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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 01-05-05, 01:57 AM   #1
Wildcard
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What's the big fuss about riding in the winter, anyway?

Keep in mind, this is not meant to be inflammatory, but rather to satisfy my curiousity and perhaps encourage some to re-think their winter cycling strategy.

I read and hear about people who spend hundreds of dollars on top-notch outdoor clothing and gear to be able to commute in the winter, and who rarely go riding without an adequate weather "game plan", so to speak.

But why?

I did some reading on the winter forum before tackling this winter's riding, and came away with the perception that winter riding is an incredibly dangerous and complicated affair. I made myself a list of things I needed to get to ride through the winter (I rode last winter, but very little). I ended up procrastinating and before I knew it I had bought nothing and snow was coming within the next few days. So I bought a cheap, used but functional $20 (CDN) mountain bike with slicks. I also got myself a pair of snow pants for about $15 and ski goggles for about $25, and about $10 of miscellaneous purchases (a can of WD-40, a small pouch to protect U-lock from snow/slush, and an ordinary messenger bag - used).

Total = $70 - bike included. (items I already owned include regular winter boots, cheap winter & spring coats, good gloves, a helmet, a hat and a neck warmer)

I now ride comfortably and well-shielded from the cold, and have encountered no particular problems even in extreme weather. I've ridden on snow, slush, and even patches of ice with my mountain bike on slicks and have yet to fall in about a month of commuting 5-6 days a week. In -30 celsius temperatures, I'm riding with a plain old winter jacket I've had for a few years with a T-shirt underneath.

So again I ask, what is the big fuss about riding in the winter?

PS - I don't mean to be arrogant; I'm genuinely confused.
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Old 01-05-05, 04:52 AM   #2
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There really isnt any big deal about it. Like most things people riding in winter is easy once u try it. Tonight we got a big ice storm. I went outside and helped 3 of the women i work with get the ice off their windows and open their car doors that were frozen shut.

Then i rode home. Had i left them to their own devices by the time they were ready to roll i would have been home.

I'm riding a SS cruiser bike with moustache handlebars, a brooks b-17 seat, and a coaster brake. It has fenders, lights, and 2.1 inch knobbies. Rides like a champ.
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Old 01-05-05, 06:58 AM   #3
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I'm not a winter commuter yet, but am reading this forum to help get prepared. From my point of view, it's not the cold that bothers me, I'm worried about riding in the dark. Personally, that's my stumbling block. Theoretically I know a good light set will make me visible, but the roads I commute on are busy, and I'm just worried about not being seen. (I feel like cars don't see me in the daylight!)

I have ordered a light set though, and as soon as it comes in I'll try winter commuting for a week and see how it goes.
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Old 01-05-05, 07:10 AM   #4
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Wildcard: Welcome to the club.

This is my first winter commuting season, and as I said in another post somewhere: I feel like I've discovered a new religion and want to convert everyone I see.

Tires are what makes it fun. Good knobby snow tires. With studs if you're riding on really slick stuff a lot. Then all you need to worry about is dressing properly and lighting if necessary.
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Old 01-05-05, 08:35 AM   #5
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Funny thing is it's all relative. I commute and tour in the winter. I like the challenge. I do ride sidewalks when I can or need to if traffic is heavy and roads are icy (lilke this morning). As for the money? That IS the challenge for me.

I have purchased all of my winter cycling clothing from thrift stores. I have several fleece pullovers (purchased in the summer very cheap), fleece socks, Timberland boots, silk baselayer, lined waterproof pants, Columbia jacket, balaclava. All of these things were purchased in the summer at a thrift store really cheap. For me that is part of the fun. I usually hit the thrift store for summer wear during winter months. Lots to choose from, and prices are usually even less. Buy it when you don't need it. You will almost always find it. I also like the weather. It's easier for me to stay warm in the winter that to stay cool in the summer. I love the snow.
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Old 01-05-05, 08:58 AM   #6
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Not all of us are lucky enough to be Canadian, much less Quebecois! We're wimps down here, give us a break! I'm from the southern US and I never learned to drive in the snow, and I don't expect that I ever will, unless you offer me a job in Quebec and I'll be right up (really!--I speak French and everything)

However, I can ride my bike in the snow, and if it ever snows here this winter, I will. But just be understanding that where I come from, a couple of snow flurries sends hoards of folks to the grocery store for gallons of milk and loaves of bread, schools shut down, and people go into panic mode. People do not know how to dress for the cold to go from their house to their cars, not to mention for a 10-mile bike commute.

Most people here cannot imagine riding a bike in anything less than a 70-degree Saturday in May. It's okay that we get excited about doing something different and daring (yes, daring) from the rest of the masses south of the border.
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Old 01-05-05, 10:52 AM   #7
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All my winter riding is trail riding, mostly late afternoon into early evening, no commute, ( I work from home, so my commute is pretty easy )
I think that quality gear is a requirement for trail riding, as it requires that you be self-supported. I got stuck at 7800ft, 4 miles from the trailhead the other night when my lights gave out, had to wait for 1.25 hours for a buddy to come and get me down.
I have quite a bit of winter stuff, that I have gathered over time, and use for multiple winter activities, (snow shoeing, snowboarding, snow shoveling!), regardless of whether it is bike specific gear or not.
I really look for quality, performance winter gear, but I still use the standard wool sweater under the wind jacket quite a bit.
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Old 01-05-05, 10:59 AM   #8
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it was a "little" bit complicated for me because i want to continue riding as i was during the summer. for me, i'm doing a lot of longer training rides in the 2-3 hour range. i don't want to carry extra clothes so what i wear needs to keep me warm and comfortable for that long. pants and big winter coats just wasn't what i was looking for.

once i had a good base layer everything else is easy. i can just add layers as it gets colder...no big deal. other than equipping my bike with lights i've done no other modifications to it. i have to clean the drive train a bit more however because the slush and water. but, yeah, once i started riding this winter i don't think it's a big deal at all.
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Old 01-05-05, 11:59 AM   #9
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I'm with wildcard. Afficianados have a tendency to make things difficult because IT'S FUN to study on all that stuff! Me, I just like to ride. I get some good advice here but most I don't need. I ride on the city streets a lot, on trails when it isn't TOO deep, so I don't go for hours like many of you do. I wear normal winter clothing. If anything, I get too warm because I usually pedal pretty hard. But I feel it is prudent to wear enough clothing to stay warm if I do end up having to walk the bike home. (Hasn't happened yet, thank God.) I ride a plain old fashioned mountain bike with moderate knobbies. I would like to get some fenders for those wet winter days. I fall down about once a month, but snow and ice are very forgiving, especially when you have lots of clothing on to pad you. I bruised a rib last winter--painful but not bad enough to slow me down much. I admire those who have the dedication and intelligence to really make a science out of bike riding. As for me--if I thought about it too much, I wouldn't do it!
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Old 01-05-05, 12:05 PM   #10
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P.S. Don't forget your long johns!
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Old 01-05-05, 05:16 PM   #11
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I went the same kinda route as Wildcard last winter. Cotton long johns, t-shirts and a winter jacket, just stuff I had around. Regular winter boots. The problems I had with that setup:
1) I slipped on ice
2) I was usually cold at first and then really sweaty by the time I get to work

This year I have studs and wicking clothes, and I couldn't be happier.
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Old 01-05-05, 05:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildcard
I now ride comfortably and well-shielded from the cold, and have encountered no particular problems even in extreme weather. I've ridden on snow, slush, and even patches of ice with my mountain bike on slicks and have yet to fall in about a month of commuting 5-6 days a week. In -30 celsius temperatures, I'm riding with a plain old winter jacket I've had for a few years with a T-shirt underneath.
How far is your commute?
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Old 01-05-05, 05:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildcard
Keep in mind, this is not meant to be inflammatory, but rather to satisfy my curiousity and perhaps encourage some to re-think their winter cycling strategy.

I read and hear about people who spend hundreds of dollars on top-notch outdoor clothing and gear to be able to commute in the winter, and who rarely go riding without an adequate weather "game plan", so to speak.

But why?

I did some reading on the winter forum before tackling this winter's riding, and came away with the perception that winter riding is an incredibly dangerous and complicated affair. I made myself a list of things I needed to get to ride through the winter (I rode last winter, but very little). I ended up procrastinating and before I knew it I had bought nothing and snow was coming within the next few days. So I bought a cheap, used but functional $20 (CDN) mountain bike with slicks. I also got myself a pair of snow pants for about $15 and ski goggles for about $25, and about $10 of miscellaneous purchases (a can of WD-40, a small pouch to protect U-lock from snow/slush, and an ordinary messenger bag - used).

Total = $70 - bike included. (items I already owned include regular winter boots, cheap winter & spring coats, good gloves, a helmet, a hat and a neck warmer)

I now ride comfortably and well-shielded from the cold, and have encountered no particular problems even in extreme weather. I've ridden on snow, slush, and even patches of ice with my mountain bike on slicks and have yet to fall in about a month of commuting 5-6 days a week. In -30 celsius temperatures, I'm riding with a plain old winter jacket I've had for a few years with a T-shirt underneath.

So again I ask, what is the big fuss about riding in the winter?

PS - I don't mean to be arrogant; I'm genuinely confused.
Winter riding is a pain in the butt! Today, instead of taking two water bottles, I had to mix one with Power Bar powder because it is so bloody warm here - around 80 degrees! It is so time consuming.
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Old 01-05-05, 08:56 PM   #14
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Having done it both ways i can honestly say that PROPER GEAR MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE. Those that don't think it does, have never had the proper gear.
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Old 01-05-05, 09:22 PM   #15
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Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
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Old 01-06-05, 01:16 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
True.
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Old 01-06-05, 02:52 AM   #17
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Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
Feel? I am all badass.
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Old 01-06-05, 07:46 AM   #18
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Wildcard:

You do make a good point, in that winter cyclists can get a bit gear obsessed, being cyclists and all.

And I agree with you that for many short, and not so short rides, it's possible to get by without any "technical" clothing or anything other than the bike itself.

In fact, on that subject, I think the warnings against the use of cotton are grossly overstated by ice bikers. I think ice biking has just unconsciously inherited some of the trepidation about cotton from backpacking. In the backcountry, cotton can be a real problem if it gets wet, since you've got nowhere to go. (In case there's anyone reading this who doesn't know it already, cotton loses its insulating properties when it's wet.) Cotton is fine for riding a bicycle on paved roads in towns, cities, and suburbs, though. Even though it starts to get wet from perspiration, it will still insulate you well for an hour's ride. Then you park and go inside. No problem. Cotton is so cheap and ubiquitous, too, that I don't think someone with a commute in built up areas should avoid it categorically. Sometimes one of my layers is cotton, even on long rides.

Having said all that, I can tell you've not yet tried to ride through significant snow, or mud, in which flotation from knobby mtb tires is important. In fact, we've got serious ice on the roads today, and the plowing is the usual sucky sort, so today's a day when I would really appreciate some studs. Without those, the fat, knobby, mtb tires are nice for staying on top of packed down snow, and sometimes for slogging through all the slushy crap.

On longer rides in cold temperatures, too, like more than an hour in 10F or below, I am not comfortable in a heavy jacket with ordinary clothes underneath. The more specialized clothing makes things much better.
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Old 01-06-05, 07:46 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
Yeah, that is true...
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Old 01-06-05, 08:45 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
yep, true.

I also agree about the cotton thing being a little overblown in regards to riding. From a point a to point b ride, it shouldn't really be an issue. But when I know I'll be out for an afternoon ride that may involve several stops for breaks, photos, food, I'll leave the cotton at home.

Last winter, I did the jeans/longjohns winter coat deal, and it wasn't too uncomformtable temperature wise. But I did not like the bulk. This winter I spent a little money on some gear, and I'm a little bit warmer, but a lot less bulkier. Makes me 'feel' more agile, and less like Michelen Man on a bike.
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Old 01-06-05, 08:56 AM   #21
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The continual warnings against cotton are sort of akin to the warning lables on some flammable liquids that tell you not to store them near an open flame. IOW, you could probably store flammable liquids in sealed containers right next to your furnace for a LONG time and probably have no trouble.

The reason it is a bad idea is because of the "what if?" What if the dog happens to run by, knock over the shelf, the flammable sealed can happens to land on a sharp protruding corner of the furnace and splash out into the furnace? Ka BOOOOM!!!!

Cotton clothing is similar. You can probably get by ok with it but...."what if?" You are new to winter cycling and you overdress. It is -10 F outside with a 20 MPH wind. Windchill is now very dangerous. You have been pedalling very hard and all of the sudden you feel warm. "man...i am almost too hot." 10 minutes later you discover that you are indeed to hot. You are sweating like a pig. Your cotton layer is absorbing the moisture and getting completely wet. Soon it freezes. You now have a layer of ice next to your skin. That is not good.

If you don't sweat you are probably fine but again the warning against cotton is a "what if?"
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Old 01-06-05, 09:49 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
guilty
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Old 01-06-05, 11:10 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
What can I say.....I am an accountant. I have to do something to help my image.

Not that I am vain or anything.
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Old 01-06-05, 11:20 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
OK, since we're doing the confession thing...
Yeah... I'm guilty too.
I have to admit it feels pretty good to see the 20-somthing yr old guys at work hang up their bikes in October while I keep riding. Chaulk it up to mid-life crisis... (40's approaching rapidly) why can't I just get a flashy red sports car like everyone else?
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Old 01-06-05, 11:57 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Admit it, winter cycling and cycling in conditions where people either say home or hide in their cars make you all feel badass.
Well, duh.
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