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  1. #1
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    N+1 First Winter Commuting Bike

    I have this crazy idea that I want to keep commuting this winter. Not that I'm looking forward to see the snow fly here in Iowa which can be pretty brutal at times but I am looking forward to this new challenge.

    The problem is my friends don't think that bike #3, an Electra Townie 21D, is the bike for the task at hand. They seem to think a MTB is a better choice for this type of riding.

    So with that I've been eyeing CL for possible candidates but since I'm not the smartest as far what brands to look at/for I thought I would ask here what others think. I'm not looking for the best of the best but I do want something that will be reliable and take the abuse it will be getting from the weather.

    The bikes in no order...

    http://desmoines.craigslist.org/bik/2632110515.html

    http://desmoines.craigslist.org/bik/2625657055.html

    Thoughts on which of these bikes (the MTB and the Townie) would be best bike for what I'm wanting to do?

    Thanks for any and all input.

    fasthair

    Edit: I should add that both are a size 18. I ride a 56 road bike. I'm 6' with a 33" inseam. Is this the size MTB I should be looking at for my size?
    Last edited by fasthair; 10-05-11 at 04:51 PM.

  2. #2
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    The frame sizes might be a little small for you. You need to ride them both and decide.

  3. #3
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    FWIW I think the Townie would be just fine for winter commuting. Slap some studded tires and fenders on that sucker and have at 'er!
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  4. #4
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Wow, an 18" frame is too tiny for me, and I'm 5'8"!

    Keep us posted on your search... I've never ever considered commuting past fall, but this crazy forum has me thinking about it this year.

    - Scott
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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    One of them is a steel frame, I would be a little hesitant about that though unless it's started rusting it's not necessarily the end of the world, but steel can rust while Aluminum does not.

    I don't know if the Townie would just as good or not. I know if has different geometry, whereas a mountain bike is built for the kind of rough riding you run into in winter.

    The biggest thing, though, is getting a bike that's the right size for you.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the responses folks. I did go ride the first listed bike last night and it is too small by far so there is no need to go look at the other since it is the same size. Not to mention it wasn't nearly as nice in person, bent pedals just for starters. And yes it was steel which just isn't going to cut in the winter. I will say though that riding it was worlds apart from my 3 rides right now, wow.

    After this little lesson I've decided the budget might have to grow just a bit more to get something with some quality which isn't that big of deal. So the search is still on and I'm in no hurry.

    As far as the Townie goes it's got all the right stuff parts wise. It can mount fenders and a front disk brake if I choose to go that route and has suspension fork. It's already has a rack and trunk with fold out saddle bags since it is my around the 'hood bike. All it would take is to lever these studded snow tires I have on the wheels and a trip to the LBS for a set of Planet Bike fenders.

    As far as how to dress I've learned a lot reading in this forum. Plus I'm known as crazy around here because I always rode my Harley until it snowed so some of that clothes will transfer over.

    Keep the thoughts coming and I'll do the same.

    fasthair

  7. #7
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fasthair View Post
    After this little lesson I've decided the budget might have to grow just a bit more to get something with some quality which isn't that big of deal. So the search is still on and I'm in no hurry.
    Actually, from my experience you don't want to ride your nicest, best-quality bike all winter. Winter riding is very hard on the components. After my first year of riding my bike all winter it looked like my bike had aged 20 years. At that point I regulated it to a dedicated winter commuter and bought a new commuter for nicer weather. I recommend getting a cheap bike you don't mind abusing for your winter ride. Obviously, you want better than X-mart quality, but don't think you need a "105 or better" bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by fasthair View Post
    As far as how to dress I've learned a lot reading in this forum. Plus I'm known as crazy around here because I always rode my Harley until it snowed so some of that clothes will transfer over.
    I do the same with my motorcycle. My record for riding M/C was 4 degrees, but admittedly I didn't leave town. Highway speeds at that temp is downright painful. You'll actually find it a lot easier riding your bicycle in the winter versus riding your motorcycle. On bike you generate heat as you ride, so you stay a lot warmer. You'll quickly discover you don't need to wear near as much clothing as on a motorcycle.

    My coldest bicycle commute to date was -14F. Even at that temp I didn't wear anything heavier than a windbreaker. My feet and hands are the biggest problem areas for keeping warm. Everything else stays pretty toasty just from body heat, except for occasionally my nose.

    Haven't solved the nose issue yet below zero. If I pull my balaclava up over my nose to keep it warm, then my goggles ice over from my breath. I've half-seriously considered a swimming snorkle to get the steam from my breath up above my head where it won't interfere with my goggles. I'm fredly enough as it is without going down that path, though.
    '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork

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  8. #8
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Yes... you are crazy.

    Welcome to the asylum.

    Winter is too long here to ride a crappy bike and with proper care a bicycle can survive countless winters without issues and have retired two of my old winter bikes as after numerous winters were still in beautiful shape and put them to use as my touring bike and every day urban assault vehicle.

    The new winter bike is also pretty nice... it's is a nice steel Norco mtb which I expect to use for many winters.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
    Actually, from my experience you don't want to ride your nicest, best-quality bike all winter. Winter riding is very hard on the components. After my first year of riding my bike all winter it looked like my bike had aged 20 years. At that point I regulated it to a dedicated winter commuter and bought a new commuter for nicer weather. I recommend getting a cheap bike you don't mind abusing for your winter ride. Obviously, you want better than X-mart quality, but don't think you need a "105 or better" bike.
    Sure - though I do agree with the OP that they should start with something that's not already half broken with bent pedals and such. That's just an abused bike. :-)

    One can go the cheap beater route, or also the far more expensive but also more durable internal hub route. Not everyone has liked them but they also make internal hub + belt instead of a chain for winter biking as well. Both ways keep the more expensive derailler from being exposed to the grit and grime.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
    Haven't solved the nose issue yet below zero. If I pull my balaclava up over my nose to keep it warm, then my goggles ice over from my breath. I've half-seriously considered a swimming snorkle to get the steam from my breath up above my head where it won't interfere with my goggles. I'm fredly enough as it is without going down that path, though.
    lol, most practical Fred thing I've seen (and considered) on that front puts a mask over your face, attached to a hose that runs into your jacket. In addition to not fogging up your goggles, the air in your jacket is much warmer to breath in.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Ive gota rigid fork, hardtail with drum brakes.. as my winter bike..,
    has been fine , calculated the Nokian studded tires are 20 years old, and still fine..

    though winter freeze-ups are episodic, not months at a time..

  11. #11
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    lol, most practical Fred thing I've seen (and considered) on that front puts a mask over your face, attached to a hose that runs into your jacket. In addition to not fogging up your goggles, the air in your jacket is much warmer to breath in.
    Just don't fart!
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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  12. #12
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
    Actually, from my experience you don't want to ride your nicest, best-quality bike all winter. Winter riding is very hard on the components. After my first year of riding my bike all winter it looked like my bike had aged 20 years.
    Sorry you had poor experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    Winter is too long here to ride a crappy bike and with proper care a bicycle can survive countless winters without issues…
    My experience is the same as Sixty Fiver.

    I don't want to ride a crappy bike for five months of the year, and I don't want a crappy bike to crap out on me in the middle of a blizzard. My primary commuter is the same bike, all 52 weeks. This also means I don't have to adjust to a different bike at the same time as I'm adjusting to different conditions.

    My Trek Portland was $1,700 sticker price, now has a helluva lot more in accessories ($800 in wheels alone, due to the dynamo hub, not shown in the pics below) and we're entering our fifth winter. It still looks new, and component wear has been limited to chains (twice a year), cassettes (every other year), the middle chainring (four years) and brake pads (every spring). Yeah, despite the studs, I manage to fall with it once a year on average. Biggest damage was ripped bar tape.

    I commute every workday on it,



    and run all my errands with it. Sometimes I even have to dig out a parking spot at the bank or the store.



    (Pics from two different winters. Tried different fenders this particular year. Went back to SKS since then.)
    Last edited by tsl; 10-11-11 at 08:28 AM.
    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.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Sorry you had poor experience.



    My experience is the same as Sixty Fiver.

    I don't want to ride a crappy bike for five months of the year, and I don't want a crappy bike to crap out on me in the middle of a blizzard. My primary commuter is the same bike, all 52 weeks. This also means I don't have to adjust to a different bike at the same time as I'm adjusting to different conditions.

    My Trek Portland was $1,700 sticker price, now has a helluva lot more in accessories ($800 in wheels alone, due to the dynamo hub, not shown in the pics below) and we're entering our fifth winter. It still looks new, and component wear has been limited to chains (twice a year), cassettes (every other year), the middle chainring (four years) and brake pads (every spring). Yeah, despite the studs, I manage to fall with it once a year on average. Biggest damage was ripped bar tape.

    I commute every workday on it,



    and run all my errands with it. Sometimes I even have to dig out a parking spot at the bank or the store.



    (Pics from two different winters. Tried different fenders this particular year. Went back to SKS since then.)
    We lived in Roch before we moved to Canada and I think I recognize where you are!!

    And nice bike, by the way!

  14. #14
    stupid after seven Ratchet's Avatar
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    I am building up an old steel rigid frame for this winter, and I'll be the first to say, it's not for the feint of heart (nor checkbook)...
    I am going with an internally geared hub, but getting a wheel built is proving to be harder than I thought (not to mention not cheap). I am in agreement with the winter pros here, winter is too long (and dangerous) to ride a piece of crap bike, so I am going for reliable instead. It's maybe not so funny that I didn't want to invest in a Pugsley until I knew I liked snow riding, but I'll probably sink over half the price into the $40 frame, anyway.
    Let us know what you decide... I'll be watching to see what I can learn from you.
    Proud to be rockin' it Wilma-style...

  15. #15
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    Just for clarification, I never advocated riding a piece of crap. My winter bike is an older Giant mountain bike from the lower-end of their line. Definitely not crap, but it's not the holy grail either. I've just decided that for me, I don't ride the bikes I value the most during the winter.

    I realize some people ride the same bike throughout the year and it works for them. For me, I prefer to leave mine set up for winter and just pull it off the wall when the snow flies. I'm also not going to cry when I hit a big rut and go down and scratch up the paint.

    But I agree completely that you never want to ride crap. Life's too short for that nonsense.
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    Well after a failed attempt (long story) at Ebay I ended up finding this bike locally at a second hand sporting good store. About the only thing that is going to take some work is figuring out how to mount a front fender. It's got a place for the upper mount to bolt to the fork bridge but nothing for the stays to mount to so I'll have to figure that out. I've got a couple of ideas we'll just have to see how they work out. The back is set up for a fender so that's all good.

    As near as I can tell it's a model year 2008 Scott Reflex 45. Front and rear cable operated disc brakes 8 speed in the back with a triple up front. Suntour XCR fork with I'm guessing 100mm of travel with lockout. Came with a Blackburn tail light (batteries dead natch) and a Blackburn Delphi 3.0 computer and if it is to believed it shows 152 miles. Other than needing a good cleaning and some minor adjustments to the shifters there are only a few little chips in the paint that should touch up easy enough. All of the cables are good but I might replace them out of principle with some Teflon coated cables which I'm sure will help with cable freezing. For $250.00 I don't think I did bad in the deal.

    I decided against using the Townie because I rode it a week or so ago and it just wasn't as fun as I remember the bike being since I went to a road bike a couple of months back. And it rides nothing like my H600 Cannondale hybrid. I've got a hunch the Townie is going to go up for sale since I don't ride it anymore. It's only a year old so I should be able to about break even paying for this bike.

    So the winter commuting adventure begins.... well once we get some snow.

    fasthair

    PS Sorry about the crummy photo. This is just as it came real quick cell phone photo.


    Last edited by fasthair; 10-25-11 at 03:42 PM.

  17. #17
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fasthair View Post
    It's got a place for the upper mount to bolt to the fork bridge but nothing for the stays to mount to so I'll have to figure that out. I've got a couple of ideas we'll just have to see how they work out.
    I had that happen with my front fender as well. I wound up using a few zip ties to hold the stays up against the fork. Seems to have worked fine for a few years now. I had one zip tie snap after a couple winters use, but it was an easy fix to tie another one on.
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  18. #18
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    Fork Stays Mount

    TundraMan: My original plan was to use something like a "P" Clamp but my local Home Depot didn't have them in the correct size. The sales person who was helping me showed me these zip ties that have a little mounting hole on the end of them and work perfect. A bag of 10 for 2 bucks make them cheap enough to see how well they work. Time will tell but these are so simple that they were worth a try.



    All that is left is mount the studded tires, give the thing a good cleaning and some wax and lube the cables and other parts that need lube and I'll be ready.

    fasthair

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    Just be aware that fenders on a winter bike tend to accumulate snow in the winter. The tire kicks up snow, it gets kicked up into the fender, then it builds up enough to hit the tire so the tire is rubbing against it. This puts some stress on the fender as the tire scrapes against the snow and moving the snow back off the fender.

    If you fender ever comes off and gets jammed between the tire and the fork on the front wheel, you will suddenly and immediately completely lose control of the bike without any chance whatsoever to react. If it happens on the back tire it's bad but usually you have a chance to react and keep the bike under control as it comes to lurching stop.

    For this reason, I would not rely on zipties to hold on a fender, especially the front fender. When people lose control of the front tire that's when people break a collarbone or get thrown off their bike, there's no skill that lets you recover from completely losing control of the front tire (the back one is different).

    Obviously it's your call, and on a mountain bike like that you do have more clearance than normal between the tire and the front fork, so things may not be as likely to jam up as with a more roady bike. But I wouldn't take the risk, I'd rather ride without fenders than have them held on with zip ties (particularly for winter riding).

  20. #20
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    IME, zip ties are stronger than most factory mudguard fittings.

    I agree with the comments about jammed fenders. This is a reason to use the releasable clips supplied with most modern front fenders. You can still use zip ties to fasten the clips, just put them through the hole in the clip.

  21. #21
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    I think the nylon zip tie is stronger than the plastic my Planet Bike Hardcore ATB fenders are made from. If something gets jammed, I'd count on the fender snapping off before the zip tie breaks.

    My plastic PB front fender broke my first winter. I epoxied it back together and it's holding, but I'm not sold on the long term durability of these things.
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    PaulRivers: Your concern is noted and appreciated. Snow/ice packed fenders do present an issue that needs be looked after and taken care of. These zip ties are rated to have a 50lbs tensile strength and how much the cold will affect that is unknown. I would think if something put that kind of force on the fender and tire I've got other things to worry about. However I'm not so sure these little zip ties are really going to be a problem if they do break. The simple fact that the fender stays are under some tension outward of the wheel assembly if one was to break the stay will naturally spring out away from the wheel assembly.

    fasthair

  23. #23
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    It always helps to know where folks are from and what kind of conditions they expect... for me a winter bike needs studded tyres, full fenders, and really prefer the IGH for their good performance and low maintainence requirements.

    Also prefer the full rigid and higher volume tyres over a suspension and most do not work well in the cold we have to deal with here.

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    Sixty Fiver: I live in Iowa so the winters around here can be pretty brutal at times. I'm not overly impressed with these PB fenders but they were cheap and all any of the LBS had in stock. Since this is my first year trying this silly little idea I'm trying to keep expenses low and just try to learn. That way if it turns out I have lost my marbles for even thinking of trying this I'm not out a lot of cash.

    You comment about ridge forks was well taken and one of the things I looked for when looking for a winter bike candidate. Since this bike does have a lockout on the forks that does work I figured it was a good as. Again it maybe more lessons learned here.

    Over all so far this has been a pretty painless task. We'll see how that changes once the snow flies and I head out for that first time. As tsl says if it isn't fun than it's not worth it.

    fasthair

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    Well I got the studded snows on today and took it for a quick lap around the parking lot. Wow is this a different ride! I'm sure once there is snow on the ground these will feel a whole lot different and much smoother but for dry roads they are loud, rough and slow.

    So some questions for you pros at winter riding.

    1: Do you ride your studded tires all winter once it starts snowing or only when there is snow/ice and swap them out when it's dry?
    2: I keep reading studded tires need "broken in" on dry roads first. Do you ride the tires at max or low pressure and for how far to do this?
    3: Do you ride clip-less (cleats) or on platforms or does it depend on the conditions?
    4: Am I nuts?

    fasthair

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