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  1. #1
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    What characteristics does a good winter bike need?

    Winter biking is a new concept for me. I live in Indiana and have been loving mountain biking for 3 years now. I was wondering what makes a good winter bike? What does a winter bike need to have?

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    above or below freezing?

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    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Yeah, define Winter.

    For me, here, Discs are a very important feature.

    I am sick, of stripping and re-greasing rim brakes.

    Depending on your weather, and how your municipality deals with it, you might not have to deal with riding through rivers of salty, gritty, stinking slop.

  4. #4
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ehinrj01 View Post
    I was wondering what makes a good winter bike? What does a winter bike need to have?
    Any frame that has fender/rack mounts and room for fattish tires. When I say fattish tires I mean any frame that will fit around 35mm to 50mm tires plus full fenders. Disc brakes are also a good idea if you commuting in icy/snowy conditions, discs will save your rims from wearing out from all the salt and grit that is on the roads. Personally I prefer to
    ride singlespeed or fixed gear, because of very low maintenance and high realibility.

  5. #5
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Like most things bike-related, characteristics are shaped by personal choice. For this commuter my winter bike needs studded tires, full fenders, lots of active lighting, a loud horn, disc brakes, an IGH, and belt drive. Safety, stability, and low maintenance is what I'm shooting for with my setup.

    Edit: Oh, and BMX-style, sealed-bearing platform pedals.
    Last edited by irclean; 09-17-10 at 08:47 PM. Reason: Added pedals.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

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    Senior Member Yellowbeard's Avatar
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    Mine require clipless pedals, but some think otherwise.
    I'll eat it first.

  7. #7
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    fat tires, fenders and disc brakes. Those are the three most important things. a 4" tire like on a Pugsley is hard to beat for snow. For ice you really needs studs. Disc brakes are far, far better than any other type imho and fenders are pretty necessary for most folks. Beyond that racks, at least a rear rack that will carry spare clothes and emergency gear is useful as is a lighting system because winter riding often means potentially dark riding.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JonathanGennick's Avatar
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    FWIW, I run my winter bike with a rigid fork. I don't like running expensive suspension components in the extreme cold. Simpler is better in winter.

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    To clarify: What I mean by winter is snowy, slushy, below freezing.

    How about suspensions? Do most prefer not to have any suspension in the freezing winters. Does the cold/snow/water ruin suspension forks?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ehinrj01 View Post
    Do most prefer not to have any suspension in the freezing winters.
    Are the winter surfaces you ride on more bumpy or less bumpy than the summer surfaces?

    Quote Originally Posted by ehinrj01 View Post
    Does the cold/snow/water ruin suspension forks?
    Compared to what?

    Pavement riding in dry weather? Yes.

    Mountain bike racing in mud? No.

  11. #11
    surly old man jgedwa's Avatar
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    Something that won't make you cry when it corrodes.

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  12. #12
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    I swap my fox shox out in winter because my winter is colder than your winter and I ride in colder temps than you do. Check with your local bike store regarding your winter conditions and whether you can safely ride with shox. it all depends on how cold it gets for your riding. The maker of your shox may also have a recommendation, but those are often very cautious and your probably better off getting a recommendation from a lbs.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Fynn's Avatar
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    For me it's the same as a summer mountain bike with a couple exeptions. 1.studs when icy. 2. platform pedals in snow and when below comfortable temps (around 20F) for clipless shoes. I don't ride in slushy conditions. Riding a bike in slush is not fun or practical for me. I prefer frozen hard pack. If snow is real deep or it is slushy there are better ways to get around then on a bike.

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    Senior Member Yellowbeard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fynn View Post
    For me it's the same as a summer mountain bike with a couple exeptions. 1.studs when icy. 2. platform pedals in snow and when below comfortable temps (around 20F) for clipless shoes. I don't ride in slushy conditions. Riding a bike in slush is not fun or practical for me. I prefer frozen hard pack. If snow is real deep or it is slushy there are better ways to get around then on a bike.
    In contrast, I love slush (easy to ride through) and won't go out in the snow without my clipless pedals.

    This is the interesting thing about winter riding, every equipment choice you make seems to have an opposite choice that works just as well, at least for somebody.
    I'll eat it first.

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    You like slush? Agreed, it's easier to ride through than deep snow, and not as nerve-wracking as snow over icy ruts. Don't you find that your feet and lower legs get saturated with freezing-temperature water?

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    Senior Member Yellowbeard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hairytoes View Post
    You like slush? Agreed, it's easier to ride through than deep snow, and not as nerve-wracking as snow over icy ruts. Don't you find that your feet and lower legs get saturated with freezing-temperature water?
    Not really. It makes a mess of my bottom bracket shell but that's pretty much it, and I just ride in ordinary SPD touring shoes and jeans during the winter. The wider tires on my ice bike throw splashes sideways instead of at my feet, even 32mms on last year's bike didn't seem to make a mess, and ordinary full fenders take care of the rest.

    Plus I enjoy the way it splatters sideways when rolling over it.
    I'll eat it first.

  17. #17
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    Disc brakes, space for fenders, geometry designed for stability, components that will keep working through and after 4 months of abuse.

  18. #18
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    The trouble with these threads, is that the definitions are so variable. Exactly what is the consistency of the snow/slush/ruts/grit/slop that you will encounter? Where and how are you riding?

    You have to read between the lines as to WHY various people like certain features, then apply that to what's going to suit you and your conditions.

  19. #19
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    coldfeet, you are spot on.

    When I made the comment about slush, I was thinking of the conditions we get here; rain + black ice + melting snow = slush that is more water than snow. 8" deep in puddles and flooded sections of road.

  20. #20
    tsl
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    There's also the matter of personal preference.

    I just plain don't like mountain bikes. If you gave me one, I'd sell it and use the money for a road bike. Some people are just the opposite, and others don't care, as long as the pedals turn the wheels.

    Some people recommend a disposable POS for a winter ride. I can't see why I should torture myself for four months on a POS I can't stand. I'd probably go back to the bus first. And by the time I'd fix it up enough to be reliable for commuting every single day, it wouldn't be a POS any more. So why not use a decent bike to begin with?

    Those are the reasons that my primary bike is a disc-brake road bike that I ride year 'round, and can fit with studded snow tires and wider fenders for the winter. My only other concession to winter is a 12-27 cassette instead of the 12-23 I use in the three-seasons.

    My winter? Here, we get temps in the teens and 20s, along with snow every single day for a couple of months. The winds blows across the lake, generating "lake effect" snow on a nearly continuous basis. We get snowstorm snow too, every week or so. To cope with it, the city plows and salts the bejesus out of the streets. Since they're so busy keeping the arterials clear, the side streets suffer.
    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.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Russcoles11's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by digibud View Post
    fat tires, fenders and disc brakes. Those are the three most important things. a 4" tire like on a Pugsley is hard to beat for snow. For ice you really needs studs. Disc brakes are far, far better than any other type imho and fenders are pretty necessary for most folks. Beyond that racks, at least a rear rack that will carry spare clothes and emergency gear is useful as is a lighting system because winter riding often means potentially dark riding.
    Better than Hub brakes? I would have thought disk brakes would be affected by grit, ice etc too?

  22. #22
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    This is one of those questions that will get as many different answers as there are responses as everyone has different preferences, abilities, and we all ride in different locations with different types of weather.

    Most people here ride mountain bikes in the winter or some will run studded tyres on road / cx bikes... running a higher volume tyre will smooth out the ride as winter roads tend to be a lot rougher.

    I like my fixed gear in the depths of winter as I know it won't fail me at -40C as I ride regardless of the weather and run some 2.1 knobbies at low psi and have a studded front tyre on a rim I can swap in if it is needed.

    I think most will agree on having full coverage fenders as these keep you and your bike cleaner.

    I do ride other bikes in the winter if the conditions allow... if it is dry and not excessively cold my hybrid is set up quite nicely to handle winter riding and my extrabike is also very capable in the winter as it is very stable and have ridden that at -46C.

    Lots of the local messengers ride fg road bikes in the winter... the downtown core is kept pretty clear of snow and the only concern is ice.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Captain Blight's Avatar
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    I'm building a Frankenhybrid (I AM from Minnesota, LOL) winter bike out of a Specialized Crossroads and a Karate Monkey Fork. I'm going to (as of this writing, the plan isn't fully developed yet) use a front disc and a rear V-brake. I'm pretty sure I'm going to lace this F&S Torpedo 3-speed w/coaster brake hub I've got into a decent rim, and run around with a 40/45/50 triple ring up front. With a 19t rear cog, that gives me 9 gears, evenly spaced. I always have trouble with my derailleurs in the winter, but a Singleator shouldn't give me too many fits.

    Full fenders are a grace from the Lord. A mudflap on the front is NOT a luxury on a winter bike, those slushy chunks have just enough mass to carry their initial velocity right up into my eyeball. Salty brainfreeze, anyone? Which see, a decent pair of goggles is a must-have, IMO. After 3 years of toughing it out with frozen tears in my ears, I caved and bought a pair of goggles. Instantly transformed my winter-cycling experience!

    Do what ya need to do to be comfortable--if all you're doing is enduring, you're not enjoying-- and don't get too tuned up about the slow speeds. Between the drag from the snow, the drag from the big tires, and the drag from the extra clothes, also remember that you're pushing almost twice the mass of air out of the way at 0F than you do at 80F.

    Don't get too worried about riding on snow. After the cars have had their way with it, it's kind of like riding on mashed potato.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Blight View Post
    ...snip...."remember that you're pushing almost twice the mass of air out of the way at 0F than you do at 80F."

    Good points. You'll have to explain the "twice the mass" comment. The density of air at 0˚F is about 1.4 kg/m*3 and at 80˚F it's about 1.2kg/m*3...just eyeballing it from the chart at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Density_of_air. .2/1.2 gives us about a 17% increase in density. So it seems to me at first blush. Am I missing something?

  25. #25
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Wind resistance is higher in the winter as not only is the air denser... we wear more clothing.

    Because of this having your bike running at peak efficiency becomes even more important as a poorly tuned bike will make riding even more difficult.

    I am a fan of oil lubrication in the winter as this really makes for a smoother and cleaner running bicycle.

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