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  1. #1
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Noob

    Hi all

    My name is Chicagoan and as I'm sure you can, I live in Chicago. I am 15 years old, a Sophomore in High School, and I ride my '07 Specialized Crossroads Sport 5 1/2 miles to school everyday. This year I want to try winter cycling out. We get plenty of snow here but they are usually punctual about plowing. I have tried snow cycling twice on the wrong kind of bike. 1st I wanted to do some sledding on a snow day so I hitched up a converted child trailer to my dad's 5 year old Trek. I guess its a hybrid, but it it more like a road bike (rigid frame, extremely thin tires). Well I barely moved the trailer around the block. So I took the bus. The second time I tried to ride the same bike and I fell hard as hell on my ass.

    Anyway I have a few questions. What kind of bikes do you use.
    I have been looking at road and mountain bikes on craigslist for a winter bike.

    The streets are never covered in snow (maybe a few inches between when the trucks come by). There will probrably be lots of stop and go traffic. The first quarter mile of my ride is on side streets but other than that everything should be plowed.

    What tires do you reccomend and what kind of bike do you reccomend?

    Any other tips? How to dress? The trailer I mentioned above was destroyed over the summer when I was carrying about 300 pounds worth of old newspapers to be recycled, luckily I was less than a block from the recycling place. They took the trailer too and I kept the wheels.
    Anyway I now have a Burley Flatbed that I will be towing on occation.

    Thanks

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    use a cyclocross bike with studded tires

    the thinner wheels (compared to a mountain bike) cut thru
    the packed snow and cruft easier, and it rolls better once you
    are on plowed street

    it'll bust through snowbanks
    pretty well


    for clothing...wear thin wool or silk inner layer, get Lake Winter cycling boots
    or Sidi Storms...wool socks.

    actually get wool layers as many as you can...and then thin shell for a top layer
    to cut the wind. goretex anything is good

    the idea is if you are gonna sweat up a storm and need to stop, wool won't letcha down
    but the main reason is wool does not stink or get funky after repeated all day use.

    synthetics all stink to high heaven after just one sweat session, so you are
    forced to wash them constantly ...wool or silk you can get away with riding in it,
    setting it aside for the day, getting back into them later on, and riding again
    without smelling like a garbage can

    Ibex makes awesome wool stuff. look for cross country ski wear, it works great

  3. #3
    tsl
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    Conditions here on Lake Ontario are similar to yours on Lake Michigan. I found studded snow tires to be essential. My winter bike is similar to your Crossroads. I run 35mm studded snows (and fenders) and have no real problems. A challenge or two, but no problems.

    I'd say, just get studded snows and fenders for your current bike, and save up for a nice summer bike in the spring.
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    intergalactic distributor
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    Welcome to the joys of winter cycling. On how how to dress, Avoid cotton like the plauge. Tried it and always cold and clamy. Good advise from edzo. cheers.

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    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Yeah the Crossroads is only a couple months old so when snow comes I will get it tuned up and store it. I am looking around on craigslist trying to decide whether to use a Mountain or Road Bike.

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    Chicagoan,

    The Crossroads will work fine in winter with the right tires and fenders but if you want that to be your nice bike I would go to yard sales and goodwill stores and try to buy an older mountain bike with a rigid front fork. Generally they can be found for less than 20 dollars. Then clean and lube it and put some winter tires and fenders on it. Convert it to single speed if you want a hassle free bike. IT will work just fine. Suspension parts don't work well in the cold but the inexpensive mountain bikes from Walmart and the like can work good in winter since the suspension is low tech coil springs only.

    Both a road and a mountain bike can work but most winter bikers prefer the mountain bike because the wider tires and smaller frame give a more safer feel. Getting the tires right is really the most important thing though and some kind of fenders are essential if there is any soft snow or slush on the roads. Planet bike has good inexpensive plastic fenders.

    The clothing is harder to get right than the bike. Try this web site out for a few ideas.

    http://bikewinter.org/main.php

    Here's another site thats even better:

    http://www.icebike.org/

    As was stated above, you don't need to buy bike specific cloths but stay away from cotton at all cost. For riding short distances to school what works really well is a pair of non-insulated and breathable snowboarding pants over a pair of long polyester basketball shorts. The snow boarding pants can be got for cheap at discount recreation outlets and you can taper the bottom a little with a sewing machine or by hand so they don't get caught in the chain. You can take them off when you get to school to dry out and the long knee length basketball shorts are both reasonably warm, breathable, fashionable and comfortable.

    For the top you need some kind of breathable jacket that is water resistant. Tight knit, softshell jackets work well for this and just layer with synthetic or wool long sleeve shirts underneath. You don't need that much on your legs and chest as long as you've got a thin layer of insulation and wind resistant but breathable shell.

    It's harder to keep feet warm on long rides but for five miles you are OK with what ever works for you when you get to school.

    Hands: cheap fleece gloves with a nylon shell work really well.

    Head: various things work here. I like an inexpensive freeride bike helmet. Pricepoint.com has one for 7 dollars. They are cheap, cover the ears and have only a small amount of ventilation which is just right. In Chicago, you will need a balaclava to wear under your helmet or at least carry with you in case you need it.

    ALso, it is well advised to carry a synthetic or down parka in your pack or bike bag so if you break down you can stay warm because you won't have enough insulation on for non exercise activities.
    Last edited by Hezz; 09-08-07 at 08:45 PM.

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    pj7
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    I use my mountain bike for winter commuting. I don't like the idea of having a bike that I rarely ride (such as a dedicated winter beater) for riding during the most technical and dangerous times of the year. I am very comfortable on my mountain bike and use it all sprint/summer/fall riding trails of mud, dirt, and various bodily fluids... so using it for winter snow/ice riding was a given.
    Studded tires are the icing on the cake too as here in the Detroit area the roads I ride are rarely, if ever, cleared.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice guys! I have a bike that I might be able to use. This Crossroads is my first expensive bike. In the picture below off to the left is a Schwinn Sidewinder 2.6 FS. I have had it since 2003 when my parents bought it for me from Walmart for $130. I used it until summer of 2006. Its condition got worse until I just wouldn't ride it anymore. It sat for a year in the garage and whenever I rode I would use my dad's 2001 Trek 7200 which is a hybrid with very thin tires and has no suspention. It is off to the right on the other side of the Maxima parked in the garage.

    Anyway back to the bike in question. It has 26 x 1.95 inch tires on it a 21 speed shimano drivetrain and simple coil suspension. I may be able use the drivetrain of a 50's cruiser that is sitting on the other side of the garage with my dad's bike. I have been looking on craigslist too though. too though.

    Can anyone recomend a set of tires?

  9. #9
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    PS

    What do you think of Coaster Brakes for winter riding. I even have 26 inch wheel that is set up to use coaster brakes. I would think that they would be more reliable in wet conditions.
    Last edited by Chicagoan; 09-10-07 at 10:46 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    Suspension parts don't work well in the cold but the inexpensive mountain bikes from Walmart and the like can work good in winter since the suspension is low tech coil springs only.
    I have found the opposite to be true.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    I have found the opposite to be true.
    can you expound on that

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    My suspension has worked just fine at low temperatures with minor adjustments. This includes coil and air forks and rear shocks. Oil thickens at low temperatures, and backing off the damping corrects this.

    Which is a good thing, since many of the trails and road allowances that I ride are rougher in the winter than in the summer due to frozen snow. In addition, cracks in pavement tend to widen significantly in winter due to contraction with temperature, meaning rougher roads. Depending on the nature of your route these factors may or may not apply to your riding.

    I have yet to experience a suspension component on a department-store bike that provides usable suspension at any time of the year. At that pricepoint, I'd stay rigid.
    Last edited by ghettocruiser; 09-10-07 at 12:14 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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  14. #14
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    The Schwinn will work fine, that is the bike I use for winter riding, maybe get a studded tire for the front., Definetily get some sort of fender for the front. One problem I had was leaving it outside after riding the moisture in the cables would freeze solid and next time your ride neither brakes or shifters will work. I bring it in during the winter overnight and at work so it drys out.
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    Ya,

    The Schwinn will make a great winter bike. Tires may be fine as is. Some plastic mountain bike fenders and your set. You might want to convert it to single speed though if the drivetrain turns out to be a mess to deal with. Now might be a good time to start learning how to fix bikes since it might need a few things to make it road worthy. Looks like the chain needs cleaning and lube.

    I think coaster brakes may work if you have studded tires but I think it will be harder to control the exact amount of braking power with a coaster brake. Still it might be worth a try because if you put the 26 inch wheel coaster brake single speed on the Schwinn you still have a rim brake so you have three braking choices. I would try the 26 inch coaster brake and see if it fits in the rear of the Schwinn. Usually those single speeds are narrower. Like 120mm instead of 130 or 135 mm which is more typical for mountain bikes. However, since the frame is steel you can bend it in or out a little. If you go the single speed you can get rid of the shifting cables which can be a pain in some winter climates. But you will need to use a chain tensioner with that frame. Sometimes you can use the adjusting screws on the rear derailer to fix it's position on one gear and use it without a cable as the chain tensioner.
    Last edited by Hezz; 09-10-07 at 08:02 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Thanks Hezz,

    Once I have some more money (I'm 15) Iam planning on buying a set of Nokians. I'm not sure which ones yet. I Have a rim from a 1950's Western Flyer Cruiser. When I bought it, it's original tires were on it. They were 26 x 2 inches I think. I bought new tires for it from walmart they are 26 x 1.75 inches, the same size as on the Schwinn.


    Mr Jim,
    I plan to keep it in the garage when I'm not riding it. I am putting snow tires on both tires becuase I have alot of stopping and going in my commute and that would be annoying spinning out whenever I would start.
    I have the Scwinn's frame loaded onto my trailer and when I have a chance I will take it to my LBS. I will have him strip the bike of its drivetrain and a few other things I don't know how to remove. I plan to use the old cruiser's drivetrain and rear wheel on the Scwinn with a new chain and set of ice tires. Will post pics soon. I may just have him do all the work because he is cheaper than the shop I bought and service my "nice bike" at.

  17. #17
    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    Ya,

    The Schwinn will make a great winter bike. Tires may be fine as is. Some plastic mountain bike fenders and your set. You might want to convert it to single speed though if the drivetrain turns out to be a mess to deal with. Now might be a good time to start learning how to fix bikes since it might need a few things to make it road worthy. Looks like the chain needs cleaning and lube.

    I think coaster brakes may work if you have studded tires but I think it will be harder to control the exact amount of braking power with a coaster brake. Still it might be worth a try because if you put the 26 inch wheel coaster brake single speed on the Schwinn you still have a rim brake so you have three braking choices. I would try the 26 inch coaster brake and see if it fits in the rear of the Schwinn. Usually those single speeds are narrower. Like 120mm instead of 130 or 135 mm which is more typical for mountain bikes. However, since the frame is steel you can bend it in or out a little. If you go the single speed you can get rid of the shifting cables which can be a pain in some winter climates. But you will need to use a chain tensioner with that frame. Sometimes you can use the adjusting screws on the rear derailer to fix it's position on one gear and use it without a cable as the chain tensioner.
    That old Schwinn + Coaster Brake + Single speed probably won't work unless the bike has horizontal dropouts. I don't know one way or the other as to if it does or not. Unless of course the single speed conversion is either ghetto rigged or by some ammount of chance the chain is the perfect length for the chainring/rear cog set.
    A bike equipped with a chain tensionar (which is almost always required with single speed conversions) can't use a coaster brake... of course I could be missing something here.

    But then again, I hate the idea of a single speed bike in the winter. Ridingi n the snow is the *one* time that gears would come in handy if the bike is usually ridden without them.
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    pj7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chicagoan View Post
    PS

    What do you think of Coaster Brakes for winter riding. I even have 26 inch wheel that is set up to use coaster brakes. I would think that they would be more reliable in wet conditions.
    coaster brakes for riding in the winter (snow/rain/slush) makese sense because the brakes themselves never get wet and *usually* will work consistantly. However there are other better (and most of the time more expensive) routes to take for braking in the wintery conditions. Disc brakes are superb, and even rim brakes with good wet weather pads will work fine so long as you can keep them from freezing up. There are LOTS of commuters that use regular V brakes for winter commuting.
    The problem with coaster brakes is that they are usually hard to service and alot of times don't give you a good warning that they are becoming worn out.
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  19. #19
    back in the saddle bent-not-broken's Avatar
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    I'd stick with the schwinn as is. I commute on a ridgid mt. bilke in the winter because I like the smaller frame and clearance for my 'privates' when I have to bail out. I see similarities to mountain biking with slow speed bike handling necessary in severe conditions. The other thing I learned was you need a lot of fender clearance. You can easily get up to a half inch of ice/snow builld up between the frame and tires. Mt bike fenders designed for mud with some added mud flaps make the ride more enjoyable. I do a 5 mile commute and though it takes longer, a mt bike works fine.
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    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Hi guys, Update:

    This afternoon I hitched up my trailer loaded up with my Scwinn and the Western Flyer on top. I pulled them over to the LBS. That setup with a single gear on the scwinn wouldn't have worked. So I then decided to just get it fixed. But that would have cost $90, I bought that bike 4 years ago for $130. I left the Scwinn there and said I would be back. On the way home with just the Western Flyer on my trailer I thought about it and said nah.

    I wanted a single speed bike with coster brakes for reliability on snow and Ice, and I had that sitting right there on my trailer. It's frame is lighter than the Scwinn's, it has coaster brakes, the same size tires as the Scwinn, and no suspention so one less thing to worry about. All it needs is a front innertube, that little thing for coaster brakes that wraps around the frame, and some tlc.





    It even has Fenders!


    Just needs a new innertube


    and that coaster brake thingy.


    I'm thinking of a moderatly studded tire in the front so that I won't have to worry so much about slipping and losing control, and I want a lightly studded tire or a really knobby tire in the rear since I start and stop every 2-5 blocks.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    It also has the little whole for mounting a rack or rear fender.

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    Theres no reason the Western Flyer won't work as a winter bike except you will need to be really careful when braking. I would suggest studded tires front and rear. Plus with that bike you can jump off fast if necessary.

    Also, my guess is that your Schwinn doesn't have anything wrong with it that you couldn't fix yourself for a lot less money. Probably just needs bearings cleaned and lubed. The chain cleaned and lubed and the cables tightened. As far as I'm concerned you have two choices for a winter commuter and both bikes can work.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Chicagoan's Avatar
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    Hezz:
    I definately am using studded tires. Probrably Nokians, I want the ones with 160 studs on both, 160 on the front and the 106 stud tires on the back, or 106 on both. Not sure yet. The Scwinn is gone now though. I stripped it for parts I would need and let the shop owner keep the frame.

    I'm actually not 100% sold on the Western Flyer either though. I saw an older Specialized Mountain Bike on craigslist for $65 but like I said still not quite sure. I probrably will go with the cruiser for now since my commute is flat, only a quarter mile of my commute is on unplowed roads, and all I will have to buy is a rear rack (possibly a set of 2 so that they will match).

    Can anyone reccomend tires? Anyone use Knobbies? I think the 106 stud tires will be fine but think the 160's will be better because I do have that 2 1\2 blocks of unplowed snow and I may want to mess around some in the snow. What do you think?

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    Chicagoan,

    Unfortunate that you stripped the Schwinn for parts and abandoned the frame. The parts would have been more useful on the frame and you probably could have got the bike in good enough condition for winter yourself for less than 30 dollars. ALso, it would have been a good bike to learn bike maintenance on. Since your budget is tight at your age you probably need to learn to do a few things yourself to keep your bike in good shape to ride.

  25. #25
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    I think coaster brakes may work if you have studded tires but I think it will be harder to control the exact amount of braking power with a coaster brake. Still it might be worth a try because if you put the 26 inch wheel coaster brake single speed on the Schwinn you still have a rim brake so you have three braking choices.
    I would be wary of depending upon a coaster-brake. I guess as long as you have a front brake of some sort, you'll be ok. Just be sure to use that front brake.

    I do most of my braking in winter with the front brake. I've run some tests on snow and on glare ice. I can brake awfully hard in a straight line, even on sheer ice. Hit the front brake, and those knobs and studs (I run Hakka 300s) just dig right in. I honestly believe I might endo before skidding the front-end. I've never pushed things that far.

    I live in a hilly town, btw, and I like to think that I ride rather aggressively (i.e., fast) for winter conditions. I live and die by my brakes. I would not even attempt using a coaster brake when going downhill.

    When braking on corners or curves, and especially in icy conditions, I have to moderate things a bit. I have been able to lose lateral traction while breaking and turning, so I generally avoid braking and turning at the same time. It is safer to break first in a straight-line direction, and then turn at a slower speed. When turning, I want all my available traction on the turn. (I also take corners and curves much less aggressively in winter. I'll ride fast straight-line, but I slow way down for corners).

    BTW, my brakes last winter were just regular rim brakes. They worked fine. Disk would be nicer, but I'll probably be making-do with rim brakes again this winter.

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