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  1. #1
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    7 mile Commute - Road vs MTB

    I've been riding in the winter for 3 seasons now, but it's been limited to riding to the train station and then riding from the train to work, - maybe only 1 or 2 miles total. I've used my MTB with studded tires from Nashbar which I've had mixed experiences with. They're fine on ice but handling is terrible in the couple of inches of slop that often ends up on the side of the road after a fresh snow.

    In the last 8 months or so, I've been commuting all the way in to work on my road bike and love the additional speed I get over a mountain bike.

    So now I'm wondering what to do for winter. Would a narrower studded tire on a road bike be better for speed in good conditions and traction in the slop? Could a narrower studded tire on my MTB be the answer?

    After three years of even that short of a ride each day, the salt has taken it's toll on the components of my mountain bike. Even though my road bike is no multi thousand dollar featherweight, I'm reluctant to subject it to the same abuse. I should also add that my old road bike has down tube shifters which probably isn't the greatest setup for poor road conditions.

    Thoughts?
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    Build up a single speed for winter out of an old 27 inch road bike frame. You can then get just about any kind of tire on it that you want to try out and have a lower maintenance bike for winter.

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    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    Build up a single speed for winter out of an old 27 inch road bike frame. You can then get just about any kind of tire on it that you want to try out and have a lower maintenance bike for winter.
    Sounds like a reasonable solution, however, there is a problem. Falling down on the ice is probably less dangerous than trying to explain to my wife that we need to make room for yet another bike in our cramped garage ;-)

    Let's assume for a moment that I survive the wife convincing phase. There's a budget/knowledge issue.
    I have limited budget and don't know much about single speeds.

    Finding a cheap old 27" 10 to 12 speed is not a problem. The cheapest thing to do would be to borrow the 700C wheels off my road bike. It's old so we're talking about a freewheel (vs. a more modern freehub) setup. Can I just screw on a singlespeed freewheel or do I need a whole new rear wheel?

    Riding in winter can be exhausting as it is. My commute is relatively flat but there are a couple of hills and smaller varying grades. Am I going to be dying after 7 miles through an inch or two of fresh snow without being able to change gears?

    Thanks !
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  4. #4
    back in the saddle bent-not-broken's Avatar
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    I have commuted 5 miles each way through the last 2 central WI winters. I ride an old 21 speed GT mountain bike with Nashbar studded tires. I have expeienced the frozen freewheel, as well as iced up brakes and derailers, but I would not give up my ability to change gears. I would not want to deal with winter winds and sloppy roads on a single speed. I appreciate the lower top bar of the mt bike when I need to bail out in the sloppy snow. Winter commuting is a different kind of satisfaction than that summer road bike commute. There are many days I dread slogging along with those heavy tires, but I think about what a great work out I get.

    I bought a set of 700c nashbar studded tires for my allweather commuter (21 speed flat bar touring) as an alternative to the mt bike and will see if that makes the going any easier. I know there are a lot of ss advocates but not I!

    Bent
    Last edited by bent-not-broken; 10-11-07 at 04:08 PM.
    Bent

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  5. #5
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bent-not-broken View Post
    I have commuted 5 miles each way through the last 2 central WI winters. I ride an old 21 speed GT mountain bike with Nashbar studded tires. I have expeienced the frozen freewheel, as well as iced up brakes and derailers, but I would not give up my ability to change gears. I would not want to deal with winter winds and sloppy roads on a single speed. I appreciate the lower top bar of the mt bike when I need to bail out in the sloppy snow. Winter commuting is a different kind of satisfaction than that summer road bike commute. There are many days I dread slogging along with those heavy tires, but I think about what a great work out I get.

    I bought a set of 700c nashbar studded tires for my allweather commuter (21 speed flat bar touting) as an alternative to the mt bike and will see if that makes the going any easier. I know there are a lot of ss advocates but not I!

    Bent
    I appreciate the post. I live in Minneapolis and while I've had some drive train issues in the winter, it's mostly been problems with the Front Derailleur seizing up. The rear derailleur's been fine and the freehub has been reliable. The biggest problem has been maintenance, - keeping the chain clean and lubed.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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    Give me a mountain bike with wide semi slicks for days when there is no snow/ice. Give me studs on it when there is. There is NO bike that is good in SLOP, at least not the heavy kind, i certainly wouldn't dream of riding in it on a road bike. My bike spends the winter hanging in the garage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
    Sounds like a reasonable solution, however, there is a problem. Falling down on the ice is probably less dangerous than trying to explain to my wife that we need to make room for yet another bike in our cramped garage ;-)

    Let's assume for a moment that I survive the wife convincing phase. There's a budget/knowledge issue.
    I have limited budget and don't know much about single speeds.

    Finding a cheap old 27" 10 to 12 speed is not a problem. The cheapest thing to do would be to borrow the 700C wheels off my road bike. It's old so we're talking about a freewheel (vs. a more modern freehub) setup. Can I just screw on a singlespeed freewheel or do I need a whole new rear wheel?

    Riding in winter can be exhausting as it is. My commute is relatively flat but there are a couple of hills and smaller varying grades. Am I going to be dying after 7 miles through an inch or two of fresh snow without being able to change gears?

    Thanks !

    You can convert the freewheel to single speed fairly easy. But the chain line can be a little off. A better approach is just to buy a new set of inexpensive 700c wheels since they will be a lot lighter than the old steel wheels and will make your life much better. A freehub can be converted for 20-30 bucks. Or you can have a purpose build rear wheel made up for about 120 bucks if you use a Surly hub and a 30 dollar or less wheel. Around my area I can get a wheel laced for 30 bucks plus parts. Probably more in other areas but maybe worth the cost. If your old road bike is the age for a freehub it might have enough clearance for some wider tires. A lot of them do. You can also convert it to 700c if it is a 27 inch bike. Many options are available. Single speed is not necessary but makes winter biking easier and hassle free.

    Seems to me that converting your old roadbike for winter duties might be the best thing since you won't have to convince your wife about needing more bike space for another bike since you already have those around. Keep your newer road bike for good weather. And maybe clean up the mountainbike and keep it for other duties.

    Downtube shifters on old roadbike can be worked with. Or get some bar end shifters.

    Heres a couple of fun links for DIY single speed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01TPK7ChLmA

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Sing...-on-the-Cheap/
    Last edited by Hezz; 10-10-07 at 09:13 PM.

  8. #8
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    My commute is 8 miles and few metres and my winter ride (this year and last) has been my Kuwahara Cascade mtb...it has classic geometry and is fully rigid so the ride is excellent and there's no suspension to worry about.

    Last year I ran it as an SS with studded tires and this year I'll be running it as a fixed gear with semi slick and use the studded tires when it gets icy and expect that most of the riding will be pretty enjoyable.

  9. #9
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hezz View Post
    You can convert the freewheel to single speed fairly easy. But the chain line can be a little off. A better approach is just to buy a new set of inexpensive 700c wheels since they will be a lot lighter than the old steel wheels and will make your life much better. A freehub can be converted for 20-30 bucks. Or you can have a purpose build rear wheel made up for about 120 bucks if you use a Surly hub and a 30 dollar or less wheel. Around my area I can get a wheel laced for 30 bucks plus parts. Probably more in other areas but maybe worth the cost. If your old road bike is the age for a freehub it might have enough clearance for some wider tires. A lot of them do. You can also convert it to 700c if it is a 27 inch bike. Many options are available. Single speed is not necessary but makes winter biking easier and hassle free.

    Seems to me that converting your old roadbike for winter duties might be the best thing since you won't have to convince your wife about needing more bike space for another bike since you already have those around. Keep your newer road bike for good weather. And maybe clean up the mountainbike and keep it for other duties.

    Downtube shifters on old roadbike can be worked with. Or get some bar end shifters.

    Heres a couple of fun links for DIY single speed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01TPK7ChLmA

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Sing...-on-the-Cheap/
    My post was probably confusing. I have a single road bike and it's old, but reasonably nice. It's an 80's Peugeot and has OK but not great 700c wheels. Given the corrosion that the components on my MTB have endured, I'd rather not expose my road bike to it. This is why a junkie but serviceable road bike has some appeal. I was thinking I could borrow my road bike's wheels since I may be getting some new ones anyway.

    I appreciate the links. Actually there was a couple of DIY repair stands that looked interesting.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

  10. #10
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
    Would a narrower studded tire on a road bike be better for speed in good conditions and traction in the slop? Could a narrower studded tire on my MTB be the answer?
    Yes, narrower tires could be the answer. Bearing in mind that there are certain types of snow that clog up all snow tires, even if they're on a dump truck, in general, narrower tires try to sink down to the pavement where wider tires try to float on top.

    I ride an all-weather off-season group ride and on that ride, I've seen just about every combination of bike, tire, rider and riding surface. Everyone has troubles at some point. There is no "best solution" for all circumstances. There have been times when my 35mm Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106s have worked better than other riders' fatties. Then there are times the fatties work better than my Nokians.

    From what I've seen on that ride, in my commuting, narrower tires are better, more often for the conditions I usually ride in. That's a lotta qualifiers, I know. But as a seasoned snow commuter, you also know how different conditions can be in the space of just a few feet.

    The best advice I can give is to think back to the times your fatties seemed inadequate and ask if a narrow tire would have found traction if it had sunk down through the slop. When you find yourself thinking that more than half the time that's true, think about skinnier tires.

    Or, you seem to have the good fortune of having two types of bikes for winter use. Put decent studded snows on both and switch bikes depending on conditions. You'll sort it out for yourself PDQ.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
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    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Yes, narrower tires could be the answer. Bearing in mind that there are certain types of snow that clog up all snow tires, even if they're on a dump truck, in general, narrower tires try to sink down to the pavement where wider tires try to float on top.

    I ride an all-weather off-season group ride and on that ride, I've seen just about every combination of bike, tire, rider and riding surface. Everyone has troubles at some point. There is no "best solution" for all circumstances. There have been times when my 35mm Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106s have worked better than other riders' fatties. Then there are times the fatties work better than my Nokians.

    From what I've seen on that ride, in my commuting, narrower tires are better, more often for the conditions I usually ride in. That's a lotta qualifiers, I know. But as a seasoned snow commuter, you also know how different conditions can be in the space of just a few feet.

    The best advice I can give is to think back to the times your fatties seemed inadequate and ask if a narrow tire would have found traction if it had sunk down through the slop. When you find yourself thinking that more than half the time that's true, think about skinnier tires.

    Or, you seem to have the good fortune of having two types of bikes for winter use. Put decent studded snows on both and switch bikes depending on conditions. You'll sort it out for yourself PDQ.

    This is good advice, having two bikes with winter tires. When the snow is only a couple of inches deep and soft and you have a hard surface underneath a narrower tire will usually work better but not always. Conversely, when the snow is too deep and packed a little to much for the tire to easily sink down to the hard road underneath the wider tire at low pressure works better.

    Ideally you should put some narrow studded tires with fewer studs in the center of the bead on your winter road bike and some really wide aggresively studded tires on your winter mountain bike so that you are covered for most conditions. After riding a lot in the winter you will know which bike is best to choose for the conditions of the day. I think that for those times when the tires are floating on a soft surface and not making hard contact most riders would prefer the mountain bike with it's smaller frame and wider handle bars for control. For times when you can ride faster the road bike option is preferred.

  12. #12
    Senior Member rankin116's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    My commute is 8 miles and few metres and my winter ride (this year and last) has been my Kuwahara Cascade mtb...it has classic geometry and is fully rigid so the ride is excellent and there's no suspension to worry about.

    Last year I ran it as an SS with studded tires and this year I'll be running it as a fixed gear with semi slick and use the studded tires when it gets icy and expect that most of the riding will be pretty enjoyable.
    I' m looking for a little winter info too, what do you mean by semi-slick? Something with an inverted tread?

  13. #13
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Semi slick = Schwalbe Hurricanes.

    Smooth and fast rolling centre tread and fairly effective lugs to the outside for off camber traction.

    The hook up is very good at lower psi too.

  14. #14
    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Yes, narrower tires could be the answer. Bearing in mind that there are certain types of snow that clog up all snow tires, even if they're on a dump truck, in general, narrower tires try to sink down to the pavement where wider tires try to float on top.

    I ride an all-weather off-season group ride and on that ride, I've seen just about every combination of bike, tire, rider and riding surface. Everyone has troubles at some point. There is no "best solution" for all circumstances. There have been times when my 35mm Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106s have worked better than other riders' fatties. Then there are times the fatties work better than my Nokians.

    From what I've seen on that ride, in my commuting, narrower tires are better, more often for the conditions I usually ride in. That's a lotta qualifiers, I know. But as a seasoned snow commuter, you also know how different conditions can be in the space of just a few feet.

    The best advice I can give is to think back to the times your fatties seemed inadequate and ask if a narrow tire would have found traction if it had sunk down through the slop. When you find yourself thinking that more than half the time that's true, think about skinnier tires.

    Or, you seem to have the good fortune of having two types of bikes for winter use. Put decent studded snows on both and switch bikes depending on conditions. You'll sort it out for yourself PDQ.
    I don't know if I'm in the slop more often, it's just that I tend to be in it when I'd least prefer to dump my bike, - when I'm in traffic.

    I have two bikes period ;-)

    The MTB used to be my nice "new" bike until it spent the last few winters on the road. Now my "vintage" road bike is the nice one just because nothing's rusted on it. It's tempting to use both this winter to see which setup works best or to have different choices depending on the conditions, but geez, I'd like to have at least one nice bike come spring instead of two overly oxidized beaters.
    If you're not riding with a psychedelic gecko on your shirt, you ARE having a substandard experience.

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