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Twin Cities Winters...

Old 11-27-09, 01:09 AM
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Tigel
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Twin Cities Winters...

I'm moving to Minneapolis, MN this January. I live in missouri and the winter's here doesn't compare to Minnesota's. I used to live there two years ago so I have first hand experience how crazy it can get.

Since I live in a fairly small town, commuting really isn't possibly with 20+ miles to get to places. It is, but not worth my time. I sold my car this past week and I'm planning on riding my bike and using the bus when I move. I'm all about being "green" and I want to start now.

I've never had a street bike. my experience in bicycles is from BMX racing as an adolescent (state champion multiple years in a row!). I know how to build a bike, with some minimal assistance, and I know how to maintain a bike as well. My questions are these:

1. My budget is 200$ MAX, however, depending on the deal/time/situation I will consider 300$. I've looked at craigslist, and I can find a cheap but working street/urban bike for around 50$. Stock parts for the most part, so I would have to buy fenders, possibly new breaks, chain, tires, etc etc. Should I go this route or buy a "winter bike" that's already built? If yes, does my budget even allow me to do this? How much would it cost if I had a stock bike to turn it into a winter bike? (estimate, you dont have to go out of your way)

2. The winters in the twin cities get really bad, and the streets can have feet of snow on them, especially on back roads. Depending on the street, it can take 3-4 days to clear them from snow. This might be a dumb question, but are winter bikes meant for this type of terrain? Or are winter bikes made for slick, minimal snow (half a foot max or so), icy roads? Will a winter bike do me any good in foot+ snow? Should I just take the bus during the winter?

3. What all is REQUIRED for a winter bike. I'm not talking recommended, but required. Since I'm on a tight budget, I want to play it smart when deciding what I need/want. I'm assuming a requirement will be tires with spikes (whatever those are called, still researching), fenders for the splash, and better brakes? What am I missing, or out of those three, could some be recommended instead of required.

4. As for brakes, I've been reading about disc brakes for bicycles. Will normal brakes be fine for a winter bike? I'm skilled enough to understand not to go extremely fast when I'm about to turn, and all those basics. However, what if I factor in downhills.. will normal brakes still slow me down? How important are disc brakes for a winter bike (not in general please).

5. If I plan on riding my bike in spring/summer/fall, will my winter bike be easy enough to switch parts? Or should i just find another bike for my normal commute... Also, what if it isn't snowing during the winter one week. If I have special tires, will I have to keep switching them off and on so I don't damage them? Seems like a pain, and makes me think having an alternative bike is better.

6. Seeing as my budget is minimal, and question 5 being the factor here. Should I just get a non-winter bike and take the bus on snow days? Can a winter bike be successful without special tires? I guess I should wait for #5 to be answered first.

7. I'm not sure what my actual commute will be, miles wise. As I'm still looking for a place to live. So I figured I'd include this in my post I'm looking for a place to live (-400 rent a month) in the downtown area of the twin cities. Message me or email me if you might have a room and we can talk. (quiet, college student)

My email is joshua1201@gmail.com. If you're from the twin cities, I'd really like to get into the commute "scene" up there asap! So feel free to message me and just say hi.

Again, I'm sorry if these questions have been answered before. Some have, but I never could find a clear answer on some of them. Thanks in advance.


*EDIT* questions 3-4 aren't really needing to be answered in this topic as I have another topic up in another forum. Go right ahead if you would like though!
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Old 11-27-09, 04:46 AM
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For what it's worth, When I rode year round in Minnesota back in the 70s I just rode my road bike and kept it clean. Special equipment may help, but is not strictly required.

You may also want to check the Winter Biking forum.
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Old 11-27-09, 09:43 AM
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I don't live in the Twin Cities, I live in Milwaukee, but here's my take.

With the exception of a true blizzard, most streets are plowed passable in a reasonable amount of time. Don't worry about plowing through a foot or more of heavy snow, worry more about slippery slop, ice, and bone numbing cold. The snow storm will roll through, dump it's 6 inches of snow (no big deal) and then it gets COLD (below zero). Anything with wheels can be used as a winter bike and you should make your budget pretty easily. You set up your bike for winter and leave it. Winter is plenty long and spring arrives late. A single speed would be a good choice, as would a fixed gear. You will have no need for disc brakes, the traction to the road will be the limiting factor if the roads aren't clear.

Summary: Just get something that rolls and that you like to ride and spend your money on some WARM mittens, WARM boots you can ride in, and a WARM face mask. The rest you'll learn as you go.
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Old 11-27-09, 01:58 PM
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Thanks for the help guys, I'm having trouble deciding on clothing.

Clearly I think my focus should be what I wear instead of what I ride. That makes me feel better. However, while reading these forums, and also the sticky on what to wear in the winter. I'm still not sure what I personally need in downtown Minneapolis. I've read the snow bike website and that's helped as far as how to dress, strategy wise. I'm still not sure as far as budget goes. I know clothing quality depends on price. From what I've seen I wont be finding GOOD gloves for 10 dollars, which is fine. I'm willing to spend money on good clothing. However, I don't want to spend too much at the same time.

Is there a good brand that I can just join the bandwagon and get everything from there and trust it will be good?

As far as price goes, how much should I spend on a good wind jacket, gloves, face mask, boots etc? I have a lot of options, I just don't want to spend too little or too much you know?

I'm also curious what websites are best used for good deal winter wear? i have a membership to department of goods, but that stuff is pretty over priced. I live a few miles away from the bass pro shops main campus, and then there's the obvious kohls/walmart/odd stores that I don't really trust as far as quality, but if it works, I'll do it. What websites do you guys use for shopping?

I'm posting this here because I'm curious what locals (or regional locals) wear for urban commutes. I read a lot of information that talks about racing, or trail/country stuff. I don't want to read the right information for the wrong reasons.

Last edited by Tigel; 11-27-09 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 11-27-09, 04:56 PM
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Think basic - think layers. You don't have to spend a lot of money as long as you don't care if your mittens match your ear muffs or such. Watch the sales for good deals. I've seen some really nice stuff at the Good Will (I mean Adidas, Nike, and such). Even a cheap parka is useful for those really nasty days. I would have two winter hats (so you've always got a dry one), ear muffs, face mask (some can be used as a turtle neck as well), windbreaker with multiple under layers. Pants depend on where you're riding to. Jeans are reasonable if you can get some tights or long johns underneith for those brisk days. Some guys ride in Sorel boots, but usually your typical hiking boot will keep your feet warm enough down to zero or so. Gloves are okay, but mittens will keep your hands functional down below zero.

I would say don't panic and keep your eyes open. As you run across something at a good price pick it up and before long you'll be outfitted just fine. I mean, even -10F isn't too bad if you can just keep your skin covered up. Once you get moving, you generate heat and start to warm up. Now -20 or -30F is a different story ... take the bus! LOL

Sounds like a great adventure.
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Old 11-27-09, 06:23 PM
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Pay the most attention to getting good hats, gloves, and boots. If you can't get everything you need before coming up here check out the Mills Fleet Farm stores in the area. Their clothing caters towards the people that are out working in the weather. Nothing fancy, but usable at a decent price.
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Old 11-27-09, 06:39 PM
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Tigel
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Thanks John, and you're right. I'm treating this like I'm going to go hiking in thick vegetation without food or water everyday. I guess I'm just trying to play it safe, since I have no clue what to expect. You're right though, if it's "too cold" I will be taking the bus without hesitation.
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Old 11-27-09, 09:09 PM
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Tigel
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Also, thanks Steve (just saw your reply).
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Old 12-12-09, 10:29 PM
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You might want to post up / look through old threads on mplsbikelove.com. Probably get more MN-specific answers.
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Old 12-14-09, 12:07 PM
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^^ YUP. Few of us in the winter forum here as well. The biggest issue is the drastic cuts in snowplowing in the last three years. Seeing a city plow is now a novelty even on mainline through streets.
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Old 12-21-09, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by CastIron View Post
^^ YUP. Few of us in the winter forum here as well. The biggest issue is the drastic cuts in snowplowing in the last three years. Seeing a city plow is now a novelty even on mainline through streets.
Funny, last week my St. Paul residential street got 2 extra plowings, 2 and 4 days after the snow emergency was done. Actually made things worse with windrows across intersections and with the detours around the legally parked cars.
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