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  1. #1
    Member cpf_carrot's Avatar
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    Help me pick a winter bike?

    It's the middle of summer and I'm thinking of winter already. I usually stop riding when the roads turn to slush and ice but this year I want to ride through the winter. Here's the info:

    My budget is $600 (or less!), not including rack, fenders and studded tires. I won't be buying right away.

    I live in NYC, ride over the Williamsburg bridge and the East Side bike path downtown.

    I often ride my ss/fg to work when I am not riding my cx bike. My ss/fg cannot take fenders or studded tires (no clearance) and I am not interested in using my cx bike through the winter. I like the idea of not having a derailleur on my winter bike as it is one less thing to maintain and clean, but if gears are important to have for the winter I'll deal.

    I do have a 26" hardtail mtb (Trek 4300) with hydraulic fs that I've considered converting to winter use. But I don't really like the geometry for riding on roads, so I'm not convinced I would enjoy using it this winter. I converted it to an Avid BB7 on the front.

    I'm currently also considering buying one of a few bikes from Bikesdirect, which are:

    - Motobecane Cross Uno: cheap, ss so no derailleurs to foul up, but tight track geometry might be bad for slick or messy roads?
    - Motobecane Fantom CX: gears for spinning, would be a great secondary bike year-round, but at the top of my budget
    - Motobecane Cafe Express 3: cheap, 3s IGH, upright riding position
    - Motobecane Bistro 8V: has fenders and rack included, chain guard, 8s IGH

    Anybody have an idea of what direction I should go? What are the most important features to have in a winter commuter?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpf_carrot View Post
    It's the middle of summer and I'm thinking of winter already. I usually stop riding when the roads turn to slush and ice but this year I want to ride through the winter. Here's the info:

    My budget is $600 (or less!), not including rack, fenders and studded tires. I won't be buying right away.

    I live in NYC, ride over the Williamsburg bridge and the East Side bike path downtown.

    I often ride my ss/fg to work when I am not riding my cx bike. My ss/fg cannot take fenders or studded tires (no clearance) and I am not interested in using my cx bike through the winter. I like the idea of not having a derailleur on my winter bike as it is one less thing to maintain and clean, but if gears are important to have for the winter I'll deal.

    I do have a 26" hardtail mtb (Trek 4300) with hydraulic fs that I've considered converting to winter use. But I don't really like the geometry for riding on roads, so I'm not convinced I would enjoy using it this winter. I converted it to an Avid BB7 on the front.

    I'm currently also considering buying one of a few bikes from Bikesdirect, which are:

    - Motobecane Cross Uno: cheap, ss so no derailleurs to foul up, but tight track geometry might be bad for slick or messy roads?
    - Motobecane Fantom CX: gears for spinning, would be a great secondary bike year-round, but at the top of my budget
    - Motobecane Cafe Express 3: cheap, 3s IGH, upright riding position
    - Motobecane Bistro 8V: has fenders and rack included, chain guard, 8s IGH

    Anybody have an idea of what direction I should go? What are the most important features to have in a winter commuter?
    A few thoughts (I've ridden three winters now, more often each year):

    - the bike is only part of the spend...balaclava, warm gloves/mitts, shoes/boots with covers, etc, can add up, but you can purchase from shops other than lbs so lots of options (I mention this because you seem to be on a budget)
    - I think you can get away with a ss in NYC, maybe you can get a used one (I got a Masi specially commuter a few years ago for $400, it's still one of my winter bikes)
    - disk brakes probably do better when it's messy out there, rim brakes and their pads can ice up...though if you feather the brakes now and then you should be ok
    - clearance for wider tires, maybe studded ones
    - cx bikes seem to fit the bill for most
    - more upright geometry because you have more clothing on and are likely looking around more versus head down and gunning it
    - if you go ss can you get disk brakes? Someone with more knowledge can give options here
    - I vote for buying a cross or road bike that is gently used...or a clear out of something with Tiagra like components...

  3. #3
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    In NYC you won't have the cold like we have in MN. IGH are nice in the winter, but at least my SA IGH case, they also don't always shift well when it gets much below freezing (I'm going explore lube options for next winter). Disk brakes are great. Upright and somewhat wider handlebars are great. I prefer straight or straight-ish bars to North Road type bars in winter. If you have much ice (I can't recall how much problem ice was when I lived in NY, too long ago) studded tires are good. Wider tires are good, and aggressive tread is good if you will ride unplowed or under-plowed streets and for surviving road hazards.

    Clothing-wise, you won't need to overdo it. Even in MN (below zero air temps are common, double digit wind chills even before you create your own wind chill on the bike) I never need more than long underwear, an sweater and a wind shell for my body. In NYC ski gloves will work (here in MN bar mits or mittens are a must). A nomex face mask is nice to have for colder days (and everybody will get out of your way when you walk into the bank!).

    Gears are good if you ride in snow I think, it's best to spin, but lots of folks make do with single speeds here too.

    Your mountain bike sounds like it's mostly there for winter suitability. What about the geometry doesn't please you on the road?

  4. #4
    Member cpf_carrot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
    - the bike is only part of the spend...balaclava, warm gloves/mitts, shoes/boots with covers, etc, can add up, but you can purchase from shops other than lbs so lots of options (I mention this because you seem to be on a budget)
    Luckily I've lots of experience with winter elsewhere (ice climbing, winter camping & skiing) so I am not concerned on the clothes front. I just don't want to put a lot of money into a winter bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
    - if you go ss can you get disk brakes? Someone with more knowledge can give options here
    - I vote for buying a cross or road bike that is gently used...or a clear out of something with Tiagra like components...
    If I get a replacement front fork with disc mounts I can put disc brakes on the front. Since SS doesn't need shifter, etc, a cheap long pull road lever will do. But the rear will still be rim brakes. To me the question is, how badly would I want disc brakes?
    Last edited by cpf_carrot; 07-17-14 at 10:13 AM.

  5. #5
    Member cpf_carrot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
    In NYC you won't have the cold like we have in MN. IGH are nice in the winter, but at least my SA IGH case, they also don't always shift well when it gets much below freezing (I'm going explore lube options for next winter). Disk brakes are great. Upright and somewhat wider handlebars are great. I prefer straight or straight-ish bars to North Road type bars in winter. If you have much ice (I can't recall how much problem ice was when I lived in NY, too long ago) studded tires are good. Wider tires are good, and aggressive tread is good if you will ride unplowed or under-plowed streets and for surviving road hazards.
    These are all really good specifics that I wanted to hear about. Do you prefer the flat bars because of the braking hand position?

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
    Gears are good if you ride in snow I think, it's best to spin, but lots of folks make do with single speeds here too.
    I am not sure. I don't expect to be riding too much in snow, if anything just hard-packed snow. Part of my route is on a common truck route and the rest is bike path, so I don't know what to expect...

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
    Your mountain bike sounds like it's mostly there for winter suitability. What about the geometry doesn't please you on the road?
    I don't think I really want the front suspension for the winter, and I just feel very sluggish pedaling a 26er on roads. I'm not adverse to setting it up for the winter, but I'm also interested in exploring other options that are a bit more road-oriented.

  6. #6
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    I prefer an upright position over the drops for a winter commuter as you get good visibility and easier to deal with the clothes you are wearing. A lot of folks commute on MTBs for exactly that reason. Why do you think your mtb won't be a good commuter esp. since you have discs on it. I'd take your $600 budget and put it to work on a pair of continental winter contact II tires and a heck of a good light system. If you don't like the bike as a commuter after a winter, you can move the tires and lighting system over to a new bike next winter.

  7. #7
    Member cpf_carrot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
    I prefer an upright position over the drops for a winter commuter as you get good visibility and easier to deal with the clothes you are wearing. A lot of folks commute on MTBs for exactly that reason. Why do you think your mtb won't be a good commuter esp. since you have discs on it. I'd take your $600 budget and put it to work on a pair of continental winter contact II tires and a heck of a good light system. If you don't like the bike as a commuter after a winter, you can move the tires and lighting system over to a new bike next winter.
    I have a good lighting system already.

    As for the MTB, besides the general dislike for mountain geometry on road I am concerned about the seals on the front suspension getting messed up by salt, etc from winter grime. Is that not a valid concern? I read that they can get damaged from winter use.

  8. #8
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cpf_carrot View Post
    I have a good lighting system already.

    As for the MTB, besides the general dislike for mountain geometry on road I am concerned about the seals on the front suspension getting messed up by salt, etc from winter grime. Is that not a valid concern? I read that they can get damaged from winter use.
    Fair enough. A vintage mountain bike with a rigid fork makes a great commuter and they can be found even in NYC well within your price range. They handle pretty darn well so I'm skeptical that the problem is mountain bike geometry.

    The real point is whether you want drops or not. I love drops but prefer flat bars for commuting in the winter. YMMV.

  9. #9
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    Why flat bars in the winter? I ride in snow and rutted snow, you want some leverage to move the wheel where you want it to go. Cold here, so the bike controls need to work with lobster gloves, mittens, or bar mitts.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I have an old MTB Drum brakes .. since the old frames wont take discs ..

    Sturmey now has drum IGH in 5,8 & 3 speed and Front drums in 70 &90mm w w/o a dynamo in the Hub..

    Mine is a Freewheel .. 7 speed ..

  11. #11
    Senior Member Motolegs's Avatar
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    I'd ride the MTB, and not think twice about blowing up the front suspension. Forks aren't that expensive, or fragile. 26" tires are really good in bad conditions, and are easily swapped out. Studded versions are out there too. The MTB may be slower, but that gives you more chance to enjoy the ride!
    What, me drive?

  12. #12
    meh Hypno Toad's Avatar
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    My winter-commuter: old Marin Nail Trail. I don't have an issue with the MTB frame for winter riding, but honestly, it's a whole different type of riding.

    Single-speed conversion, I've had too many issues with derailleurs freezing. I like the disc brakes for winter riding, rim brakes have issues with ice/snow/slush on the rims, affecting braking. I run Top Contact tire on the rear and studded Mount & Ground front. Some people would go with a fixie for deep cold because the free hub can freeze (this happens to me once in a while), but my knees don't need the stress of fixed gear.

    I'm going to replace the suspended fork with a rigid fork for this winter, salt and corrosion have made this one fork rigid.

    Your conditions have a lot to say about a winter-commuter. If winter is mild with occasional ice and snow - get some good winter tires for any bike. In MN, winter-bike is a little more involved. I've used this bike on days as cold as -20F. I generally don't like snow over 2-3 inches deep, mostly because of the roads I need to ride to/from work.

    1493196_10202971987083356_1072619039_n.jpg
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