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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 05-22-06, 11:52 AM   #1
legot73
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Prepping a winter bike

I'm planning on extending my commuting season to year-round. For me, winter conditions are less focused on just temp, and more on the road conditions (packed snow, salt, ice, etc.) I think I've got the clothing part under control thanks to cross country ski experience, but have a few practical concerns for the winter that I'd like to get a head start on:

Bike- I have one steel or one alum MTB to set up as a winter bike. The alum bike has a suspension fork and is configured for single track. The steel bike is older, and is my former commuter with slicks. Any clear choice between the two?

Rims - Disc brakes aren't an option, so I'm wondering if there are any methods for reducing the damage caused by salt/sand.

Tires - I've considered making a (front only) studded tire out of a knobby using sheet metal screws like
this. How necessary are studs? knobbies?

Fenders - I'm a big believer in fenders. For a MTB setup in winter, do normal fenders or high-clearance "clip-ons" work better?

Pedals - As much as I love clipless, I'm thinking that cages and an insulated hiking shoe might make more sense. Any favorite shoe/pedal combos for winter?

Electronics - How do people protect electronics such as laptop computers and palm pilot/cell phones in bitter cold?

I've got time on my side, so any good direction get me on the right track. My ride is approx 11 miles each way, one or two hills, and medium traffic roads with rough but paved shoulders in the upper midwest.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 05-22-06, 02:16 PM   #2
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From Salty, bumpy Cleveland.

Quote:
Originally Posted by legot73
I'm planning on extending my commuting season to year-round. For me, winter conditions are less focused on just temp, and more on the road conditions (packed snow, salt, ice, etc.) I think I've got the clothing part under control thanks to cross country ski experience, but have a few practical concerns for the winter that I'd like to get a head start on:

Bike- I have one steel or one alum MTB to set up as a winter bike. The alum bike has a suspension fork and is configured for single track. The steel bike is older, and is my former commuter with slicks. Any clear choice between the two?

Steel (no suspension). Spray the inside of the tubes with WD-40. Re-lube the brearings with Marine bearing grease.

Rims - Disc brakes aren't an option, so I'm wondering if there are any methods for reducing the damage caused by salt/sand.

Keep them clean

Tires - I've considered making a (front only) studded tire out of a knobby using sheet metal screws like
this. How necessary are studs? knobbies?

Studs are only useful on ICE other times I find them annoying

Fenders - I'm a big believer in fenders. For a MTB setup in winter, do normal fenders or high-clearance "clip-ons" work better?

Make sure you have full fenders front and back or you will be miserable.

Pedals - As much as I love clipless, I'm thinking that cages and an insulated hiking shoe might make more sense. Any favorite shoe/pedal combos for winter?

I use cages and wear winter boots. My feet never get cold.

Electronics - How do people protect electronics such as laptop computers and palm pilot/cell phones in bitter cold?

Tough one, insulated bags help. Depends how long, how cold.

I've got time on my side, so any good direction get me on the right track. My ride is approx 11 miles each way, one or two hills, and medium traffic roads with rough but paved shoulders in the upper midwest.

Key is to take your time and try to use roads with the fewest cars or travel before/after the rush.
Enjoy

Last edited by powers2b; 06-09-06 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 05-23-06, 04:21 PM   #3
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Lessons I learned this winter applied:

Studs are great. Buy some Nokians (both wheels) and be done. Yeah they're heavy and take some getting used to.

It'll rust. NOW. So I hose down my driveline with WD-40 just about daily. Others have their own methods. Get a spare chain in any case.

Fenders are a must. Have a little extra clearence and periodically spray 'em with silicone spray or cooking spray to reduce bits sticking.

Clipless are fine, just spray the mechanism along with everything else. I only had problems in deep 'mashed potatoes' snow.

Brakes: I run disk. Were I to run rim brakes, I'd experiment with having a small brush (handleless toothbrush, perhaps) clear the rim before braking. Just a thought.

I don't carry electronics except a WIRED cyclocomputer. Wireless got a bit dicey in the cold.

Some other things:
Up your light count and use di-electric grease on all electrical contacts. Seems to ward off problems and deal with the fact that cars aren't expecting you.
Get a helmet cover. Fenders or no, you'll be bathing in the road slop--head to toe.
Wear glasses all the time. For the same reason.

Anything else?
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Old 05-24-06, 02:53 AM   #4
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You sir(s) are hardcore props to the winter riding.
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Old 05-24-06, 07:02 AM   #5
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I second, use the steel bike with no suspension (I screwed up my own suspsension since I didn't know). Winter's not friendly on that.

Reducing the damage caused by salt/sand: Get full fenders, THEN, add some mud flaps that go almost all the way to the ground. After only one ride in the winter grime, look at the mudflap just to see the amount of grime that pilled up there (grime that ain't going on your bike).

Studs/knobies: Definately get some, for both tires if you can, it'll make you slower, but I've ridden at walking speed next to someone (who was walking) on ice , and HE kept falling.

Pedals: I used normal pedals all winter, but next winter I'll be using platform pedals so that I ride more comfortably with large boots.

Electronics: hmm. Never thought about this one too much. I carried my blackberry in my saddle bag all winter long, and it's still fine. A laptop might be a bit dicey though. How cold does it get in milwaukee anyways? Check your laptop manual, it should have a temperature range on it. In cases of emergency, you could store your laptop with one of those chemical heating pads.

Chain: Get a chain cleaning tool, it REALLY speeds up the chain cleaning to a point where you could do it everyday depending on road grime. Lube the chain often, and then wipe the excess (the excess lube makes things stick to it).
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Old 06-02-06, 07:12 PM   #6
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Quote:
I think I've got the clothing part under control thanks to cross country ski experience
My experience has been that riding a bike is a lot colder than cross country skiing for the same weather conditions. You might find that you need an extra layer or two for bike riding including a wind proof outer layer.
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Old 06-09-06, 09:04 AM   #7
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I agree with the steel bike - save the suspension for summer. The rest really depends on what kind of winter we're talking about here. You mentioned xc skiing, so I take it you have at least some period of permanent snow on the ground and temperatures well below 0C (at least occasionally).

I personally prefer platform pedals for winter riding for a couple of reasons: the clipless cleat is a heat sink; I like to be able to put my foot down quickly; and I like to wear proper winter boots to keep warm. They're also good if you develop a mechanical problem that prevents you from riding. If it's cold enough, a simple flat will do exactly that.

Studded tyres are a must for me. Nokian makes several great models, I use the Hakkapeliitta W106s. These are designed for road use and add relatively little rolling resistance and weight. They're not your best choice for off-road though.

For me XC ski clothes work well. Depending on your route you may want to carry something extra just in case of the abovementioned mechanical problem. By the time you're done scratching your head and monkeying around and decide to start walking the bike, you'll be cold already if you're dressed to just keep warm during the ride.

Electronics: if it's something you need to use during the ride, choose the right kind of batteries and try to keep the gizmo warm. Li-Ion batteries are the best, NiMHs are the worst. I carry my cell phone in a belt clip, so it stays warm throughout the ride. There's no way I can warm up my LED lights, for example, so I either have a couple of sets of NiMHs or alkaline batteries for those. I also have a dynamo setup in my main winter bike. My VDO bike comp display freezes in the cold, but it still logs in the information. I had a wireless comp setup, but battery drain was huge in winter.

My PDA travels in the pannier, I let it sit for half an hour or so after arriving before switching it on. I don't think low temperature during transport is a particular problem for a PDA/laptop anyway. I'd be more worried about the bumpy ride.

--J
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Old 06-14-06, 08:41 PM   #8
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Winter here is ususally 20F, about -7C, and gets as low as 0F (-17C) normally. Wind chill can increase that by up to 5 degress F. The extra layer or blanket idea is a good one for unexpected stops, thanks.

Electronics I was originally concerned with were Treo phone and occasionally a laptop, but I think my lighting would be the more important problem. Would a big lead acid "bottle" battery charged nightly work better than a NiMH as mentioned above? Sure would cost less.

Thanks.
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Old 06-15-06, 12:15 AM   #9
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Dynohub or even a sidewall dynamo (that's what I have) is the least hassle. But if you don't want that, I'd say a lead acid battery will do the trick. When you plan for it, make sure there is some reserve capacity-wise, as your commute in winter will take somewhat longer than in summer. You might also want to carry a small backup LED in your pocket (to keep it warm) in case your main light fails for some reason.

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Old 07-26-06, 04:09 PM   #10
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A quick update on my winter bike situation:

The steel mountain bike I've been riding for years is too small for me. I didn't realize this until I got a bike that fit, and my knee pain went away. So, that one will go to my shorter brother, and I picked up a Trek L200 dirt cheap ($450 new). The only mod so far has been Nashbar trekking bars.

I'm considering studded tires. Everyone I know that actaully uses them says to get both front and back. On that topic, anyone familiar with the Innova brand tires?

I picked up some cold weather items from Nashbar: A poly balaclava, lobster wind/waterproof overgloves, a new pair of fleece gloves, cold weather socks. I already have neoprene overboots, full shell gear, lots of SmartWool socks and liner gloves, a few sets of wool and poly base layers, fleece tights, and long sleeve jerseys. Haven't found a helmet cover yet, but its on my list.

Some maybe items: ski goggles, soft shell pants and jacket (multipurpose, and on the sale rack at REI), steel tire levers vs. the plastic ones I have, and a CO2 inflator.
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Old 07-26-06, 04:35 PM   #11
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Winter bike

I have an old steel Univega hybrid for my winter bike. Tips:

-fenders a must. Add an extension made from a milk bottle to the front fender to keep salt/crud off the bottom bracket and chain wheel.

-steel will rust. Spray with WD-40 and keep the chain oiled As things rust, replace fasteners with stainless steel. The chain you can throw out and replace. Oil the spoke nipples so they don't corrode at the junction of spoke and nipple.

-the cheapie Nashbar studded tires ($25) work great on black ice, snow, everything except deep hardpack due to my narrow width with inadequate flotation. No need to pay $60 for Nokians.

-get really good lamps: the little Cateye with 10 LEDs or the Surfas cylindrical rear LED lamp (mega-bright!) are essential at dawn or dusk. Ditto the front.

-wear REALLY bright reflective clothing. I bought a London Metropolitan Police Goretex reflective coat off EBay-UK and it works great, with huge 3M reflective stripes. Visible for miles in headlights.

-Balaclava is needed when really cold. I bought cheapie plastic-lined fleece gloves for $6 at the local home improvement place and they are fine for short rides. For longer rides, you'll want breathable Goretex or the like.
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Old 07-31-06, 01:20 AM   #12
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I have seen several reports saying cheap studded tyres don't last. Especially if you ride on mixed surfaces and not exclusively on ice/snow. Depending on your situation and mileage it may well be a good idea to pay the USD60 up front (instead of paying USD25 yearly for 6-7 years).

For an earlier discussion about Nashbar vs. Innova vs. Nokian see this thread, for example:

Studded Tires - they're not all created equal!

--J
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Old 07-31-06, 02:35 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juha
I have seen several reports saying cheap studded tyres don't last. Especially if you ride on mixed surfaces and not exclusively on ice/snow. Depending on your situation and mileage it may well be a good idea to pay the USD60 up front (instead of paying USD25 yearly for 6-7 years).

For an earlier discussion about Nashbar vs. Innova vs. Nokian see this thread, for example:

Studded Tires - they're not all created equal!

--J
I can confirm this. After two months of riding my Inova studs were worn down, rusty, or just missing. A whole winter season on Nokian 106 tires and the studs look almost new.
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Old 07-31-06, 06:47 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by legot73
I'm planning on extending my commuting season to year-round. For me, winter conditions are less focused on just temp, and more on the road conditions (packed snow, salt, ice, etc.) I think I've got the clothing part under control thanks to cross country ski experience, but have a few practical concerns for the winter that I'd like to get a head start on:

Bike- I have one steel or one alum MTB to set up as a winter bike. The alum bike has a suspension fork and is configured for single track. The steel bike is older, and is my former commuter with slicks. Any clear choice between the two?

Not really. Use the one that is less expensive possibly.

Rims - Disc brakes aren't an option, so I'm wondering if there are any methods for reducing the damage caused by salt/sand.

You don't need disc brakes. Clean your bike if you are sure that there is salt on it. Don't leave it on the bike.

Tires - I've considered making a (front only) studded tire out of a knobby using sheet metal screws like
this. How necessary are studs? knobbies?

Serious waste of time. I bought nashbar studded tires for $27 each a couple years ago. They are still like new. I only put the tires on when conditions warrant. Around here that is typically 20 rides max per winter.

Fenders - I'm a big believer in fenders. For a MTB setup in winter, do normal fenders or high-clearance "clip-ons" work better?

I run topeak defenders, the ones that make your bike look like a motorcross bike. They work fine.

Pedals - As much as I love clipless, I'm thinking that cages and an insulated hiking shoe might make more sense. Any favorite shoe/pedal combos for winter?

I have a pair of the clipless Lake winter boots. They are nice but not totally necessary. I much prefer clipless pedals. I only use hiking boots and platforms when temps drop below 20 F. NOne of my clipless options work well below that temp.

Electronics - How do people protect electronics such as laptop computers and palm pilot/cell phones in bitter cold?

I only carry cell phone. I usually carry it in my seat pack. Last winter i learned that at -3 F my cell phone didnt work. So I now know to carry the phone on my body, when it is that cold.

I've got time on my side, so any good direction get me on the right track. My ride is approx 11 miles each way, one or two hills, and medium traffic roads with rough but paved shoulders in the upper midwest.

Your ride is pretty short. Even if it were longer I would tell you the same....Personally, don't overthink this winter bike deal. Basically just find a reliable bike that you are willing to get pretty dirty. Put proper tires on it and ride.

The much bigger deal is how to dress. See my sticky at the top of this forum to see how people dress
.

Thanks in advance.
..................
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Old 08-28-06, 01:45 PM   #15
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A quick chime-in on a rather old post.

I did a LOT of winter hiking last year, and plan to do it again this year. One thing I did learn as the group I hike with enjoys night hikes. Carry lights powered by lithium batteries. The end

Seriously, we would see non-lithium powered lights die below 30 degrees. Lithium lights would keep going strong without a problem.

Below 10 degrees, you want to go with LED lights (Luxeon preferably, they put out more light). Xenon lamps below that temperature (and espescially below 0) start fading slowly after exposure. They still output light, but it gets dicey.

Really, though, I hiked in temperatures down to -10 (although I don't recommend it) with my trusty Streamlight Argo HP headlamp, and it never failed me. There were several times that it was literally frozen - like the outside of it had ice on it - and it was still outputting stupid amounts of light.

Good luck!
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Old 08-28-06, 02:37 PM   #16
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What exactly is going wrong with everyone's suspension?

I need* my suspension MORE in the winter as the MUP I commute on goes from smooth pavement to very bumpy ice. Admittedly the SID air fork gets pretty inactive below -10C, but the coil shocks (front and rear)felt fine all the way down to -25C. They both have several very salty winters on them and they're fine.


* - I don't need it.
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Old 08-28-06, 04:18 PM   #17
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Last winter I made fenders out of lexan but they didn't last very long (cracked). I have learned from my mistakes and I made a full coverage rear fender out of 11 gauge aluminum that had about 4 to 5 cm clearance from the tire to allow snow and slush to pass through easily. I painted it satin black and used an acid-catalyzed vinyl epoxy as a primer. All fittings are stainless steel. It's not pretty but should get the job done.

In lieu of a ft. fender I made out of lexan a downtube shield to keep the slop off. I even used a heat gun to bend the lexan to wrap around the bottom bracket shell so it has lots of coverage. It's held to the tube by plastic zip ties. Again not a thing of beauty but it will serve it's purpose.

I might still make a partial ft.fender but I'll just see how it goes.

Does anybody make a stainless steel single-speed chain (Wipperman, maybe)? That would be ideal.
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Old 08-28-06, 05:08 PM   #18
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Pedals - I had small one-sided platform pedals (MKS GR-9) w/o clips and straps but they were to much of a hassle so this time I'm trying BMX-style cast aluminum quill pedals that look a little like "rat-trap" and should get a good grip with hiking boots and won't slip off.

With the tons of salt they love to use on the roads here a single-speed is almost mandatory. Fixed (like my bike) is better still. Salt is just hell on drivetrain components and chain maintenance is enough of a headache without the hassle of deraillers and cables added to the mix.

Studded tires - I made mine with 3/8" long self-tapping screws instead of sheet-metal ones. I heard these are better because they have hardened ends. I've had excellent luck with mine - a little rusty but not badly worn at all and none of them are missing (192 studs in ft., 128 rr.). I will be starting my third season with them but last winter was pretty mild. Don't forget to duck tape the screw heads (I'm not sure how necessary this is). I have another smaller tire inside of the studded tire with the beads cut out for a liner.
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Old 09-26-06, 01:25 PM   #19
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A variant on legot73's question: I broke a spoke on the beater bike I bought for a winter commuter. Of course it had to be in back on the freewheel side. And of course the freewheel won't come off (lbs mechanic tried). So it looks like I need a new 26" wheel, and given it will be sacrificed in the name of winter commuting I don't want to spend too much. I've looked around the LBS's, the forums, craigslist, Nashbar and Performance, all without anything intuitively obvious poping up. Does anyone have any pointers on finding an inexpensive rear wheel? (And am I too crazy for contemplating a 22mi-one-way winter commute?)
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Old 09-28-06, 08:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.P.
My experience has been that riding a bike is a lot colder than cross country skiing for the same weather conditions. You might find that you need an extra layer or two for bike riding including a wind proof outer layer.
+1. I've often found myself stripped to short sleeves when cross-country skiing in moderately cold (>20F) conditions. The same temperature on a bike requires long sleeves. Good ventilation is still important, crucial even, but I generate a lot more body heat when skiing, which is much harder work.
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Old 10-06-06, 02:46 AM   #21
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I have been riding through Canadian winters for the better part of 20 years. I do absolutely nothing to my mtb but ride it. I do up the fresh water rinse cycle at local car hand wash place and that is all. Sometimes I have thought studs would be nice but for most part roads are not totally snow covered all winter. I wear my xc-ski gear too for most part.
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Old 11-04-07, 10:30 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CastIron View Post
Lessons I learned this winter applied:

Studs are great. Buy some Nokians (both wheels) and be done. Yeah they're heavy and take some getting used to.

It'll rust. NOW. So I hose down my driveline with WD-40 just about daily. Others have their own methods. Get a spare chain in any case.

Fenders are a must. Have a little extra clearence and periodically spray 'em with silicone spray or cooking spray to reduce bits sticking.

Clipless are fine, just spray the mechanism along with everything else. I only had problems in deep 'mashed potatoes' snow.

Brakes: I run disk. Were I to run rim brakes, I'd experiment with having a small brush (handleless toothbrush, perhaps) clear the rim before braking. Just a thought.

I don't carry electronics except a WIRED cyclocomputer. Wireless got a bit dicey in the cold.

Some other things:
Up your light count and use di-electric grease on all electrical contacts. Seems to ward off problems and deal with the fact that cars aren't expecting you.
Get a helmet cover. Fenders or no, you'll be bathing in the road slop--head to toe.
Wear glasses all the time. For the same reason.

Anything else?
Good information above, but I'm confused on one issue: Helmet cover. When contacting several vendors, asking them if they offer helmet covers for their helments ... they all indicate that they do not provide helmet covers, and their responses tend to indicate that no cycling helmet vendor offers helmet covers.

It makes sense to make helmet covers, to conveniently cover the air vents. Where can you get helmet covers, and how would you know which helmet cover fits which helmet make (and size)?
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Old 11-05-07, 02:28 PM   #23
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Bike- I have one steel or one alum MTB to set up as a winter bike. The alum bike has a suspension fork and is configured for single track. The steel bike is older, and is my former commuter with slicks. Any clear choice between the two?
Unless you have a long commute I'd say the MTB is better. But either will work with the right tires. Studs are the only way to go for serious ice IMHO. You don't really need them for just snow.

As far as salt damage I spray down exposed steel parts with mpro cleaner that neutralizes salts and prevents rust. It seems to work pretty well but it's $$. Rust isn't the end of the world if it does show up. WD40 is a DE-GREASER and is not the best idea for longterm prevention. It cleans the part but also removes the grease that's doing the main protection. So you end up with a temporary fix that leaves the steel more exposed than ever. Fresh water does remove the salt but it's still WATER and should be followed up with a light oil at least. I suspect people are sometimes doing more damage with their cleaning than the road salt would do on its own. In some ways the best solution is to simply leave the bike frozen all winter if possible. I did that last year and had very little rusting.

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Pedals - As much as I love clipless, I'm thinking that cages and an insulated hiking shoe might make more sense. Any favorite shoe/pedal combos for winter?
I use big BMX style pedals with no cages or clips. If I have to bail or get a spiked boot down fast I don't want to be attached to the bicycle.

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Electronics - How do people protect electronics such as laptop computers and palm pilot/cell phones in bitter cold?
Use an insulated carrier. Also an insulated carrier for your batteries is a good idea if you're riding with a headlamp. I use the same kind the Iditarod mushers use.

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Old 11-05-07, 03:03 PM   #24
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Good information above, but I'm confused on one issue: Helmet cover. When contacting several vendors, asking them if they offer helmet covers for their helments ... they all indicate that they do not provide helmet covers, and their responses tend to indicate that no cycling helmet vendor offers helmet covers.

It makes sense to make helmet covers, to conveniently cover the air vents. Where can you get helmet covers, and how would you know which helmet cover fits which helmet make (and size)?
My Bell Metro came with a factory issue cover. It's fantastic and a pretty unique feature. A variety of folks make generic versions that are essentially a glorified shower cap. These are usually third party covers by makers of various cycling bits.

Here you go. And here.
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Old 11-05-07, 04:52 PM   #25
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I like to spray my cable housings and shifters/levers with wd 40, it prevents them from being totally useless. As for tire selection, i run nokian 106's the larger one up front. This means no full fenders, they just don't fit, and jam up with snow.
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