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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 11-01-07, 10:03 AM   #1
JasonC
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Tips for changing flats when its below freezing

I'm not sure if this is a stupid question or not...

Is it difficult to change a flat tire when it is really cold or below freezing? I've done it twice now with temps around 35F to 40F. That was bad enough, so I can't imagine getting the job done at 30F or especially colder temps. With gloves, anything thicker than thin cycling gloves would make it impossible to get the job done. And I've found that I need to use bare hands a couple of times in the process.

Any tips out there for dealing with this?

My two current ideas are:
  • Keep a supply of those chemical hand warmer things on hand
  • Walk the rest of the way

Cheers,
Jason
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Old 11-01-07, 10:05 AM   #2
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I had to change a tyre on a very cold morning bike ride and it was extra tough to get the tyre off the rim.

I just persevered until the job was done. I was too far from home to walk.
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Old 11-01-07, 10:29 AM   #3
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Do what the military does with rifles...practice in a warm place until you can do it with your eyes closed in less than 60 seconds
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Old 11-01-07, 10:35 AM   #4
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I can change a flat in my sleep.

I had a few instances last year where I changed it at 20F. First of all I started to overheat being that my cooling was suddenly removed when I stopped. Then I stripped a layer or two off. A few minutes later I was freezing. Go figure.
Anyhow, changing those flats took a bit of time. My hands ended up freezing and that made things difficult. I ended up taking several breaks to walk around and warm them up.
Of course, they all occurred in the most inconvenient location around 5:30 am in the morning. Why can't I flat in the afternoon?
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Old 11-01-07, 10:42 AM   #5
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It's good to have a rim/tire combination where the tire slides easily on and off the rim. If you already have a combo that you have to struggle with, i can assure you the task will be greatly magnified in extreme cold.

Other than that the only thing i have learned is that the plastic parts on frame pumps become VERY brittle in extreme cold. That's why i use both co2 and pump on my winter ride. Some will tell you that co2 won't work in extreme cold. It has always worked for me but i have never changed a flat below 18 F.
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Old 11-01-07, 02:34 PM   #6
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In winter, I keep my commuter repair kit in my bag (and indoors) so it's warm. I carry my tubes in a zip-loc pre-talced for ease of use. Glove liners help keep hands from freezing. Also, you should already be carrying an extra layer, but immediately put it on when you stop to repair. As always, have a back-up plan and an alternate for extreme conditions.
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Old 11-01-07, 05:42 PM   #7
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I did a lot of cycling in Manitoba in the winter, even on days when it was well below freezing. My coldest ride was a -40 C/F commute, but there were other recreational rides I did when it wasn't much warmer.

However, I had a rule when I cycled in those temps .... I would never cycle further beyond "shelter" than what I could walk. I knew that I could walk about 3-4 kms in those temps and be OK, so I made sure that my routes had some sort of "shelter" at least every 6-8 kms, if not more frequent.

By "shelter" I mean ... a building I could go into to warm up, a working telephone I could use to call a taxi, or even a structure with walls on at least three sides and a roof which would protect me from the wind.

If I had a flat out there, my plan was to walk briskly to one of these "shelters" ... I was not going to attempt to change my flat in the cold because I knew I'd freeze my hands, and I was not going to stop and think about the situation long enough to let myself cool down ... I was going to hop off and immediately start walking. Once in the shelter, I would make my decision about what I was going to do ... fix the tire, call a taxi, warm up and keep walking, or whatever.

Fortunately in all the years of winter cycling out there, I did not have a flat ... but I had a plan just in case.
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Old 11-01-07, 05:45 PM   #8
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Pretty good tips. Thanks!

I'm not too slow at changing tubes... my route is pretty bad as far as debris goes, so I've gotten a lot of practice. So I figure at some point it will happen when its very cold.

I suppose another "emergency" layer isn't a bad idea. Maybe that's the excuse I need for getting a rack on the back of my winter bike
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Old 11-01-07, 06:27 PM   #9
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Pretty good tips. Thanks!

I'm not too slow at changing tubes... my route is pretty bad as far as debris goes, so I've gotten a lot of practice. So I figure at some point it will happen when its very cold.

I suppose another "emergency" layer isn't a bad idea. Maybe that's the excuse I need for getting a rack on the back of my winter bike
IMO a rackand trunk bags are necessities in the winter. In my trunk bag I carry extra gloves, extra neck gaiter, extra head band, an extra upper body layer, my mechanical equipment, and some food. I also usually carry a foil emergency blanket, a set of chemical hand warmers, and sometimes even an extra pair of wool socks.

This is how I know I would be able to walk 3-4 kms to my designated "shelters" ... I've got enough extra layers with me to feel comfortable for a while out there.

Plus ... what happens if a blizzard blows in (has happened to me) and suddenly you need an extra neck gaiter or thicker pair of gloves or something to help you keep moving?
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Old 11-01-07, 06:52 PM   #10
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The best advice really is to keep from getting a flat in the first place. Then have a back up plan. Use tires with a heavy and thick tread and kevlar lining if possible. Then use a tire liner and puncture resistant tubes. This combination can be a little heavy but is worth it for bike commuting or riding in cold weather. Then carry one or two standard thickness tubes so if you do get a flat you can just clean the tire and liner and put in a new tube. Dealing with glue and finding the hole in the cold to patch the tube can be really tough. I have used this method on one bike that I ride on puncture prone bike paths. I have still not gotten a flat in three years. I use to get one nearly every time I rode that bike path in the summer months. YMMV
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Old 11-01-07, 08:56 PM   #11
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I've never had trouble changing a flat in the cold, but I run old 27 1/4" tires up front and a 38c cross tire in back, both come off quite easily (no tire levers).
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