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  1. #1
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    How do you do it???

    I've been commuting by bike for about 3 years now, but never in the winter. This winter had just been brutal, and I was sort of tired of walking or taking the bus. I took my bike out yesterday, and it was snowing a little and pretty cold, but I felt really good about it. I knew there was going to be some snow today but I didn't think it was going to be this brutal. My daily ride isn't even 3km one way. I have a Kona Hahanna mountain bike. Not even half way there, where the snow plows failed, so did I. I walked my bike the rest of the way, and even that was a chore. I just could not keep traction and control was weak.

    While I was walking down the street, some other cyclist on a road bike (I think) just flew right by me.

    I have so much respect and envy for winter cyclists. I wish i could do it, but i guess it's not for me.

    Here's my bike via cellphone. LOLz.

  2. #2
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    If you want to get good at winter cycling, start in September, not March.

    It also helps to have the right equipment and clothes.

    Chances are very good that the guy on the road bike wasn't out for his first snow ride. And he may have had studded snow tires. I regularly ride with MTBers who are amazed at what I can do and where I can go in the winter with a road bike. Of course, they look only at the drop bars, never the tires. They slip-slide around on rubber knobbies, and I have carbide studs.
    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.

  3. #3
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    How deep was the snow?
    I am running 26X2.1 tires. When it gets bad I drop the psi very low and that usually takes care of it.

    Not that I had much to deal with this morning. All of a dusting of snow.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Intheloonybin's Avatar
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    The biggest thing is having the right equipment.

    This is my first winter commuting, and I had to buy a lot of items. Since I started in the fall, I bought things as I needed them (and had the $).

    Here is a list of what I bought:

    Studded tires $200. (A must!!)
    Lobster gloves $75.
    Winer cycling boots $270. (well worth it!!)
    Balaclava $25.
    Shoe covers $30.
    Misc clothes $60.
    Better light $350. (part of it is a b-day present- so minus say $75ish)
    Hand warmers for season $12.
    Clip-in pedals $35.

    I did have some gear already, and that is not listed.

    There are things on here I could have done without, but it made my rides comfortable down to -15F/-26C.

    If I know the snow will be too deep to go through, I will drive. Most of the roads here would be plowed by morning however.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie View Post
    How deep was the snow?
    I am running 26X2.1 tires. When it gets bad I drop the psi very low and that usually takes care of it.
    We had about 10cm of snow fall last night. It wasn't cold, nor was it windy. I thought I'd be able to do this fine because the snow plows came through my street, but further up, the snow was just thicker. There were cars stuck in intersections.


    The biggest thing is having the right equipment.

    This is my first winter commuting, and I had to buy a lot of items. Since I started in the fall, I bought things as I needed them (and had the $).
    I could deal with the cold, rain and wind. In the past, I'd take my bike out all year as long as there wasn't snow and ice on the roads, but today was just different and I thought I as prepared for it. Clearly I wasn't. I just could not for the life of me control my bike. It looks like the only thing i was missing for this kind of snow were the studded tires. I think this may be the last few weeks of heavy snowfall, so I may hold off on investing on those.

  6. #6
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    Sometimes it's better to have a narrow tire to "cut through" the snow. Perhaps the road biker was just better able to penetrate through the fluffy snow to pavement/ice/packed snow.

    Studded tires are very helpful in getting grip, but only "adhesive" grip. If the snow was sticking in to your tire and you were throwing a rooster tail of the stuff then studs probably wouldn't have done much good since the problem was "cohesive" grip, or the snow's ability to stay together and not just stick to the tire. If you were sliding around on packed snow or ice then studs would have done wonders, like riding on bare pavement or dirt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_F View Post
    Sometimes it's better to have a narrow tire to "cut through" the snow. Perhaps the road biker was just better able to penetrate through the fluffy snow to pavement/ice/packed snow.

    Studded tires are very helpful in getting grip, but only "adhesive" grip. If the snow was sticking in to your tire and you were throwing a rooster tail of the stuff then studs probably wouldn't have done much good since the problem was "cohesive" grip, or the snow's ability to stay together and not just stick to the tire. If you were sliding around on packed snow or ice then studs would have done wonders, like riding on bare pavement or dirt.
    That's most likely what was going on, even though I tried to stay in the treads of car tires. There was a lot of snow on my wheel. I'm wondering if i'm just missing something completely, as in technique or such, which made my ride harder or maybe with the type of bike and equipment I have riding in this snow just wasn't a great idea.

    It was pretty awesome when I was on my bike, though.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bdaisies View Post
    I just could not for the life of me control my bike. It looks like the only thing i was missing for this kind of snow were the studded tires. I think this may be the last few weeks of heavy snowfall, so I may hold off on investing on those.
    I live near the K/W area and experienced the same snow fall. Studded tires (or larger knobbier tires) may help with the traction, but technique is also just as important. By no means complete but this guide is useful.

    Studded tires will help instantly with ice, but not the snow.

    What tires were you using?

  9. #9
    Harry hbrogan57's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Intheloonybin View Post
    The biggest thing is having the right equipment.

    This is my first winter commuting, and I had to buy a lot of items. Since I started in the fall, I bought things as I needed them (and had the $).

    Here is a list of what I bought:

    Studded tires $200. (A must!!)
    Lobster gloves $75.
    Winer cycling boots $270. (well worth it!!)
    Balaclava $25.
    Shoe covers $30.
    Misc clothes $60.
    Better light $350. (part of it is a b-day present- so minus say $75ish)
    Hand warmers for season $12.
    Clip-in pedals $35.

    I did have some gear already, and that is not listed.

    There are things on here I could have done without, but it made my rides comfortable down to -15F/-26C.

    If I know the snow will be too deep to go through, I will drive. Most of the roads here would be plowed by morning however.
    Awfully expensive way to go. I have been riding in the winter for many years and, I must say, I have never gone to THAT expense. I use standard mountain bike tires and deflate them a bit for traction. As for clothes.....well....let's just say that Thrift stores are a GREAT place to find stuff cheap. Although it has been a bit trial and error. The comment about starting earlier in the season is correct. I have not owned a car in years and have become quite comfortable with the weather changes. This was (is) my first winter on a trike though and I have had to change a few riding habits. But it's pretty much the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by notnormal View Post
    I live near the K/W area and experienced the same snow fall. Studded tires (or larger knobbier tires) may help with the traction, but technique is also just as important. By no means complete but this guide is useful.

    Studded tires will help instantly with ice, but not the snow.

    What tires were you using?
    I have 26 x 1.9" knobby tires they came standard with the bike, I haven't really done anything to it. My local bike shop will help me out with new fenders tomorrow.

    If I had the money to invest in studded tires, I'd rather buy a nice tour bike for nicer weather as I generally walk or bus when conditions are ugly. Thanks for the link i'll take a look at it.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Intheloonybin's Avatar
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    What was said about thinner tires cutting through the snow is correct. I used to ride my road bike in the snow when I was younger. It worked fine. The mtn tires ride up on deep snow making it squirrely and impossible to ride in deep snow.

    My next bike will have thinner tires and studs for the winter.

    Kind of in response to hbrogan:

    The studs are pretty much a necessity (to me anyway) here. I would rather pay $200 for tires than crash and break a limb and end up with a hospital or Dr. bill.

    The boots were expensive, but I was miserable on cold days before I got them. I am pretty sure I could ride down to -25°F/-31C in these boots with the covers and a hand warmer. My feet were warm at -15.

    The light was mostly just because I wanted it. My $100 NR trail rat was ok during the summer rides, but does not work very well to distinguish the road right in front of you for snow/ice. Plus I had problems with visability with cars- people could not see it, and would pull out on me. The new light is definately worth it!!!

    I was even on savings until the light. Now it will be the end of the school year (mid-may) until I break even for the year.

    Plus I have all the stuff now, and wont need to re-buy it for quite some time.


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  12. #12
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    How we do it? We all ride pugsleys, that's how! Get hip with it!

  13. #13
    Sir Fallalot wroomwroomoops's Avatar
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  14. #14
    Dog is my copilot. GGDub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bdaisies View Post
    That's most likely what was going on, even though I tried to stay in the treads of car tires. There was a lot of snow on my wheel. I'm wondering if i'm just missing something completely, as in technique or such, which made my ride harder or maybe with the type of bike and equipment I have riding in this snow just wasn't a great idea.

    It was pretty awesome when I was on my bike, though.
    That's your problem right there, stay out of the tire treads. The fresh snow (or less compacted) is far easier to ride in. The tire treads just make it hard to stay straight.
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    GGdub, it was tire tracks, ice chunks and snowbank. The only fresh snow was on the unplowed sidewalks.

    It was sunny when I left work about an hour and a half ago. First thing, nearly wiped out on the ramp getting out of the underground parking. There was too much thick ice and slush. I biked home on roads that were pretty much clear, and just walked down roads that weren't. The snow on the roads were compacted, smooth and icy. I wasn't feeling so confident on light slush even.

    I think i'll just park the bike until there isn't anymore snow on the ground.

  16. #16
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    Grim determination and a loose grip on sanity.

    Being well equipped just means it's more comfortable.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by CastIron View Post
    Grim determination and a loose grip on sanity.
    Well said!
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    In urban areas the snow is very well tracked everywhere.

    I prefer wider tires because I can never "cut down to the pavement" on snow that's just been run over by a tractor-trailer.

    The bike will slide and slide a lot; this doesn't always mean you're going to crash. The only solution is practice.

  19. #19
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bdaisies View Post
    I've been commuting by bike for about 3 years now, but never in the winter. This winter had just been brutal, and I was sort of tired of walking or taking the bus. I took my bike out yesterday, and it was snowing a little and pretty cold, but I felt really good about it. I knew there was going to be some snow today but I didn't think it was going to be this brutal. My daily ride isn't even 3km one way. I have a Kona Hahanna mountain bike. Not even half way there, where the snow plows failed, so did I. I walked my bike the rest of the way, and even that was a chore. I just could not keep traction and control was weak.

    While I was walking down the street, some other cyclist on a road bike (I think) just flew right by me.

    I have so much respect and envy for winter cyclists. I wish i could do it, but i guess it's not for me.

    Here's my bike via cellphone. LOLz.
    Everybody else has given you pretty good advice on what to wear, when to start, etc. But large part of riding in snow is technique. First 10 cm of snow is a healthy amount. If there is other snow under it, it gets tricky fast. If it's wet snow, it's harder to ride in then the dry stuff we have in Colorado. With that proviso let's get down to brass tacks.

    Riding in snow is a lot like riding deep sand. The difference is that the bike won't slide out from under you in sand. You don't want the front wheel to dig into the snow or you'll lose too much momentum. Lean back on the bike and pedal in a fairly low gear with a smooth spin but you don't want to go slow, you want momentum. You want to float the wheels over the snow and to keep the rear wheel driving you forward. Try not to put too much english on your hips so that you don't slide out to the sides. Try not to steer the bike so much as direct it to go where you want to go with wider turns. And, most of the time, even this will end up with you bogged down and at a stop. Walk to a firm patch and start again
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  20. #20
    Harry hbrogan57's Avatar
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    Here are a couple of shots that I took when the air temp was 16 below zero. Windchill was around 35-40 below zero. I stay quite comfortable with what I am wearing in the photo. I am NOT knocking you for your purchases. I just wanted to add that there are cheaper places to get things. Not all riding equipment has to come from expensive "name-brand" stores. ONE of the many keys to staying comfortable in extreme weather is the "layering" effect. I am layered up in the photo. But I am NOT using "hand-warmers", "foot-warmers" or anything of that nature. I have just simply learned over the years just what works and what doesn't.




  21. #21
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    Geographically you only live about 30 miles from me so we have pretty similar weather conditions. One of the main differences is that we tend to see more Lake Effect snow in Buffalo, but I am North of the city, its the South towns that get a greater share of the that snow.

    Winter commuting does not mean that you will see snow every day, but you will have to adapt to the temperatures. There is also no rule that states that you have to ride 100% of the time just to consider yourself a dedicated commuter. For example, from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning we saw snow, freezing rain and then more snow. The roads were a mess. I was not going to risk my life having to interact with cars that were having problems getting around on 4 wheels, let alone stay upright on two. It took me more than 20 minutes just to scape the windows of the car clean. This was the 2nd nastiest bit of precipitation we've had all winter. By the afternoon the salt and plowing had done its job and the roads were ridable again. Therefore I was back on my bike again this morning. Winter cycling is about staring out in the Fall and staying on your bike. We can have some pretty mild Fall weather here so getting into December can be pretty easy. After that you need to use some common sense and develop a comfort level with various types of weather. When I started a year ago (March 23rd) a good rain storm would be enough to stop me. Now that I've add some approriate gear to deal with that wear and extra visabilty gear to help me be seen I no longer am stopped by rain. Over time your ability to ride year round will get easier and easier.

    There is remarkably little Cycling specific gear that you must have to ride safely in our area. Here is what I'd put on my essentials list:
    - Studded Snow tires: $110 (you only need to hit 1 icy patch to make it worth while... that is an absolute certainty in our area each winter)
    - Skull cap that fits under helmet: $20
    - Face mask for those days the temps drop well below 15F: $40 (I've only needed it 3 times this winter, but I probably would have suffered frost bite on my nose or cheaks without it)
    - If riding during the darker part of the Winter I highly recommend a hi-vis vest (can be had for as little as $6) so you can be seen. You should also have some good active lighting, to see and be seen. For the rear a $30 Planet Bike Superflash is an excellent start. For the front there are loads of options (just look for some of the previous posts regarding lighting).

    Here is some general stuff you will need:
    - Winter boots of some kind. I use toe clips so I use regular boots
    - Gloves - I use a pair of old Gortex glove's I've had since 1985.
    - Pants of some sort. I personally prefer to wear a set of medium warm tights (not the extra tight lycra kind... I don't particularly care for those). If the temps are in the low 30's F or lower I'll put on my rain pants and an extra protective barrier.
    - A light coat. Don't even try to ride with a normal thick Winter coat... you will sweat to death. For most of the winter I used a fleece pull-over and a light wind-breaker. The wind-breaker didn't breath well so I was always getting very sweaty so I upgraded to an E-Vap coat from Foxwear.

    Happy riding,
    André

  22. #22
    DNPAIMFB pinkrobe's Avatar
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    Looking at the photos of your ride, it looks like your snow is wet and heavy. If it's frozen solid, then studs will help a great deal [go to MEC in the spring and see if you can get some on clearance]. If it's slush, then the studs won't help as much. I'd run studs on a day like that, just for the extra modicum of traction available.

    As to the general feeling of slipping and sliding everywhere, it does take some time to get used to the feel. I have found that avoiding a death-grip on the bars and looking where you want to go help a lot. Narrower studded tires seem to make a big improvement to the handling, at least for me.
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    Andrelam, thanks for the information. I feel a little reassured hearing about experiences from within my area. Perhaps going out in yesterday's conditions was a little bit more ambitious of me. I went in thinking "if they can do it so can I". I also need to learn how to deal with motor traffic in this kind of weather. I generally don't have a problem with motorists, and most of them gave me a lot of room yesterday, but i didn't feel like it was fair of me to hog the road while I stubbornly tried to learn to bike in snow.

    Cyccommute, that's great information. If there's snow this weekend, i'll practice on some of the quieter side streets. I just kinda get embarassed when I wipe out in front of a neighbour, lol.

    Thanks everyone!

    P.S. I went out again today on my bike. It's still cold, but the roads were a lot more manageable due to plowing and salting. I had to deal with some slush, but not so much. I'm going to my bike shop on my lunch hour (which is now, lol) to get them to install proper fenders.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Intheloonybin's Avatar
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    Good for you bdaisies!!

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    Got my fenders put on today by my bike shop. Found out that the guy I saw ride past me worked at the shop and helped me out with the fenders (and new blinky LED lights) on my ride. He told me that it was really tough for him and he found himself having to actually ride in the middle of the road most of the time. I bet he was going faster than most of the cars on that road.

    I'm now safe and dry for the rest of this awful winter, but i'm not going to be riding anymore snowy streets like that.

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