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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 12-04-11, 11:29 AM   #1
Drumnagorrach
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Increased cycling effort in snow

Just ridden a 20 mile forest and moorland route that I do in 1.5 hours without snow. Today the fresh ,quite soft and clingy couple of inches ,has taken me over 2 hours ,and I'm tired.
Has any of you learned gentlemen studied the increased effort that snow causes?
Maybe come up with a rule of thumb formula e.g. 10% increase per inch of snow.
Just wondered.
Cheers
Lee
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Old 12-04-11, 02:04 PM   #2
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I guess it depends on the kind of snow as much as the depth, as well as temperature, what kind of wheel/tire you're using, etc. It's also not linear... I find it's imperceptible when there is little on the ground, but there's a threshold where it quickly goes from 'slogging it' to 'impassable'.
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Old 12-04-11, 02:54 PM   #3
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I find it's imperceptible when there is little on the ground, but there's a threshold where it quickly goes from 'slogging it' to 'impassable'.
Yes... when it gets to the impassible stage, you hope some SUV went ahead of you and created a nice wide tire track.
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Old 12-04-11, 07:14 PM   #4
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I have seen just the opposite of bike following in cars tracks...in minneapolis last year, when we really got dumped on, I remember seeing a guy on a pugsley merrily going along his way while cars spun their tires and got nowhere....

but as to the original question...I think the biggest factor for me is not the snow so much as it is the different equipment. Going from a road bike on 25mm tires to a winter bike with heavier frame, heavier wheels, and most importantly studded tires makes the biggest difference snow or no snow. I feel like I am climbing up a decent incline at all times on my winter bike. If I were to put a number on it, I would say 25% harder. On the other hand, I haven't fallen since I got my studded tires. I'll take the 12mph commute over a cracked skull any day.

as for the snow itself, I feel like once there is enough to coat your tires and get stuck in your fenders (anywhere between 1" and 4" of fresh on the ground) there isn't a big change...it just becomes impossible to bike after there is too much snow...

Cheers,

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Old 12-04-11, 07:23 PM   #5
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Depends on the type of snow too. Fresh, light, fluffy stuff isn't not so bad. If it's had time to settle and set, it gets tougher. If the sun shines on it all day and it gets a crust on top. It gets much, much tougher. If it's wet and heavy to begin with. Gets really tough to slog through. The list is endless in snow variations......
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Old 12-04-11, 09:36 PM   #6
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Snow may not be the only factor. Last winter, I notice a sharp drop in energy during a ride and found information on cold induced asthma. So, you may not be getting enough oxygen into you system along with being out of shape from all that "summer" riding. And one winter mile is worth two summer, right?
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Old 12-04-11, 10:08 PM   #7
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but as to the original question...I think the biggest factor for me is not the snow so much as it is the different equipment. Going from a road bike on 25mm tires to a winter bike with heavier frame, heavier wheels, and most importantly studded tires makes the biggest difference snow or no snow. I feel like I am climbing up a decent incline at all times on my winter bike. If I were to put a number on it, I would say 25% harder. On the other hand, I haven't fallen since I got my studded tires. I'll take the 12mph commute over a cracked skull any day.
Same here, except it's the same bike year-round, just different tires in the winter. My 28mm three-seasons tires are 250 grams, compared to my studded tires at 865 grams. It's a noticeable difference, even before you factor in rolling resistance and snow. It's part of the reason I also switch my my three-seasons 12-23 cassette to my winter 12-27.

I can't put a number on how much harder it is because a lot of it for me is psychological. What I can say is that in 2011 my average speed of all rides in January was 3 MPH slower than the average speed of all rides in July, dropping from 16.75 to 13.75. Interestingly, my top speed for both months was the same, 28 and change.

Much as I try to put a happy face on it (You'll fly in April!) by the end of February, I dread even getting on the bike and begin to wonder if I should buy a car. Fortunately, March comes along and wipes that silliness out of my head.

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Old 12-04-11, 10:50 PM   #8
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Same here, except it's the same bike year-round, just different tires in the winter. My 28mm three-seasons tires are 250 grams, compared to my studded tires at 865 grams. It's a noticeable difference, even before you factor in rolling resistance and snow.

I can't put a number on how much harder it is because a lot of it for me is psychological.
Agreed, I have a similar set up to you. Those care free pleasure cruise ride days are few and far between in the winter. You simply work much harder to go much slower. To make it through the season you have to learn to love the work, but some days that love can be hard to find!
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Old 12-05-11, 01:23 PM   #9
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Depends on the type of snow too.

Snow is usually of the damp clingy and heavy variety here in Scotland, Britains climate, generally, is moderated by the effect of the sea surrounding it,it's immpossible to get more than 200 miles inland and more like 100 miles in Scotland.
That said,after the damp stuff has fallen,the sky often clears after dark ,and the whole mess freezes.
On a more positive note, it only takes the wind to swing round to the western quarter,and the temperature could be 14 deg C in January--- it could be 5 or 6 in June.
Yes, Brits are obsessed with the weather. before any one asks.
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Old 12-05-11, 02:48 PM   #10
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it's not noticeably bad in light snow.

In heavy snow, the tires always spin slightly before they will bite and this is just tiring after a long ride.

It's not so different from riding in sand.
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Old 12-05-11, 05:27 PM   #11
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Much as I try to put a happy face on it (You'll fly in April!) by the end of February, I dread even getting on the bike and begin to wonder if I should buy a car. Fortunately, March comes along and wipes that silliness out of my head.
I'm in my third winter now and must say I really enjoy riding in the winter. I got up extra early the other day and went for a two hour ride in the snow before work (only planned an hour, but had to retrace my route due to losing something). I went for a ride again yesterday and came across some real chunky hard to ride stuff were people had stepped and the path refroze. Yeah, that wasn't so fun, but overall I just love the beauty of winter riding. I do go slower, but so what? Going to work I leave a little earlier. For my recreational rides, they are usually for an amount of time rather than distance, so going slower doesn't really matter.

Paul
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Old 12-05-11, 06:09 PM   #12
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Riding in the winter is more strenuous for many reasons... our bikes tend to be heavier, we are bundled up and are less aerodynamic, and the air density is higher relative to warmer and dryer summer conditions.

And then we have all kinds of snow and would have to look to the Sami people of Northern Europe, to which I can trace some ancestry, who have more words for snow than any other group on the planet.

Needless to say, riding in winter and on and through snow requires varying degrees of extra work.
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Old 12-06-11, 01:40 AM   #13
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The formula is. . . snow (s)=(f)riction+(I)nches x Temp2
Any added friction will add to your effort. Unless you're riding on champagne powder which has no friction at all, which make it the most lethal snow to bike on but the best to ski.
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Old 12-06-11, 07:37 AM   #14
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Yes... when it gets to the impassible stage, you hope some SUV went ahead of you and created a nice wide tire track.
I find those even harder to ride in.
slush gets compacted to ice. fluff and sticky gets compacted to blocks of snow that prevent your tires from touching the pavement below. It wouldn't be bad if the compacted stuff stayed put, but it slides around and makes steering and accelerating very difficult.
icy ruts are easier to stay upright in compared to tire tracks.
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Old 12-06-11, 08:13 PM   #15
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icy ruts are easier to stay upright in compared to tire tracks.
When you choice is 6 inches of wind-swept snow or 1 inch of compacted snow...
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Old 12-24-11, 08:27 AM   #16
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Old 12-24-11, 09:01 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Drumnagorrach View Post
Just ridden a 20 mile forest and moorland route that I do in 1.5 hours without snow. Today the fresh ,quite soft and clingy couple of inches ,has taken me over 2 hours ,and I'm tired.
Has any of you learned gentlemen studied the increased effort that snow causes?
Maybe come up with a rule of thumb formula e.g. 10% increase per inch of snow.
Just wondered.
Cheers
Lee
Its a waste of time trying to develop any kind of objective performance/time formula based on the weather. Too many variables, most of which change constantly. Also, objectively assessing your effort is difficult without a Heart Rate monitor and a Power Meter, both of which are generally too distracting to monitor in the adverse conditions. Besides, why even bother. Riding in the snow doesn't lend itself to developing performance baselines, benchmarks, or profiles. Just smile and enjoy that you are experiencing something that 99% of people will never know.

I generally don't work significantly harder when riding in the snow because I am having too much fun and enjoying the experience too much. There is nothing quite like riding past a number of cars spun around backwards in a ditch, or passing hundreds of cars "parked" on a freeway, as you casually pedal past. You may not be going as fast as you would in the spring, but often you are going faster than anyone else....
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Old 12-24-11, 10:11 AM   #18
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The formula is. . . snow (s)=(f)riction+(I)nches x Temp2
I missed this earlier, but yes... I think that's it. Is there any way I can program this on my sliderule?
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Old 12-24-11, 10:29 AM   #19
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When you choice is 6 inches of wind-swept snow or 1 inch of compacted snow...
okay, in that case, the tire tracks are easier.
but given 2in of compacted tire tracks, ice rut is easier.
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Old 12-26-11, 03:41 AM   #20
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don't back down, come spring you will be an animal you won't recognize
If only there was some consistancy in the weather!! Last Sunday there was snow ,yesterday Sunday , 12 deg C Positively balmy. Just mud and wind now.
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Old 12-26-11, 10:12 PM   #21
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On average my impression is that I am one gear lower in winter than in summer.

Every day is different though, and I don't see the point in trying to come up with a formula. It isn't just the depth of the snow. It might be loose or packed, and that will make a big difference.

Another difference not mentioned so far, is that you are pushing more snow with fat tires. I like 700 - 32 year round. On pavement with snow they are much easier to move than mb tires. The only time they are at a disadvantage is on a bike trail that is used mostly by fat tire bikes. The thinner tires will break through the snow the mbs packed, while they ride on top of it.

Not a big deal. It's a trade off I avoid, and am willing to make when I can't avoid it.
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