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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 12-02-08, 09:41 PM   #1
jakewalczak
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Tips for a fully "Winterized" bike and Winter riding

I thought I had my old Trek 800 fully winterized until today... Part of the sidewalk wasn't plowed and my rear end kept drifting and sliding; it was a huge pain the ass. I do not want that to happen again- so I need some suggestions on how to winterize my bike a little more to make the commute easier, while keeping it fun. I only have to travel about 4 miles to the bus stop, but still want a clean fun ride there.


What I have done:

1. Removed the front brake since Front brake + snow= megadeath, just keep my rear Cantilever brake
2. Removed the front derailleur. This was just in the way and now all my controls are on my right hand. I can still select which front gear I want manually. High gear for faster speeds, middle gear for a normal commute.
3. I have a plastic coated seat so the snow wont soak into it
4. have strap-on front and rear fenders; they work nice.


I hear a lot about studded tires and adding weight to the front.

I just need some suggestions and ideas of what else I can do to spruce up and make my bike more efficient.

Also- any riding tips about getting through the thicker, rougher snow.... or is it just as simple as powering though? I just felt like i was going to pass out today while trying to get through- keep slipping and falling over and with the cold- I thought I was going to puke up my innards.

Any help would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

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Old 12-02-08, 10:06 PM   #2
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Hey Jake,

I think taking the front brake off is a big mistake and you will get many posts agreeing with me. Well if they aren't posting they will be nodding their heads as they read this. Your rear brake alone is already very ineffective on dry summer pavement. Add the lack of traction in slippery conditions and the forward weight transfer buring deceleration. Rear brake only spells megadeath in wintery conditions if you ask me. In winter you need your front brake just as much as summer. You just have to fine tune your modulation technique. It's no different then when you drive a car. You only brake as hard as you need to slow down without wheel lock up given the road condition. On a bike it's no different. If your front or rear wheel starts to slide a bit you just you just ease off on the lever. It's a simple concept that comes with practice and experience with your own brakes.

Just saying,

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Old 12-02-08, 10:17 PM   #3
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Thanks for the tip. But last winter my rear brake blew out and was forced to only use the front brake. I felt as though I had less control over my bike when braking. With the rear brake I am able to easily whip my tail to whichever side I choose, which helps with turns.

I just feel that with only a front brake I tend to fall over more and when I fall- I have less control over where I fall towards.

I really like locking up the rear wheel when going into a sharp 90 degree turn... I like to pick up some speed, crank my rear shifter down to the lowest gear, give one or two pedals to set the gear, then slam on the rear brake and throw the rear into a powerslide. Then when I get parallel with my path, I am in a low enough gear to get back up to speed and continue with little loss of time.

But your saying keep the front brake as a safety net, or as my main brake?

Thanks for the reply!
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Old 12-02-08, 10:27 PM   #4
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-tires with big lugs will help some with deep or loose snow. But snow is just hard to bike through.

-Put your front brake on!! When you brake, the center of gravity of you and the bike shift forward, and so you can apply much more force to the front brake without locking up the wheel. True, you can apply too much force and do an endo. But its better to be able to apply the maximum amount of brake if you need it. Keep both brakes on. Why take either off? I will sheepishly (and inconsistenly) admit that I run fixed gear bikes with no rear brake, but for a non-fixed bike this is worse than pointless.

-The front derailleur was "in the way"? In the way of what? Nothing wrong with running a single ring up front if you don't need the extra range, I suppose. And be careful not to get your fingers caught down there when you shift manually. I don't want to sound overly critical, but it seems like bending way down and shifting on the fly with your hand would be far less useful than having a little lever-thing attached to a cable up on your bars to do it.

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Old 12-02-08, 10:38 PM   #5
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I am still a bit new to the technical terminology of bikes- What are the lugs? Are those the treads?

I understand the importance of a front brake when braking while heading straight, but while turning; always equals disaster for me. Maybe there is a trick? I never seem to have a problem with braking with my rear brake. When I have both attached- I always find myself only using the rear- which is why I have to replace my rear pads more than the front. I have never found a need for a front brake.

As for the front derailleur/ grip shifter. My cable blew out and instead of replacing the cable, I just decided to cut it off. Now I have less wiring, less metal and less "clutter". I think it looks better and I never need to shift the front gears on the fly. I just manually select the gear if I know what type of riding I will be doing. It is actually pretty awesome. I like it better than having a single front ring because I am not limited to a single ratio. I can switch depending on my urgency and how fast I will want to be able to go.

Thanks!
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Old 12-02-08, 11:03 PM   #6
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There seems to be some misconception out there about front brakes. People seem to be scared of them, but in fact they are an extraordinarily important part of the bike.

You are correct that it is very fun to slide into turns and generally fish-tail all over in the snow, and for that a rear brake is essential, but you need your front brake too. here's why:

On dry pavement your maximum stopping power comes just as your back wheel lifts off the ground - thus for emergency braking in dry conditions only the front brake is essential. However in icy or snowy conditions, there is usually not enough traction in the front to be able to lift the back wheel off the ground. this means that maximum stopping power comes from applying both of your brakes just to the point where both of your wheels are going to skid. Considering that you are working with very little traction because of the snow - it seems silly to give up half of your stopping power.

Of course the rules that usually apply to braking apply even more so when you have reduced traction - to wit - don't brake and turn at the same time. For the back wheel, locking up an sliding through turns is fine - and very fun, but as you've figured out, if you used the front brake while turning, you will fall.

after riding for a while, you will start to be able to feel when things are about to give way, and then you can back off

Also - especially in deep snow, it is probable that you will get snow on your rims, further reducing braking performance.


As for the deeps snow, the only solution is to increase the contact area of your bike -
You can do this by getting bigger tires, and also by running your tires at a lower pressure.

Those things will reduce your efficiency on dry pavement and hard surfaces, but for riding in soft terrain they should make your life a little easier.

(credit to Sheldon Brown for figuring all of this out an writing it down - I'm mostly just paraphrasing)
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Old 12-02-08, 11:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jakewalczak View Post
I am still a bit new to the technical terminology of bikes- What are the lugs? Are those the treads?

I understand the importance of a front brake when braking while heading straight, but while turning; always equals disaster for me. Maybe there is a trick? I never seem to have a problem with braking with my rear brake. When I have both attached- I always find myself only using the rear- which is why I have to replace my rear pads more than the front. I have never found a need for a front brake.

As for the front derailleur/ grip shifter. My cable blew out and instead of replacing the cable, I just decided to cut it off. Now I have less wiring, less metal and less "clutter". I think it looks better and I never need to shift the front gears on the fly. I just manually select the gear if I know what type of riding I will be doing. It is actually pretty awesome. I like it better than having a single front ring because I am not limited to a single ratio. I can switch depending on my urgency and how fast I will want to be able to go.

Thanks!
There are times in the winter when your rear wheel alone won't have enough traction to slow you down or stop you. Yes you need to be careful with the front brake while turning on slippery surfaces. Don't lock up the wheel. Squeeze lightly, release, and repeat as necessary. It's best to take turns slow under those circumstances anyway. I tend to use both brakes.

Studded tires will help on ice and packed snow but they're spendy. Lowering your tire pressure as much as you dare will help a lot in loose snow. Makes it harder to pedal on bare pavement though.
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Old 12-02-08, 11:22 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for your clarification with the front bake issue. I may consider putting them back on (after I replace the cables and housing and do a bit of maintenance on the unit). It sounds so basic- but I had never thought to simply not use the front brake when turning, especially sharp turns. Great advice!

I was also thinking about a chain guard. My pants get dominated by the dirty chain, and it really ticks me off to have to roll up my paint leg when it is so cold out. I have tried tying the bottom of the pant with string- but this is just a pain. I'm thinking of a chain guard like the one labeled "B" in this picture: http://www.roplltd.com/pro_images/chainwheels2.jpg

Thanks so much for all of your help!

AND- I love Sheldon Brown- what a character!
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Old 12-03-08, 11:24 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by jakewalczak View Post
Thanks everyone for your clarification with the front bake issue. I may consider putting them back on (after I replace the cables and housing and do a bit of maintenance on the unit). It sounds so basic- but I had never thought to simply not use the front brake when turning, especially sharp turns. Great advice!

I was also thinking about a chain guard. My pants get dominated by the dirty chain, and it really ticks me off to have to roll up my paint leg when it is so cold out. I have tried tying the bottom of the pant with string- but this is just a pain. I'm thinking of a chain guard like the one labeled "B" in this picture: http://www.roplltd.com/pro_images/chainwheels2.jpg

Thanks so much for all of your help!

AND- I love Sheldon Brown- what a character!
Yes, it is much better to learn when and how to use the front brake in winter than to remove it. You may need to make an emergency slow down on a good road surface prior to going too fast over an ice patch. One trick is to learn to feather the front brake using only 1 or 2 fingers on it. Don't grab it with your whole hand but get use to riding with 1 finger on the front brake lever and 2 fingers on the rear brake lever. And of course learn not to brake while turning but slow down carefully before a turn.
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Old 12-03-08, 11:31 AM   #10
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Good idea... maybe loosen up the front brake a bit so it takes more to lock the wheel. I love cantilever brakes because they can lock up so quick and easy- but that is also one of the downfalls.

Any other winterizing tips/gadgets I could apply to the bike?


Thanks
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Old 12-03-08, 02:51 PM   #11
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As i mentioned on another similar thread, the most 2nd most important thing to winterize your bike, is to have it well lubed, specially the chain area, else you'll lose lots of power on the enegery transfer with some dry and rusty chains.

the most important thing of winter biking is to have studded tires, makes a world of difference.
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Old 12-03-08, 03:23 PM   #12
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The chain makes that much a difference? Because I have had the same chain for the past 6 years- its very dirty, grimy and partially rusty- but I didn't think to change it since it will just get that way again... But its not that expensive to get a new one; ill look into it thanks.

Also- studded tires- anything I should know about them? Because I know nothing- any links, suggestions, information about them?

When getting my new chain I will ask my local store about carrying them; but any good online places to check out?

Thanks a bunch!
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Old 12-03-08, 09:18 PM   #13
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I was also thinking about a chain guard. My pants get dominated by the dirty chain, and it really ticks me off to have to roll up my paint leg when it is so cold out. I have tried tying the bottom of the pant with string- but this is just a pain. I'm thinking of a chain guard like the one labeled "B" in this picture: http://www.roplltd.com/pro_images/chainwheels2.jpg
I just keep a rubber band around my ankle that I stuff my pants into when I get on my bike.
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Old 12-04-08, 01:29 AM   #14
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I only run a front brake on my winter commuter. It's a fixed gear, but I don't skid. I haven't fallen yet this year. I have two brakes on the road bike. I don't use the rear brake much.

It sounds like you're falling a lot. This is not normal. There must be something wrong with your riding technique. Maybe it's just a matter of slowing down.

Power sliding around corners sounds like the opposite of "controlled" to me. A small rut in the road could easily sent your face into the ground

I also don't understand why you'd remove components. Why not just not use them?

You should get some studded tires; but even then, slipping and wheel diversions are a normal part of winter riding. You'll get used to it.
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Old 12-04-08, 02:07 AM   #15
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My primary winter bike is about as simple as it gets... this picture was taken while she was wearing her summer tyres and now she has a DIY studded front tyre while the rear is still a semi slick.

Since it is a fixed gear there is no derailer to get jammed with snow and dirt, the fenders do a wonderful job of keeping me and the bike clean, and in the winter I rarely use the front brake at all.

The control one has with a fixed gear in winter is incredible.



There will be an endless debate over tyre choices for winter riding and I think one's choice will depend on the conditions and type of tiding one does.

Skinnier tyres will cut through the snow better to find the base layer and achieve better traction and will roll faster...the contact area on a 700c tyre and a knobby mtb tyre is about the same.

My other winter bike is geared and runs 700:35 tyres and I use this bike when the conditions are less harsh... derailer gears and snow / slush just don't go well together. That front tyre now has 90 studs in it to keep me from losing my front wheel on ice.



I use the front brake sparingly in the winter but would not ride without it...with the studded front tyre my braking is also much improved.
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Old 12-04-08, 02:12 AM   #16
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This is my other Kuwahara and this was taken in 2007... the winter set up was pretty much identical as my new bike and you can see the studded front tyre in this pic.



My other Kuwahara has been retired from regular winter duty and is now a fixed gear tourer... she could still handle anything old man winter could toss at us.

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Old 12-04-08, 08:42 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jakewalczak View Post
I am still a bit new to the technical terminology of bikes- What are the lugs? Are those the treads?

I understand the importance of a front brake when braking while heading straight, but while turning; always equals disaster for me. Maybe there is a trick? I never seem to have a problem with braking with my rear brake. When I have both attached- I always find myself only using the rear- which is why I have to replace my rear pads more than the front. I have never found a need for a front brake.

As for the front derailleur/ grip shifter. My cable blew out and instead of replacing the cable, I just decided to cut it off. Now I have less wiring, less metal and less "clutter". I think it looks better and I never need to shift the front gears on the fly. I just manually select the gear if I know what type of riding I will be doing. It is actually pretty awesome. I like it better than having a single front ring because I am not limited to a single ratio. I can switch depending on my urgency and how fast I will want to be able to go.

Thanks!
Lugs as in knobs as in


VS


You really need to fix stuff rather than just say 'it blew out on me'. I'm seeing a trend in your posts that suggest a decided lack of maintenance
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Old 12-04-08, 08:45 AM   #18
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OP: The responses you have gotten to your questions have been very gentle, all things considered. But make no mistake, you have really been going about this the wrong way. Simplicity is a virtue in the harsh winter, but simply removing things piecemeal is not a good idea.

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Old 12-04-08, 10:42 AM   #19
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You really need to fix stuff rather than just say 'it blew out on me'. I'm seeing a trend in your posts that suggest a decided lack of maintenance
Thanks for the Lug clarification- my tires have lots- so I'm in good shape there I think- I guess it will just be getting used to having to power through- just sucks.

Still learning. It was a gift when I turned 15- and haven't had a need to do much to it. The cable for my front derailer literally exploded- right out of the casing. I could have replaced it; but never use it; didn't think to keep something I don't use. I replaced the brake cable and housing- works great now!

Quote:
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OP: The responses you have gotten to your questions have been very gentle, all things considered. But make no mistake, you have really been going about this the wrong way. Simplicity is a virtue in the harsh winter, but simply removing things piecemeal is not a good idea.
Isn't making something simple- removing the excess, the non-useful and the non-used? What are your suggestions to properly do this. I am new at it all and would appreciate suggestions.

I'm just looking for a commuter to travel normally 4 miles; occasionally 8. But the free bus route is the main transporter- the bike just gets me on it, and to my final destination.

Thanks for being honest!
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Old 12-04-08, 05:59 PM   #20
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brakes: Learn to brake using both hands. When you get good, you can automatically modulate the correct brake when a wheel locks up. This is a bit of a simplification, but brake before the turn and coast through it - you'll get better traction and leave the turn at a faster speed.

studs: Studs only help on ice. You'll know if you need them because you'll either be scared or bruised.

chain: Have your LBS check your chain for wear and replace it if necessary (otherwise be prepared to replace worn out gears). Keep the chain clean and rust free. I used WD40 for a commuter bike I rode on heavily salted, gritty, slushy roads with excellent results. There is no need to degrease and relube if you apply it frequently.
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Old 12-04-08, 11:19 PM   #21
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^^ Thanks!

About cleaning the bike after a slushy, wet, snowy ride... I live on the third floor of an apartment- so I don't have access to a hose or anyplace to clean up the bike. I just knock off as much snow as I can and then leave it outside my door (the front door is enclosed in the complex). So that way in the morning, it is warm, dry, and the brake isn't frozen. BUT I know all that crap just set into my bike all night.

Should I spray WD40 before and after rides... Keeping it constantly saturated in the oily greatness. OR when should I apply.

When I say my brake gets frozen- I can brake like normal, but the brake has a hard time returning to its un-brake position. Which sucks. How can I prevent this?

Thanks so much guys- just enjoyed my first real ride of the winter and LOVED IT!
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Old 12-04-08, 11:38 PM   #22
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For the brakes, proceed with each step only if all previous steps have failed:

1. Lubricate
2. Disassemble, clean, reassemble, lubricate
3. Replace cable & housing
4. Replace brake (especially if you have single pivot calipers).

Don't bother hosing down your bike in the winter. Just keep the moving parts lubricated and use a degreaser to wash the drivetrain once every few weeks. I use mineral spirits.
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Old 12-04-08, 11:41 PM   #23
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So after the ride kick off the crap- and spray her down with WD-40? Brake lever and braking unit, chain, crank, derailleur... all moving parts get a WD-40 bath? Should I wait for it all to dry off? What works best?

Just want to make sure I don't waste the lovely stuff. And stink up the common area outside our apt door.


Thanks so much guys- The bike isn't anything special/expensive- Just want to keep it working well in the winter so I have some form of reliable transportation!

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Old 12-05-08, 08:20 PM   #24
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So after the ride kick off the crap- and spray her down with WD-40?
Right. Don't spray your wheel rims or brake pads (if you like stopping, that is). It doesn't take a lot and you don't need to spray all moving parts every time. Just a light coating to repel water. Only the chain needs every day treatment, and that only in severe conditions.

By the way, the "WD" in WD-40 stands for Water Displacement. The product was formulated as a rust preventative.
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Old 12-05-08, 08:56 PM   #25
Hezz
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Originally Posted by jakewalczak View Post
^^ Thanks!

About cleaning the bike after a slushy, wet, snowy ride... I live on the third floor of an apartment- so I don't have access to a hose or anyplace to clean up the bike. I just knock off as much snow as I can and then leave it outside my door (the front door is enclosed in the complex). So that way in the morning, it is warm, dry, and the brake isn't frozen. BUT I know all that crap just set into my bike all night.

Should I spray WD40 before and after rides... Keeping it constantly saturated in the oily greatness. OR when should I apply.

When I say my brake gets frozen- I can brake like normal, but the brake has a hard time returning to its un-brake position. Which sucks. How can I prevent this?

Thanks so much guys- just enjoyed my first real ride of the winter and LOVED IT!
Even if you don't have a hose you can clean the chain and gears a little bit before you bring it inside. Fill an empty gallon milk jug with hot water from your tap and take it outside to pour over the chain and cassette to wash off the salt and mud. You may want to fill up two gallons. Then knock as much of the water off the bike by lifting it a few inches in the air and dropping it on both wheels at the same time on a hard surface. Then take it inside to dry. After an hour or two apply a little chain lube. Or do it right before you leave in the morning.

The problem with WD-40 is that it gets in the chain and breaks down the chain lube too much. However, if you clean the chain everyday with WD-40 and are not riding too far, the WD-40 is good enough chain lube for light use. But it is not as good as dedicated chain lube which should be used if you are riding more than a few miles each day. The water method is less messy and chain lube only requires a small amount to be applied.

If you wash the chain in WD-40 you have to use quite a bit of it to get the chain clean so it will be more expensive in the long run than using water and chain lube.

Last edited by Hezz; 12-05-08 at 09:04 PM.
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