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  1. #1
    Senior Member Chalupa102's Avatar
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    Gearing for snow

    I know a lot of you here run SS/FG bikes in the snow. With where I live and the commute that I do, this is not an option, so I'm looking for the best gearing for my hybrid with 700x35 tires. I'm not so worried about the high gear, but I'm wondering about the low gear. I wouldn't want a gear where I would have no traction because the tire would just be slipping and me getting no where. So what's the best low gear to have for climbing steeper hills when the roads are slippery?
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    Senior Member MNBikeCommuter's Avatar
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    My experience with a similar set up is that the tire tread matters a lot more than the gearing. If the tread plugs up with snow and you need the traction for climbing, you're hosed. :-) Snow types and depths factor into it too--heavy, wet stuff; light, powdery; etc. Narrower tires cut through the softer snow better than wider tires. Wider tires with knobs fare better on compacted snow than narrow tires. If ice is an issue, consider studded tires. Unfortunately, everything's a compromise--width, tread, studs, weight--and it'll be an educated guess at best what works best for your "average" conditions.

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    You can use the same gearing as you do the rest of the year... and a little more control over how much power you are laying down to keep the tyres from spinning out.

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    AEO
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    I liked 34x15 when I put on 700x35mm studded tires.
    it gets windy during winter and the knobs add a lot of rolling resistance, so it was quite hard climbing out of valleys with 38x15.
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
    I know a lot of you here run SS/FG bikes in the snow. With where I live and the commute that I do, this is not an option, so I'm looking for the best gearing for my hybrid with 700x35 tires. I'm not so worried about the high gear, but I'm wondering about the low gear. I wouldn't want a gear where I would have no traction because the tire would just be slipping and me getting no where. So what's the best low gear to have for climbing steeper hills when the roads are slippery?

    How low of gearing you need depends on several factors. How much you weight, conditioning level. How steep and long are the hills you need to climb. How much do you need to ride in packed, slush and soft bumpy snow. If your only riding on wet pavement there is not much difference in summer gearing. Unless you are on a single speed in which case you may want to go up one or two teeth on the rear cog since riding in the cold is harder.

    In my experience it is best to have at least three gears that are somewhat lower than what you would want for summer riding. You can usually handle most conditions with this. I use a 3 x 3 single speed which allows me to have 3 gears by loosening the rear wheel and manually changing the chain. Not the most easy approach but it works. A internal geared hub is really nice and a three speed can be built up cheap.

    You don't mention what kind of gearing you normally ride so it's hard to give a recommendation based on your present warm weather riding setup. IF you already have a full range of gears on the bike you intend to use for winter you are set. Just select lower gears when you need them. You can spin the wheel on slick surfaces in almost any gear so how you feel what you are doing is more important than the exact gear. Generally most hybrid bikes have a triple chain ring up front and something just shy of a mountain bike cassette. Your hybrid bike should have plenty of low gears for climbing all but the steepest hills. Hills as steep as are needed for the lowest gears on a mountain bike will be too steep to climb in slick conditions unless you have studded tires on ice and big knobby tires on soft packed snow.

    My guess is that on most modern hybrids the lowest gear would be something like a 36:28 or a 36:30. Some may even have a 32:32 as the lowest gear. This is low enough for most general hills you will encounter unless they are both steep and long or you are a heavy rider. Only you know what kind of hills you have to get over. In contrast the modern mountain bike will go as low as a 22:36 low gear.
    Last edited by Hezz; 11-21-10 at 09:42 PM.

  6. #6
    ( 8n(|) DOH!! Pwnt's Avatar
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    I find myself running around in 42 x 18. Which I find weird, cause you google it...everyone talks about it being the "sweet spot". :?

    I have a way with the bikes! Now if I could just do that with the ladies! :eyebrow wiggle:
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    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pwnt View Post
    I find myself running around in 42 x 18. Which I find weird, cause you google it...everyone talks about it being the "sweet spot". :?

    I have a way with the bikes! Now if I could just do that with the ladies! :eyebrow wiggle:
    Pretty sure i goggled it and it says the sweet spot is somewhere near 2:1 ... It's not always about how many gear inches you have or should i say inches your gear has. lol.

  8. #8
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    "A internal geared hub is really nice and a three speed can be built up cheap."

    My primary winter bike uses an SA 3 speed with a 39/52/70 gear inches... the low is low enough to get me up short 12% grades and has handled longer and steeper than this when it was dry.

    It is a sweet set up and I run an AG which is an AW (wide ratio) with a generator.

    As far as cheap goes, you are looking at about $130.00 - $140.00 to have a decent 3 speed wheel built up with a vintage hub and you can add another $30.00 for a new SA 3 speed.. the benefit of the vintage hubs is that they are oil lubricated and with synthetic oil they will run smoothly at the coldest of temperatures.

    The break down on the build is $30.00 for the hub, $40.00 for a DW rim, $40.00 for spokes / washers, and $30.00 for the build.

    Modern spokes are a lighter gauge and as such, should have spoke washers used on an SA hub which has a narrower flange.

  9. #9
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    I like to run 42x18 in winter but sometimes that's too much of a gear if there is a lot of snow and running studded tires adds lot's of rolling resistence.So I gear down to 38x18 or 36x18 or 36x16, I never run lower then 2:1 ratio it's just to much spinning and too slow.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Captain Blight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    "A internal geared hub is really nice and a three speed can be built up cheap."

    My primary winter bike uses an SA 3 speed with a 39/52/70 gear inches... the low is low enough to get me up short 12% grades and has handled longer and steeper than this when it was dry.

    It is a sweet set up and I run an AG which is an AW (wide ratio) with a generator.

    As far as cheap goes, you are looking at about $130.00 - $140.00 to have a decent 3 speed wheel built up with a vintage hub and you can add another $30.00 for a new SA 3 speed.. the benefit of the vintage hubs is that they are oil lubricated and with synthetic oil they will run smoothly at the coldest of temperatures.

    The break down on the build is $30.00 for the hub, $40.00 for a DW rim, $40.00 for spokes / washers, and $30.00 for the build.

    Modern spokes are a lighter gauge and as such, should have spoke washers used on an SA hub which has a narrower flange.
    If you're willing to run around with a tensioner and a little extra chain, you could use a double or triple ring up front and really widen out your gearing. to the 220% region. I've never had a front derailleur fail (or at least not from the cold and snow), and the AW is... well, it just Always Works.

    I was gonna do a copy/paste from Kstoerz.com/gearcalc, but I'm posting this on my mom's Apple and it's just p1551ng me off, I guess I'm Gates' beeyotch and not Wozniak's. Anywhoozle, if you use an AW with an 18-tooth cog, the magic number for a 6-speed setup is 42/48; for a triple, it's 40/45/50. This gives you 12-13% jumps for the 6-speed and like 8-9% for the 9-speed combo. Yeah, the tensioner kind of spoils the clean look, but to my mind the functionality makes up for it in spades. Plus, if you want to get all retro about things like I do, the low difference in tooth count means you can use a Simplex Prestige front derailleur and the Simplex chainguard that mounts on it for a nice clean install and you can keep your socks and cuffs a little cleaner this year.

    Just a thought.
    Last edited by Captain Blight; 11-22-10 at 01:00 AM.
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  11. #11
    Soma Lover
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    I'm now running a single 39t chainring up front with an 11-32 cassette, BBG chainring protector, and one bar-con shifter.

    No outer chainring or front derailleur to catch my rain pants. No fumbling with STI in heavy winter gloves.

    33 gear inches at the low end gets me up 10% and through the deep stuff with ease.

    96 gear inches at the top end is as high as I'm likely to spin out on a 25 lb. commuter.

  12. #12
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    I'm going to run an Alfine 8 this winter. I am looking forward to discovering how well it handles winter duty. I am also looking forward to not having to clean my drivetrain countless times over the season, or my chain since I am using belt drive as well as the IGH. To date the Alfine's granny gear helps me climb any local hills without issue.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  13. #13
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irclean View Post
    I'm going to run an Alfine 8 this winter. I am looking forward to discovering how well it handles winter duty. I am also looking forward to not having to clean my drivetrain countless times over the season, or my chain since I am using belt drive as well as the IGH. To date the Alfine's granny gear helps me climb any local hills without issue.
    My little sister installed an Alfine 8 speed in her old GT winter bike last season and just loves it... you will want to make sure the lube is synthetic as the factory lube is not suited for extremely cold conditions and people have reported problems with their hubs getting cranky at -30 C.

    Shimano offers a kit to retrofit the Alfine for oil lubrication and believe the new 11 speed can also be ordered this way... I guess Shimano did not consider that their IGH hubs would be so popular among winter cyclists.

  14. #14
    Distance Rider
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    I usually drop my gearing by 15%-20% when I install studded tires for the winter. If you normally have a few extra gears on your cassette or IGH, you shouldn't have to change your gearing for the snowy months. I ride fixed gear, so I swap out my 42t chainring and hybrid tires for a 36t chainring and studded tires.

  15. #15
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    The only thing I've hit that's made me need lower gearing has been deep driven snow. My 34/28, which I almost never use in the summer (except to be super lazy on a hill) has felt too high in the past. At 5mph you're crunching in that gear, and you can't stand up without moving your rear tire out of the tire track (which causes you to bounce back and forth and lose speed).

    So, unless you're dealing with deep driven snow, I would think whatever you use the rest of the year. You can have a smooth pedal stroke at low cadences.

    Edit: I was still able to make it. It was just miserable.

  16. #16
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    My little sister installed an Alfine 8 speed in her old GT winter bike last season and just loves it... you will want to make sure the lube is synthetic as the factory lube is not suited for extremely cold conditions and people have reported problems with their hubs getting cranky at -30 C.

    Shimano offers a kit to retrofit the Alfine for oil lubrication and believe the new 11 speed can also be ordered this way... I guess Shimano did not consider that their IGH hubs would be so popular among winter cyclists.
    It doesn't often get quite that cold around these parts, but it has been known to happen. That retrofit kit has piqued my interest... I don't suppose you have a link to or a part # for it, do you? As for the Alfine 11, I believe that it is indeed lubed by an oil bath. Unfortunately, it is also prohibitively expensive.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    The 11 speed is about 100.00 more than the 8 speed... figure the extra range is worth the money as it yhas close enough steps to make it a decent hub for touring.

  18. #18
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    When it comes to winter riding I usually up my starting gear so that I am less likely to spin out as the iciest places are usually intersections... having a decent gear range also helps you manage your cadence to regulate body temperature as I usually find I get too warm rather than too cold no matter what the temperature is.

  19. #19
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    2 planetary.. Schlumpf makes a planetary 2 speed crank set.
    3 types 2 overdrive and one reduction gear
    They combine with a 3 speed to offer 6 ratios, ... over/reduction by 2.5 .. or 1.6x overdrive.
    Swiss Made , so snow is part of the environment..

    current clutch in them is fixed gear capable, so you can
    run the cog set small for the low ratios ,
    tap the button in the center of the crank arm and it multiplies that ratio
    by say by 2,5 for the high speed drive
    example: say 1:1 low, 27'', wheel size with both sprockets the same size, high = 67.5,
    or a multiple of 1.6 which he calls the speed drive

    Still a single speed chainline
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-24-10 at 02:50 PM.

  20. #20
    Senior Member slide23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
    I know a lot of you here run SS/FG bikes in the snow. With where I live and the commute that I do, this is not an option...
    Why not? Serious question. Have you tried FG on your existing commute?
    "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

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    Quote Originally Posted by slide23 View Post
    Why not? Serious question. Have you tried FG on your existing commute?
    I haven't and I won't. Even with the lower of the two gears I typically spin along with on the flats, climbing the hill to get back home with a few groceries would have me standing and grinding at a cadence of just 40-45 for 12-14 minutes.

    I assume the OP has similar issues to overcome.

  22. #22
    Senior Member martinus's Avatar
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    This will be trial and error, for you ... to many variables. ( the big one, how many inches of snow you have. )

    .
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    Bend the knees, watch the trees ... 5 $ please .

  23. #23
    Senior Member Chalupa102's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the feedback.


    Quote Originally Posted by cachehiker View Post
    I haven't and I won't. Even with the lower of the two gears I typically spin along with on the flats, climbing the hill to get back home with a few groceries would have me standing and grinding at a cadence of just 40-45 for 12-14 minutes.

    I assume the OP has similar issues to overcome.
    Exactly. My commute is about 19 miles one-way and everything but flat. The climb to my house is the real killer, with an average of 11% and as high as 17% grades.
    - Dan

    Distance cycled for 2012: 2079.8 miles

  24. #24
    AEO
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    for what it's worth, the knobs and studs do add rolling resistance so it's nice to have one or two lower gears than what you can get away with when there's no snow or ice to deal with.

    I'm nearly spinning out with 13-34 cassette, 26-36-46 chainrings and 26x1.5" tires on pavement for windy days.
    I figure this will be almost perfect for light off-road when there's snow, ice and 26x1.9" or 26x2.1" studded tires.
    Food for thought: if you aren't dead by 2050, you and your entire family will be within a few years from starvation. Now that is a cruel gift to leave for your offspring. ;)
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  25. #25
    Soma Lover
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chalupa102 View Post
    The climb to my house is the real killer, with an average of 11% and as high as 17% grades.
    Wow! Mine just escalates over a generous mile: 4%, then 6%, then 8%, then one block of rest before 10%. I don't even need the two lowest gears to get up it but I'm glad I have them. Someday I might find myself toting multiple 12 packs on the way home after one too many at the local tavern.

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