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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 12-23-10, 06:53 PM   #1
silverwolf
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How about this idea?

I'd like some feedback from the Winter Cycling forum on an idea I had.

It's "the ultimate, basic winter bike". Goals are to make it relatively inexpensive, as maintenance-free and corrosion-proof as possible, and yet usable with non-winter tires year-round.

I was thinking something along these lines-

-26" wheels (alloy of course) due to tire availability and cost, everything from racing slicks to balloon slicks to huge fat studded tires. Possibly a pair of 26" mags.

-Drop bars, for hand positions, looks, and general usability. Sacrifices some off-road handling capability but does better than flats or risers everywhere else.

-One-piece crank with alloy or chrome chainring. Heavy, but easy to rebuild with basic tools and pretty much indestructible. If one gets rusted to oblivion, replacements are very cheap.

-Fixed-gear, but with a "hybrid"-type ratio (usually about 55-70 GI) to make it suitable for normal use as well as winter bombardment. Again implies a compromise, but seems doable if you know your ideal gear range.

-Generator headlamp and possibly taillamp. No maintenance, and if the wires are wrapped and insulated they can be pretty sturdy and water-resistant. Decent ones are cheap on Ebay and the like.

-BMX alloy pedals with straps. Due to the one-piece crank the pedals can be had cheaply.

-As many alloy components as possible, for obvious reasons.

Anything I'm missing? There are a few other issues (bar tape type, saddle type, frame material/type, etc) I haven't figured out well yet.
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Old 12-23-10, 07:52 PM   #2
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I'd use the SA S3X hub. 3 speed internal, but all fixed gears, so you have a decent range for all situations. Has a bar end shifter so that jives with the drop bars anyways (I'd go Salsa Woodchipper). The rest sounds pretty solid and can be done reasonably cheap. Steel frame (treated with frame saver), bar tape of recycled inner tubes, and you'd have a pretty corrosion resistant little beast too.
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Old 12-23-10, 08:49 PM   #3
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For me the ultimate winter bike is the one you can press into service quickly without spending a bunch of money... I happened to have a hybrid hanging around, bought some studded tires and just started using it. With the way salt cruds up the components and even the frame, I'd be reluctant to think "ultimate".

Here's mine:

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Old 12-23-10, 08:54 PM   #4
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Used to be a fixed gear with drop bars...



Swapped the drive to an internal three speed w generator and installed trekking bars to make it an even better winter ride.

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Old 12-23-10, 09:36 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by silverwolf View Post
I'd like some feedback from the Winter Cycling forum on an idea I had.

It's "the ultimate, basic winter bike". Goals are to make it relatively inexpensive, as maintenance-free and corrosion-proof as possible, and yet usable with non-winter tires year-round.

I was thinking something along these lines-

-26" wheels (alloy of course) due to tire availability and cost, everything from racing slicks to balloon slicks to huge fat studded tires. Possibly a pair of 26" mags.

-Drop bars, for hand positions, looks, and general usability. Sacrifices some off-road handling capability but does better than flats or risers everywhere else.

-One-piece crank with alloy or chrome chainring. Heavy, but easy to rebuild with basic tools and pretty much indestructible. If one gets rusted to oblivion, replacements are very cheap.

-Fixed-gear, but with a "hybrid"-type ratio (usually about 55-70 GI) to make it suitable for normal use as well as winter bombardment. Again implies a compromise, but seems doable if you know your ideal gear range.

-Generator headlamp and possibly taillamp. No maintenance, and if the wires are wrapped and insulated they can be pretty sturdy and water-resistant. Decent ones are cheap on Ebay and the like.

-BMX alloy pedals with straps. Due to the one-piece crank the pedals can be had cheaply.

-As many alloy components as possible, for obvious reasons.

Anything I'm missing? There are a few other issues (bar tape type, saddle type, frame material/type, etc) I haven't figured out well yet.
Feedback:

Most of your ideas seem good but a few things you might wish to reconsider. First, drop bars. Yes, they have more hand positions and this is an advantage for long rides but this is not really the most important criterion for a winter bike since you won't be riding as far or as much in winter. I would say that in my experience flat bars are preferred on winter bikes by at least a 3:1 ratio over drop bars. No reason why drop bars can't work, they can. But flat bars offer some advantages that the majority of riders like in slick and cold situations. They offer more of a feeling of control because of the wider hand placement and can help you retain balance a little better in a sliding situation. They work better with gloves, mittens and pogies and it is easier to have graduated brake control for feathering the brakes in slick conditions with mountain bike kind of brake levers. You can react faster when you need to brake with flat bars. Often you may have to brake hard on a clear patch of pavement before you hit an ice spot further on that you know you must slow down for or will crash. This is easier to do with flat bar brake handles. You can get skilled enough with road bike brakes but you have to be more aware, skilled and careful. Only you can know what works best for your style and feel so I would suggest trying flat bars first on a winter bike if you haven't already enough experience to know what works best for you.

Second, gearing. If you get into a situation where you have to ride on crusty or slushy snow you need really low gears unless you have only a few blocks to ride. You can power your way through a short distance but not for any kind of a reasonably long distance. You need at least a three speed with a lower overall gearing than what will work for warm weather riding. So making the bike suitable for both only works if you can change the chain and rear sprocket to a higher gearing for summer. The only way to solve this without changing the rear sprocket is to have a Schlumpf (don't know if I spelled that right) drive on the crank. Which is a really nice and perhaps the ultimate solution for a winter bike. But it is really expensive.

I would only recommend fixed gear if you are very athletic and have experience riding fixed already. Very easy to lock up the rear wheel on ice when you are tired in a moment when you want to coast. Fixie is good for serious training but coaster is better for commuting since you can rest a little and stay less sweaty when you get to work.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:28 PM   #6
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Brakes: Disc or drum. Rim brakes just don't perform reliably in seriously snowy and slushy weather.
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Old 12-24-10, 12:55 PM   #7
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Brakes: Disc or drum. Rim brakes just don't perform reliably in seriously snowy and slushy weather.
This; very important.

I cannot tell you how many times rim brakes have failed me in the snow/rain. The sole reason i removed the freewheel system on all but one of my bikes was due to inclement or less-than-satisfactory weather. I still fit the bikes with a front brake for dry conditions and 'holy shnikes' situations, however.

In terms of tires, I've done fairly well with a relatively thin tire (I bought some cheap Cheng Shin C637's, which are about 1-1/4") but then again I'm in the city and the chances of finding an unplowed section is relatively low.
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Old 12-24-10, 01:26 PM   #8
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I still use rim brakes but I live in the desert.

Disc brakes work better but we're talking about a winter commuter here. I'm not going to go out and plunk down good $$$ for a new bike to ride in the snow and slush and I'd rather have good quality V-brakes than Mal-wart quality disc brakes. Beggars can't be choosers and they work just fine unless I'm actually riding in a storm or immediately after a storm. Good storms around here imply temps halfway between frozen and thawed. If it's too cold, it doesn't snow, and you're riding on ice or dry roads. 10 warmer and the snow and slush are relegated to the shoulders after a day or two.

I switch between a drop bar mountain bike and a cyclocross bike depending upon conditions. Both of them have the bars set pretty high compared to a typical road bike. If there was one thing I could change and money grew on trees, I'd get rid of the rear derailleurs in favor of internally geared hubs. I haven't ruined one yet, but I've had to stick to just one gear more than a few times.
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Old 12-24-10, 09:08 PM   #9
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This; very important.

I cannot tell you how many times rim brakes have failed me in the snow/rain. The sole reason i removed the freewheel system on all but one of my bikes was due to inclement or less-than-satisfactory weather. I still fit the bikes with a front brake for dry conditions and 'holy shnikes' situations, however.

In terms of tires, I've done fairly well with a relatively thin tire (I bought some cheap Cheng Shin C637's, which are about 1-1/4") but then again I'm in the city and the chances of finding an unplowed section is relatively low.
I have never had a problem with rim brakes on modern aluminum alloy rims. Now with the old chrome plated steel rims that is a different story. Those are dangerous when wet. Sure disks are nice and better but I can still lock up all of my mountain bikes wheels with rim brakes even in the wet as long as they are adjusted properly. The wheel only needs one rotation or so to clear off the water and any small grit in the water just makes the brakes work better as long as it's not really muddy.
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Old 12-25-10, 03:05 AM   #10
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That might be the problem, Hezz... All of my current rims are of 70's-80's construction. On my Peugeot (U08) I have the original brakes and rims, and when those things get wet, no dice; however, they can stop on a dime in perfect conditions.
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Old 12-25-10, 05:51 AM   #11
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hey OP, are you actually building this bike to ride around Houston (as your location indicates?) if that's the case then we can dismiss all this getting-through-the-snow part of winter discussion.

2 things:
1) FENDERS. you may have thought about them but just didn't mention them. you are going to be facing rain more than snow (provided you are in houston) but even snow it's nice to have them... so it's important to get a frame that accommodates them
2) i would use a 3-piece crank. the reason for this is that a sealed bottom bracket will work YEARS longer with 0 maintenance than a 1piece crank, which always have ****ty seals (if any at all) and will require constant attention through a wet/slushy winter. sure it's cheap to replace, but at what cost. i'd rather spent $50 on a basic sealed BB and used crank than whatever slight money you MIGHT save over the years on a 1piece crank plus the replacement parts, bearings, grease, and time put into keeping it running smoothly.
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Old 12-25-10, 08:03 AM   #12
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Change the handlebars and move from a fixed gear to a single speed and you're fairly close to the 26" bikes I rode year round back in the early 70s.
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Old 12-25-10, 10:52 AM   #13
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Easy for me to assume that everybody with a better than Mal-wart bike is on modern aluminum rims in this day and age.

The pads make a big difference too. I use Kool Stop Salmons most of the time. The stock pads on one recent set of Tektro cantis and on an older set of Aceras were still effective but a bit of a let down in the rain. They got swapped out the next time those bikes were on the workstand.

Fenders: a necessary evil. I only have one bike out of six that is typically fendered although three have rear racks. They don't offer any protection for the drive train and my feet still get wet, but they do keep the spray off my back well enough for me to get by when the forecast calls for scattered rainstorms.
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Old 12-25-10, 11:18 AM   #14
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I have never had a problem with rim brakes on modern aluminum alloy rims. Now with the old chrome plated steel rims that is a different story. Those are dangerous when wet. Sure disks are nice and better but I can still lock up all of my mountain bikes wheels with rim brakes even in the wet as long as they are adjusted properly. The wheel only needs one rotation or so to clear off the water and any small grit in the water just makes the brakes work better as long as it's not really muddy.
There is a world of difference between wet and snow. In snow, the pads and rims can accumulate snow on them while riding. When you squeeze the levers after that happens you end up with the calipers squeezing snow, not the rim. End result: No stopping.
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Old 12-25-10, 01:30 PM   #15
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Gates carbon belt drive anyone?
My bike has been at subzero temps for about 3 weeks. I keep adding oil but I dont think it penetrates well in the cold.
My Dahon Cadenza is working out to be the ideal winter frame. In case of extreme emergency I can even fold it and take it in a taxi bus or train. I really need to replace the oil in the hub with grease but that is do-able. It comes in singlespeed, 8IHG or 3x8 varieties, take your pick.
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Old 12-25-10, 02:18 PM   #16
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There is a world of difference between wet and snow. In snow, the pads and rims can accumulate snow on them while riding. When you squeeze the levers after that happens you end up with the calipers squeezing snow, not the rim. End result: No stopping.
In the western U.S. where I live this is less of a problem because the snow is either dry and doesn't stick as bad or is really wet and easily wipes off. I have spent some serious time in upstate NY though and I know that what you say is true in that part of the U.S. In that area the winter snow is much more likely to ice up in such a way that it interferes with rim brake action. I would recommend disk brakes in the Northeastern states because of this.
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Old 12-25-10, 05:59 PM   #17
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In the western U.S. where I live this is less of a problem because the snow is either dry and doesn't stick as bad or is really wet and easily wipes off. I have spent some serious time in upstate NY though and I know that what you say is true in that part of the U.S. In that area the winter snow is much more likely to ice up in such a way that it interferes with rim brake action. I would recommend disk brakes in the Northeastern states because of this.
Fair point. Still, for a generic "winter bike" without specific locational caveats, I'd say discs are better than not discs. They might not be critical depending on location, but someone is unlikely to go "damn, I wish I hadn't put discs on my winter bike", and they don't add that much cost or weight to the build.
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Old 12-25-10, 06:53 PM   #18
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and they don't add that much cost or weight to the build.
disc wheels, disc frame, disc fork, and disc brakes is what it would cost me.
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Old 12-26-10, 12:17 AM   #19
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Here's mine, built from junk I had laying around:



It's built up with many of the things you listed (26" rims, fixed gear, pedals with straps, etc) although I think it is far from "ultimate." I would not recommend drop bars for a few reasons: in snow, you want ultimate control which IMO only comes from a straight or straight-ish bar. If the bike is fixed, and geared low enough to traverse snow, you won't be able to go fast enough to make drop bars worthwhile because you'll just spin out first. Another issue with putting them on an old mountain bike is that the drops will probably be really low, especially if the frame is a tad too small like mine.

The real question is: how much snow do you really get in Houston? Do you need a hardcore winter bike?
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Old 12-27-10, 02:26 PM   #20
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Don't have any particular problems with your list but like others I would do things differently. I think a well implemented belt drive with an IGH would make a better drive train assuming some folks are going to want gears.

Don't see any inherent value in choosing 26" wheels as there is a wide variety of studded tires in both 26" and 700c sizes.

My winter bike has drops but with a nod to what Hezz was saying. They're Salsa Bell Laps which are wider than standard drops and flare out a bit at the bottom. This gives you better control for those dicey road conditions and still allows you to get into a tuck to help with those sometimes cold and nasty NW winds.
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Old 12-27-10, 08:42 PM   #21
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disc wheels, disc frame, disc fork, and disc brakes is what it would cost me.
Right but if you're getting a new-ish bike, that's not terrible to take into account. Obviously it's a much bigger issue if you're converting a bike or frame you already have, but the OP's phrasing was pretty hypothetical.
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Old 12-29-10, 01:28 AM   #22
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Sorry for not responding for a while. I will probably be moving up north (possibly even Alaska) in a couple of years, and hate the heat here in TX. That's why it's hypothetical at this point.

On the point of drops vs. straight, I appreciate the advice but I've ridden drops off-road, through mud, rain, dirt, and sand in the past year or so, previously on someone else's bike and recently on my own- when I offroad on my 29er the drops are set at about seat level (pretty high for drop bars) but that's about it.

Discs vs. v-brakes are a hard one. One one hand the cheap Promax mech. 160mms I have have done quite well in most all conditions, other than being a PITA to adjust. On the other better quality V-brakes are cheaper, easier to maintenance than mech. discs, and allow far more choice in frames and bikes, which is almost necessary for me given the crappy variety in good bikes out here.

Also, do aluminum or alloy components have any particular weaknesses?
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Old 12-29-10, 02:12 PM   #23
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Fair point. Still, for a generic "winter bike" without specific locational caveats, I'd say discs are better than not discs. They might not be critical depending on location, but someone is unlikely to go "damn, I wish I hadn't put discs on my winter bike", and they don't add that much cost or weight to the build.
I think they add maintenance. He's obviously not willing to do things like charging batteries and reassembling two piece cranks (stuff that makes changing a chain look burdensome). I doubt he's going to want to true discs, adjust the pads, or any of that.

But then again, it's got to be better than canti's.

I'm shocked he hasn't listed drum brakes. Seems like that would be the minimum maintenance.
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Old 12-29-10, 02:17 PM   #24
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There is a world of difference between wet and snow. In snow, the pads and rims can accumulate snow on them while riding. When you squeeze the levers after that happens you end up with the calipers squeezing snow, not the rim. End result: No stopping.
Yea, it's really annoying. Makes me wish I'd gotten a bike with discs for winter..

The right pads (those narrow pointed kool stops, for example) and squeezing really hard seems to do the trick. That and you learn to drag your rear brake all the time when the conditions are perfect to line your rims with snow/ice.
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Old 12-29-10, 02:18 PM   #25
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hey OP, are you actually building this bike to ride around Houston (as your location indicates?) if that's the case then we can dismiss all this getting-through-the-snow part of winter discussion.

2 things:
1) FENDERS. you may have thought about them but just didn't mention them. you are going to be facing rain more than snow (provided you are in houston) but even snow it's nice to have them... so it's important to get a frame that accommodates them
2) i would use a 3-piece crank. the reason for this is that a sealed bottom bracket will work YEARS longer with 0 maintenance than a 1piece crank, which always have ****ty seals (if any at all) and will require constant attention through a wet/slushy winter. sure it's cheap to replace, but at what cost. i'd rather spent $50 on a basic sealed BB and used crank than whatever slight money you MIGHT save over the years on a 1piece crank plus the replacement parts, bearings, grease, and time put into keeping it running smoothly.
I think a brand new one is like $80... Square taper stuff is really cheap and still pretty available.
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