do up there. The coldest commute I've done was around 0 degrees F. My commute at the time was just over 3 miles one way so I'm thinking you may run in to the same challenge as me. Getting the layering just right. I know there were several rides where I was cooking by the time I made it to work. Still, it's do-able, just have to work out the bugs.
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Old 07-17-05, 11:37 AM   #13
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Also disc breaks are your friend
Very true!

I would also like to add that fixed gear is your friend in the winter. You have much more control in the snow and ice, the rotating crank helps push you along when going gets really tough, and the added benefit of not having deraillers and freewheels getting all gummed up with slush. Much easier to clean and maintain and just much less of a headache all around.
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Old 07-17-05, 11:41 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by smurfy
Very true!

I would also like to add that fixed gear is your friend in the winter. You have much more control in the snow and ice, the rotating crank helps push you along when going gets really tough, and the added benefit of not having deraillers and freewheels getting all gummed up with slush. Much easier to clean and maintain and just much less of a headache all around.
I'm sure you're right, but I would add that I have never had problems with my geared bike. Mountain bikes in particular are designed to keep going, even when all gunked up.
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Old 07-17-05, 12:15 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smurfy
I would also like to add that fixed gear is your friend in the winter. You have much more control in the snow and ice, the rotating crank helps push you along when going gets really tough, and the added benefit of not having deraillers and freewheels getting all gummed up with slush. Much easier to clean and maintain and just much less of a headache all around.
I'd agree with you on that too. I've been riding the last few winters in MinneAppleUs, and the fixie is definatly the way to go here. I rode 23c's last winter, no studs, no knobs. They worked fine for almost all conditions. When it was really snowy for awhile here, I kept getting snow and ice built up around the front brake, so I just took it off.

It's entirely doable. I had a lot of days where I got to work early, but my co-workers were all calling from the freeway saying they were running late because of the conditions. They'd see me pull up to the back door and ask 'cold enough for you?' and I'd look down at my body, which was literally steaming, and say 'no, actually, I'm pretty sweaty. I wish it was 10 degrees colder. Then I wouldn't have over dressed.'

Layers are definetly your friend. I did two layers of socks, long johns over bike shorts and Carharts on my legs and feet. You might want to buy a pair of shoes that's a little too big to fit the extra socks. I don't really like clipless in the winter (never know when you need to put a foot down), so I used steel toed boots and square BMX pedals. The only times I had problems with that was when the bike was caught in freezing rain and the pedals were coated in a layer of ice...

For the first part of winter I was wearing a super insulated Carhart jacket with just a tshirt underneath for the top, but that got to be too hot. I ended up switching to tshirt or long johns, then an insulated Dickies hoodie, with a Burley Rockpoint jacket over that. The pitzips on the Burley were great. Before I got the Burley, there were a few days down around -10 or -20 that I rode with just the hoodie - as long as it wasn't too windy, that was fine.

For my neck I used a fleece neckwarmer. Basically just a tube of fleece. That seems to do better than a scarf. I used a snowboarding helmet with earflaps, which was great. Usually I'd have a hat under that. When it got really cold, I had a wool ninja mask that just showed my eyes. Kind of cool - it would fill up with steam from my breath, and hold an impression of my face frozen into it when I took it off I also tried goggles for the first time this winter - you really want to go with vented ones that have two panes. The ones they sell in bike shops fog up if you look at them wrong.

Carry a few different options for gloves with you, too. My favorites this year were a pair of just huge ski gloves that I bought from some dept store for like $10. The main thing you want to look for is that the gloves will cover the gap between your jacket right at the wrist. Stretch your arm out when buying to see if they do or not. That little gap can be EVIL when it's really cold. Sweaty gloves get cold too, so make sure they're at least somewhat breathable. Lighter gloves in your bag aren't just for when it's warmer, they can be great when it's really cold underneath your heavy gloves.

This winter I'm thinking of trying the thing where you just wear sandals with lots of layers of socks, varying the layers according to the conditions.

And yeah, check the winter cycling here, too - I spend as much time there as on the fixed forum once it gets cold
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Old 07-20-05, 03:52 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smurfy
Very true!

I would also like to add that fixed gear is your friend in the winter. You have much more control in the snow and ice, the rotating crank helps push you along when going gets really tough, and the added benefit of not having deraillers and freewheels getting all gummed up with slush. Much easier to clean and maintain and just much less of a headache all around.
I might get a fixed for the upcoming winter. Last winter really kicked my bike's ass.
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Old 07-21-05, 12:44 AM   #17
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Here it's RAIN, and I figure on wearing a lot of yellow and getting fenders.

Funny, I used to walk a mile barefoot over "crushed coral" roadside gravel to get all wet and exhausted, and yes walk back, and call it a great time, it was also called surfing lol.
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Old 07-21-05, 07:26 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Roody
I'm sure you're right, but I would add that I have never had problems with my geared bike. Mountain bikes in particular are designed to keep going, even when all gunked up.

Ride it much in the snow and ice and that geared bike will become a brakeless singlespeed.I ride in all weather 30-60 miles per day all year round, Ive seen the weather really mess up a geared bike and make it worthless.
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Old 07-21-05, 08:37 AM   #19
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Lots of good advice. I just wanted to add a thumbs up for winter commuting. My first ride on snow had me hooked.

I was riding with relatively few layers, too. Even below zero (F!) I never got cold. That seems to depend on how well an individual handles cold though. The hottest I ever got, believe it or not, was when it was -10 and I thought I needed a lot more layers than I did. Got so bad that I had to stop and stand in the biting north wind for a few minutes!
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Old 07-21-05, 09:06 AM   #20
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In my grandparent's day, it was assumed that one would be carfree in the winter. People would put their cars up on blocks for the winter and walk or use horse drawn sleighs.

I think that hub gears, drom brakes, Nokian studded tires, and some sort of chain enclosure make a big difference. I refrain from using my car much during the winter because of the corrosive effect of all the salt they dump on the roads here in DC. Besides, for short winter trips, the bike is faster and more convenient than the car. One just hops on and goes -- no need to shovel the driveway or clean the windshield. Also, motor trafffic tends to come to a standstill here when roads are slippery.

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Old 07-21-05, 09:18 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by recursive
I might get a fixed for the upcoming winter. Last winter really kicked my bike's ass.

I'm working on putting together my especial fixie for the winter commute. We really don't have much winter weather, besides some cold...so I'm lucky. But it will be fixed/free mtb style, with a rigid fork and disc front brake/v rear. Aluminum. Studded tyres are in the garage..waiting.....
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Old 07-21-05, 04:53 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by pedex
Ride it much in the snow and ice and that geared bike will become a brakeless singlespeed.I ride in all weather 30-60 miles per day all year round, Ive seen the weather really mess up a geared bike and make it worthless.
You are half right. I have lost my brakes in snow a few times, but it was so slippery I probably wouldn't have used them anyway. I haven't had problems with my derailleurs. . . yet!
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Old 07-21-05, 04:56 PM   #23
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Here it's the rain also, and unlike California it's cold. If it's really gross, upper 30 and
pouring I'll take the bus.
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Old 07-21-05, 07:27 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lala
I'm working on putting together my especial fixie for the winter commute. We really don't have much winter weather, besides some cold...so I'm lucky. But it will be fixed/free mtb style, with a rigid fork and disc front brake/v rear. Aluminum. Studded tyres are in the garage..waiting.....
Remember, you can run a freewheel on a fixed threading, but not the other way around, so when you look for your hub, get a fix/fix instead of a fixed/free...

Man I should just save that in a text file somewhere and copy and paste it...
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Old 07-21-05, 07:47 PM   #25
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I didn't commute in the winter- the distance would have been too brutal for me- but I biked at least once in every month last year- and I can say this: cars pass much more closely because the streets aren't fully plowed to the curb and everyone treats you like a suicidal lunatic (or they just can't fathom that I am riding a bike in Jan. or Feb.). You need good lights- and great tires. I ran Armadillos after having to change a flat in the dark in below freezing weather (can't do that with gloves on).

If you think about it, the streets are clear on the vast majority of days- even in the winter.
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