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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 08-11-08, 08:15 AM   #1
lil brown bat
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Winter bike care (urban commute)

Greets all,

I've been a three-season commuter up until now, but a winter of riding the Green Line/57 bus has put an end to that. I just can't handle another winter of paying for the privilege of being sandwiched into a sardine can of a trolley that in all likelihood is going to break down anyway, leaving me to hike a couple miles through the snow. So, I'm going to give this winter commute thing a shot.

My main concern is about bike care. I figure I've got the clothing bit down (one thing I'm not short of is winter clothing), and I will get a tire rec from my LBS and do some light upgrades (I have a cateye headlight and standard blinky for the rear). What I need, though, is info on how to care for my beloved Trek 7.5, given the amount of salt and crud and mess it's going to be subjected to. Or should I maybe not even be using the Trek? I'm really fond of the bike, and if trashing is inevitable, maybe I should just get a winter beater. What do y'all think?
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Old 08-11-08, 08:43 AM   #2
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Three full winters of everyday use on my Cannondale hardtail. Most of the bits are original, save the crappy crankset and my crapped out cable disk brakes.

I mostly take it into winter fully tuned-up, hose the moving parts with WD-40 after they get covered in slop, and keep up with the maintenance (which you'll certainly do more of) on weekends. It'll get dirty and ugly, but should operate fine.

I suggest keeping more spares on hand (chain, cassette, cable set).
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Old 08-11-08, 08:58 AM   #3
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+1 to what CastIron said...plus plan on a spring overhaul and cleaning - even with a winter beater (which is the option I obviously prefer and would recommend if you have the means)

I now officially hate you worse than lint, for mentioning winter in August.
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Old 08-11-08, 09:12 AM   #4
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I now officially hate you worse than lint, for mentioning winter in August.
Can't help it, the local papers won't shut up about "how the hell are we all going to heat our homes this winter?" Answer: we're not. Popsicles for Christmas!
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Old 08-11-08, 10:37 AM   #5
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Fenders are an absolute must. And to the spare parts list, I'd add brake pads.

I'm fortunate that I don't have anywhere else to keep my bike other than the living room. In winter, this means it gets hosed down in the shower stall whenever I return. That keeps the salt and grit down to a dull roar.

My Trek Portland came through its first winter needing only rear cables, a chain and a new fender (which I'd broken). The year before, my low-end Giant hybrid needed a chain, brake pads several times and cables all around. The rims on it were really cheesy, and the brakes had worn them concave too. I don't hear a lot about that from others, so my assumption is that it's less of a problem on better bikes. Still, it's what drove my decision to switch to disc brakes for my commuting rig.

About clothing, living in Upstate all my life, and after having been a bus commuter for several years, I thought I had everything I needed for winter. Boy, was I wrong.

Everything I had was far too heavy and warm for cycling. It was great for standing in a snowdrift waiting for a bus, but not so great for activity. I found that in winter, I have the same problem as in summer--keeping cool. The first winter I muddled through with spring and autumn attire I already owned. Last year I went entirely with cycling-specific stuff and was much more comfortable. I haven't worn my official winter clothes in two years.
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Old 08-12-08, 10:35 AM   #6
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i did last winter on a cheap Giant hybrid too and it was a mess. the brakes were a nightmare. the cables and pads got so destroyed by the elements that, even when the rims were dry enough for the brakes to grab, there was a decent chance that the cable would lock up and conversely, when the cable friction happened to allow the arms to close, the rims were probably so iced over that it didn't make any difference.

it was actually worst in like March when the snow was melting and the roads were covered in pools of high-concentration salt water. i had gotten lazy about hosing the bike off everyday, since it wasn't covered in ice and grit when i got home anymore and within a week the entire thing was covered in a thin layer rust (chain, brake cables, shift cables, everything...). i don't know what the road-salt situation is in boston(-ish) but they going absolutely nuts with it in minneapolis. ick.

also, tsl is totally right about clothing. i started out dressed for walking/busing and got to work dripping sweat. for christmas, i got some good, moisture-wicking long-johns and a nice windbreaker and that was all i needed! people would think i was crazy for going out in january wearing jeans and a windbreaker (and, of course, hat, mittens and a scarf...) whilst they were bundled up in huge down coats just to walk out to their cars but the cold really isn't much of a problem when you're moving.
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Old 08-12-08, 05:02 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lil brown bat View Post
Greets all,

I've been a three-season commuter up until now, but a winter of riding the Green Line/57 bus has put an end to that. I just can't handle another winter of paying for the privilege of being sandwiched into a sardine can of a trolley that in all likelihood is going to break down anyway, leaving me to hike a couple miles through the snow. So, I'm going to give this winter commute thing a shot.

...What I need, though, is info on how to care for my beloved Trek 7.5, given the amount of salt and crud and mess it's going to be subjected to. Or should I maybe not even be using the Trek? I'm really fond of the bike, and if trashing is inevitable, maybe I should just get a winter beater. What do y'all think?
Hi lil brown bat,

Iím familiar with the Green Line and Bus Route 57 that pass through Kenmore Square where I live. I commute year round and I donít want my precious Bridgestone RB-1 to deteriorate due to winter either. I canít advise on winterizing the bike since I defer all my maintenance to Back Bay Bikes, but I scrupulously avoid taking it out on any wetness whatsoever in Winter. Instead I have a used Cannondale Mountain Bike, which I will take on snow, but usually donít ride on slush.

I find that usually by the second day after a storm, I can ride my MB. Wonk that I am, for the first ten weeks of 2008, I recorded on which bike I rode 33 times; eleven of these were on the Mountain Bike.

I wonít add much to the discussion about clothing only to say my worst problems are my feet and my eyes. For the feet I wear thick and thin woolen socks, bike shoes and neoprene overshoes, and Iím pretty good for my one hour commute at temps lower than even 10 degrees F. My main problem with the eyes is that I wear eyeglasses that fog up with goggles, and I wrote about that solution in another posting:

Ski goggles or what???

Post #5

BTW, I read your recent post in the Commuting Forum that there's nowhere you won't ride in Boston, and replied to it in agreement (post # 25), though I had to figure out what you were actually saying with the double negative ;-)

Jim
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Old 08-17-08, 07:02 AM   #8
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My partner did more winter riding than I did last year. His cassette had noticeable wear after about 2-3 months (out of a 5 month winter). By eyeball, he needs a new chain now, and he'll need a new cassette after this winter. Bike is a cheap mountain bike, and he wasn't fussy about cleaning it after every ride.

Both of us often chose to walk rather than ride a bike. Riding a bike on ice is a skill, and neither one of us had it to start. Last winter started with a snow turning to freezing rain storm and the city cleared the roads incorrectly... so we had lovely ice sheets to ride on for the whole winter. (no road salt on account of lakes) Any time the sheets were in danger of becoming safe streets again, there would be another ice storm or rain storm followed by a hard freeze.

If you really adore your current bike, I'd probably grab a winter beater. Learn the bike care on the beater, and then decide how you want to switch things around if it dies.
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Old 08-19-08, 02:23 PM   #9
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So far after the 1at winter on my Gary Fisher hybrid I just needed a new chain, and some brake pads during the winter. The new pads BBB pads seem to be holding up better than the OEM. One of the nice things about my Gary Fisher is that it is designed a bit more like a mountian bike and therefore the cables run along the top tube and therefore stayed away from the worst of the salt and other road grime. Therefore my cables survided the winter just fine. There was some corrosion on the bracket that holds the front derailer, but it doesn't affect performance in any way.

I did find that I had to switch to a thicker lube than Pedro Ice Wax. the Ice Wax worked fine throughout the Fall and early Winter, but once we started getting more snow (and therefore more salt) the chain would rust very quickly. I switched to Pedro Synlube. This stuff is thicker and stickier and does make for a somewhat messier drivertrain, but help up much better. The rear sprocket is still OK (2700 miles since April '07), but I'll probably have to replace that next year. I also noticed that the Shimano chain I got as a replacement this Spring must have been a slightly lower grade unit than the OEM Shimano (can't remember the exact version that was on there) as the new one even rusts easily in the Summer. I'll problably get one the higher end SRAM chains next time that is plated... that definitely makes a difference. Hopefully I'll be able to at least get throught the Winter with this chain and then replace it again in the Spring. I'd hate to have to put a new chain on mid Winter knowing it will get wreched in a few months of driving.

I lubed the drivetrain every few days as needed. I also try to do a full cleaning every few weeks when the weather got especially sloppy. Weather temps dictate how often I can do the work. When the temps kept in staying the 15 to 20F, I was not going outside to work on the bike!

As the other stated however Fenders are THE most important item to start with. Also don't forget to deal with visability. You will be riding in low light considitions so you have to make sure you can be seen.

Happy riding,
Andrť
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Old 09-01-08, 10:27 PM   #10
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I'm currently in the process of building up a surly cross check for this winter, and it will be quite beloved. Should I be concerned with any extra wear that might take place to the frame, or any other components besides the above mentioned drive train and braking bits? Oh and I live in colorado, so the roads are not iced (but are sanded) should I have such a problem with rust? More a problem with chain/ring/cog teeth wear?
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Old 09-02-08, 08:20 AM   #11
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The main problem is the slury of salt/sand/slush that gets thrown up into your drivetrain. It speeds wear of moving parts exponentially. Rust isn't quite the issue that one would think so long as you keep it all lubed. After all, minor surface rust is indeed harmless. DO take care to use framesaver and don't let moisture accumulate in your frame. Also, anything threaded should be treated with lube or teflon tape.
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Old 09-02-08, 09:34 AM   #12
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Thanks for all the advice, y'all. I'm going to be picking up a sturdy used old-skool mtb from my lbs, and on my favorite wrench's recommendation, spraying it down with Pam. This oughta be a fun adventure and certainly better than standing in the snow waiting for the 57 bus!
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Old 09-02-08, 01:46 PM   #13
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I've been having a similar dilemma about commuting this winter. I've been toying with the idea of getting a singlespeed MTB and converting it to internally geared. More than likely I'll end up keeping it singlespeed just based on cost.

One of these days I need to swing by Bikes Not Bombs to see what they have in stock for beaters. I haven't had a ton of luck with Craig's List, but that's mainly due to me not knowing exactly what to search for.
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Old 09-03-08, 11:07 PM   #14
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I think getting a used beater bike for winter really is your best bet. The girlfriend has an old cruiser that's gotten her through three Minnesota winters so far, and I just used an old rusty road bike turned fixie for my commuter this winter. Salt and slush will eat away at your parts no matter how often you clean and work at it, so why not just get something old and beat up? Come spring, I just replaced the chain, used some steel wool on the rust, and kept riding.
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