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  1. #1
    Slow Moving Vehicle Jean Beetham Smith's Avatar
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    Building a Real Winter Bike

    OK, don't tell me about how salt & slush eat bikes and I should get a junk bike for nothing. First of all, I've never found a junk bike that fit me (150.5cm) and secondly my winter riding is just as important to me as my summer riding. 1/3 of my bike season is potentially sloppy, slush. It may not be my dream cycling, but it is still darn important to me, and I want it to be as good as it can be. I accept that I have to wash my bike down almost daily, I've done it for 2 winters, it's not that big a deal for me. Let's talk about components for my dream winter bike.
    1) Nokian studded tires--have them, I think they are essential. What do you think?
    2) Disc brakes: Front & rear or just on the rear? What do you think. Any brand recommendations?
    3) Hard nose vs front suspension: my inclination is to a hard nose, how about you?
    4) Cyclo cross vs MTB frame? Because of fitting problems, I will probably go with a MTB, but which would you choose and why?
    5) How about internal hub gears? Are any made for 26" wheels? Can they be used with Disc Brakes? Are they really better for slush & mud, or is that just traditional wisdom?

    Remember, the idea here is to roll out a winter bike you are proud of, and will help motivate you on less than perfect days, just like your main bike motivates you in the "good" season.

  2. #2
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    There are many theories on Winter bikes. I'd say it depends where you cycle, how well the roads are maintained, what is your "normal" style.

    Streets in Montréal are well maintained, often too well maintained, with aggressive salting, snow clearing and snow removal. As such, we only have snow (in various states) to deal with for 1-3 days after a storm, and we don't have frozen ruts that are hard on balance. It is messy, however.

    Stylewise, I commute and do a few day rides by bike; therefore, I'm always on the road, not on trails.

    Posted by Jean Beetham Smith

    1) Nokian studded tires--have them, I think they are essential. What do you think?
    So far, I cycled through quite a few Winters without them, and I know one guy from Ottawa who has done it for 22-23 years without them.

    I use 700x37 cyclocross tires; their knobs offer good grip in wet snow. I'm also careful in corners and I find that cycling on ice is a very good way to learn how to spin.
    That being said, my foulproof plan would be to swap 2 front wheels: one with a studded tire when it's cold, icy, etc. and one with a knobby non-studded tire for most of the time. Less noise, less headaches, less resistance...



    2) Disc brakes: Front & rear or just on the rear?
    If you are in a mostly flat area, your typical cantilevers would be OK. Fit them with Kool Stop Salmon or Dual pads and you will be OK. If your area is hilly, adding a disk brake could be a good idea. I'd put it on the front wheel. Normal braking is mostly done with the front wheel, and I use the front wheel most of the time in Winter. It's only when it's icy that I use the rear brake. If your city uses mostly sand and stone as abrasives (instead of salt), then disk brakes would be better for the rims.


    3) Hard nose vs front suspension: my inclination is to a hard nose, how about you?
    What is your Summer profile? Road or forest? If it's roads and commutes, then forget suspension. One less item to maintain.



    4) Cyclo cross vs MTB frame? Because of fitting problems, I will probably go with a MTB, but which would you choose and why?
    Or an old touring bike retrofitted with 700c wheels. I don't see any major difference between a Winter and a Summer bike, so I'd choose something similar to the Summer bike. However, you need enough room for knobbies or studded tires (700x37, and even 700x40 or 42).
    And you also need room for fenders. Fenders will not only keep you clean, but will also keep most of your drivetrain clean also.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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    A 26" wheel touring frame is a good solution. You get the versitility of MTB tyres, with the low weight, sporty feel and practicality of a touring bike. Thorm/sjscycle.com do extra small ones. You can also get horizontal dropouts for hub gears or singlespeed.

    A few maintainance points.
    Fully covered brake cables.
    Grease injection headset and pedals.
    The best BB unit you can afford (Phil Woods ?)

    Hub gears can be pretty good. The Sachs 7speed is supposed to be better made than the Shimano version. You can lace them to any rim. Ive seen MTBs built up with hub gears for riding along muddy trails in flattish country.
    Rohloff 14 speed is something else and can take disk brakes.
    http://www.rohloff.de/english/produc...dhub/index.htm

  4. #4
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Well, you said that you didn't want to hear about using an old beater for a winter commuter, so I will skip that.

    If you live in an area with snow or icy roads, go with a mountain bike. I have a bunch of different bikes and choose the bike for the weather. I can ride a mountain bike in good weather and snow and ice. Road bikes are absolutely terrible on ice.

    A mountain bike frame is more suitable than cyclocross because there are more road hazards in winter. You want to be able to pull up on your bars and lift your front wheel over or on to snow piles, big chunks of ice that fall from truck wheel wells, etcetera. You will be boshing through great piles of mystery slush and the mountain bike geometry is most stable for the unpredictable results. Winter biking is a grand adventure. Many of the elements of mountain biking come to the streets in winter.

    I wouldn't get any suspension systems unless it was simple spring type. Salt and road grime will destroy the pneumatic seals on good suspension systems.

    Get an aggressive tire. Studded tires are great on icy roads, but they won't last long if you use them every day, so you really have to change out your tires every time the weather changes. You can probably get by in all weather with some aggressive treads. I put an aggressive knobby tire on the rear and a flatter, but still aggressive tread on the front. You still need a good tire on the front to steer.

    You can get by without disc brakes, but I like the idea of having them on a winter bike. Perhaps the nicest thing about disc brakes is that they clean the brake pads off as you brake. Sometimes ice builds up on the brakes which acts as a lubricant when you need them most. The problem with disc brakes is that they are expensive and it doesn't make sense to use expensive parts on a winter commuter because they won't last long.

    Avoid steel parts on bikes. They will rust. Aluminum will also oxydize, but it is more controllable. Make sure the spokes are stainless.

    I like MichaelW's suggestion to use full-length cable housings to protect the cables. Spray rust preventative into the cable housings and let it dry for a few days. Then, grease the inside of the cable housings (inject it in with a fine grease head attachment or buy disposable grease applicators) and apply grease to the cables themselves before you thread them into the housings.

    Get fenders.

    twist grip shifters seem to work best because you will have gloves or mittens on your hands which can make other systems cumbersome.

    Plan for a lot of maintanance.

    Get a bike with a low or dropped top tube so when you have to jump/fall/slide off of the saddle, you don't whack your crotch on the top-tube.

    I ride slightly smaller bikes in winter just so I can put my feet down quickly and support myself in case the bike takes a spin on the ice.

    Get good lights and reflectors front and back because the nights are longer in winter.

    If you want a new bike instead of a clunker, consider one of the cheap X-Mart bikes. You can get most of the above mentioned features for about $120 or less. Remember that just about any bike you use for wet snowy winter commuting will be sacrificed to the gods of winter.
    Last edited by mike; 10-20-02 at 05:36 AM.
    Mike

  5. #5
    Year-round cyclist
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    All the above are interesting points. I guess the different point of views depend on what you plan for Winter biking.

    My Winter bike is basically my year-round commuter bike. Less financial value because it's 22 years old, but quite comfortable and quite decent anyway, except maybe when I pull my 2 daughters.

    To protect it, fenders and long mudflaps are essential. I also grease everything in late Fall: not only the moving parts, but I also apply a light coat of grease under the bottom bracket, downtube, stays, fork and cables. By the end of Winter, I typically have a 2-colour bike because of the grit, but once I wash it, it looks great and most importantly works great.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  6. #6
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    I like mgagnonlv's suggestion to grease the outside of the bottom bracket and underside of the down-tube.

    I always see a lot of damage to the paint on those areas.

    Might as well get the chain stays and top part of the rear stays while you are at it.
    Mike

  7. #7
    Señor Member Tom_The_Bikeman's Avatar
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    1) Nokian studded tires--have them, I think they are essential. What do you think?
    I *love* my Nokian tires. Kept me from crashing out last winter, and that's just a good thing. They don't seem to slow me down more than normal MTB tires do, either. Granted, I change wheels when the weather is nice (read: non-snow & ice) but your mileage may vary...

    2) Disc brakes: Front & rear or just on the rear? What do you think. Any brand recommendations?
    I just changed my racing bike's (Trek 5200) rear break pads (sic) after about 700 km of riding. I wasn't all that happy about it, but the pads don't seem to have much on them (Ultegra) and I ride in all weather, (it's been wet lately) so that's a thing to be considered as well.

    Although I recently got a new used bike (SBI Fully) w/o disks, I think that they'd be a good idea. Expensive, since you'd really want TWO pair, one for knobbies, one for street use, but there you are...

    3) Hard nose vs front suspension: my inclination is to a hard nose, how about you?
    Again, as my life insurance is self carried, I find that suspension is awfully helpful when hopping curbs at opprotune times (a.k.a. truck of death is bearing down on you), also, it's nice and cushy. Last year I rode a front-suspension Bontrager, so it's a test with the fully this year...

    4) Cyclo cross vs MTB frame? Because of fitting problems, I will probably go with a MTB, but which would you choose and why?
    MTB. I've got way too many bikes as it is without getting a CycloCross (wait...I've got one in parts back in the USA!) on top of it.

    5) How about internal hub gears? Are any made for 26" wheels? Can they be used with Disc Brakes? Are they really better for slush & mud, or is that just traditional wisdom?
    I think that the Rohloff (http://www.rohloff.de/english/index.htm) is just a great idea, and would love to build up a commuter on it. Just another thing to do.

    Good luck this winter!
    Tom

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    I think car wax is probably a better frame protector than grease for a winter bike. I put a few coats on the outside. You can get framesaver wax for the inside, but I find WD-40 works very well. Make sure you squirt it inside the seat and chainstays using the small holes you find at the dropout end.
    I like a drainage hole in the BB shell. You are going to get water there, so its better to drain it out rather than attempt to seal it.

  9. #9
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    Jean asked:

    "How about internal hub gears? Are any made for 26" wheels? Can they be used with Disc Brakes?"

    Internally geared hubs are made for any size wheel. You just use different length spokes and rims. I have 20" wheel bikes and 26" wheel bikes with Sturmey-Archers (internals). Sturmey-Archer has been making them the longest, and has 3, 5, and 7 speed versions. Each of these can be ordered with different braking systems. You can get a the normal type without any hub brake (for use with rim brakes), a drum brake or a coaster brake (pedal backwards and pull a huge skid!). You can also get a front hub with a drum brake. But you could also instead use a disc brake for the front. But to me that seems like way too much power for a front brake (you seem to realize this as well). I prefer using a lot of back brake in the winter because you want to keep that front wheel going straight -in other words, rolling. A drum brake or disc brake in the rear would be good for this. But a rear disc brake would imply not a Sturmey-Archer. I don't know if Saachs or ****mano internally geared hubs can use disc brakes, but I doubt it.


    He also asked:

    "Are they really better for slush & mud, or is that just traditional wisdom?"

    Yes, they are. Ever had your rear derraileur freeze up? It's no fun. You need to whiz on it. While you'll have less gear options with an internal, there also isn't the need to fine tune your gear selection in the winter. You'd better not be drafting anyone! Well, except buses for windbreaking and warmth


    Also:

    "Hard nose vs front suspension: my inclination is to a hard nose, how about you?"

    Rigid all the way. You want to be able to read the road conditions through the front fork. With a suspension fork you lose that vital information. Then again, with the cold your fork won't be soaking up the texture as much as in warm weather. But yet again, it won't be soaking as much of anything. Too cold! Sure it'll work, but is it worth the extra cost, weight, maintenance, and higher risk of being stolen? Go rigid. Mind you, after riding with front suspension for a number of years I swapped out for a rigid fork. I prefer it for offroading too! And I'm not talking about easy trails.

  10. #10
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    1. "How about internal hub gears? Are any made for 26" wheels? Can they be used with Disc Brakes? Are they really better for slush & mud, or is that just traditional wisdom?"

    A winter bike is a hub geared bicycle. I only cycle in the winter with hub gears and nothing else. The Sturmey Archer 3 speed AW-3 is as solid as they come when your talking about winter cycling. There are plenty of shop mechanics that can fix that hub when it does break down. Don't be surprised if the hub lasts longer than the bike. It's durable as heck and you DON'T need to spend an hour cleaning it every day like you would a derailleur after riding in the snow.

    You really don't need a lot of gears in the snow since you won't be riding fast unless you intend on killing yourself. The 1st gear on a 3 speed is low enough for most hills. Trust me. (Unless you live in the mountains). If you want to reduce gearing, get a smaller chainring or install a larger sprocket on the hub. You can also chose to get the 5 or 7 speed hubs from Sturmey Acher or SRAM Spectro 5 or 7. Oh. Don't forget to look at the Nexus 7 from Shamano. It's a solid product. I don't know why people want to get the Rolhof? There's no need to spend that kind of money on a commuter bike. As I said before, you don't need high gears on a commuter but ONE low gear.

    I just bought a Bianchi Milano 7 with the Nexus 7 speed. I love it. I don't know why people say the SRAM 7 is better than the Nexus? I know an owner in Manhanttan that rents Milano's and the hubs after thousands of miles work like new. The Nexus 7 frees you from having to use a rear brake since the hub's internal brake is activated by hand, just as you would an ordinary bike. You can't do that on the SRAM Spectro 7.

    If your going to winter commute with a derailleur, I wish you luck. I didn't clean the hub for almost 3 months last winter. I just washed the outside with a rag and that was it for another 3 months. The hubs are greased internally and stay that way for years. On average, a hub gear bike should last about 2 to 3 years before you'll need to do maintence on it.

    This past winter I had the bike shop do maintence on my 3 speed after 2 1/2 years of hard commuting on it. The cost to repair it was $17.00 dollars. Enough said.

  11. #11
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    If people do decide they want a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed, then go to your local bike junkyard, or walk around on garbage morning. You'll find a 3-speed AW (this is the name of it). People are dumb and throw these out. I have 3 beautifully running bikes that I pulled from garbage. But if you want to build up a new bike with an AW you can take that rear wheel, cut away the spokes, then relace it onto a better rim with better spokes. Free hub! Just make sure that it's a good one. It's not completely true that these things are bomb proof. There is one part that is usually the problem if it's not working (and not from maladjustment). It's the cruciform clutch. This is a piece inside, that if it gets a metal bur on it, will cause the thing to slip in gear. But this is easily fixed by filing the bur off. *You* can disassemble and reassemble an AW as long as you pay close attention to the order when you take it apart. Blow-ups are also easy to find on the net. But seeing as there are SO MANY of these laying around for free, you should not have trouble finding one that runs perfect. And as an added bonus, check the hub stamp for the year of the hub (and maybe the whole bike). There is almost always a 2 digit number on it, like 56, 71, 85, etc. Although, some years don't have it, and some have a month too. My '56 is running great, as is my '71, and my '85. Can't say that for a derraileur. Though I fully realize derraileurs have their place.

    Balance

  12. #12
    Sir Crashalot Airborne's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Jean Beetham Smith

    2) Disc brakes: Front & rear or just on the rear? What do you think. Any brand recommendations?
    how about "just the front" as replacing the rear-only option you suggest. the FRONT brake stops the bike, the rear just keeps the back in line.
    keep the rubber side down!

  13. #13
    Slow Moving Vehicle Jean Beetham Smith's Avatar
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    One difference with winter riding, I find that on ice I rarely use my front brakes, and when I do it leads to a fall. Maybe it's because I learned to ride with coaster brakes, but others have suggested that it leads to a front wheel skid that can't be controlled.

  14. #14
    Sir Crashalot Airborne's Avatar
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    ah, but the mark of a good rider is no skidding at all, especially in the summer to preserve our trails. discs are especially good at modulation and feel such that feathering them to stop with out skidding should not be an issue. we all skid from time to time, but more times than not, those skids can be avoided by riding in control. physics (and good bike skills) dictates the front brake slows the bike best.
    keep the rubber side down!

  15. #15
    Sir Crashalot Airborne's Avatar
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    oh and hope minis or hayes hydraulic are awesome. to use your existing levers, get avid mechanicals.
    keep the rubber side down!

  16. #16
    Career Cyclist threadend's Avatar
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    1) Nokian studded tires--have them, I think they are essential. What do you think? Yes, a must have for me!
    2) Disc brakes: Front & rear or just on the rear? What do you think. Any brand recommendations? No opinion
    3) Hard nose vs front suspension: my inclination is to a hard nose, how about you? Rigid fork, you'll have enough front end movement on slick surfaces without fork modulation
    4) Cyclo cross vs MTB frame? Because of fitting problems, I will probably go with a MTB, but which would you choose and why? No opinion, but I use MTB...maybe quicker recovery from slides?? maybe more stand over height??
    5) How about internal hub gears? Are any made for 26" wheels? Can they be used with Disc Brakes? Are they really better for slush & mud, or is that just traditional wisdom? Single speed

    added: I go to toe-straps in the winter on the commuter rather than clipless
    2003 Iceman Challenge - 2:34:55 - 897 / 2,000*
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    I dunno about all this fancy-scmancy stuff on a winter bike..
    Internal geared hubs are great, if you have 135mm dropouts....
    Disc brakes? Lotta money to expose to the salt spray around here..
    Keep it simple-a fixed gear (at maybe 60 gear inches) with studded tyres is simple, light, cheap, and has fewer things to break. Fixed gear also allows you greater control on the rear wheel.
    Je vais à vélo, donc je suis!

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    1. "I dunno about all this fancy-scmancy stuff on a winter bike..
    Internal geared hubs are great, if you have 135mm dropouts...."

    You don't need 135mm dropouts. We are talking about creating a utility bike not a Trek 5900. You can spend a fortune buying a customized frame that supports horizontal dropouts but there are plenty of bikes out there that have them. I noticed several bikes on Ebay that have them including a smart looking Phat cruiser.

    This actually happened today. I parked my 3 speed next to an MTB with huge knobby tires at the mall. It was pretty cold outside and the bike was stiff after being outdoors for several hours. Well it just so happens me and Mr. MTB get out at the same time and he gives me the kind of look like "You ride that junk?". I followed him about several blocks as we were headed in the same direction and guess what happened? As he tried to change gears, the chain poped off and had to stop and fix it in the cold. I must have been almost three blocks away and upon looking back, he was still trying to fix it.

    2 "Disc brakes? Lotta money to expose to the salt spray around here.."

    I don't need disk brakes. My Sram hub gear bikes comes with an internal brake and my three speed has a coaster brake.

  19. #19
    Friend of Jimmy K naisme's Avatar
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    Thanks for the thread. I've been busy mulling htis one over myself. I have three MTB rigid frames beconing me to use them in some way.
    After last year's mishap at a stop sign, where the bike went out from under me and I bruised my tail bone. I deemed it a necessity to get a lower centered bike, a MTB fits this selection. Two years ago I was riding my Bianchi Boardwalk, a cross bike that I road the snot out of. Last year I connected with an old Gary Fisher Sphinx and ran 700x47s on it, was very stable. I found that lowering the pressure in the tyres was a great idea too. Of course the bike that slipped was none of the above, it was my Trek 7500fx with 700x28s and V-brakes. I know better now.
    I like the idea of utalizing a three speed hub. I aquired one last summer, and it's been sitting around not being used. I had planned on getting a Suzue hub, so I could ride fixed, but I may just thread the three speed in a MTB rim and be on my way.
    "I will remain the stranger who came from a faraway land." Lance Armstrong

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    tires

    i ride during the winter here in anchorage, i go up some pretty crazy hills and down some too, i have 29" nokian studs and those things are the best tires i have ever owned for winter riding, glare ice is like pavement with those things, however they are worthless if you hit asphalt, recomendation from the local bike shop when i asked them was a steel fork because the weather and the forces impacted on the fork in winter can mess up a suspension fork, hope this helps, hope to find some info here on improving my winter rig too

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    if you can afford it get a 29er, i love to ride my 29 in the winter, you can just go over more stuff and if there is deep powder nothing beats em

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    have rebuilt an antique MTB, with Drum brake hubs , snow cat wide rims and Nokian tires .

    Use it when the roads Ice up , which may be a week in the winter , where I live ..
    last year it was 2 weeks , separate occasions.

    Mount and ground W Tires are about 20 years old now, still havent shed any studs .


    How about internal hub gears? Are any made for 26" wheels?
    hub is neutral as to what ever wheel you build it into..
    Mine happens to use a screw on freewheel ..

    if doingit up right, now Id get All Weather Sports to ship their off center drilled rim

    but Ive only replaced 2 spokes in 20 years, as it is, with it's Dish ..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 07-07-14 at 04:02 PM.

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    I was always riding old single speed Schwinns in the winter. Recently I watched a video showing these fixed gear guys in Montreal riding in the winter, skiding in the snow and having so much fun. So yea this year I am going to try and ride fixed most of the winter and see how it goes.

  24. #24
    Senior Member john4789's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jean Beetham Smith View Post
    OK, don't tell me about how salt & slush eat bikes and I should get a junk bike for nothing.
    Boo this zombie quote. I hope the salts ate your bike up, I love my junk bike!

  25. #25
    Catching Smallmouth BradH's Avatar
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    My Bikes
    1994 Trek 930 Singletrack, 1990 Specialized Sirrus Triple, 1985 Trek 460, 2005 Lemond Tourmalet, 1984 Schwinn LeTour 'Luxe, 1988 Trek 400T, 1985 Trek 4??, 1997 Lemond Zurich, 1993 Diamond Back Apex
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskaskier View Post
    if you can afford it get a 29er, i love to ride my 29 in the winter, you can just go over more stuff and if there is deep powder nothing beats em
    Way back in aught two 29ers were called 700c.
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