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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 08-20-11, 08:58 AM   #1
Easy Peasy
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What Type of Bike is Recommended for Winter Riding?

Are mountain bikes with wider tires generally better than hybrids for snowy, icy conditions or is the safety/performance difference between these bicycle types minimal during winter? Thanks.
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Old 08-20-11, 11:25 AM   #2
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It depends.

Conditions are different for all of us. There's winter in Saskatchewan and winter in Arizona. What is winter like where you live? What are the conditions like? Where do you ride? (Road/off-road, plowed/unplowed, dry only, wet, slushy, hardpack, icy?) How far?

Where I live we get a trace to an inch of snow every single (GD) day from mid-December to late February. We don't see the sun from Thanksgiving to Easter due to snow clouds. We get snowstorms (6"-8") once a week or so. It's seldom too cold for salt to work. My riding is in the city on paved streets that are generally plowed and salted. There's hardpack for a day or two after a snowstorm. My bike is my primary transport, so it must be able to tackle all conditions. Period. There's no such thing as conditions "too bad to ride".

Personal preference is a huge part too. Do you prefer to have to maintain only one bike? Keep using your hybrid. (My first winter was done on a hybrid.) Do you prefer an MTB? Then ride an MTB. I prefer road bikes, especially in the stiff winter gales. I ride a road bike that has sufficient clearance for my studded snow tires and full fenders.

There are far too many variables for a general statement in response to a general question. For a meaningful answer, we need more details.
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Old 08-20-11, 12:08 PM   #3
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Thanks. I'll be riding in NE Pa wintry conditions. This will be my first time commuting in winter, so I guess I'll just have to see how it is and compare my hybrid and MTB. I bet the bike/ped paths won't be plowed, so I'll have to do it all on plowed roads (4 miles). Cheers.
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Old 08-20-11, 03:18 PM   #4
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My one-way route is plowed road for a 1/2 mile, 1.5 miles on late-plowed MUP, then 1/2 mile on plowed shoulder. Ice is rarely a problem because it's too cold for any melt to happen! I can get by on my own in about 6" of unplowed snow fairly easily. The MUP is usually plowed in the afternoon, so I'll only need to deal with the deep snow in the morning on the way in.



Granted my Pugsley is overkill for most days, but there are certainly a few where it is invaluable. It is definitely fun though!
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Old 08-20-11, 06:00 PM   #5
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Pretty much any bike can be used for winter commuting. People use road bikes, MTB's, hybrids, cross bikes, fixies.
The most important thing about winter cycling is dressing properly and making yourself visible to drivers. Start with whatever bike you have now and just ride it.
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Old 08-20-11, 07:23 PM   #6
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Thanks everyone, you are an inspiration!
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Old 08-20-11, 11:35 PM   #7
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We get a lot of freeze/thaw cycles through the winter here, interspersed by dumps of snow and the occasional cold snap. Last year we had record-breaking snowfall with 3x the normal average dumping. In one 24-hour period alone we got 110 cm (~43 inches) of snow.



I commuted through my first winter on a 24-speed hybrid with rim brakes and a set of 35mm studded tires. It was adequate, but I found that it was lacking in a number of respects. First and foremost, I hated the constant cleaning of the drivetrain. I found it to be a real hassle. Secondly, my derailleur froze up on me a few times. After the first time it happened I learned to keep the bike in 4th gear when I locked it up, so that I could at least limp home. Lastly, my rim brakes ended up caked in ice on a number of occasions, rendering them virtually useless.



I decided that the ultimate winter commuter for me would have an internally geared hub (IGH) to negate the shifting problems, disc brakes that would perform consistently in all weather conditions, and belt drive to reduce maintenance. Despite the newness of belt drive for bicycles I settled on a 2010 Norco Ceres. My commute is mostly paved surface streets, and the city is pretty good about plowing, so I didn't feel the need for a fat-tired beast that would float over top of snow. Instead I opted for the set that had worked well on my hybrid, Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires. They cut through new snow and slush to find purchase on the frozen pavement beneath, and on ice their grip is surprisingly sure-footed.



Obviously, what works for one does not necessarily work for another. My setup works for me in the conditions that I face. As members here are fond of saying, your mileage may vary.

Ride safe!
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Old 08-21-11, 03:29 PM   #8
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MTB is better, because it can run really fat tires.
end of story
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Old 08-21-11, 08:56 PM   #9
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Do studded MTB tires make a big performance difference over standard MTB tires?
Can you you use studded tires over dry ground periodically without damaging them?
How many seasons do studded tires generally last?
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Old 08-21-11, 10:06 PM   #10
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Ice + studs =

Ice + studless =

As long as you use carbide-tipped studs, you can ride on bare pavement without causing them any appreciable wear.

Last edited by irclean; 08-21-11 at 10:16 PM.
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Old 08-22-11, 07:34 AM   #11
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Do studded MTB tires make a big performance difference over standard MTB tires?
Can you you use studded tires over dry ground periodically without damaging them?
How many seasons do studded tires generally last?
Where many people go off the rails regarding tires is the knobby (or aggressive tread) vs. studs issue. They seem to think if you have one you don't need the other.

This is a false assumption.

Aggressive tread (or knobbies) grip loose surfaces, like snow, mud or sand. On ice, they're just as useless as slicks.

Studs bite into ice. Newbies think that's useful mainly to starting and stopping. But as it turns out, it's mainly useful for steering and balance, so the bike doesn't slide out sideways from beneath you. This is also why, if you can afford only one studded tire, it goes on the front. When the front wheel slides out, it goes fast and you go down quick and hard. When the rear slides out, it does so slowly and you can sometimes get a foot out in time.

Since studs are so small, they don't do much for grip in loose surfaces. So you need both in a winter tire--aggressive tread and studs.

As for longevity, it depends entirely on the type of stud. Plain steel studs, found in cheap tires (like Innova) won't even last one season when ridden daily on roads. There's a reason why they sell those restudding kits and no-one else does. Carbide studs, found in more expensive tires (like Nokian, Schwalbe and Continental) will last several seasons. I have five seasons on my Nokians with no appreciable wear.
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Old 08-24-11, 06:24 AM   #12
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Thanks TSI and others. I'm learning a great deal!
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Old 08-24-11, 08:48 AM   #13
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Well after using a fender and studded snow tire equipped MB last winter I am going for a CX bike this year. Even though I rode pretty much every day last winter I lost too much speed conditioning on the MB. Found myself on my rain bike a lot also. So I'm hoping the CX will be the best compromise for me.
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Old 08-24-11, 05:53 PM   #14
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Some people would think I'm cracked but for urban commuting, my folder is my preferred winter bike. The disc brakes on my MTB are better for sure but for all around handling my folder is tops. All of the pictures shown in this thread so far are what I've ridden my folder in with knobbies. This year I'm adding studded 20-inchers to better cope with the icy days.
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Old 08-25-11, 06:19 AM   #15
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Listen to tsl. He knows his beans when it comes to winter cycling.

Studs are goodness. They'll change your attitude towards ice storms. There is something about that feeling when your tires hit glare ice and your studs bite in. It's rare that I get significant stretches of glare ice, but I love it when I get one.

Wide versus narrow tire probably depends upon your riding conditions. I do a lot of short trips (1-2 miles) in a town that leaves a layer of hardpack snow on the streets to accommodate snowmobile traffic. Much of the time it is really the lugs that matter, because that hardpack isn't necessarily frozen solid. But there are enough frozen spots that the studs matter too. So I run a mountain-bike with the widest and studliest tires that I can buy.

The downside to my choice that I've just described is that when I venture onto a road that has been plowed to the pavement, then I'm working pretty hard due the resistance from the lugs and the studs. Were I on plowed-to-the-pavement roads most of the time, I would at least try out some narrower, less-lugged, but still studded tires.

BTW, I went with a mountain-bike for winter riding because that's what I had available. I had a spare hardtail to use when I first began winter riding. I've stuck with that type of bike due mainly to inertia. I'd reconsider it though, if my rides were longer and on different surface conditions.
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Old 08-25-11, 09:51 AM   #16
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I think the best type of bike for winter riding is one that you don't mind sacrificing to the rigors of the season. My pride-and-joy bike that lives hanging up in the basement protected from the elements would not be a good bike for winter riding.

The first year I decided to commute all winter I only had my Giant hardtail mountain bike, so that's what I used. I didn't have studded tires that first year. I crashed a lot. Between slamming to the ground repeatedly and the constant salt and moisture, my beautiful looking bike wasn't very beautiful come spring. At that point I decided to dedicate my mountain bike to winter riding and I bought another bike for commuting during the rest of the year.

As a side note, even though I'm now running studded tires I still do go down occasionally. For example, last winter I went down twice. The first was during a fresh snowfall where I was riding down a MUP and hit a branch or something hidden under the snow. The second was after a very heavy snowfall where I was going down a steep decline and found a drift at the bottom that was deep enough to quickly bring my front wheel to a stop and launch my body over the bars. In both cases I landed in snow and didn't suffer anything more than a few small bruises and some humiliation. My speeds decrease substantially in the winter so when I do go down it's usually not a big deal.
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Old 08-25-11, 10:14 PM   #17
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The plows seem to leave our development for the last run of the day, and the roads literally freeze curb to curb with frozen ridges and ruts created by car tires. Is it really possible to ride on such a surface with studded bicycle tires?
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Old 08-26-11, 03:06 AM   #18
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Tires such as Nokian Extremes, Schwalbe Ice Spiker are very agressive and they are designed to handle frozen ruts.. however you still need to be careful and slow down when riding icy ruts. What you need to understand is that studded tires do not make you invincible... sure they will allow you to ride through places that other regular tires won't.. but you still need to be careful. Riding skills are also important, it's not just the tires. The best thing to do is the get out there and ride, the more you ride the better you will become, and after a while you'll develop a feel for the road conditions and you'll know how to deal with it. Like some other posters in this thread , all I can say is that studded tires are worth the money, they will open new oppurtinities for winter
riding, they will allow you to ride safely through places that regular tires never could.
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Old 08-26-11, 07:48 AM   #19
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The plows seem to leave our development for the last run of the day, and the roads literally freeze curb to curb with frozen ridges and ruts created by car tires. Is it really possible to ride on such a surface with studded bicycle tires?
Yes.

Those conditions are called "refreeze". As you've already guessed, refreeze is one of the most challenging winter conditions to ride in.

Your best bet there is an MTB with the widest, studliest tires you can find. The studs along the outer edges of the tire are the ones that help you get out of frozen ruts. The Nokian 300 or Extreme 294 would be your best choices.
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Old 09-23-11, 11:47 AM   #20
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I mostly ride on MUPs that don't have snow cleared off of them, although in my area (Denver) snow doesn't stick around all that long usually anyways. This is going to be my first winter riding my bike, and I'm curious: for these conditions should I be looking into fatter or skinnier tires? I'm unsure if a skinnier tire will be good because it can cut through the snow, or if I'm going to need a fat tire since I'm not on a road so there might be a bit of snow buildup.
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Old 10-18-11, 05:46 AM   #21
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I know this thread is a wee bit old, but thanks for it. It saved me having to start a thread about the same thing.

{{Off to shop for studded tires for the very old mountain bike now****
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