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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 09-30-10, 09:32 AM   #1
Gege-Bubu
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How to survive my first winter?

I got on the bike this June and was enjoying it all summer long, but it is soon to be over.

Now I am looking at the winter ride options and need some advice.

I like long rides on bike trails, not after the speed very much, but riding itself is fun.

Trainer seems to be too boring. I don't think I can do more than an hour on it, even watching the TV.

One bike all season does not look very practical to me. I have only one bike CAAD8 and I don't want to kill it prematurely with rougher roads, salt, water and rust. The thin tires also don't look to made for such rides.

What do you think my options are? Is it a mountain bike? Cyclocross? Gym? Sofa?
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Old 09-30-10, 11:18 AM   #2
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It depends on what your winters are like. Where are you? What temperatures and how much snow do you get?
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Old 09-30-10, 04:29 PM   #3
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I'm in Ohio. It could be a lot of snow, could be not. Could be freezing, could be in 40s. But I want to ride as long as I can.
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Old 09-30-10, 08:13 PM   #4
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Clothing, purchase a cheap wind-proof/sprinkle resistant layer to go over your 35-55 clothing. Some warmer gloves and a skull-cap.

Get some filth prophylactics - fenders.

You're set! Watch out for ice
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Old 09-30-10, 09:03 PM   #5
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What electrik said. Also, if ice and hardpack are common, you may wish to consider a set of studded tires. They're not cheap, but the extra security on slick surfaces can be a lifesaver.
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Old 10-01-10, 03:17 PM   #6
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What electrik said. Also, if ice and hardpack are common, you may wish to consider a set of studded tires. They're not cheap, but the extra security on slick surfaces can be a lifesaver.
Studded tires and most fenders won't fit on a CAAD8.

OP: If you'll only ride when the roads are good, you'll just need proper clothing. If you want to ride in all conditions you'll need a new bike. You might be able to find something cheap on Craigs List.

Paul
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Old 10-01-10, 04:40 PM   #7
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I assume, since you have a CAAD8, that these bike trails you speak of are paved. My opinion, FWIW, is to look at cyclocross bikes. Many will accept fenders and wider tires which is a good thing for winter riding. You could use cyclocross tires for most conditions but if you're gonna see ANY ice duty you will need, IMHO, studded tires. My studs saved my bacon many times and paid for themselves by helping me avoid time off due to injury. Traditional derailleur drivetrains and rim brakes will work fine during most conditions, but require vigilant cleaning and re-lubing to keep working properly all season long. For a more weather-proof system you might want to consider an IGH, belt drive, and disc brakes. All three make winter riding much more enjoyable (to me, anyway). The only turnkey drop-bar bike that I know of that offers all three of these features is the Civia Bryant: http://civiacycles.com/bikes/bryant/. That's a pretty expensive way to go for a second bike, but it does offer a solid poor-weather package that could be used year-round.

If you're willing to use a flat-bar bike then your options open up, or you could of course build your own from the ground up. Alternatively you could find a late 90's rigid MTB on Craiglist, tune it up, install some fenders, studded tires, and Kool-Stop Salmon pads and call it good; just refresh (or replace) the drivetrain after the season ends.
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Old 10-02-10, 08:23 AM   #8
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There is no one pattern for a winter bike but generally they gain from simplicity. You could use a single chainring setup with 9 gears. Singlespeed bikes are popular and good in flatter terrain. I use an 8 speed internal hub gear.
You need tyre clearance, fender eyelets, possibly rear rack for the extra luggage of a winter ride.

I suggest you pick up a cheap-but-good used MTB and see how well it suits your riding. MTBs are easier to find that cyclo-cross bikes and make good winter trail machines. You can always sell it on and buy a more suitable style later.
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Old 10-20-10, 02:45 PM   #9
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You can put winter tyres on a road bike. They'll give you better grip in wet or icy conditions. However, if it's snowing then you're options are limited really and it may have to be the trainer. If that's the case an hour is plenty - just make it a worthwhile hour. Rather than an hour at a steady pace try and use a turbo session that will build or maintain some fitness..... or you can do as I did last winter and head to San Diego for a couple of weeks.... 75 degrees in February - bliss. I went with CCSD.com - saved me from a winter of miserable riding in the cold!
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Old 10-21-10, 08:31 AM   #10
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Great thread. I'm just about to enter my first winter since moving to Chicago from Melbourne, Australia.... Just starting to feel the bite now... Any recommendations on brands or stores to buy some kit? I want to pick up a windstopper vest that has windstopper at the front and webbing at the back, as well as a pair of bib-tights (ie like bibnicks but with longer)
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Old 11-11-10, 07:22 PM   #11
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This is my first winter riding (Madison, WI) and I am trying to put in the investment up front. I have a new winter cycling gloves, ski helmet, and pair of goggles on the way. I am about to order zipper sided pants and I have been shopping for a new pair of winter boots (current winter boots are shot). I am trying to get a new bike for winter, with an internal hub and roller brakes (Raliegh Detour Deluxe 2011). Just add a set of studded tries and I think I should be good to go.
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Old 11-11-10, 10:32 PM   #12
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I am trying to get a new bike for winter, with an internal hub and roller brakes (Raliegh Detour Deluxe 2011). Just add a set of studded tries and I think I should be good to go.
Winters tend to be so hard on bikes, I would feel queasy about buying a new bike just for winter riding. If you have access to an old MTB, that would be ideal... something that could handle a few rust spots. Run some brillo pads over the few rusts spots that emerge and apply car wax...
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Old 11-12-10, 09:17 AM   #13
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I'm in Ohio. It could be a lot of snow, could be not. Could be freezing, could be in 40s. But I want to ride as long as I can.
The good news is you can probably ride just about any day.

You said you like trails, ask if they're plowed if you don't already know (lots of cities plow their trails these days -- asking will put in one more vote to do so if they don't already).

I run a cross bike, it lets me use wide tires and fenders (both are great in winter for traction and keeping some salt off the bike). I run studs for a lot of the winter cause we get a lot of ice.

Dress warm. You'll end up experimenting with clothing. And if you keep riding through fall into the winter you'll have lots of times to experiment and your body will acclimate to the cold a little.


Also, I find rock music is more helpful on the trainer than the tv. And an hour is a good trainer ride.
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Old 11-12-10, 12:02 PM   #14
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I'm about to go through my first winter via bike as well (Buffalo, NY). This weekend I'm fixing up an old MTB in my garage that is really insignificant to me. I'm hoping it survives the entire winter.
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Old 11-12-10, 12:54 PM   #15
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One of the most fun winter bikes I had was a single speed cross bike with fenders and Nokion A10 studded tires. No worries about ice and could handle a few inches of snow, plus upkeep was simple.
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Old 11-15-10, 09:18 PM   #16
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Add me to the list of folks facing winter riding for the first time. I'm a fair-weather roadie and this winter I just don't think I can face 4 months in the gym without least some time out riding. I'm not sure how hardy I am and how much winter riding I'll actually do, so I don't want to spend too much money until I know that this is for me. I've figured out that I want a used MTB, but I do have a few questions:

a) pedals. In summer of course I ride clipless, but in winter....? It seems that a good set of clipless MTB winter boots (e.g., Lake) will be as expensive as the bike. Are there inexpensive clipless alternatives?

b) 26 or 29? As a road biker, 29 seems more natural to me - but what do the experienced winter bikers say?

c) If I try to get as much dry-road riding in as possible, but want to be prepared for snow and ice, do I still want studded tires?
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Old 11-15-10, 09:20 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gege-Bubu View Post
I'm in Ohio. It could be a lot of snow, could be not. Could be freezing, could be in 40s. But I want to ride as long as I can.
My advice to you is to start following RANTWICK's blog on blogspot. He commutes year round in London, Ontario. He will instruct you. He is the master.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 11-16-10, 01:19 PM   #18
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Winters tend to be so hard on bikes, Run some brillo pads over the few rusts spots that emerge and apply car wax...
I like the idea of using steal wool and then applying car wax. That said, I have ridden many winters in Minnesota on a Trek 520 and it hasn't turned into a rust bucket. I'm sure that there's some damage, but it still seems sound. I Switched to a fixed gear after replacing the drive train every two years, after it got destroyed by the sand and salt on the city roads. Once I had only one gear, however, I found it much harder to plow through moderately deep snow, because I didn't have those little gears!
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Old 11-17-10, 12:08 PM   #19
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I'm a fair-weather roadie and this winter I just don't think I can face 4 months in the gym without least some time out riding.

a) pedals. In summer of course I ride clipless, but in winter....? It seems that a good set of clipless MTB winter boots (e.g., Lake) will be as expensive as the bike. Are there inexpensive clipless alternatives?

b) 26 or 29? As a road biker, 29 seems more natural to me - but what do the experienced winter bikers say?

c) If I try to get as much dry-road riding in as possible, but want to be prepared for snow and ice, do I still want studded tires?
As far as the clipless pedals, I suggest you loose them. Unless you're racing, do you need the added efficiency? I use lightweight hiking boots in which I can fit a sock liner and smartwool or other heavy wicking sock.

As for tires, there is no perfect set. When the roads are as dry as a bone, you can ride on skinny road tires. If there is very much ice, the only way to ensure you stay upright is with studs, which do nothing in the snow. I've thought about getting superwide tires to float over the snow, but this would require getting a new bike- to which my wife asks, "Are you crazy?!" Another option is to go with thin tires which slice through the snow. I feel safer on the wider ones, though, and have used them for the past 6 years.
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Old 11-18-10, 02:46 PM   #20
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I've ridden through 4 winters now so here's my 2c: you'll learn as you go, one day at a time. Just keep your fingers/toes warm & try to minimize sweating. Eventually you'll find your own formula.
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Old 11-18-10, 03:41 PM   #21
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Add me to the list of folks facing winter riding for the first time. I'm a fair-weather roadie and this winter I just don't think I can face 4 months in the gym without least some time out riding. I'm not sure how hardy I am and how much winter riding I'll actually do, so I don't want to spend too much money until I know that this is for me. I've figured out that I want a used MTB, but I do have a few questions:

a) pedals. In summer of course I ride clipless, but in winter....? It seems that a good set of clipless MTB winter boots (e.g., Lake) will be as expensive as the bike. Are there inexpensive clipless alternatives?
The most common alternative is to buy neoprene shoe covers and put them over your regular clipless shoes. I also wear ski socks (you know, the knee-length wool ones) and never have any problem with my feet getting cold. It is somewhat a matter of personaly physiology though - some people get cold feet and need more. In that case, nothing wrong with putting flat pedals on and wearing hiking boots or something.

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b) 26 or 29? As a road biker, 29 seems more natural to me - but what do the experienced winter bikers say?
It doesn't matter. I stuck with 29" because I thought they might be more natural and faster. My mountain bike is 26" tires - I don't think there'd be any advantage to 26" (I don't think there's really much speed advantage to 29" either, but it's nice to have everything the same size).

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c) If I try to get as much dry-road riding in as possible, but want to be prepared for snow and ice, do I still want studded tires?
Yes. Studded tires make ice a complete non-issue. Not using studded tires means that if you hit a single patch of black ice with your front tire you're going down, immediately. I'm not willing to take that risk, at least. Some people say it's fine. But I still remember when I moved back to Minnesota. It was fall, and I was on one of the last bike rides of the winter with tcbc (local bike club). We were sitting at a restaurant and I was lamenting the end of biking season. Several people piped up to tell me that actually, I could still bike in the winter! Seems like everyone around me biked in the winter. However, I had been through these discussions once of twice before, so I asked the simple question - "So, have any of you ever broken anything while biking in the winter?"....Every single one of them had broken something when they hit ice they didn't see - a collarbone, an arm, etc. Now this was before studded tires were really popular and widely available.

To be fair, if you hung out with some serious mountain bikers or serious road racers, you'd probably also find that they broke one bone at some point while biking. But I'm not willing to take the risk - if it wasn't for studded tires, I just wouldn't ride in the winter.

For "avoiding snow" tires, the best tires I know of are the Schwalbe Marathon Winters. They lose maybe 1mph in speed over the same bike with regular tires, when they're well inflated. One cool thing about them is that if you inflate them to higher pressure (like 60-70psi) the outer row of studs doesn't contact the ground (though they still provide enough traction to avoid going down on an icy patch - and I speak from experience there :-)). If you need more traction (sheer solid ice, or some snow on the ground) you can deflate them to 20-30 psi or so and you get more grip (though they roll slower). They're not the cheapest though.

Nokian w106's roll a little more slowly (though nothing terrible or anything), cost half as much, and also have a very good reputation.

The biggest issue with using studded tires is that they don't come in sizes smaller than 32c or 35c so you need a frame that can accommodate larger tires. If you're really sticking to mostly ice-free roads, the 32c Nokian a10's are probably enough - just enough studs to keep you upright for small ice patches, though I have heard bad things about using them for more serious ice. Otherwise, studded tires don't come in sizes smaller than 35c, so you can't put studded tires on most road bikes, sadly.
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Old 11-24-10, 01:05 PM   #22
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@ Doohickie -

Master? hah! You are way too kind.
It is like the others have said, you really learn as you go.


As others have said too, worry about your extremities... your core will take care of itself if you're layered a little.
Riding hard can have a great effect too, even on frozen fingers.
I like a balaclava that I can wear as a "muffler" just around my neck, streched to expose my whole face or all the way up to
cover everything but my eyes. I cut a small mouth hole in mine to make breathing easier.
As for pedals, I like the ones with a big flat side and an spd side. When things are dry and easy, cleat.
When things are dicey, don't.

Last, if you are riding in temps below freezing, I strongly recommend clear ski or MX goggles.
The colder it gets, the more they matter, and they make a WORLD of difference in terms of comfort.

Last edited by RANTWICK; 11-24-10 at 01:08 PM. Reason: adding @ Doohickie
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Old 11-25-10, 12:02 AM   #23
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I like the idea of using steal wool and then applying car wax. That said, I have ridden many winters in Minnesota on a Trek 520 and it hasn't turned into a rust bucket. I'm sure that there's some damage, but it still seems sound. I Switched to a fixed gear after replacing the drive train every two years, after it got destroyed by the sand and salt on the city roads. Once I had only one gear, however, I found it much harder to plow through moderately deep snow, because I didn't have those little gears!
I find the green Brillo pad preferable to steel wool. It doesn't scuff the paint.

I'm reluctant to move to a SS since I've got a few hills on my commuter and I find hills are more difficult in the cold air.... however, keeping the cables from freezing is a bit of a pain. I use WD40 occasionally.
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Old 11-29-10, 09:36 AM   #24
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Could not get a new bike past the wife this year, so it was fix up the old 26er. Repainted the frame with Rustoliem's Hammered finish paint, no priming and thick lumpy finish. Added PB Cascadia fenders, new rack, water bottle cages, chain, rear casset, granny gear, and cables. The fix up cost a third of the new bike I wanted, and twice what I paid for the 26er. It looks nice now and the paint will be easy to touch up come spring. The ski helment and googles are fantastic below 40F. I live near the top of a hill and my rides start with a 20mph coast. Boots and pants on order. Water bottles are begining to freeze, using a thin thermos, thinking about a camel back.
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Old 11-29-10, 10:03 AM   #25
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My two cents: Get a good quality (highend do not cost that much more) rigid Mtb from the nineties. Middle to highend Trek's , Miyata's , Kona's, GT,s Marins etc makes great winterbikes. Put on good studded tires (Scwalbe Ice Spiker Pro 2,3" would be my choice now), and you can have some great backroad rides during winter.
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