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  1. #1
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    NYC in winter: what do I need to know?

    I've been commuting to work now for almost three months, mostly along the Hudson River bike path. I intend to keep it going through the winter, but I'm a bit confused as to what changes in gear I should make. I have a handle on clothing changes; my job entails working outdoors about 50% of the time so I have long since learned the value of layering and having the proper gear. My questions are more about changes to my bike. I have seen it mentioned that many people prefer to have a separate beater for winter given the harsher environment, but having two bikes is not an option for me for both financial and lack of storage space reasons. So my question is about what changes I should make to my commuter (7500fx) to winterize it.

    This will be my first winter cycling regularly. What are the conditions on the Hudson bike path like in winter? Does it get plowed regularly? What would people say is the best tire for urban winter?

  2. #2
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    For urban winter I'd recommed a studded tyre (or a a whole wheel with a a studded tyre) at least in front and forget about breaking with the ront wheel. Broader tyres (knobs, if i understand the word correctly) work better and are more comortable in most snowy and icy conditions. Only when the ice is flat and/or wet you will have to be extra careful. Keeping your bike dry (and sufficiently oiled) if possible, it is essential to proper functioning of it. If possible, let your bike cool down (in a dry place) before a ride as was discussed on a previous thread (I don't recall which, but quite recently). As for the other maintenance I can't say anything.

  3. #3
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Avoid anything metal when it's cold out. Frozen metal + water = 0 friction whatsoever.
    Also, watch out for the stupid street sweepers that like to lay down a nice thin sheet of water at 10-15 degrees below freezing.

  4. #4
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Don't lick the chainring.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  5. #5
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    Your current bike is fine for winter use. You need tyres for your local winter conditions. For cold damp you need a touring style wider tyre (you may have this already). Studded tyres are for ice and snow.
    Full length fenders are best for wet but can clog in the snow. Clip on fenders often work better in snow.
    Clean and wax your frame before winter. Ensure that the hubs are fully lubed. Grease your cables and any metal-metal contacts and threads (seatpost, pedals etc). Im not sure if you grease the stem/steerer interface on a threadless system; I do on my old quill stem.
    Pick a chain lube that is easy to apply in the cold and doesnt wash off.

  6. #6
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    I've not needed studded tires in NYC yet - the city lays down so much nasty salt (and there's so much road grime anyway) that it's pretty unusual for the roads to be icepacked. I do use wider tires than in summer. In previous years, I used insane 45mm 700C tires with an inverted tread, and got around really well; this year, I'm building out an old hybrid with 26" wheels for the winter season, and will be using Conti town & country tires (as recommended at icebike.com, I think - might be misremembering where I saw the recommendation). Plan on riding at a lower pressure than you're used to; in fact, the lower the pressure, the more traction you'll have on snowpack. It's not a bad idea to practice a couple of times before the first storm to figure out how low you can go before you get snakebite flats; it's no fun changing tubes out in the winter weather!

    I rarely ride the Hudson path in winter, so I can't comment on how often it's plowed. The City has historically been REALLY good about clearing the bridges, and I'd hope their performance on the path would be similar. One thing to keep in mind is that it's likely to be a lot colder and icier over there than on the roads (and less well-lit)...

    You *will* need full fenders. That black NYC slush is foul, and you won't want it coming up your face or down your back, guaranteed.
    Falling down is not exercising.

  7. #7
    Car-Free Flatlander Stacy's Avatar
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    I rode the West Side Bikeway through most of last winter and found it seemed to be one of the first places plowed - maybe becase it's maintained by the Parks Department? Only place ice and snow seemed to linger was north of the George Washington Bridge.

  8. #8
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    i don't do anything different in the winter. other than clothes. the bike stays the same - i just clean the drive train a little more often.

    i would say studded tires are optional unless it's newly fallen snow that hasn't been plowed yet. but they plow it really quickly in manhattan. takes a little while longer for some side streets and residential neighborhoods.

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    It's starting to sound like my suggestion about studs was premature. Ice (and hard packed snow, maybe) is the only surface you REALLY need them.

  10. #10
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    we do have patches of ice. that's something to watch out for. but we rarely have long surfaces of unbroken ice and hard packed snow. last two winters i just used a road bike with skinny 700x23 tires and was fine in the middle of the city. some spots in the outter boros might require a different set up.

  11. #11
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Most of these tips for are manhattan only. Queens, brookyn, bronx, and SI? Fahgaddaboudit.

  12. #12
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    Most of these tips for are manhattan only. Queens, brookyn, bronx, and SI? Fahgaddaboudit.

    I do just fine in the outer boroughs on my fat tires. In fact, I've been known to go ride in the foot-deep snow along the Brooklyn coastal path south of 64th street for fun on weekends
    Falling down is not exercising.

  13. #13
    Car-Free Flatlander Stacy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    Most of these tips for are manhattan only. Queens, brookyn, bronx, and SI? Fahgaddaboudit.
    Probably depends on exactly where you're going. I made several trips from the Village/Soho area, over the Queensborough Bridge, to Astoria, and the streets were generally clear. I did find it takes the snow longer to melt in Upper Manhattan than it does Downtown (which has underground steam pipes)

  14. #14
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Yea.. foot deep snow, haaa! You won't find me out there. :-p
    I'll make sure I don't run you over in my quad hehe.

  15. #15
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    Yea.. foot deep snow, haaa! You won't find me out there. :-p
    I'll make sure I don't run you over in my quad hehe.
    If you have a place like a non plowed bike path and the right tires for the Giant you could give it a try, you might like it. It can be very nice. Great workout in a short time.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW
    Clean and wax your frame before winter.
    Sorry to be dense, but can we go into a little detail about this? The waxing, that is. Why? (Salt?) And using what?

  17. #17
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lieren
    Sorry to be dense, but can we go into a little detail about this? The waxing, that is. Why? (Salt?) And using what?

    If you're concerned about the salt, a coat of turtle wax (or other decent-quality car wax) makes it easier to wipe down your bike after riding in slush.
    Falling down is not exercising.

  18. #18
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    Quote Originally Posted by slvoid
    Yea.. foot deep snow, haaa! You won't find me out there. :-p
    I'll make sure I don't run you over in my quad hehe.
    You're missing out... it can really be a blast! (Alternately, maybe I just don't get enough snow sports in the city, and have to overcompensate! )
    Falling down is not exercising.

  19. #19
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brokenrobot
    You're missing out... it can really be a blast! (Alternately, maybe I just don't get enough snow sports in the city, and have to overcompensate! )
    We gotta take you snowboarding or something...

  20. #20
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    I have been commuting through winter since 2002 and i use a studded front tire. as others have noted, its not really necessary most everywhere in the city. however, I cross the Brooklyn bridge every day and there is always at least one day, and usually more, that snow or rain melts and re-freezes on the wood, making it slicker than an ice rink. on those days, people can't really walk properly and on a bike with studs you can at least make headway. plus for that odd patch of ice here and there, it's comforting.

  21. #21
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacy
    I rode the West Side Bikeway through most of last winter and found it seemed to be one of the first places plowed - maybe becase it's maintained by the Parks Department? Only place ice and snow seemed to linger was north of the George Washington Bridge.
    Actually even a mile or two south of the GWB the Greenway is usually in crappy condition over the winter. I would know, as I live a block from the GWB, and used to go running at night on the Greenway over the winters. I probably won't be running much this winter because I bike commute now! I've switched to Schwalbe Marathon tires on my folder in advance of cruddy winter weather and will probably avoid the northern most sections of my Greenway commute for a couple of days after a storm (or more -- in the past I've seen stretches of snow and ice stick around for weeks!).
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy
    I do not want to be associated with the kind of riders that come through my neck of the woods on weekends, dressed in superhero costumes
    Do they wear capes?
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  22. #22
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    I find that I change nothing for winter to summer in terms of my bike. (except that I want to build up a winter bike) I think you will be surprised how little clothing you need to wear to be warm while riding.

    I really wanted studded tires, but could only see maybe two days they were necessary here, and the loss of traction on unneeded days seemed scary.

    That said, can I Hijack this a little, and ask for booty recommendations? I am going into my first SPD clipless winter, and would like a bootie that I can walk about in, i.e. rubbered sole.

  23. #23
    Sweetened with Splenda
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    NYCM'er -

    I just bought some Lake winter cycling shoes, model DH-300. (Lake MXZ 300 vs SIDI Storm 3 vs Regular Snow boot)

    Got 'em from Ben's Bikes for $25 shipped, which is a steal, since the current model is apparently a zillion dollars.. people on that linked thread claim they're REALLY warm, but I haven't tried 'em yet!
    Falling down is not exercising.

  24. #24
    --End Transmission-- Klaw's Avatar
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    This hasn't been updated in a while...

    Is the Manhattan bridge plowed or salted after storms? I'm commuting Manhattan to Brooklyn on a MTB with Schwalbe Big Apple tires... debating whether I need tires with better grip or snow studs... and possibly build just a beater I don't have to worry about rust. Would like to hear people's experiences doing that daily bridge trek, thanks.

  25. #25
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    Re Manhattan Bridge: I was up there on Friday -- not much snow but a little ice. A little van was moving along, and every so often a guy would jump out and spread some salt.

    BTW my first trip on that bridge -- nice alternative to the Brooklyn (*cough tourists cough*) Bridge.

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