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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Reliability -- n00b guide to winterizing tips (not clothing or gear related)

    This thread is about tips and tricks people have learned through experience and trial and error. I see a bunch of scattered topics when I search, but invariably there is always a comment about "yeah, but it doesn't happen, so don't worry about it until it happens. This must be your first winter". WTF?

    As you know, I'm an idiot and want to bike 120km a day year-round in Sweden (lowest temps expected are -25 C). I'm not in the mood to get stuck in the forest and die a slow and untimely death by my bike that has no brakes, became a single speed, a frozen free hub, two flat tires, ice in my camel back, and a dead headlamp.

    Here's what I have so I can assure you I won't die and people will find me before I become a popsicle: a cell phone, a gps with extra batteries, a semi-travelled route in a semi-populated area, a map of my route at home (printed, soft copy on the pc, and loaded into the car gps), knowledge of the local customs and language.

    So, back on topic -- I want 100% reliability. Redundant systems are fine by me, but obviously weight is a concern since I am powering my bike.

    Suggested topics/tips:
    -Lubes/greases
    -Shielding that was home made to protect the bike from failure (long and short term failures)
    -Methods of preventing hardware failure through: behavioral changes, certain types of rituals, etc.
    -How to make sure your lungs don't freeze and you suffocate, fall of your bike, and die
    -Frostbite prone areas of your body that you never thought could get frostbite
    -Water intrusion (bike and person)
    -Pre and post ride rituals
    -Flats and frozen spares
    -Sticking to things like that kid in "A Christmas Story"
    -etc.

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Nothing is 100% reliable.
    The chances of your lungs freezing is really remote.
    If you cover your skin, the chances of frostbite is really remote.
    Unless you lick a piece of metal, you won't stick to anything.
    And never cycle further away from some sort of shelter than you could walk.

    Some tips for cycling, and especially cycling long distances, in cold weather:
    http://www.icebike.org/
    http://www.machka.net/brevet/Coldest_Century.htm

  3. #3
    smatte
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    Bike breaks and your freezing....phone home. Pack a solar blanket and matches and credit card just in case.

  4. #4
    smatte
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    Bike is broke and your freezing...phone home. I'd also pack a credit card.

  5. #5
    smitten by саша pwdeegan's Avatar
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    i know this isn't much help either, but like all machinery that i rely on, i inspect my bicycle either every night or the following morning, along all of the usual places: (in stand) check drivetrain and gearing, check cables, cable housing and ferules, check brakes, sight-check tyres, wipe down frame and wheels and check them for signs of damage or loose pieces; check all critical bolts once a week (pedals, crank, bb, headset)--basically do a visual as though i were putting the bike together.

    i find that as a result i have yet to experience a critical failure. i've caught a lot of small snafus (loose stuff, mostly), that were fixed before they became serious.

    i'm a firm believer in prevention as the most reliable form of catastrophe management; and as others have pointed out, when the sh** is too overwhelming, you have reliable means to access your emergency list of conacts--whether by mobile phone or knowing where you can go for help (a ministore, a friednly house, etc.)

    more on-topic, i did get some handy advice for spoke/wheel protection just a few days ago. but that wouldn't be a sudden-failure issue, unless no preventative maintenance were every performed.

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Nothing is 100% reliable.
    The chances of your lungs freezing is really remote.
    If you cover your skin, the chances of frostbite is really remote.
    Unless you lick a piece of metal, you won't stick to anything.
    And never cycle further away from some sort of shelter than you could walk.

    Some tips for cycling, and especially cycling long distances, in cold weather:
    http://www.icebike.org/
    http://www.machka.net/brevet/Coldest_Century.htm
    And also ...

    What works for one person may not work for another ... we have different tolerances for cold. Plus -25C doesn't always feel the same ... add wind, and it's colder; add sun, and it's warmer; add humidity, and it's colder ...

    We can tell you to wear certain things, or use certain equipment, or whatever ... and you might ... and you might discover that it doesn't work for you.

  7. #7
    Senior Member frymaster's Avatar
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    one thing i always bring with on the really cold days are chemical handwarmers. these are absolutely crucial if you need to change a flat or do other mechanical stuff that require more dexterity than a pair of gortex gauntlets provides.

    i absolutely cannot stress these things enough.
    "Let's try and keep the constructive answers in the commuting forum." --SheistyMike

  8. #8
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    Be sure to carry some basic tools. I have a small kit from Park Tools that has a patch kit, two tire lifeters, a small but critical selection of alen wrenches and a mini-cresent wrench. I also have a cheap ulti tool. Both are small and light weight, but I can fix the majority of minor problems with those tools. I also carry a chain tool and a spoke wrench. Since I work as a school each of our bathrooms has piles of disposable gloves for the staff so I "borrowed" one pair and keep them with the bike tools in my handlebar bag. When I had a flat tire on a wet morning wearlier in the year I was very glad to have the gloves.

    Good luck!!!
    André

  9. #9
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    Flask of brandy and a cell phone. Drink the brandy while waiting for significant other to arrive with the support vehicle ride home.

    Other than the proper clothing for the weather conditions I do nothing different during the cold weather. Sorry one thing I do different is to use a thermal water bottle. I hate ice cold water during a winter ride. The thermal bottle and luke warm water does the trick.
    Layering is much better than one heavy layer. You can always shed a layer or unzip a bit if you are too warm.
    Don't start your ride feeling warm. If you do you are likely overdressed and will be sweating all too soon. Better to be a bit chilly at the start. As your body heats up with the exertion of riding you will soon warm up.

  10. #10
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    When you want to go fast having light tires and wheels is always the way to go. But in cold temperatures a flat is difficult to fix. Especially in the dark. Though you should have a pump and flat fix kit with you. I advise puncture resistant tubes and/or tire liners. With the two combined you have a kind of heavy tire but you will almost never get a flat. Also, you might consider a very lightweight rear rack to carry a few larger items like a down parka and down booties in case you get stranded in the cold. I also like to use small vacuum flasks instead of normal water bottles as they will keep a warm drink warm and a cold one from freezing. Especially if they are stored in a trunk bag out of the air stream.


    Keep your bike clean and warmed up every night. Store it inside after washing it to dry out. Keep chain lubed and tires aired right. You should be OK.

    A few other light things to carry: Helmet cover, if you don't already have one on. Lightweight standard LED flashlight. So you can hold it to fix a flat or tighten a loose hex bolt or something. Food and energy drink mix. You may need a little more calories to stay warm on long rides in cold temperatures.

  11. #11
    Senior Member frymaster's Avatar
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    oh, i also carry $120. no one can lug every tool they need, but the right tool for the job is always cash.
    "Let's try and keep the constructive answers in the commuting forum." --SheistyMike

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frymaster View Post
    oh, i also carry $120. no one can lug every tool they need, but the right tool for the job is always cash.
    Uh-huh. And what exactly is cash going to get you out here?

    This was a ride I did in early-March 2007.

    .
    Attached Images Attached Images

  13. #13
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    The following link might be worth a look:

    http://www.allweathersports.com/winter/winter.html

    The article makes specific mention of a brand of grease that works down to -40. There are some other tips in there too.

  14. #14
    Senior Member frymaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Uh-huh. And what exactly is cash going to get you out here?

    This was a ride I did in early-March 2007.
    point taken. however i was once involved in a car-totalling auto wreck in rural newfoundland in december at 2am. both myself and the driver walked away from it. we hitch hiked a ride in a tanker truck as far as gander and arrived around 3:30 in the morning. let me tell you: when it's the middle of the night and -15c and you're completely shaken from a near-death experience, that $120 pocket money is a serious win: got us a warm hotel room with a bath tub and a five-thousand calorie breakfast.

    i've been sold on the emergency bankroll ever since.
    "Let's try and keep the constructive answers in the commuting forum." --SheistyMike

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by pwdeegan View Post
    more on-topic, i did get some handy advice for spoke/wheel protection just a few days ago. but that wouldn't be a sudden-failure issue, unless no preventative maintenance were every performed.
    So what's the handy advice?

  16. #16
    50000 Guatts of power 127.0.0.1's Avatar
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    You want 100% reliability, then first fix your brain, because it sounds suspect.


    plan for anything and everything to break.
    I like fat bikes
    and I cannot lie.

  17. #17
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    Adds weight & bulk; but I suppose you could consider a winter capable sleeping bag & pad.

  18. #18
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    Know what would be really cool? Heated gloves and socks that get their energy from a hub, but the power is transmitted inductively (no wires to get tangled in). Induction sites would be the grips and/or the pedals. Anyone want to do up a schematic and determine current draw requirements? Heck, if the draw is too much, then you could have an intermediary battery buffer. It's a *huge* money maker.

  19. #19
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    to the original poster:

    are you much of a cross country skier?

    a core winter survival kit consists largely of an insulated lofting jacket, a sit pad, a lightweight nylon pullover huddle shelter*, snacks, the ability to brew up a hottie on an alcohol burner and perhaps a little extra socks/gloves/hat.


    our bikes ran much better in the winter if they were just left out in the cold. lt cuts down on the deluterious effects repeated freeze/thaw cycle can have on cabling, pivots, etc.

    learn the skid turn.

    the sweep kick to clear your derailleur.

    try USAF Mukluks for winter riding footwear.

    bring thin liner gloves for dextrous tasks in extreme cold- you do NOT want to be changing a flat with bare hands.

    and go!

    hope this helps.

    *I have an Integral Designs Svarsky guide's silsack sized right to pull over yourself and your bike to do work in blizzard conditions, I'd highly recommend! and there are various other 'huddle' shelters available.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 11-06-08 at 11:20 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  20. #20
    that strange guy
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    I don't know if you're talking about the same sensation of "freezing lungs" that I'm thinking of, but breathing in cold air hurts my throat and wears me out. I wear a balaclava (and/or a mask) when it's too cold for comfort, and I carry a thermos of hot tea or miso broth. It seems to help.

  21. #21
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NutzCrazy View Post
    Know what would be really cool? Heated gloves and socks that get their energy from a hub, but the power is transmitted inductively (no wires to get tangled in). Induction sites would be the grips and/or the pedals. Anyone want to do up a schematic and determine current draw requirements? Heck, if the draw is too much, then you could have an intermediary battery buffer. It's a *huge* money maker.
    Heated gloves and socks already exist. I can go to my local Canadian Tire and pick them up ... I'm sure they've got them in stock now in preparation for winter. They are battery operated.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by NutzCrazy View Post
    Know what would be really cool? Heated gloves and socks that get their energy from a hub, but the power is transmitted inductively (no wires to get tangled in). Induction sites would be the grips and/or the pedals. Anyone want to do up a schematic and determine current draw requirements? Heck, if the draw is too much, then you could have an intermediary battery buffer. It's a *huge* money maker.
    I believe that magnetic induction fields fall off with the square of the distance so they are only effective at close range (a few inches) and if the target is not moving. So this is not a feasible approach. They also typically consume very large amount of current so not feasible to carry such an energy source on the bike. The idea of heating the feet through the contact with the pedals is a cool idea but not practical since you need too much energy to heat those things which are cooled rapidly in the cold air stream. The only efficient method is to heat the fingers and toes directly with low current/voltage heaters in an insulated environment so the small amount of heat you produce goes a long way.

    I suppose it would be possible to create a small inductive AC circuit in which the voltage was created by the motion of the pedals passing in close proximity to a magnetic field. But it would have slow switching times based on the cadence and you would need a huge coil to store the current and release it slowly enough to account for the low 2-4 Hz AC current. Again, not practical.
    Last edited by Hezz; 11-06-08 at 10:34 PM.

  23. #23
    Commuter Choccy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrelam View Post
    Be sure to carry some basic tools. I have a small kit from Park Tools that has a patch kit, two tire lifeters, a small but critical selection of alen wrenches and a mini-cresent wrench. I also have a cheap ulti tool. Both are small and light weight, but I can fix the majority of minor problems with those tools. I also carry a chain tool and a spoke wrench. Since I work as a school each of our bathrooms has piles of disposable gloves for the staff so I "borrowed" one pair and keep them with the bike tools in my handlebar bag. When I had a flat tire on a wet morning wearlier in the year I was very glad to have the gloves.

    Good luck!!!
    André
    I know everybody says carry tools, pump etc. but also it is a good idea to learn how to use these tools. Learn how to get your tyres off and on again with the minimum of fuss, this will help you loads. Also get a mechanics book and learn or practice how to do basic jobs on your bike, once you've got the basics the more difficult stuff will seem a lot easier.

    And the gloves idea is brilliant as you will get dirty even if you have just cleaned your bike.

    Choccy...

  24. #24
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    The only thing that ever stopped my bike in the winter was a frozen rear hub (at about -35c). You may want to pack a source of heat to warm up a frozen hub. A lighter or candle and matches, etc. I was lucky enought to get the bike moving again by knocking on the hub. I rode the remaining 10km pretending that it was a fixed gear so that the pawls did not disengage again.

  25. #25
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    For working in extreme cold, get metal tire levers, since plastic ones may shatter. Soma makes a hybrid metal-core plastic lever, too... http://somafab.com/tirelevers.html

    If you use a derailleur system, it may also help to run continuous cable housing all the way from the shifter to the derailleur, so there are only two entry points for moisture. Lubricate the housing & cable with a thin oil like TriFlow. I also cover my derailleurs with Grunge Guards and use a "conventional" style front derailleur rather than a top-swing type (top-swing is prone to collecting snow / ice / slush).

    Also, if you'll be using a freehub, do figure out a workaround in case the pawls stop engaging. In the old days, weaving a toe strap between the driveside spokes and the holes in the largest cog was viable. With stuff spaced closer nowdays, I'm not sure toe straps would fit, but some form of direct-drive could get you a few km to safety. Corrolary to that, special lubrication of the freehub would be a good idea... I'd try Phil Wood Tenacious Oil in the freehub proper, and some Slick Honey for the axle bearing, perhaps.

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