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  1. #1
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    Good bike for winter commuting?? Help :D

    Hi Everyone,

    I'll start off by say I'm new to this forum and have done a fair bit of research on this topic already, but I feel there are many lingering questions I still have.

    So here's the deal for my situation. I'll be commuting at best 4KM's to get to work and instead of buying a car, a bike seems far more practical and environmentally/health friendly. That being said, the winters up here can be extremely harsh (-40 C or so) and I'm well aware about layering and such to keep warm.

    But the primary issue I'm running into is regarding what kind of bike I should buy. I've read a fair bit on this topic and I feel overwhelmed as to all the options out there. From what I gathered for winter commuting, it would be best if I purchased a bike without any suspension because in my climate it would wear down quickly. Is this really the case? I'm not overly concerned on price, but I'd prefer to be frugal and save my coin. Any ideas on what a solid bike to buy for winter commuting would be? Also, would I want to swap from like studded tires to regular tires in the summer?

    As this thread expands, I'll get more into the deeper questions I have. But as it stands, I'd just like to get a couple opinions about my current situation.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated, this is all very new to me.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member chriskmurray's Avatar
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    Honestly, at 4km you can make nearly anything that can fit more knobby tires. An entry/mid level mountain bike could be great and affordable, you could even look around for an older but nice used mountain bike to save some money.

    The only reason I would look elsewhere is if you think you might want to do more pleasure riding as well as commuting. If that is the case, buy a bike that could work well for that and then adapt it to commuting with things like better tires, fenders, lights, etc.

  3. #3
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    That's very helpful, thank you. Is there a brand of bike that you would recommend?

  4. #4
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    You will want to swap out your studded tires when the snow melts. Agree with post no. 2 that your best bet for an affordable commuter is a vintage mtb. They're stout bikes well suited for commuting in tough conditions. Minus 40 C, wow; that's like minus 40 F, . Where are you located?

  5. #5
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    I'm in the NWT Canada, no igloos though haha

    Is it hard to swap tires off an on as seasons change? Like my bike budget is quite extensive and I'm not too concerned with price, more so concerned with reliability.

    If I understand correct, buy a cheap mtb and just deck it out with after market parts. Should I avoid suspension as itll likely freeze up?

  6. #6
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    You don't need suspension for a commute. It's just one more thing that can potentially can go wrong and I don't need to tell you that in cold weather, what can go wrong will go wrong.

    No big deal to swap tires out and it saves wear and tear on expensive studded tires.

    A vintage mtb is set up well for commuting since it's built for tough conditions. Just get rid of the knobbies and ride slicks in the summer. You'll want to add fenders, a rack, and lights. You live in an area where lack of light is a real issue so you'll want something with good run time.
    Last edited by bikemig; 04-08-15 at 08:37 PM.

  7. #7
    Junior Member fetz's Avatar
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    My fiance and I just did our first winter of commuting up in Mn. Not quite as north as you, but as far as I'm concerned anything below zero feels the same. aweful. lol. Anyways. My all city nature boy was great through the winter. I had an innova(I think) studded tire 35mm and that worked wonders. though next winter I might get a 45n 38mm. Since its a single speed its easy to fix and clean to get all that salt off. There isnt as much to worry about if something does break.

    My fiance rode his salsa spearfish. its a 29er and with the studded tire it did great. Though he did have a problem with the back shock. He had to pump it up on almost a daily basis on the really cold days. and even still he felt like he was close to bottoming out. We thought maybe a seal was messed up. Now its nicer out it hasnt had that problem.

    I just use a cheap but bright head/tail light. It does the job. Plus I have some spoke lights cause they are fun and I like people to see me so they know I'm there. I am So excited for the days I can bike home and its NOT dark outside!
    Last edited by fetz; 04-09-15 at 03:23 AM.

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I have a spare old MTB with studded tires , once I dont need it, I park it, and ride something else ..

    4" wide fat bike tires are Good suspension with just the air volume .

    FatBikes are very good selling in Alaska these days, how do they sell in Yellowknife NWT?

    What brands are sold there?
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-11-15 at 10:33 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petras View Post
    I'm in the NWT Canada, Should I avoid suspension as itll likely freeze up?
    Yes I would avoid suspension, because it doesn't perform good in extreme cold. I can also guarantee you that suspension will require more frequent maintenance when used a lot in very cold weather, seals on suspension forks/shocks will leak oil or air when used a lot in extreme cold...Go with a rigid fork MTB and fat tires. Big tires at low pressure will provide enough suspension.

  10. #10
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    Agreed to forego the suspension but a good option is to get a hardtail bike with suspension and swap forks in winter and go without suspension in winter. That gives you a very useful bike all year if you would like to do mtn bike riding with a suspension. I live in North Pole AK and deal with some chilly days too ... as well as roads with solid ice and would highly recommend Nokia 294 tires. Tires depend on ice or snow. If it's snow that's not too deep, fat tires are probably best. Today you can get fat tires with studs. It's a short commute so a fat tire bike would work quite well but a GOOD fat tire bike can be expensive. I would not suggest a steel fatty. Just too darned heavy imho. Every bike maker has a decent hard tail or non-suspension bike. Obviously you want one with eyelets for racks, and plan on a decent lighting system with enough batteries to keep you safe. A good helmet mounted light in addition to normal lights provides a backup and the ability to see things when you're off the bike or have a problem.
    Alaskans for global warming.

  11. #11
    V73
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    I agree with what many others have said so far: get a mountain bike with no suspension. If you want to you can shell out for a new one but there are plenty of older and just as sturdy 'vintage' mountain bikes that will work wonderfully. I personally ride an older Trek mountain bike (800 sport) that is very reliable and works great year-round for all kinds of riding. With some different tires and perhaps an extra fork, a mountain bike like that can be adapted for practically any situation you can think of. They're also tough, and will do fine outside in wet, salty, brutal winter conditions.

    Whether you get studded tires or not depends on your usual conditions. The more ice, the more you'll need studs, but if you see more snow, go for cyclocross type tires- really aggressive knobby treaded rubber tires- and inflate them at 10-20 psi lower than usual pressure.

    As far as brands, pick what you like, do a little research first. I find that Trek bikes are great, and so are brands like Salsa, Specialized, older Schwinn bikes, Raleigh- there are plenty more that I can't think of off the top of my head.

    Avoid 'BSOs' (Bicycle Shaped Objects) from stores like Walmart. Brands like Huffy, Magna, Mongoose (better but not great), newer Schwinn bikes, etc.

    -V

  12. #12
    Senior Member GravelMN's Avatar
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    Winter can be hard on bikes. I suggest getting a used rigid (no suspension) mountain bike. They make great commuters and have eyelets for fenders and a rack. The chrome moly steel models from the 1990s are extremely tough. You can still get 7 x 3 drivetrain parts easily but they are also easy to upgrade to 9 x 3 or 10 x 2. Pick some hybrid tires in the 1.5 inch (35-40mm) range for the summer and get some spiked tires for icy conditions. Bar Mitts are an excellent investment for the winter commuter. My wife got a pair for me at Christmas and I don't know how I got along without them.

  13. #13
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    Why not get 2 bikes, one setup for winter and one for rest of the year. In spring/fall you can pick whichever bike suits, and you will always have a backup.
    Simplify as much as possible for a short commute in harsh conditions. Old school rigid MTs are good. Fat tyre bikes work if you need them.

  14. #14
    Member eusebio's Avatar
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    Does the state you live in use a lot of salt? Suspension would be a bad idea. I never rode suspension and lived in a very pothole heavy community. The ride was jolty or whatever but I mean it's a commute not a slidewalk in the airport.

    I used a road bike with 27 x 1.25 inch tires most my winter cycling. I wouldn't recommend it though. It wasn't an easy ride I was just too poor for studded tires/wider tires. My rear derailleur often stopped shifting halfway through winter and then I would just buy a new once the snow broke off in late April.

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Tungsten steel studs are what works when there's Ice on the street . Houston rarely if ever sees that .

    NWT is North West Territories Province of Canada, it's southern border is 60 degrees north latitude,
    northern border of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba or
    about the same as the southern tip of Greenland.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-31-15 at 10:26 AM.

  16. #16
    mtk
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    How is the weather after winter? If you don't mountain bike, I'd go for something in the hybrid/commuter genre. Maybe a Trek 7.x FX?

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    At -40, I would be concerned about freewheel reliability in almost any style of hub. Grease will thicken and pawls fail to engage. I would look for a frame with some fore-aft movement for the rear axle, and fit a fixed/freewheel flip-flop hub for some of the year.
    I think sliding vertical dropouts are the best solution. Horizontal dropouts can be fiddly to adjust in the cold.

    If you go with freewheel, Shimano freehubs are maybe not as good as Hope or some other with campagnolo style massive pawls that engage the hub body. How does DT star ratchet fair in deep cold?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petras View Post
    I'm in the NWT Canada, no igloos though haha

    Is it hard to swap tires off an on as seasons change? Like my bike budget is quite extensive and I'm not too concerned with price, more so concerned with reliability.

    If I understand correct, buy a cheap mtb and just deck it out with after market parts. Should I avoid suspension as itll likely freeze up?
    If you're asking if it is difficult to change a tire, you are in NOT in a position to be even considering riding in -40C temps. I can't believe you'd even consider it. You sound completely naive about bikes and you think you're up to walking, or worse lying on the ground, 2k from work and surviving in the freezing cold? In white out conditions? Snow drifting everywhere? Haha

    No, I think you need a Schwinn beach cruiser for sunny, warm days. The dealer will have your size.
    Last edited by cale; 07-02-15 at 07:46 AM. Reason: grammar, clarity
    I know that half of what I buy I don't need. The problem is, I don't know which half.

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