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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 08-27-08, 12:56 PM   #1
cooleric1234
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Fixed Gear for Winter?

First of all, a search didn't exactly turn up what I'm looking for, so I'm sorry if this has been asked.

I want to know if a fixed gear bike is appropriate for occasional winter commuting? I live in Denver, but I won't be commuting every day. I usually wait until it's mostly nice weather (cold but no moisture coming down), but there could still be patches of snow or ice on the trails and streets. I have heard fixed gear bikes are great for "feeling the road." But I worry that only one gear would be dangerous on hills and slopes, especially if I have to get out of the saddle. I would definitely have cantilever brakes as well, and whatever fat tires would be required. My commute is 10 miles one way and about 700 feet total elevation gain/loss.

Please separate this issue from the bike, but I'm considering a Motobecane Fantom Cross UNO. I'd probably use it year round, and put thinner, slicker tires on in warmer months. Thanks for your input.
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Old 08-29-08, 02:55 AM   #2
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I roll a Bianchi San Jose, and wouldn't hesitate to ride it in Denver. Just get good winter tires!
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Old 09-01-08, 10:30 PM   #3
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Yeah, I rode fixed last winter, and it make a big difference in my opinion, much better. Oh and yes, I live in boulder, and commute to cu campus, so I come down the hill on 17th/broadway each day, and it can be a bit scary, but as long as you keep your speed under control it's not too bad.
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Old 09-03-08, 11:03 PM   #4
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I rode through the Minneapolis winter this year with a fixed gear, and did Chicago the year before on a geared bike - this year was much better! When I'd hit rough parts or ice I could slow without hitting the brakes, and I felt like that gave me a bit more control and lessened my chances of falling. I'm definitely going fixed for winter, free for summers from now on.
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Old 09-04-08, 06:30 AM   #5
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Sheldon Brown agrees with you that fixies give the best road feel and make good winter bikes. Just find a gearing you can live with and be sure to run a front brake (there is no need to run dual brakes on a fixie since your legs act as a brake for the back wheel)

One of those Phantom Cross Uno's is on my "to buy" list eventually. Soon I'll have enough bikes that I can sneak new ones into the house without my wife noticing that the collection has grown.
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Old 09-04-08, 11:28 AM   #6
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It occurs to me that if you were clipped in, you might be more vulnerable to falling on slick spots than with platform pedals.
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Old 09-11-08, 07:07 AM   #7
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What about single speed? Not a fixed fan, but was thinking of pulling out the single speed for winter. Ride is generally paved and should be pretty cleared when it snows.

Two brakes + single speed with smart gearing = good winter cycling??
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Old 09-11-08, 08:34 AM   #8
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It occurs to me that if you were clipped in, you might be more vulnerable to falling on slick spots than with platform pedals.
I;m nto trying to be argumenative but I had a few thoughts abotu this:

Unlike on a freewheeling bike where you can stop pedaling if you are falling and need to put a foot down, you'll whack yourself in the leg with the pedal as the crank arm comes back around if you put a foot down on a fixed gear bike.

99% of people who run platform pedals on fixies also run toe clips/straps. If getting a foot down to steady yourself is still a goal, I think clipless pedals would allow faster reation time than straps/clips.

I think most falls on ice will happen so fast that it doesn't matter what pedals you use, most of us can't react that fast and will end up falling anyway.
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Old 09-11-08, 01:21 PM   #9
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I've been thinking about this (clip/strap on platform vs. clipless) also. I used powergrips last winter, but never had to bail out. My experiences with falling in other seasons has been that there times when you can't get your foot out of the clip in time when you might have been able to unclip an SPD. (for instance falling forward over the bars) But something about falling to the side with clipless seems to induce a mental lapse on how to get me foot out, which doesn't happen with clips/straps. The major downside of spd road shoes (the ones I have) is lack of a rubber sole, so putting a foot down on pavement (as I learned the hard way) can be very much like putting a foot down on ice.

Anyway, the bottom line is that in my opinion clipless is so so much better for just riding in general, that I think I might have to go all out this winter and get some winter cycling boots.
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Old 09-11-08, 01:24 PM   #10
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Oh and as for single speed in the winer, if you don't go fixed, you might as well go with gears. I suppose with single you might avoid some icing problems with shifting??
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Old 09-11-08, 10:10 PM   #11
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What about single speed? Not a fixed fan, but was thinking of pulling out the single speed for winter. Ride is generally paved and should be pretty cleared when it snows.

Two brakes + single speed with smart gearing = good winter cycling??
I have been riding SS in the winter for a couple of years. It's all in the tires. If you haven't got traction, it doesn't matter what your drivetrain is. This applies to cars, motorcycles, skateboards - anything with wheels. With studded tires, the amount of grip you have on normally slippery surfaces in considerable. One of the things I like about SS is that the torque is low. You can't really get into too low a gear, 'cause you only have the one. Same thing for FG.

Stopping is important to me. When I cruise toward an icy intersection, I like the ability to stop before that '83 Buick drifts into me on bald tires. Two brakes will pretty much always stop faster than one, as long as I don't lock up and slide.
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Old 09-12-08, 09:00 AM   #12
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What about single speed? Not a fixed fan, but was thinking of pulling out the single speed for winter. Ride is generally paved and should be pretty cleared when it snows.

Two brakes + single speed with smart gearing = good winter cycling??
That's how I roll. I'm not a fixed fan either, but I ride SS year round. (cross check) Very very low maintenance. Nothin freezes up, and I don't have many hills. For winter, Studded tires are the magic ingredient.

I do switch over for winter to a smaller gear, I have 2 sets of wheels, winter wheels with studs and a 17 T freewheel (nokian W106 35mm) and the 3 season set with slicks (ultra gatorskins) and a 16T freewheel. I can switch them out in about a minute, We can have long dry spells and I would rather not ride the studs on bare pavement day after day.

But I'll admit, one gear can be a ***** on cold super windy days with studded tires.... but the simplicity is great, and the workout is is for real. In the spring my legs are strong.
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Old 09-12-08, 09:40 AM   #13
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That's how I roll. I'm not a fixed fan either, but I ride SS year round. (cross check) Very very low maintenance. Nothin freezes up, and I don't have many hills. For winter, Studded tires are the magic ingredient.

I do switch over for winter to a smaller gear, I have 2 sets of wheels, winter wheels with studs and a 17 T freewheel (nokian W106 35mm) and the 3 season set with slicks (ultra gatorskins) and a 16T freewheel. I can switch them out in about a minute, We can have long dry spells and I would rather not ride the studs on bare pavement day after day.

But I'll admit, one gear can be a ***** on cold super windy days with studded tires.... but the simplicity is great, and the workout is is for real. In the spring my legs are strong.
I'm running something very similar. Two sets of wheels kick ass. The main difference between us is that I don't gear down in the winter. 53x18 baby, yeah! My legs were really strong this past spring. My quads got big enough that I was having trouble putting on jeans. It all faded away once the snow was gone. I do have hills on my commute, but I'm getting to the point where I can sit and grind out the climbs.
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Old 09-12-08, 09:58 AM   #14
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Thanks so much!

Right now I run a 47/16 on my SS, but it's with some skinny wheels, I was thinking of going back to 27" and putting some solid traction tires on. Also, for control, switching to a proper width flat bar with two brakes (right now, it's one front brake plus flip & chops, kinda silly for winter, right?).

First off, does that sound good?

Second, for tires.... when do you go from regular tires to studded? Snow or freezing? I'm a native Floridian for the first 31 years of my life, these past 4 years were here in Ohio, but this is my first time winter cycling and I got a 20 mile trek each way. So... this is all great!
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Old 09-13-08, 09:16 AM   #15
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I still haven't tried the whole FG/SS hip, but I'm definitely thinking about it for this winter. What I can say is that if most of your commute is on paved road and that those roads are cleared in reasonable time, you're probably better of with not too fat tires. Think about it, are cars' winter tires fatter or narrower than summer tires? That's right they are narrower! You want to be able to cut through the snow (and slush piles forming on the side of the roads). To that extend I find (and have been recommended by a mech/messenger @ my LBS) that cyclocross tires are best for winter. I ride with a pair of Schawlbe CX Pro in 700x28C (I ride 23s in the summer). We've had 5 meters of snow last winter and a lot of temperature variance (which means lots of ice) and I didn't fall once. Well technically that's not true, but the only two times I fell was while track standing at a red light and not unclipping fast enough (which also happened a couple time this summer ;)... I have however been fairly careful in turns. Also, unless you go off the paved roads, I wouldn't recommend studded tires. On pavement the studs will be more slippery than rubber and will slow you down. Not to mention pavement will eat through the studs and your investment. If you must and can, get two sets of wheels: one with the cross tires and one with studs for the days after the storms.

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Old 09-14-08, 01:22 AM   #16
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So I was wondering if there was a cheap way to convert an old mtb wheel with a cassette to fixed gear. I have the stuff to make it a SS with spacers and such, and I've looked at the Surly Fixxer but the price is too much for a wheel which may get destroyed over the winter. Any help is welcome.
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Old 09-15-08, 05:16 PM   #17
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On pavement the studs will be more slippery than rubber and will slow you down. Not to mention pavement will eat through the studs and your investment.
The general concensus on these forums is that both of these statements are incorrect. Studs are not slippery and Nokian/Schwalbe studs last forever.
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Old 09-15-08, 06:03 PM   #18
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with FG you don't have to worry about the freehub ceasing up on you. Which is the single biggest advantage it has over any wheels that you can coast with.
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Old 09-15-08, 08:57 PM   #19
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If it seizes, you just get a fixed gear...
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Old 09-15-08, 09:17 PM   #20
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So let my freehub seize is the cheap way to go fixed. Hopefully we won't get any chinooks then.
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Old 09-15-08, 10:56 PM   #21
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I wouldn't recommend studded tires. On pavement the studs will be more slippery than rubber and will slow you down. Not to mention pavement will eat through the studs and your investment. If you must and can, get two sets of wheels: one with the cross tires and one with studs for the days after the storms.
Total bull****. Written by someone who does not ride studded tires.
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Old 09-17-08, 04:53 PM   #22
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I agree with earlier comments on the use of skinnier tires in snow. I was under the impression that wide tires would do better on snowy roads, but I was quite mistaken. I was very impressed with the improved handling I got from running a 1.4" tire instead of a 2.1" tire. The narrower tire really cut down to a hard surface better.

Studded tires last a very long time. I picked up a set of used studded tires from a guy for $50. Score! One tire was missing one stud and the tread had worn down a little, so I put that one up front. I had no issues with starting/stopping/climbing/turning.

Somebody asked about this, so I'll continue! I have two sets of wheels, one with slicks and one with studs. The first day that it snows and sticks, I switch to the studded set. I will happily ride in up to 1" of snow on the slicks. I can do this because I live in a semi-arid area, and the snow is very dry. It takes a while for it to ice up, and if the ground is still warm in the early part of the winter season I can generally navigate around the icy bits. I'm always impressed by how much traction you can get with slick tires, but once we get past that 1" of snow I tend to give up and switch to studs.
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Old 09-17-08, 04:55 PM   #23
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So let my freehub seize is the cheap way to go fixed. Hopefully we won't get any chinooks then.
I saw the word "chinook" and had to post. The freehub usually won't seize up while engaged. They tend to freeze in the "coasting" position, meaning you can pedal all you want - you ain't goin' nowhere...
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Old 09-18-08, 02:26 AM   #24
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...this year was much better! When I'd hit rough parts or ice I could slow without hitting the brakes, and I felt like that gave me a bit more control and lessened my chances of falling. I'm definitely going fixed for winter...

fixed gear can never "lessen ones chances of falling" and give more control, you only can "feel" it
(that means you lie (deceiving people is not something good))
fixed gear actually increases the chance of falling especially while turning, and while slowing down without using the brakes.
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Old 09-19-08, 01:29 PM   #25
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The freehub usually won't seize up while engaged. They tend to freeze in the "coasting" position, meaning you can pedal all you want - you ain't goin' nowhere...
Hey Pink, your tire post was extremely helpful, my Canuck wife never cycled in the snow so she was no help!

BUT, I don't understand your second post quoted above. What kind of freehub freezing is occurring where I can still pedal but I don't go anywhere? Sorry, I'm just confused.
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