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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 12-18-07, 04:36 PM   #1
mulchie
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what was your learning curve on winter riding?

I'm just starting winter riding and have no heavy mountain biking escapades in my past. Right now I commute. With the snow/ice on my new Nokian m&gs I find myself squirreling around a little and wonder whether my lack of confidence is me just learning the ropes or if the m&gs are lacking punch. So many posts here talk about fabulous performance. I am thinking as a newbie I probably should have sprung for the more aggressive/expensive Nokian 294s. But I didn't. I'm going to deflate the m&gs a bit and try that,
But I'm really curious to hear about the learning curve among those of you who have ice biked for a while.
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Old 12-18-07, 04:47 PM   #2
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1. Ride bike in snow and ice
2. Bail
3. Bail more
4. Almost slide under vehicle
5. Get studded tires
6. Ride bike in snow and ice
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Old 12-18-07, 05:13 PM   #3
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Learning Curve

This is my second winter biking. The first winter was sans studded tires so I didn't ride when I was concerned when was there too much snow/ice. I took one fall, in my driveway fortunately, and I had one near fall (in parking lot at work). I opted for studded tires this winter. And of course the roads have been clear of snow/ice since. You might want to practice in a non-traffic area till you feel comfortable being out in traffic. As another poster echoed "Be ready to bail".
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Old 12-18-07, 06:21 PM   #4
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(I opted for studded tires this winter. And of course the roads have been clear of snow/ice since.)
ho h o ho

Bail = sit on the couch?
Bail = Dive headfirst into the frozen snowbank 2" from the vehiculars?\
I suspect you mean the latter. Hmmmmm.
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Old 12-18-07, 06:33 PM   #5
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This reminds me of high school... 5min ride each way. There was only me and one other guy who pretty much rode all seasons on regular department store hardtrail MTBs.

1: Lower pressure to near flat, just like on TV
2: Get warm gloves
3: use ski goggles, ear muffs.
4: learn how fun 100% ice roads are.
5: learn how fun WD-40 is on rusty chains.
6: learned that you can layer 3 pants
7: learned that your hair freezes on a ride home after swimming class.
8: learned that the bike rusts in odd ways.

Naturally I didn't know there were any studded bike tires available, nor did I have any money to invest in the bike. Just plain knobbies.
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Old 12-18-07, 06:49 PM   #6
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I like that. Bail. Bail More. No kidding! The first few years I rode in the winter without studs, and chewed countless different ways. Got smart last season and got some 294's. A whole new ball game. Now I can't wait to get out there and freeze my arse off!
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Old 12-18-07, 07:41 PM   #7
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As you may have read, i am a Mount and Ground owner that recently ordered some 294's. I fully expect them to help on ice because of more studs and i also expect them to be some better in snow because of more aggressive tread. However, with that said there are some conditions in winter that are not suitable for the bicycle.

1. Loose, heavy stuff.
No tires are going to help you in this. The front tire simply deflects too much and makes for a long outing.

2. Loose crunchy layer.
This is the very thin layer of snow/ice that simply gives way under the tires of the bike. The bike no longer wants to go forward but rather, horizontal. This is bad.

3. Some ice.
I am of the opinion that there is some ice that can't be ridden in comfortably. Maybe the new Nokian 294's will change that belief but that is where i'm at right now. Last week we had a thin layer of glaze ice over everything. YOu couldn't find glass that was as smooth as that ice.

4. Deep Snow

When the snow is above your bottom bracket. Forget it.


So to answer your question....what was my learning curve? I'd have to say that there really isn't much of a learning curve when it comes to bike handling. The laws of physics will pretty much dictate where you can ride in terms of riding surface. But when it comes to dressing properly in the cold there is a learning curve and this is probably the biggest key to riding comfortably in the Winter.

Last edited by Portis; 12-18-07 at 07:52 PM.
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Old 12-18-07, 08:09 PM   #8
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1. Brake more with the rear brake than I would on a non-slippery road otherwise you'll fishtail.

Except for braking most cautious riding comes pretty natural to me, if the road is slippery, you don't want to change momentum at all so when you have to, do it very slowly (I almost want to pin a notice on my back that says "makes wide turns"). If you're going over one icy patch, keep up the momentum and don't change direction or speed until you're off the ice.

I ride sicks all winter because, with few exceptions, the roads are cleared of snow and ice.
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Old 12-18-07, 11:25 PM   #9
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I fell the first two days on my winter bike with the wide tires. I have to get fenders because I am sick of wet snow going up my a--. Oh yeah, I have been dressing too warm for the weather. I got to stop listening to the local weather station. Did I tell you that winter riding is fun?

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Old 12-19-07, 01:22 AM   #10
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My learning curve was exactly 2 minutes, really. Researched the tires, bought some Schwalbe Ice Spikers, and the 2 minute learning curve consisted of riding through snow and realizing that the tire pressure needed to be lower to help with squirrelyness and potential fishtailing.

That was just about it.
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Old 12-19-07, 11:31 PM   #11
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1) Procrastinate getting my winter commuter running for the season - plenty of time till it snows!
2) Decide to take a bike with slicks the first winter-like day - how bad can it be?
3) Make it 200ft down my street and find a patch of black-ice on the turn. Bail. HARD.
4) Buy a studded front tire for said bike until step one is finished - fabulous indeed! (on ice)
5) Finally finish building my bike for the winter (including 294's) and rejoice.

My commutes range from slush to hard/loose pack to unpacked snow to ice - usually all on the same ride. As Portis said, some snow is just plain squirrelly and studs aren't going to do anything for you - but they're amazing on ice (and avoiding the most painful falls). I'm not sure changing your tires to 294's will make that much of a difference for commuting unless you're spending a good amount of time in and out of packed tire ruts or on off-camber icy ground.

When in doubt, just take it a bit slower.
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Old 12-20-07, 01:00 AM   #12
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I just got on the bicycle and rode ... like I usually did. See, back when I lived in Winnipeg, I commuted to work pretty much year around on my Mongoose mtn bike. Most of the time, the roads weren't bad there ... the snow clearing crews were actually pretty good (especially compared with where I am now). But when the roads did get a little bit questionable, I just flattened my tires a bit, and kept going. I have never used studded tires.

In all the winters I cycled there, commuting and just riding recreationally, I only had one accident I would call somewhat serious. When I snowbiked, I would fall off into the snow, but that wasn't serious at all because the snow offered a cushioning factor, but one time I slipped on the ice on the road and burst a bursa in my left knee. Bursa's regrow so even that wasn't that serious.

Here in Alberta I do less winter cycling because the roads are so bad, and I can't afford studded tires, but even so, when I do ride, I just flatten my tires and go.
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Old 12-20-07, 01:32 AM   #13
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personal learning curve? commuting to university in the 80's. Blitzed mountain bikes onto the local ski hill's lifts in 87 or 88. used to ride the snowmobile trails when it was solidly frozen.

A couple of seasons to feel good and comfortable in choppy ruts and slop, a couple to figure out a good winter maintence schedule, a couple more to get good at clothing systems unless you're already a winter athlete. YEARS to figure out a good shoe although everyone knows the Lakes are the best...

I think one invaluable technique it can take years to get good at on snow and ice is for when you're NOT running studded tires- the skid turn. A very useful technique when you're on a bike without studs. Skid turns can be quite graceful too.

I think biking in traffic has a lot of nuances it takes years to pick up on regardless of snow on the ground.
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Old 12-20-07, 11:08 AM   #14
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personal learning curve? commuting to university in the 80's. Blitzed mountain bikes onto the local ski hill's lifts in 87 or 88. used to ride the snowmobile trails when it was solidly frozen.

A couple of seasons to feel good and comfortable in choppy ruts and slop, a couple to figure out a good winter maintence schedule, a couple more to get good at clothing systems unless you're already a winter athlete. YEARS to figure out a good shoe although everyone knows the Lakes are the best...

I think one invaluable technique it can take years to get good at on snow and ice is for when you're NOT running studded tires- the skid turn. A very useful technique when you're on a bike without studs. Skid turns can be quite graceful too.

I think biking in traffic has a lot of nuances it takes years to pick up on regardless of snow on the ground.

So to answer your question, it looks like the learning curve is somewhere between 2 minutes and twenty years. Now get out there and ride.
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Old 12-22-07, 07:41 AM   #15
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Yep, looks like the spread. I guess I'll go slow this year and hope I can be on the bottom end of the scale!
happy solstice!
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Old 12-22-07, 08:54 AM   #16
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So to answer your question, it looks like the learning curve is somewhere between 2 minutes and twenty years. Now get out there and ride.
ha ha!

as with most things, there are so many different variables... but it comes down to practice and persistance.

like previous posts have mentioned, you do have to change your speed, and how you brake and turn.

you learn quickly the different properties of kinds and combinations of snow and ice. (dealing with traffic is another story.)

it's really important not to get so scared that you panic or tense up. sudden changes in slippery conditions is what you want to avoid the most, which is hard because psychologically you might think "there's no way i'm gonna make it" and that's when you're most likely to, um, bail.

and if you really think you're not gonna make it over a particularly choppy section, you can always walk over it.
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