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Old 09-29-09, 08:13 PM   #1
mr_antares
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Winter tires for suburban Boston commute

This is my first season as a commuter (I started in the spring), and I'm seeking some advice from all of you with similar commutes and climates to mine. Boston gets cold. We get occasional snow, but this isn't Minnesota. I think that the main problem will be icy patches (where the puddles are now).

My commute is 17 miles, mostly on main roads that are likely to be plowed, and I plan to drive (or better yet telecommute) on days when it is actually snowing, or we've just had a large snowstorm. I can do the commute in a bit over an hour, and I don't want to go much slower, at least on "good" days.

My ride is an inexpensive hybrid with 700c wheels and fenders. The current tires are 32mm road tires (not slick, but not much tread either), and I've got good clearances all around.

Options I'm considering:
1) Leave the road tires on the bike, and just not ride when the conditions seem poor.
2) Some slightly nobby-er tires in 32 or 35 mm.
3) Tires with some studs (e.g. Nokian A10) but not a lot more tread (to keep the rolling resistance down)
4) Tires with both more tread and studs (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon Winter or Nokian W106)
5) Get a hardtail mountain bike (a 29er?) with really aggressive tires and only ride it on "bad" days.

Any advice or experience to share? What do the rest of you do in the winter?
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Old 09-29-09, 08:26 PM   #2
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Having commuted in Boston, myself, you might be a bit optimistic about the possibility of commuting during or after snowfall. The snow will be plowed (and very high too!) onto the area you would be riding in. The roadways become, effectively, narrower by a lane. Any debris plowed up (like tree branches, re-tread pieces or bits of concrete/tarmac) end up in the bike lane. Bike paths are rarely cleared. The road salt used on the roads will turn your bike into a bright orange mass of disintegrating metal.
If the roads are clear from plowed snow, it is possible to commute, but the debris remains a challenge to dodge. It is simply not a priority for the DPW guys to keep the bike lanes clear.
I’d consider some sort of trainer and be prepared to use mass transit or telecommute
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Old 09-29-09, 08:27 PM   #3
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Option 2 sounds like what I would do -- some 32-35 mm cyclocross tires for "hardpack" courses.
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Old 09-29-09, 08:36 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr_antares View Post
This is my first season as a commuter (I started in the spring), and I'm seeking some advice from all of you with similar commutes and climates to mine. Boston gets cold. We get occasional snow, but this isn't Minnesota. I think that the main problem will be icy patches (where the puddles are now).

My commute is 17 miles, mostly on main roads that are likely to be plowed, and I plan to drive (or better yet telecommute) on days when it is actually snowing, or we've just had a large snowstorm. I can do the commute in a bit over an hour, and I don't want to go much slower, at least on "good" days.

My ride is an inexpensive hybrid with 700c wheels and fenders. The current tires are 32mm road tires (not slick, but not much tread either), and I've got good clearances all around.

Options I'm considering:
1) Leave the road tires on the bike, and just not ride when the conditions seem poor.
2) Some slightly nobby-er tires in 32 or 35 mm.
3) Tires with some studs (e.g. Nokian A10) but not a lot more tread (to keep the rolling resistance down)
4) Tires with both more tread and studs (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon Winter or Nokian W106)
5) Get a hardtail mountain bike (a 29er?) with really aggressive tires and only ride it on "bad" days.

Any advice or experience to share? What do the rest of you do in the winter?
My commute is 14 miles, from Kenmore Square to Norwood, likewise on well-plowed roads. I'm pretty hard-core committed to daily riding, if only to answer that perennial question, "You didn't ride in today, did you?". I have a beater mountain bike and last year I outfitted it with Schwalbe Marathons and I was delighted. The increased rolling resistance was negligible, IMO; I felt confident on ice; and I rode through one relatively then-unplowed storm of about 4 inches of snow, going up inclines cars couldn't make. One reservation about studs on ice that I read is that riding studs is like walking on sanded ice; much more friction than without sand, but still be careful.

I dallied over whether to get studded tires, but this posting by tsl convinced me:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
I ride Route 1 to Norwood and this winter it has been well-tended, so I demurred from buying studded tires. This following post, in reply to a thread, "Studded Tires or Fenders" by a subscriber who could afford only either one or the other, convinced me:

Quote:
Originally Posted by tsl View Post
I dunno, maybe it's my age showing. Here in Rochester, at least along my commute, there's always ice that miraculously didn't get salted away.

I figure gunk washes off quickly and easily. Broken bones would keep me off the bike for weeks while they mend.
Even though ice patches may be small and easily seen, there may occur emergency situations where it is unavoidable to ride on them. I live by Jim's Law of the Road: No matter how lightly traveled and/or well-paved a road is, a car will likely pass you on the left as you encounter an obstacle [e.g. ice] on the right.

BTW, as posted by many on the Forums, and in my experience, Schwalbe Marathon Winters don't have a noticeable increase in rolling resistance.
BTW, what is your commute?
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Old 09-29-09, 09:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by elcraft View Post
Having commuted in Boston, myself, you might be a bit optimistic about the possibility of commuting during or after snowfall. The snow will be plowed (and very high too!) onto the area you would be riding in. The roadways become, effectively, narrower by a lane. Any debris plowed up (like tree branches, re-tread pieces or bits of concrete/tarmac) end up in the bike lane. Bike paths are rarely cleared. The road salt used on the roads will turn your bike into a bright orange mass of disintegrating metal.
If the roads are clear from plowed snow, it is possible to commute, but the debris remains a challenge to dodge. It is simply not a priority for the DPW guys to keep the bike lanes clear.
Id consider some sort of trainer and be prepared to use mass transit or telecommute
It's winter that made me less shy about taking the lane because of all the reasons you state. Unless we're talking about downtown, the bike lanes in these parts are frequently unrideable during the winter. Bike paths are generally plowed but they don't get you everywhere.

Rust is manageable but maintaining your bike requires more diligence that's for sure.
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Old 09-29-09, 10:28 PM   #6
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Though I'm not from Boston I do have a few comments.

Even if the roads are clear I'd plan on your commute taking another 5 to 10 minutes longer (or maybe more) in the winter. There are various theories as to why it's true but riding in cold weather is just plain slower. Studded tires do not help

Along with that there's the extra time to get dressed. Speaking of getting dressed being as you're going to be on the road an hour or more, keeping your feet warm will take some extra care. I don't know how cold an average January morning would be in Boston but it's a potential problem.

As for tires, I'm not a fan of the A10s. They might be fine for the conditions you're likely to ride in but they weren't adequate for me. I say spend the extra money and get Marathon Winters. I know you're concerned about rolling resistance but the Winters aren't too bad for a studded tire. They're not great in snow however. There are people who commute year round in Minneapolis on just road tires so you may not need studded tires at all. These folks skip days where there's a lot of snow on the roads. This strategy works OK if you can stick to the well traveled streets. A typical residential street though gets too much ice and snow build-up for me to be comfortable on a regular tire.

For me winter riding comes down to 5 things:

1. Dealing with bad road conditions
2. Knowing how to dress
3. Having adequate lighting
4. Accepting that the fact that it's going to be slower
5. Willingness to do extra bike maintenance

Last edited by tjspiel; 09-29-09 at 10:38 PM. Reason: the list keeps getting bigger
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Old 09-30-09, 02:35 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by tjspiel View Post
For me winter riding comes down to 5 things:

1. Dealing with bad road conditions
2. Knowing how to dress
3. Having adequate lighting
4. Accepting that the fact that it's going to be slower
5. Willingness to do extra bike maintenance
1) I already have to deal with this to some extent. There's lots of debris, potholes, etc on my route. No bike lanes: just me and the traffic. It will just be worse in the winter.

2) I think I have this covered. I use wool socks year round, with heavier ones for winter. I also use shoe covers, neopreme tights and a wool pullover under my jacket in cold weather. I have various types of gloves (glove liners really help, too) and ski goggles with clear lenses for night commuting.

3) I have a MagicShine 900, and it's great. I also run a SuperFlash on the rear. I'm thinking of adding a second one for backup (my backup lights are simple LED flashers front and rear).

4) I don't "hammer" on the commute, but if it starts taking a really long time, I'll have to re-examine the strategy.

5) I already wipe down the chain each evening, and wash the bike each weekend. I recognize that this will be harder as it gets colder.
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Old 09-30-09, 03:59 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by mr_antares View Post
Options I'm considering:
1) Leave the road tires on the bike, and just not ride when the conditions seem poor.
2) Some slightly nobby-er tires in 32 or 35 mm.
3) Tires with some studs (e.g. Nokian A10) but not a lot more tread (to keep the rolling resistance down)
4) Tires with both more tread and studs (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon Winter or Nokian W106)
5) Get a hardtail mountain bike (a 29er?) with really aggressive tires and only ride it on "bad" days.

Any advice or experience to share? What do the rest of you do in the winter?
I don't know Boston, but have some general comments on winter riding.

Your option number 2) is a very poor one IMO, knobby tires won't help you much. On ice you are better off with slicks (more rubber-to-ice surface), the knobs might help a bit in snow though.

Generally in winter conditions (when icy roads can be expected) studded tires and good lights are very important. These two parts of your equipment keep you alive, while the rest (bike geometry, fenders, bar configuration, gearing, brakes, etc.) only make the commute more comfortable and/or faster.

For such a long commute (1 hour in summer conditions) rolling resistance of studded tires will be a significant factor. So if you want to ride when you expect ice you should get studded tires.

I think that the option with aggressive tires would not be optimal. The difference in speed is so huge that one would be likely to choose the slicks even though the conditions called for studs. The more aggressive studded tires (>200 studs) are generally more suitable for winter mountain biking than for commuting. Also having a wide tire will require much more energy in conditions when your tires cut through the snow (wet snow, new snow, sleet etc.) That being said, I commute on a pair of W240s, but I have a very short commute and have the most fun when the conditions are most difficult
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Old 09-30-09, 06:32 AM   #9
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I practice before I start my winter commute. Ice ponds are great for
regaining my balance. I ride ice hills on my mtb at the local park.
Then I'll work on the ice that has a broken up uneven surface which
represents a good part of the commute. If the weather forecast seems
daunting, I'll try to leave an hour earlier than usual. I can bail back to
my house and truck. Usually when the road snow is as high as my
pedals.
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Old 09-30-09, 06:40 AM   #10
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Having commuted in Boston, myself, you might be a bit optimistic about the possibility of commuting during or after snowfall. The snow will be plowed (and very high too!) onto the area you would be riding in. The roadways become, effectively, narrower by a lane. Any debris plowed up (like tree branches, re-tread pieces or bits of concrete/tarmac) end up in the bike lane. Bike paths are rarely cleared. The road salt used on the roads will turn your bike into a bright orange mass of disintegrating metal.
If the roads are clear from plowed snow, it is possible to commute, but the debris remains a challenge to dodge. It is simply not a priority for the DPW guys to keep the bike lanes clear.
Id consider some sort of trainer and be prepared to use mass transit or telecommute
Quote:
Originally Posted by j3ns View Post
I don't know Boston, but have some general comments on winter riding.
...I commute on a pair of W240s, but I have a very short commute and have the most fun when the conditions are most difficult


Since this thread has expanded from a discussion about winter tires to a global one about winter riding, I'd like to offer this post, one of the best I've read on the subject, written by our own local subscriber, buzzman. I cited it back in July when another local poster, DX Rider, asked, "How do you handle approaching snow plows?"

Safety and Winter Cycling

Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzman View Post
I was thinking of starting a similar thread so I'm glad to see someone else is pondering this issue as well.

It's an issue that I feel gets right to the heart of many advocacy and safety issues and our "right to the road".

I have been riding a bike for transportation purposes in New England winters for almost 40 years now. A few things I've observed during that time:

#1) A bicycle can be an excellent means of transportation in the winter, even in relatively extreme conditions if the cyclist is well prepared and aware of the limitations and liabilities of winter riding.

#2) Bicyclists are a small percentage of vehicles on the road in mid-summer, maybe 2% at maximum. Meaning 98% of the population has chosen to drive a motorized vehicle, usually a car. In the winter bicyclists are an even smaller percentage. A really small percentage of vehicles on the road in the winter are bicycles, perhaps 0.0002% of the vehicles will be bicycles. That means more than 99% of people have chosen another means of transport- usually the automobile.

#3) The number of people who will think you are "crazy" for riding to work mid-winter will be much larger than those that roll their eyes when you told them you just rode 100 miles to the company picnic mid-summer. Many of those people will also be "bicyclists" themselves. What this means is that you will have few allies and very few people who understand why you insist on riding a bike in the winter. It is an uphill battle and one that may not be worth engaging in with most people.

#4) In really bad conditions the only motorized vehicles on the road will be snowplows, emergency vehicles and people in cars who are too stupid to stay home. That means that the bicyclist must be prepared to take evasive maneuvers and ride with extreme caution when in the proximity of any motorized vehicle during the winter.

#5) Snowplow drivers are super dangerous. Don't mess with them. They have often been driving the plow in horrible conditions without sleep for 24-48 hours and are soused in coffee and possibly worse and they may not be able to discern whether your reflectorized vest and blinkie is an alien spacecraft landing or the beginning of a migraine headache but the last thing they'll expect it to be is a bicyclist.

#6) Take the lane and be visible. Drivers often hop into their car after having scraped a small 4" diameter circle in the ice on their windshield and soon the interior of their car windows are fogged to such a degree to turn all drivers into Mr. Magoo. But be prepared to give way when necessary or to take alternatives that will not put you in the way of too many cars. A plowed MUP can be a healthy alternative to the road.

#7) Mid-winter, IMO, is not the time to politicize your bike riding. Take the lane as a necessity but a snow storm is not the time to assert your right to the road in any self-righteous fashion or in a way that can be perceived as such. See point #2- YOU WILL HAVE FEW ALLIES! This is a fact of life, a reality. Most people think you're nuts to be out in that weather- even other cyclists. If the bike lane isn't plowed, if the MUP isn't plowed you're entitled to being ticked off about it but be realistic most town/city/state budgets are cash strapped and special plowing for the .0002% of vehicles during a snow emergency may not be a priority right now and that means being prepared to ride in crap. My commute to and from work can turn into something more akin to a challenging MTB ride than a pleasant road ride. Don't expect a smooth ride. Sorry but no one really feels they owe that to those of us who bike ride in these conditions.

#8) Outfit your bike for winter riding. You have to be an extremely skilled rider to get through a New England winter on a fixed gear with 23 mm slicks. If you're a messenger and only riding downtown on well traveled streets you might be able to get by but if you're commuting 10 miles out of the city you'll encounter roads and conditions that will be challenging to say the least. Have a bike just for winter riding or modify the bike you have. Having a poorly equipped bike in the winter is the equivalent to the jerk in the car driving on bald tires, old windshield wipers and no defroster.

#9) The reality is that people driving their cars are far more dangerous to both themselves and others on the road than a cyclist is in winter conditions. Someone just slid off the road the other day, across the bike path and into the Charles River in their car and died. My sense is that some people have no business being in cars in those conditions bikes actually do fine.

#10) Winter cyclists are definitely marching to the beat of a different drummer.
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Old 09-30-09, 06:54 AM   #11
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The folks at my LBS are recommending no knobs, no studs, but a grippier tire that will do better in wet and sometimes slushy conditions. The truth of the matter is that Boston doesn't get a ton of snow...wait, stop throwing things at me...Boston gets snow, and it can be frequent some winters, but what's not frequent is snow remaining on the roads day after day. The day after a snowstorm, it'll be clear and wet; the day after that, it'll be dry. So, I'm thinking what I'm going to gear up for is more wet roads than ice and snow. Depending on how far out of town you are, though, the mix may be different.
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Old 09-30-09, 07:22 AM   #12
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Metro Boston does get fairly well plowed. Because of that I have been able to
commute in blizzard like conditions. Buzzman made a post to live by.
I believe winter riding is a combination of aquired skill,patience and experience.
Someday I may get a set of winter tires for variety. Some riders keep a set of
rims and tires just for the winter. Me, I swapped out a hybrid for a drop
bar and it has been a lot of fun.
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Old 09-30-09, 09:57 AM   #13
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Last winter I commuted on Nokian W240s in Cincinnati (a climate probably fairly similar to Boston - usually more rain than snow). My regular 40 minute commute became a 55 minute commute in part due to the tires, but also because of the other winter factors (wearing more clothing, darkness, road conditions).

I think the w240s were overkill for me, so i purchased a second wheelset this summer to keep the winter tires mounted on. I'll probably still ride them 80% of the time, but during those week-long stretches of above-freezing weather in december and february I'll switch to my road tires. If i had to do it again i'd probably go with w106, though that might also be overkill.

The reason i went with the w240s in the first place was to prepare for the absolute worst winter conditions i could imagine experiencing. it turns out on those days i either didn't go to work or drove, my commute was just too long to risk riding in those conditions. I did however have fun riding around town while playing hookey.
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Old 09-30-09, 10:47 AM   #14
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Use Studded Tires

I commute in suburban Boston around the I-495 belt and I would strongly suggest using studded tires.

Plowed roads will leave snow banks. Snow banks melt during the day and the water runs across the road. If the water doesn't dry before dark, it will freeze as the temperatures drop. I don't care how good your lights are, it is difficult to spot and avoid icy patches at night.

I use the Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires and these work well unless the snow starts to get deep (more than two inches).

Steve
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Old 09-30-09, 10:55 AM   #15
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Boston Commute

I"ll comment on what works for me. I did the winter commute last year from wilmington (north) to boston. Nokian mount and grounds , 26x1.95x 160 studs per tire. I might disagree with the op comment on occasional snow. I ran these on a rockhopper for a dedicated winter ride. For me studded tires are the only way to ride in the winter. They are an aggressive tread commuter tire. The studs are not in the center of the tire , more to the side. On icy days, 30 psi gets good ice grip. On snow or wet days, 45 psi works well. I ride on paved streets, dirt paths and MUPs. When the snow banks do the freeze /thaw, there is always ice present. Slower winter commute = faster warm weather riding. Safety is more important than travel time for me. On smooth glare ice you can stop and turn with these tires, an eye opener if you haven't used them before.
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Old 09-30-09, 11:04 AM   #16
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I ride 30 miles RT between Haverhill and Newburyport MA. I use Nokian W106 on a cyclocross disk bike with some 45mm fenders. Awesome setup. The Nokians are great for the slick black ice, good on regular roads ( yup, more resistance than the summer Conti Gatorskins they replace ), good also when there's snow but not deep snow. Deep snow presents difficulties that can't be dealt with effectively without something like a Surly Monkey thing with the 4" wide tires IMO. The W106 seem to be lasting great and are very high quality, I haven't owned the Scwalbes but IMO the Nokians seemed to have a less resistance design on clearish roads where the majority of their use will be.

I run pretty high PSI too, like 70 which is higher than the 65 spec if I remember correctly... No problems, faster, no wear issues...
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Old 09-30-09, 12:20 PM   #17
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I've commuted from Lexington to Cambridge for two winters now, and I'm planning for this winter as well.
I use Nokian W106s, and I'm quite happy with them. Here are my experiences:

1) My winter commute is mostly on low-traffic suburban streets and then Mass Ave. Mass Ave in Lexington/Arlington is plowed plenty wide for cyclists and cars to share in the winter, but other roads may be too narrow. The snowplows deliberately open up a large paved area to allow for snow-storage room for the next big snowfall. Mass Ave in Lexington/Arlington is quite wide for the number of travel lanes, and there are few parked cars. Is your route narrow in the summer? In that case, winter cycling may be challenging.

2) The burbs are quite a bit colder than the urban core. Ignore the 40F high temperatures. The nightly low determines the ice conditions for the commute in, and in Lexington we are below 32F almost every winter night. Because of daily meltoff from afternoon highs, salt, and automobile tire heat, I find fresh ice on the road nearly every morning. Large sheets of it in many places on many days, not just little spots occasionally. Some of this ice is invisible "black" ice, especially in areas where cars have splashed water during the day. I often find this black ice only when I stop and have difficulty standing. No, eastern Mass is not Minnesota. In some ways, the frequent thaw/freeze cycle makes the ice worse. I would NEVER rely on just noticing and avoiding the icy spots. YMMV

3) I am much slower in the winter, but then my car commute would also be slower. I'm not that fast in summer either, though. I use studded tires whenever the nightly temperatures start hovering around freezing. In winter, I ride an old trek multitrack which barely shifts sometimes. I wear heavy boots in cold weather-- I am concerned about avoiding frostbite. My coldest commute so far was -6F (actual temperature), with a good headwind. If you only ride on warm days (morning temperature>20F), keeping warm is less of an issue.

4) Despite inconveniences, winter may be my favorite season to ride. I really enjoy spending time outside, being able to experience the change of the seasons, etc. In winter, I have many fewer opportunities to spend time outsside. I just pick safe and warm equipment, and I avoid hurrying.

Jim
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Old 09-30-09, 01:12 PM   #18
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4) Despite inconveniences, winter may be my favorite season to ride. I really enjoy spending time outside, being able to experience the change of the seasons, etc. In winter, I have many fewer opportunities to spend time outsside. I just pick safe and warm equipment, and I avoid hurrying.
I like this. Most people in these parts are deep into winter-hate by the end of January, but I have always found that my happiest and healthiest winters are those where I spent as much time as possible outdoors. It's a shame that you don't get much daylight commuting in the winter (I think getting as much sunlight as possible is important too), but I think it still helps.
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Old 09-30-09, 02:25 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by mr_antares View Post

...

Options I'm considering:
1) Leave the road tires on the bike, and just not ride when the conditions seem poor.
2) Some slightly nobby-er tires in 32 or 35 mm.
3) Tires with some studs (e.g. Nokian A10) but not a lot more tread (to keep the rolling resistance down)
4) Tires with both more tread and studs (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon Winter or Nokian W106)
5) Get a hardtail mountain bike (a 29er?) with really aggressive tires and only ride it on "bad" days.

Any advice or experience to share? What do the rest of you do in the winter?
I personally just never ride without studs when it might be below freezing. Just last winter I was biking in the spring with my studs still on, at like 45 degrees out. I got nearly to my destination, and after an hour of biking and no ice or snow I was thinking "geez, why do I still have my studs on?". Naturally, right about the time I was thinking that I hit some ice I didn't see - it was in a semi-permanent shadow because of the terrain, so it didn't get any sunlight and hadn't melted.

I was very concerned about the drop in rolling resistance with studs. But with the Schwalbe Marathon Winter's I have, pumped up to 70psi, it's barely noticeable over my 28c summer tires. I would guess I lose 1 mph. With that in mind, there's absolutely no way I'm willing to risk breaking a bone winter riding (or worse, falling over in front of a car) over 1mph. Let's just say it's 3mph, even - same thing. Definitely not worth the risk for me.

I also see little or no point in knobbier or bigger tires - they won't grip on ice, either.

I just haven't heard very good things about the Nokian A10's. They're definitely better than no studs, but I've read about people slipping on sheer ice with no snow with them (though that may not apply to you as you likely don't have the kind of ice we have in Minnesota). Still, I just wouldn't recommend them.

I would say to buy the Schwalbe Marathon winters on. At high pressure they have less rolling resistance, and they aren't *as* good on ice but they've had enough grip to let me maintain control of the bike, it just gets a bit wobbly.

If you're willing to take the risk of riding without studs at all, I would highly consider a compromise. Here in Minnesota the really hardcore people ride with just a front studded tire, as losing traction on the front tire means you go down faster than you can react, while losing traction on the back tire, at worst usually happens slowly enough that you could put a foot down or something. And since you still have traction on one tire (with a studded tire in the front) it seems to work for them. I get the impression that riding that way in Minnesota results in 1 or 2 falls a year on average, less in good conditions and more in more severe winters (like last winter - if I recall correctly, some I know said they had gone 2 winters without any falls with just a front studded tire, then had 2 falls last winter which convinced them to put a studded back tire on). But maybe it would work for you since you'll only be biking in the better conditions.

I wouldn't go with the really aggressive mountain bike if you're planning on driving on the really bad days. The rolling resistance of the really aggressive studded tires is huge. With a 17 mile commute, if you biked every day I would suggest buy a 2nd front wheel and a really aggressive tire for it, then running a "light" studded tire front and back (like the schwalbe marathon winter) and throwing the really aggressive front tire on for those conditions.

Last edited by PaulRivers; 09-30-09 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 09-30-09, 04:58 PM   #20
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I do a 19 mile round trip from the west side of Waltham to Harvard Square. Last winter I think I was off the bike for three days because of snowstorms.

Some thoughts:

I love studded tires - I use Schwalbe Marathon Winters; they are great for those frozen bits that are around every morning and for those days where the whole city is a skating rink. They suck in deep snow. Anything more than about 4 inches of heavy wet snow and they are unrideable.

No bike paths in the winter. While the DCR plows some of the bike paths, they do a really crappy job. Mostly I'm on plowed roads, and I don't find the narrowed lanes a problem. In lots of places you actually get more room in winter because two lanes become a lane and a half; that's a lane for cars and a half lane for me!

The bike is a mess of salt and slush pretty much every day. I give at a quick rinse with a 2 gallon garden sprayer full of soap and water. I just leave the sprayer in the garage - it never seems to freeze.
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Old 09-30-09, 05:23 PM   #21
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I ride slicks commuting year round in Boston and last winter (the snowiest I've seen in a while), I skipped riding only three times (two big snow storms and one ice storm). The day after (as others have pointed out) is always clear, if a bit sloppy. I spent a long time considering getting studded tires and finally decided that it wasn't worth it to me for the number of days that I actually felt that I wanted/needed them (a friend of mine who also commutes here year round came to a similar conclusion). My safety concerns have more to do with out-of-control cars in bad conditions than poor bike handling (though that is a still big concern). It is easy enough for me, as much as I hate it, to jump on the T to go to work when its really bad ... and it has to be *really* bad for me to ride the T.

And I'll also give a +1 for winter being my favorite time to ride. Seems more peaceful to me somehow. Fewer people out and about to cause problems.
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Old 09-30-09, 06:59 PM   #22
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I have noticed that I'm already slowing down, as more and more of my commute takes place in the dark. My average heart rate has gone down, too.

Some weeks ago, one of my co-workers asked if I would ever get the commute down below an hour. My response then was the commute is not a time trial, and it's silly and dangerous to ride it like one. That's even more true now than it was then. I guess I'll just resign myself to longer transit times until spring rolls around.
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Old 09-30-09, 07:20 PM   #23
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I commute all year 'round on a mountain bike. I set up a second set of wheels with
home-made aggressively studded(about 200 studs front, 450 or so rear)tires, and on
anything other than totally clear pavement with no chance of precipitation I use the studded wheels.
They have quite a rolling resistance but I consider it more calories burned and I feel stronger on the non-studded wheels.
I've refined the art of wheel-swapping with ski gloves on without shredding my gloves on the studs.
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Old 10-01-09, 09:46 AM   #24
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After crashing last year to black ice, I picked up a set of Kenda Klondikes (100 studs). I was hoping to get the Marathons, but because of their popularity, they were out of stock at the time. I'll be riding the studded tires the entire winter this time for safety's sake
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Old 10-01-09, 09:54 AM   #25
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This is my first season as a commuter (I started in the spring), and I'm seeking some advice from all of you with similar commutes and climates to mine. Boston gets cold. We get occasional snow, but this isn't Minnesota. I think that the main problem will be icy patches (where the puddles are now).

My commute is 17 miles, mostly on main roads that are likely to be plowed, and I plan to drive (or better yet telecommute) on days when it is actually snowing, or we've just had a large snowstorm. I can do the commute in a bit over an hour, and I don't want to go much slower, at least on "good" days.

My ride is an inexpensive hybrid with 700c wheels and fenders. The current tires are 32mm road tires (not slick, but not much tread either), and I've got good clearances all around.

Options I'm considering:
1) Leave the road tires on the bike, and just not ride when the conditions seem poor.
2) Some slightly nobby-er tires in 32 or 35 mm.
3) Tires with some studs (e.g. Nokian A10) but not a lot more tread (to keep the rolling resistance down)
4) Tires with both more tread and studs (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon Winter or Nokian W106)
5) Get a hardtail mountain bike (a 29er?) with really aggressive tires and only ride it on "bad" days.

Any advice or experience to share? What do the rest of you do in the winter?
I ride the Nokian W106 tires on my hybrid. They're more "surefooted" than my own two feet on ice. The Schwalbe Winter Marathons are another nice tire, plus they have a reflective sidewall and kevlar. You don't want to try to ride without studded tires when it's below freezing.
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