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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 07-31-13, 10:19 AM   #1
Z R I D E R
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Average Speed (Compared To Summer)

I'm curious, what kind of speeds do you average in the winter? I understand the thickness of the snow definitely makes a difference, and ice will play a factor. Also, what are these speeds compared to what you do on the road when there isn't snow on the ground?

I average about 16 mi/h (25.7 km/h) when there's no snow, and I haven't ridden in the snow yet with a computer on my bike so I'm just waiting for the season to change.
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Old 07-31-13, 11:23 AM   #2
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Its definitely slower as the studded tires as compared to summer slicks make a huge difference. Also you're dressed heavier and the air is denser which also make a difference. I would say you 16 will drop to maybe 13 which is still very respectable for an average.
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Old 07-31-13, 11:42 AM   #3
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I think the main external factor is the thinner summer air (higher temperature and humidity). But I think it's more than that, depending on the individual. Somehow, perhaps because it's harder to breath the cold dry air, or harder to warm up my circulation, I just don't put out as much power.

Ice and snow are a whole different story. I don't even think about speed on ice.

btw, I'm not answering the nominal question about speed because it just won't convey any meaningful information. There are too many variables between the environments of your speed and of mine, or almost anyone else's, for there to be any sort of comparison. The drop in speed for me, in the Georgia "winter", seems to be about 10% or sometimes more.

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Old 07-31-13, 12:25 PM   #4
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I think my summer commute averaged 16mph and in the winter it was more like 13mph

add snow and fuggetaboutit ... if it's deep, cut your speed in half
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Old 07-31-13, 12:47 PM   #5
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I think the main external factor is the thinner summer air (higher temperature and humidity). But I think it's more than that, depending on the individual. Somehow, perhaps because it's harder to breath the cold dry air, or harder to warm up my circulation, I just don't put out as much power.

Ice and snow are a whole different story. I don't even think about speed on ice.

btw, I'm not answering the nominal question about speed because it just won't convey any meaningful information. There are too many variables between the environments of your speed and of mine, or almost anyone else's, for there to be any sort of comparison. The drop in speed for me, in the Georgia "winter", seems to be about 10% or sometimes more.
Yeah I understand, I guess what I'm really looking for is your percentage drop in speed (since you can't truly compare each other's speed). 10% isn't bad really.
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Old 07-31-13, 12:52 PM   #6
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Its definitely slower as the studded tires as compared to summer slicks make a huge difference. Also you're dressed heavier and the air is denser which also make a difference. I would say you 16 will drop to maybe 13 which is still very respectable for an average.
Yeah, I don't have studded tires and won't be using any for this winter, but I would be pretty happy with 13 (even though that's almost a 19% decrease).
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Old 08-02-13, 08:31 AM   #7
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With all the factors in winter, ice, snow, wind,heavy clothes etc etc. realistically expect about a 50% decrease.
My average speed in non-winter months in 16-18mph and in the winter I drop to about 8-9mph for an average.

10% decrease is unrealistic unless you only ride after the roads, trails have been plowed and there is no rain, snow,ice, wind etc.

The good thing is that after cycling in the snow for many months, when it is dry pavement you fly and are in great shape for the fall, summer etc.

Ice will slow you down (even with studded tires) so don't think about fast, think survival and balance and when the snow gets to be about 6" deep you really slow down...
You will spend a lot of energy just staying warm and sometimes the cold air takes your breath away(I have cycled at sub-zero temps with windchill bringing it down to -20, deep snow, ice....
You will question your sanity at such times but you get used to it...lol

You should seriously think about getting studded tires, you may get by if you are careful on ice, but if you are going fast and hit black ice you are going down, even with studded tires expect to go down.
Studded tires are cheaper than strains or broken bones.

Last edited by xuwol7; 08-02-13 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 08-02-13, 10:38 AM   #8
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With all the factors in winter, ice, snow, wind,heavy clothes etc etc. realistically expect about a 50% decrease.
My average speed in non-winter months in 16-18mph and in the winter I drop to about 8-9mph for an average.

10% decrease is unrealistic unless you only ride after the roads, trails have been plowed and there is no rain, snow,ice, wind etc.

The good thing is that after cycling in the snow for many months, when it is dry pavement you fly and are in great shape for the fall, summer etc.

Ice will slow you down (even with studded tires) so don't think about fast, think survival and balance and when the snow gets to be about 6" deep you really slow down...
You will spend a lot of energy just staying warm and sometimes the cold air takes your breath away(I have cycled at sub-zero temps with windchill bringing it down to -20, deep snow, ice....
You will question your sanity at such times but you get used to it...lol

You should seriously think about getting studded tires, you may get by if you are careful on ice, but if you are going fast and hit black ice you are going down, even with studded tires expect to go down.
Studded tires are cheaper than strains or broken bones.
50% decrease is a lot, but it's understandable for non-paved roads/trails and I expect that. You're right about balance, I'll focus more on that than speed (although it does take some speed to attain balance). If I found some cheap studded tires I'd consider them, but I'd like to know what it feels like without them first.
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Old 08-02-13, 10:39 AM   #9
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The drop in speed for me, in the Georgia "winter", seems to be about 10% or sometimes more.
Since when does Georgia have... winter?
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Old 08-09-13, 02:04 AM   #10
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The colder it gets, the slower I go.

If the temperature is above 0C, there isn't much difference in my speed. But when the temperature starts dropping below freezing, that's when I slow down.


When I was commuting to and from work by bicycle in Winnipeg, my spring, summer, autumn commute took me 20 minutes each way. In the winter it took me 30 minutes each way.
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Old 08-10-13, 06:55 AM   #11
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50% sounds about right. But then I'm going from a road bike with smoothish tires at 110 psi to a MTB with knobbies at 65 psi, even on the dry pavement there is a speed reduction.
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Old 08-10-13, 07:28 AM   #12
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For me, the "average" time on my 5km morning commute doubled; but I did have to adjust my route adding about 6 blocks and walking the bike across 2 or 3 major intersections when bike lanes along with driver sanity became non existent. The time for the much longer evening commute on the MUP increased by 25% (when it was freshly plowed).

While this may seem drastic, I also changed bikes from a hybrid with 700c x 35 to a mountain bike (front derailleur disabled on middle chainring- 32T) with 26 x 2.25 (slightly under inflated), a more upright riding position and on the coldest days heavy enough clothing for snowmobiling/ATV riding.

On the coldest windiest days I felt I could have almost walked as fast on the morning ride, but it was worth it for the ride home (usually sunny and much warmer).

I "got by" without studded tires last winter, but they are on the list for this winter.

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Old 08-10-13, 07:55 AM   #13
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50% decrease is a lot, but it's understandable for non-paved roads/trails and I expect that. You're right about balance, I'll focus more on that than speed (although it does take some speed to attain balance). If I found some cheap studded tires I'd consider them, but I'd like to know what it feels like without them first.
If you have a set of old tires, you can DIY the studs - check sixty fiver's post or Youtube vid's.
I would assume from your location that icy roads would frequently be a factor, so recommend studs of some sort. Also assume you are riding your Trek - if it has disc brakes, you could try "zip ties" around the rims & tires - check Youtube. The idea is similar to "winter tire chains" . I haven't personally tried this, but several local MTB enthusiasts use them on trails.
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Old 08-10-13, 10:40 AM   #14
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If you have a set of old tires, you can DIY the studs - check sixty fiver's post or Youtube vid's.
I would assume from your location that icy roads would frequently be a factor, so recommend studs of some sort. Also assume you are riding your Trek - if it has disc brakes, you could try "zip ties" around the rims & tires - check Youtube. The idea is similar to "winter tire chains" . I haven't personally tried this, but several local MTB enthusiasts use them on trails.
I've seen the DIY studs, I don't have older tires though. I also don't have disc brakes or else I would definitely try the zip ties method.
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Old 08-10-13, 12:53 PM   #15
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Looking at my numbers from last winter, just switching from summer tires to studded winter tires dropped my average speed about 17-20%. Some really slow days were significantly worse even than that. And if there were any way to account for muscle fatigue, it is probably even worse than those numbers - there is nothing quite as exhausting as fighting a nasty, cold headwind on studded tires.

For me, it is totally worth the extra work. I still love bicycle commuting *most* days through the winter. There is an intense satisfaction in beating a super-cold commute, sitting at the desk, and sipping the first hot cup of tea in the morning. I am definitely going to get after it again this winter.

The one thing that surprised me last winter is how nasty the combination of hard headwind and studded tires is. I am convinced that there is some kind of cumulative effect at work. If studded tires add X amount of work to riding, and a nasty cold headwind adds Y, the combination doesn't feel like X + Y, it "feels" like 1.5*(X + Y). Maybe it's just psychological. YMMV.

It's definitely worth it to keep riding through the winter, for many reasons (fitness, satisfaction, enjoyment, environment, all the same reasons you ride anyways). It's more challenging and more work, though. And one piece of advice... take the first couple of rides on studded tires EXTRA easy. Leave way early, and pedal easier than you think you should be. Go slow for a couple of full rides, until you get some miles on the new tires. They are different. If you charge hard right out of the gates on those things, you risk injury. I got a little hamstring tightness that way. I've read others who hurt themselves that way, too. Just plan on Slow, and if it goes better than that, it's a bonus.

It's really not as bad as this post probably reads. Get out there and enjoy some winter riding!
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Old 09-05-13, 08:42 PM   #16
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I lose 2 - 3 mph with studded snow tires, but only about 1 mph with regular tires in cold weather.

A pair of studded snow tires was far cheaper than my ER insurance co-pay would be. It's money well spent. I've been through Buffalo winters, and I know you get plenty of ice on the roads (I didn't bike when I lived there, though).

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Old 09-07-13, 02:53 AM   #17
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Yep the speed drops to about 10. Mostly rain and ice here.

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Old 09-07-13, 08:19 PM   #18
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Get studded tires and always have a sense of balance (old mtb lore= heavy pedals+ light hands, and keep your center of gravity over your bottom bracket).

North Dakota winters can be cruel, ice, hail, wind, snow,fog sub zero ...etc,etc

My 1st month- winter did ok with regular tires, balance etc= crashed on black ice-ouch-ouch nothing broken just sprained and very sore

My 2nd month-winter did ok with regular rear tire and studded front = crashed on black ice-ouch-nothing broken but still had the unexpected black ice and I thought I mastered the whole ice, winter thingy...twice as sore

My 3rd month-winter both front and rear studded tires = focus on balance and fun and not speed, no crashes or broken bones but very sore from being cheap the 1st 2 months and not buying studded tires.

My 4th month-winter still running front and rear studded tires, balance etc.... no crashes, didn't focus on speed, only fun and love the snow... still hurting from my cheap ass trying to save $ on tires....

I was sore for several months as ice is a very quick and painful unforgiving mistress...

Get the best studded tires you can afford unless you love the pain of hitting ice hard and quick...
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Old 09-07-13, 08:33 PM   #19
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Disclaimer:
This does not apply to you if you were a proficient BMX or pro MTB rider, as my many friends from Marin Cali, as they can ride through earthquakes, floods and wild fires...lol
This just applies to us mortals wanting to foraging and clawing our way through the winter...

Good Luck...
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Old 09-08-13, 04:11 PM   #20
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I analyzed last 5 years of commuting times, using January and February as winter and July and August as Summer. Same route and same bike, except for studded tires in winter. Speed drop averaged 13% for winter compared to summer. Since I was looking at total elapsed time when calculating speed, the actual speed drop off would be a little more than that. We don't get much snow, so it's really just the combined effect of the colder temps.
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Old 09-11-13, 01:01 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by xuwol7 View Post
Get studded tires and always have a sense of balance (old mtb lore= heavy pedals+ light hands, and keep your center of gravity over your bottom bracket).

North Dakota winters can be cruel, ice, hail, wind, snow,fog sub zero ...etc,etc

My 1st month- winter did ok with regular tires, balance etc= crashed on black ice-ouch-ouch nothing broken just sprained and very sore

My 2nd month-winter did ok with regular rear tire and studded front = crashed on black ice-ouch-nothing broken but still had the unexpected black ice and I thought I mastered the whole ice, winter thingy...twice as sore

My 3rd month-winter both front and rear studded tires = focus on balance and fun and not speed, no crashes or broken bones but very sore from being cheap the 1st 2 months and not buying studded tires.

My 4th month-winter still running front and rear studded tires, balance etc.... no crashes, didn't focus on speed, only fun and love the snow... still hurting from my cheap ass trying to save $ on tires....

I was sore for several months as ice is a very quick and painful unforgiving mistress...

Get the best studded tires you can afford unless you love the pain of hitting ice hard and quick...
+1
Get good studded tires with the carbide tips. Forget about some cheap studded tires. The studs won't last and the performance will not be there. It will be the best money ever spent if you want to ride in winter. I wouldn't bother with trying home made stuff. The factory stuff is just so much better.
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