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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 10-16-06, 06:01 PM   #1
slowandsteady
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Road bike or MTB for snow?

Okay, I really like my road bike. This will be my first winter riding and I would like to survive it in one piece, so I need some advice. I have ridden my MTB in the snow in the past, but nothing serious so I am still relatively clueless about snowy riding for any length of time.

I have a 2006 Fuji Finest 1.0 WSD road bike and a 1993ish Trek 830 MTB. The Trek has a set of wide knobbies and a set of 1.25 slicks and a front suspension with the typical MTB triple and 7 speed gearing. The Fuji currently has Contis in a 23c and a compact double. The Trek weighs in around 30 pounds and the Fuji is about 19 lbs. I was thinking about getting cross tires for the Fuji in about a 30 or 33c and just riding that in the snow. Lets just say the Fuji has me sufficiently spoiled and I cannot bring myself to ride the Trek again, unless I plan on doing some true MTBing down some steep hills with giant boulders.

I live in Jersey so we don't often get a ton of snow, but most winters do get snow "storms" dumping under 6 inches at any one time. It often melts within a week or two, so most riding would likely be in slushy, dirty, gravely, salty mush.

All concerns about rust and dirt aside(I have no problem washing my bike daily), what bike should I ride? And, is it a suicide mission to even try to ride a road bike or does having thin cross tires really cut through the mush and down to the pavement?
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Old 10-16-06, 06:42 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady
Okay, I really like my road bike. This will be my first winter riding and I would like to survive it in one piece, so I need some advice. I have ridden my MTB in the snow in the past, but nothing serious so I am still relatively clueless about snowy riding for any length of time.

I have a 2006 Fuji Finest 1.0 WSD road bike and a 1993ish Trek 830 MTB. The Trek has a set of wide knobbies and a set of 1.25 slicks and a front suspension with the typical MTB triple and 7 speed gearing. The Fuji currently has Contis in a 23c and a compact double. The Trek weighs in around 30 pounds and the Fuji is about 19 lbs. I was thinking about getting cross tires for the Fuji in about a 30 or 33c and just riding that in the snow. Lets just say the Fuji has me sufficiently spoiled and I cannot bring myself to ride the Trek again, unless I plan on doing some true MTBing down some steep hills with giant boulders.

I live in Jersey so we don't often get a ton of snow, but most winters do get snow "storms" dumping under 6 inches at any one time. It often melts within a week or two, so most riding would likely be in slushy, dirty, gravely, salty mush.

All concerns about rust and dirt aside(I have no problem washing my bike daily), what bike should I ride? And, is it a suicide mission to even try to ride a road bike or does having thin cross tires really cut through the mush and down to the pavement?
Sounds to me like you want to ride the road bike. Personally, my roadbike hangs in the garage in the winter most of the time. Give me a wide tire and a mountain bike for winter please.
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Old 10-16-06, 08:05 PM   #3
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I'm going to be new to winter riding too. Since I'm in Michigan I'm not sure what your situation with ice is in Jersey but I've read about how effective studded road tires can be when you hit either black ice or even if you are just riding atop of compacted snow/snow mush.

You might try icebike.org for some info
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Old 10-16-06, 09:29 PM   #4
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It all depends what the tires are cutting down to. Pavement with actual traction or just a layer of ice. If you have enough room in the road bike frame there are a fair number of studded 35c tires around. That might be a good comprimise.

I usually ride big-tired MTBs in winter myself.
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Old 10-17-06, 12:08 AM   #5
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I have ridden both my mtn bike and my road bike in the snow and I'd have to say that I feel much more comfortable on my mtn bike.

However, my road bike does not have knobby tires or studded tires or anything ... it just has plain ordinary road tires. It cuts through snow just fine, but I felt extremely insecure when it came to more slippery conditions.

My mtn bike has large knobby tires which I flatten from their usual 50 psi down to 30 psi for additional traction ..... exactly like they do with the busses (coaches) that take tourists out to Fraser Island in Australia - Frazer Island is entirely made of sand. That seems to work very well, and I feel fairly comfortable.

My mtn bike is heavy, but that's OK because in the snow I'm not going to be moving all that fast anyway ... and both the snow and the heavy mtn bike give me a good workout! Come spring, when I get back on my road bike again, I feel like I'm flying!!
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Old 10-17-06, 10:09 PM   #6
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Everything about a mountain bike is better for snow. Wider tires which can be ridden at lower pressures for better traction, lower frame height makes it easier to bail and control in slippery conditions. The handle bar while not as comfortable for long rides as a road handlebar is better for fine control in slippery conditions. It's more likely to survive a crash without being damaged because of stronger frame. Lower gearing when needed in mud or slush. Better brakes for stopping faster when the road surface is not slick. More winter tire choices for your conditions. Ability to run in somewhat muddy dirt trails which thin tire bikes cannot do as well. If it's an older bike that's a plus because then you don't have to worry about it as much as the winter is much harder on a bike.

In the cold snowy weather you can't ride as fast anyway so the speed difference isn't all that much anyway. My advice is to ride the mountain bike when the weather and road conditions are bad and the road bike when the weather and road conditions are more favorable for that bike.
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Old 10-18-06, 07:56 AM   #7
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Well, the ice conditions vary widely from year to year. We probably get ice storms far more often than the folks up north, but day time temps hover around 33 degrees for most of the winter. It is so hard to say anything with certaintly since any given winter could get no snow, or a few feet of snow, or three ice storms, or 70 degrees in December, or slush one day, and solid ice the next. Basically anything is possible.

So, how much better are studded MTB snow tires than regular knobbies? Is it worth having a set and can you just ride on them in "normal" conditions or do I have to keep switching them?
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Old 10-18-06, 08:53 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady

So, how much better are studded MTB snow tires than regular knobbies? Is it worth having a set and can you just ride on them in "normal" conditions or do I have to keep switching them?

Studded SNOW tires really don't exist. Well, actually they do but they aren't designed for snow, they are designed for ice, it is the studs that are necessary on ice, but not on snow. YOu can find much more agressively treaded tires for snow, which is what you want.

What i have found however that unless the snow is freshly fallen on previously dry ground, you will be facing the chances of ice. This means that i prefer the studded tires on snow that may have had a chance to melt underneath and turn to ice.

But still if you get a nice fresh fluffy snowfall, then a tire like the Geax Blade is perfect for that, much better than a studded tire. I am in Kansas and we have the exact conditions you describe. It literally has been 79F one day and in the single digits the next.

I have extra wheelsets to make swapping easy. Some guys with carbide tipped studded tires like the Nokians will run them all winter even on bare ground. Personally I could do without the extra resistance as studded bike tires offer up way more than their fair share of resistance.
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Old 10-18-06, 01:08 PM   #9
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Mountain bikes do not work that well on the road- They are for offroad. I now have a road bike and the MTB as well as the mountain Tandem. If it is snowing and the roads have snow on them- I will not ride on the road. Too much fear of ice. But if it is snowing- Out comes the MTB or the Tandem and we are off to the hills. Snow riding is Fantastic. Slow and cold but fantastic.
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Old 10-18-06, 02:46 PM   #10
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Mountain bikes do not work that well on the road- They are for offroad.
Is that a fact? Come to think of it, i've never seen a mountain bike on the road.
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Old 10-18-06, 02:49 PM   #11
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Some thoughts:
I think you are really going to want full fenders for winter riding. The roads are very often wet, usually with lots of salt any other grime. Fenders will keep this off of you.
I'm guessing you can't fit much wider tire on your road bike with fenders than a 25mm. This eliminates the knobbie cyclocross tires or studded tires.

My suggestion would be to ride your road bike with fenders and your current tires for most winter days. If weather reports are predicting high chances of snow then ride your MTB with knobbies. I think that will give you more control on snow covered surfaces. Narrow slicks can be used with care on slippery surfaces, especially if the roads are salted well and therefore not forzen under the snow.

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Old 10-18-06, 02:57 PM   #12
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This will handle nearly all of your winter bicycling needs. Pugsley
If roads are a sheet of ice (like after freezing rain) then studded tires may work better but otherwise the wide low pressure Endomorphs on the Pugsley are incredible. And they roll better than studs if you pump them up. At 30psi my Pugsley is about as fast as my touring bike with 35mm studded tires at 75psi.
For most road conditions a touring or cyclocross bike with studded tires will handle it no problem. For bad off-road conditions or unplowed streets an agressively treaded MTB is probably better.
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Old 10-24-06, 12:08 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by slowandsteady

I live in Jersey
Where in Jersey are you from?
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Old 10-24-06, 12:47 PM   #14
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Is that a fact? Come to think of it, i've never seen a mountain bike on the road.
Some of us even ride on the road with nasty knobbies on the bike
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Old 10-24-06, 01:36 PM   #15
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This will handle nearly all of your winter bicycling needs. Pugsley
If roads are a sheet of ice (like after freezing rain) then studded tires may work better but otherwise the wide low pressure Endomorphs on the Pugsley are incredible. And they roll better than studs if you pump them up. At 30psi my Pugsley is about as fast as my touring bike with 35mm studded tires at 75psi.
For most road conditions a touring or cyclocross bike with studded tires will handle it no problem. For bad off-road conditions or unplowed streets an agressively treaded MTB is probably better.
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Are you trying to sell me a Pugsley? I already have a MTB with knobbies so I don't need a new one.
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Old 10-24-06, 01:37 PM   #16
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Where in Jersey are you from?
Salem county...in South Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia.
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Old 10-24-06, 01:41 PM   #17
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Mountain bikes do not work that well on the road- They are for offroad. I now have a road bike and the MTB as well as the mountain Tandem. If it is snowing and the roads have snow on them- I will not ride on the road. Too much fear of ice. But if it is snowing- Out comes the MTB or the Tandem and we are off to the hills. Snow riding is Fantastic. Slow and cold but fantastic.
Well, a MTB may not be ideal for the roads, but with slicks my MTB isn't much slower than my brand new road bike. And, I am not afraid to ride in the snow on the street. This is why I was asking what would be better.

I have NO trails anywhere near my home so true mountain biking is out of the question...unless I want to drive an hour first...and I don't. Well actually I am going downhilling this weekend, but that will take about a 2 hour drive to Jim Thorpe, PA. I love mountian biking, but it just isn't practical for regular fitness where I live.
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Old 10-24-06, 03:39 PM   #18
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I rode an old English 3 speed all winter in Madison WI for many years. Upright position was probably the most important factor. Different tires are not going to make that much difference. Riding in fresh snow, packed snow, slush, ice is really about assessing traction and then using the right bike handling skills to get through it. Stay in the saddle, don't think you can lean going into corners and easy on the front brake.

Riding through 2-4 inches of fresh snow is really easy. Good traction. Glare ice or really hard packed snow is the worst.
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Old 10-25-06, 05:00 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Portis
Studded SNOW tires really don't exist. Well, actually they do but they aren't designed for snow, they are designed for ice, it is the studs that are necessary on ice, but not on snow. YOu can find much more agressively treaded tires for snow, which is what you want.
Now I have to disagree with you a bit. I think that the wider studded knobbies (like nokian 240) really are designed for snow. Why else would there be knobs on the tires? Studs don't help much in loose snow, but they certainly don't do any harm either.

What kind of a tire is the best in loose snow? The really most vital thing for a snow tire is width. The wider the tire the better. The knobs have to be far apart, because if the knobs are too close together they will fill up with snow. So the ideal snow tire is really wide with aggressive knobs that are far apart (no studs needed). But still I think that the studded knobbies are designed for snow. Snow and ice!

Giving someone advise on tires for winter is very difficult, since no tire is the best in all conditions, it's all about trade offs. But one thing is for sure, nothing performs as good on ice as studs.

My advise is that you can bike most winterdays on knobbies, or alternate between knobbies and slicks if you like. But I can not recommend that you ride knobbies on icy days, either get studded tires or rest the days that are icy. If you ride knobbies on icy days, deflate them to really low pressure (for maximum contact surface) and be extreemely careful.
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Old 10-25-06, 08:28 AM   #20
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No way would I take my skinny tires out there! I wouldn't last around the first corner!

Nice wide mtb tires with some good knobbies are a must for traction.
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Old 10-25-06, 10:04 AM   #21
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How about a cyclocross bike with disc brakes? You get the wide frame for big tires and the road bike ride.
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Old 10-25-06, 10:18 AM   #22
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How about a cyclocross bike with disc brakes? You get the wide frame for big tires and the road bike ride.
As wonderful as that may be, I just bought my road bike in August. Not really in the market for a third bike.
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Old 10-25-06, 10:30 AM   #23
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MTB in the winter. I run Serfas Drifters. Nice slick center with inverted treads on the sides.
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Old 10-25-06, 11:58 AM   #24
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Now I have to disagree with you a bit. I think that the wider studded knobbies (like nokian 240) really are designed for snow. Why else would there be knobs on the tires? Studs don't help much in loose snow, but they certainly don't do any harm either.
I never said they would do any harm. I just said that you should look for a tread that was good in snow for snow. Studs are for ice.

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So, how much better are studded MTB snow tires than regular knobbies? Is it worth having a set and can you just ride on them in "normal" conditions or do I have to keep switching them?
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Old 10-25-06, 12:28 PM   #25
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Are you sure that you can fit 32mm knobbies on your Fuji?

I think you should go with the mountain bike, with fenders, for snow & slush and save the Fuji for dry days. Better control and safety and better dryness with the fenders. You said it didn't snow that much where you live, so you can suffer with the Trek a few times a year. Plus, riding in the snow will probably be so interesting (fun?) that you won't think about your Fuji at all.
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