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Need practical winter commuting advice

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Need practical winter commuting advice

Old 12-18-08, 02:40 PM
  #1  
HiYoSilver
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Need practical winter commuting advice

Ok, I admit it. I'm getting tired of not riding just because it may be cold, but mostly because there is snow/ice on/near roads.

So I am considering adding some winter tires, but still don't know if it's a good idea and need feedback from those, especially in larger Denver area on their experiences.

What I know so far:
1. winter tires are hard to find this time of year
2. winter tires will fit my bike
3. winter tires are expensive,i.e. about $170 for a pair and breakeven point for me would be an additiona 20 commute days during the winter months

What I don't know:
1. how secure are winter tires? {only considering schwalbe or nokian}, have you ever fallen on them?
2. how much harder is it to ride with 35psi vs 90 psi
3. how much does the bike gear get wrecked by winter snow/deicing materials
{don't want to buy winter wheels or beater bike}
4. what is your experience on 2 lane roads with cars in winter snow/ice conditions?


thanks in advance for your insights.
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Old 12-18-08, 02:52 PM
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First winter onthe studs but here is what I have so far...

1. Not yet (knocks on wood) but still slip when tire can't get far enough in for studs to dig in.
2. You will notice the rolling resistance but after a couple days you start to just put in the extra effort.
3. Don't know yet (first winter with this bike) but so far, keeping things clean and oiled weekly, they look pretty good.
4. This is my downfall too...here in Buffalo they typically don't plow the right lane very much which means riding in the only lane (cagers just love that) or riding in all the ruts, ice and crap on the right, or driving.
Given my route in I usually drive given very bad experiences on the 3 or 4 times I've tried to bike in and just wait for the streets to clear one way or another
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Old 12-18-08, 03:05 PM
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You talk of the break even point. If you are considering riding in crap weather as a means of saving on car expenses, I say forget it.

All weather winter commuting is a mental disorder. You actually have to want to do it for the fun of it.

I suggest you do what I do, which is wait till the roads are clear.
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Old 12-18-08, 03:14 PM
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Yup. I'd rather only ride once or twice a week in the winter and be able to pick things up in the spring than try to ride daily, have an accident (or worse), and not be able to ride again for months (or longer).

That said, I've stopped riding entirely for the year, and will pick things up again sometime in January.
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Old 12-18-08, 03:24 PM
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Regarding #4,

Even after the snow has been plowed, you'll find that the street has become narrower from the plowed snow and miscellaneous debris, and you're often forced to take the lane whether you want to or not. In addition to the gunk that just sits there at the edge of the lane, cars are forced to park further into the street because of snow banks piled up at the curb.

Luckily for me, on the streets I tend to ride on the motorists are pretty used to cyclists, so it's not usually a problem, but I could see it being an issue elsewhere.
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Old 12-18-08, 04:33 PM
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I agree with Poster #3. "You actually have to want to do it for the fun of it." I ride in the snow because I have to. I don't have a car.
1. winter tires are hard to find this time of year...Not true. If you search around you'll find Nokians at a reasonable price. And they'll last you several seasons. I have the Nokian Extreme 294's. You can get by with the Mount&Ground 160's. They work on Ice.
1. how secure are winter tires? {only considering schwalbe or nokian}, have you ever fallen on them?.....It takes some getting used to. After about half a ride you'll get the hang of it.
2. how much harder is it to ride with 35psi vs 90 psi...You'll learn when to adjust the air pressure. A lower psi will sometimes give you a better grip.
3. how much does the bike gear get wrecked by winter snow/deicing materials
{don't want to buy winter wheels or beater bike}....For me, not a problem. If the bike is all covered up in snow and gunk. I take a bucket of hot water and give it a good pour.
4. what is your experience on 2 lane roads with cars in winter snow/ice conditions?...Use common sense. Most of the time I ride in the road with traffic. If the conditions are treacherous for the cars then I'll sometimes move to the sidewalk when I don't have room or take side streets. But I've ridden with traffic on narrow roads with the shoulder completely obscured. If they're moving slow then I ride with traffic. Most drivers will show patience seeing you out there. They don't want to hit you.
Last year was my first time riding in the winter. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Although I did ride in some unbelievable conditions. Three Icestorms and a blizzard. The blizzard was a trip. It took me 3 hours to get home from a normally 45 min commute. But it was only one day. The Icestorms were'nt bad. I was completely covered in Ice, but I stayed warm and comfortable thanks to the clothing I had on. I never would have done it before. But after doing it, I'm sorry I didn't to it sooner, like 15 years ago. It was fun, challenging, and I got a kick out of the cagers faces when they'd see me out there. But it definetly takes a special person to ride in extreme conditions. Look at the folks who ride in the Iditarod. Now that is tough.
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Old 12-18-08, 06:52 PM
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NOkian Mount and Ground 160's are a good compromise. Got them, mounted, for less than $110 last winter. The best decision I've made for winter riding.

Take more time in the am. Riding will be slower. Just roll with it.

YOu have to do it for the crazy fun of it (winter commuting)

If you can take commuter paths or side streets, do it. The narrow main arteries can be a bit sketchy.

I ride a dedicated winter commuter, 3-speed internal hub in back. The internal gearing is better for me in the gunk. I clean the chain when I can (during thaw periods) and lube a lot. Good light fore and aft a must. Layers. A wicking layer on the base is a must. Dont over dress or you will sweat bullets.

13" of snow predicted for tonight... hmmm where's the bus schedule?
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Old 12-18-08, 06:58 PM
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When it's recently snowed, I have to take the lane. Even on heavily travelled 55 MPH limit 2 lane roads. I had to do this for the last two days. The alternative is riding on the shoulder where there are ruts, and I can't know from second to second what the bike will do on the ruts. They could easily toss me into traffic. It's just not safe to ride over there, so I take the lane. So far no driver has bothered me about it. If I get more than 8 or 10 cars lined up behind me (this only takes about 1 minute) I pull over and let them past - the problem is that by the time they pass, there's another half mile of cars coming behind them, so I pull over for 2 minutes, then ride for 1 minute, etc. Luckily that section of my ride is only 2 miles long so this isn't a huge inconvenience on my 11 mile commute.
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Old 12-18-08, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
When it's recently snowed, I have to take the lane. Even on heavily travelled 55 MPH limit 2 lane roads. I had to do this for the last two days. The alternative is riding on the shoulder where there are ruts, and I can't know from second to second what the bike will do on the ruts. They could easily toss me into traffic. It's just not safe to ride over there, so I take the lane. So far no driver has bothered me about it. If I get more than 8 or 10 cars lined up behind me (this only takes about 1 minute) I pull over and let them past - the problem is that by the time they pass, there's another half mile of cars coming behind them, so I pull over for 2 minutes, then ride for 1 minute, etc. Luckily that section of my ride is only 2 miles long so this isn't a huge inconvenience on my 11 mile commute.
+1, my experience entirely.

As for dropping the tire pressure and increased time, resistance... It is huge! The other day I road with very deflated tires, in fresh snow. Lets just say that it added 50% to my travel time, and yeah, I was exhausted and sweaty. Worth it though!
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Old 12-18-08, 07:46 PM
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Winter, big deal, ride but you need to prepare. For me half the fun is figuring out exactly what I need to be comfortable.

As far as riding with any significant traffic on wintry roads? I'd rather not. YMMV.
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Old 12-18-08, 07:48 PM
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Ok, thanks for the feedback. I really prefer the schwalbe's because they have reflective sidewalls and the nokian's do not. The schwalbes have limited availability on the web.

This year Jan-Mar, I only rode 2 times. Usually I ride about 12 to 16 times a month. So still undecided.
It would pay for the tires for 2 seasons and I don't know if I have 2 seasons here. If cleaning the bike is not too bad and there is no extra wear and tear on the bike, I might try it.

again thanks for comments.
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Old 12-18-08, 07:50 PM
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The final leg into town is a heavy 2 laner. I cross
over to the out bound 2 laner and ride the wrong
way in. There is hardly any traffic there.
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Old 12-19-08, 07:33 AM
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ok, now what about when the roads are clear. what's it like riding on studded tires, noisy and jarring?
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Old 12-19-08, 07:54 AM
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1. how secure are winter tires? {only considering schwalbe or nokian}, have you ever fallen on them?


Yes. But I was always doing something stupid at the time. If you just ride normally I foresee no ills

2. how much harder is it to ride with 35psi vs 90 psi


There is more resistance. Expect to knock off a few MPH.

3. how much does the bike gear get wrecked by winter snow/deicing materials

Compared to mountain biking, Not much. Compared to road riding: Yeah sort of.

4. what is your experience on 2 lane roads with cars in winter snow/ice conditions?

Not very helpful. Snowfall here brings traffic to a general state of gridlock, even out in the suburbs. Most of my riding time is spend trying to figure out how to get around stationary cars.

ok, now what about when the roads are clear. what's it like riding on studded tires, noisy and jarring?

Noisy, slower, not that bad.
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Old 12-19-08, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by HiYoSilver View Post
ok, now what about when the roads are clear. what's it like riding on studded tires, noisy and jarring?
No, a little chatter but nothing much. Certainly not jarring and I wouldn't consider it noisy either.

I just got my first good ride in with Nokian Mount and Grounds this morning. I thought I might have to be careful how much torque I gave it on some of the steeper hills but these things were great. I could actually stand on snow packed hills.
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Old 12-19-08, 09:11 AM
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I don't think you need studs in the Denver area. We just don't have that much ice. I just ride a good knobby cyclocross tire. Worked great this morning. Heck, I just switched off my slicks last week. The slicks were fine. I took it really easy around corners, watched like a hawk for ice and stayed upright easily. The cyclocross knobs are fantastic - I can stand up and sprint up a snow-packed street with no slippage.

Either way it's snow and ice and you can go down. 'Course people go down all the time on sunny summer days. Just take it easy in the corners, watch for chunks of snow that might throw you sideways. A bike does better in the snow than a car with pretty much any tire.

I ride by a car wash near home and wash my bike down once a week. I don't have any corrosion problem. Mag-chloride is better than salt too so that helps around here.

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Old 12-19-08, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by HiYoSilver View Post
What I don't know:
1. how secure are winter tires? {only considering schwalbe or nokian}, have you ever fallen on them?
2. how much harder is it to ride with 35psi vs 90 psi
3. how much does the bike gear get wrecked by winter snow/deicing materials
{don't want to buy winter wheels or beater bike}
4. what is your experience on 2 lane roads with cars in winter snow/ice conditions?
This is my 3rd winter on studded tires.
1. They only help on ice. If you are on snow on top of ice, it will be slick, the studs won't bite into the ice and you will slide. If you are on snow, knobs are what you really need. I use the studs due to the freeze/melt/freeze nature of spring, when black ice is pretty common. Most of the winter I would be fine on knobs, but I use the studs anyway. To the original question, fallen, no. Lost control, yes...many times. I usually lose control on non-plowed but driven snow that I like to call biscuit dough. It looks like its hard-packed, but then any modification from straight up causes the front tire to slide a bit. This is quite unnerving the first time it happens. It really doesn't get much better from that point on either.

2. No harder to ride, but you go slower. On my bike with slick tires, I go 14-17 mph. Same bike with the studs, 10-13 mph. Effort level is the same. I think it is more related to weight and rolling resistance than PSI per say.

3. If you don't mind your drivetrain, you will go through chains and cogs. Ask me how I know this. Aside from that, wipe down your frame every now and then and you are golden. Fenders that keep water/snow etc off the bottom bracket are really nice to keep your bike clean.

4. Fine. I tend to get a wide berth from cars in the winter. I think they fear me as a crazy SOB that may do anything if they harass me. I do get comments frequently, but they are harmless. I agree with what the other posters said about taking the lane. This isn't much of an issue for me, since my 2-lane roads are NOT heavily trafficed.

BTW, I also agree that riding in winter is something you have to WANT to do because it is "fun." If you are doing it to save money over driving, don't bother.
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Old 12-19-08, 09:53 AM
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I sure wish I had the K-trak on this morning's commute.
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Old 12-19-08, 10:10 AM
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If you are on snow, knobs are what you really need.
The Mount and Grounds have some pretty good knobs on them, so in between conditions, they work pretty well. In MAdison, they clear the bike paths pretty fast, but they always have a layer of ice or crud and the studs help. The tires on not hard to get off if we get a long stretch of boring weather. My commute is about 5 miles... about 4.6 on the paths. Lucky. Thru campus the surface is very dicey with all the foot traffic.


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Old 12-19-08, 01:31 PM
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Again, thank you all for your comments. I wish I knew of a hand wand car wash around.

Right now I'm thinking of giving it a try. I think I need the studs because of local subdivision. teenagers love to spn donuts,or whatever when snow falls, so it gets packed and packed, which means ice sticks around for a long time.
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Old 12-19-08, 02:22 PM
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i have been riding some conti twister cross tires on my fixed bike and they are great for getting me through snow and slush and even on some hard pack stuff...i keep the pressure at around 85 psi or so and they dig in great! i think i paid 50 for the pair...700x32
 
Old 12-19-08, 11:43 PM
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My coworker just got a pair of Marathon Winters from Niagara Cycle Works for about $120 shipped. Not cheap by any means, but not $170.

http://www.niagaracycle.com/product_...ducts_id=19964
http://www.niagaracycle.com/product_...ducts_id=20938

And yeah, here in Philly my studs will almost certainly never pay for themselves, but if we have a snowy winter (hope hope hope!) I'll consider them worth it for the enjoyment of riding in the snow instead of being stuck on the bus wishing I was riding (and catching a cold from my fellow passengers...).
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Old 12-20-08, 07:24 AM
  #23  
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thanks, I'll probably try to order a pair today. schwalbe NA is about $80/tire plus shipping and they are out of stock.
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Old 12-20-08, 05:50 PM
  #24  
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It depends on your situation and your commute. For me, riding to work/school is really not very dangerous no matter the conditions, given my bike/tires and my route.
There are some roads that I wouldn't bike regularly in the winter, but for my use, riding in the winter really isn't much more dangerous, just be visible, be reasonable and extra careful, it all becomes second nature.
That being said, I have a winter-specific bike that helps out a lot. It's 7 speed internal hub with internal drum brake, and 26x2.1 with 300 spikes, and compact geometry with tons of stand-over.
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Old 12-20-08, 06:22 PM
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riding in snow and ice with studs *is* fun. i never realized how much fun it could be, but now whenever it snows i basically can't wait to get outside and into it! sure it's slower, because riding in snow is slow for everyone for the same reasons---buses, cars, and bicyclists. but so what?

and oh yeah, i'm still commuting and still saving money, so that's a nice (frozen) cherry on top of my snowy sundae.
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