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Winter Commuting Tips

Old 08-26-16, 10:37 AM
  #26  
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Originally Posted by absoludicrous View Post
Studs it is. Thanks a lot for the insightful information.
Studs are great in icy conditions. Just be aware that while they increase traction on ice, they also reduce traction on dry pavement. It's more of an issue on those early spring days when it's icy on the way to work, but sunny and dry on the way home.

I went down twice last winter, both times because I got way too aggressive around corners in areas where the roads were perfectly clear. It's pretty easy to think, "Wow it's a nice day today", let your guard down and ride like you do in the summer.
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Old 08-26-16, 10:40 AM
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The next thing that has piqued my interest is what bike to ride in the winter. Based off what I've read here I'm less inclined to ride my warm-season drop bar bike, and more inclined to think a cheap old hard-tail mountain bike or all-terrain bike might be the way to go.

Is it pretty much an "anything'll do" sort of deal or are there recommendations for capable winter bikes? Flat-bar better suited than drop?
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Old 08-26-16, 10:56 AM
  #28  
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my winter beast is an IGH disc brake hybrid. i've equipped it with schwalbe marathon winter studded tires and full fenders.

the IGH is less than ideal (it's an alfine 8 that's lubricated with grease that can get draggy in cold weather), but otherwise it gets the job done.

many winter riders say they prefer a more upright style bike to put more weight on the rear wheel for better traction in slippery/icy/snowy conditions.

my first winter bike was an old hard-tail that i put a rigid fork on; that's probably not a bad starting place for many people.

winter riding can be ridiculously filthy at times (at least in chicago), so whatever bike you choose, i'd highly recommend one that can accommodate full fenders.

Last edited by Steely Dan; 08-26-16 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 08-26-16, 11:12 AM
  #29  
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Originally Posted by absoludicrous View Post
The next thing that has piqued my interest is what bike to ride in the winter. Based off what I've read here I'm less inclined to ride my warm-season drop bar bike, and more inclined to think a cheap old hard-tail mountain bike or all-terrain bike might be the way to go.

Is it pretty much an "anything'll do" sort of deal or are there recommendations for capable winter bikes? Flat-bar better suited than drop?
Very Strongly recommend:
- 700c tires, I've ridden both and they're noteably better than 26" tires
- Full fenders
- Either a cheaper bike, or an expensive winter specific bike - for what you wrote I'd go with cheaper. I'd point you towards a $400 or so hybrid (new cost). If you can find used great, I'm to lazy to go used to save $150 lol.

Recommend:
- Straight handlebars, for the same reason mountain bikes have straight bars - leverage is much better for dealing with nasty uneven road surfaces.
- I've not seen many people using shocks. The sentiment seems to be that they might be nice if they worked perfectly, but the tend to get gunked up and fall apart in winter riding, and because a lot less effective when it gets real cold anyways, so don't use them.

My 2 cents.
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Old 08-26-16, 11:15 AM
  #30  
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also, my number one pro tip for winter riding: don't overdress.

you'll be riding a bike and making your own heat energy, you don't need to bundle up like nanook of the north for your average midwest winter day. now, down in the single digits and below zero range, that's when things can get silly, particularly when wind is involved (which it so often is), that's when real protection becomes more necessary.

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Old 08-26-16, 12:31 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by Steely Dan View Post
my winter beast is an IGH disc brake hybrid. i've equipped it with schwalbe marathon winter studded tires and full fenders.

the IGH is less than ideal (it's an alfine 8 that's lubricated with grease that can get draggy in cold weather), but otherwise it gets the job done.


I second Steely's comments about the Alfine 8 in wintertime - in weather below 15F the lubricants do become more viscous and require more effort, and the index shifting gets a little wonky. On the other hand, the contained gear package requires far less cleaning and maintenance than a conventional derailleur. When you combine the IGH hub with a centertrack carbon belt you have the ultimate low-maintenance winter setup: no drive train lubrication or cleaning required on my winter commuter these past two winters. I'm going to see about stripping my hub and using thinner lubricants this fall to see if it addresses the viscosity issue.
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Old 08-26-16, 12:44 PM
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You're off to a good start. I got a ski helmet last year, and it made a huge difference for me. Also, I got a jacket that does NOT make me warm, and this is an asset. Before I am warmed up from my pedaling, I am cool but not cold. Same with my mittens. The clothing needs to release heat when necessary. This is almost as important as retaining heat.

Fenders, yes.

Lights are an entirely different topic, and you should give it a good amount of thought. You will probably be unhappy if you spend too little, but spending a lot on something that doesn't meet your needs isn't any good, either. More light is not necessarily better. It depends on your eyes and your terrain. My headlight and one of my tail lights are dynamo powered. This puts an upper limit on the intensity of my headlight. That's OK for me, because I commute mostly on a bike path which is moderately lit. There are very few very dark spots. I am OK with slowing down to 15 mph when the light is low. In exchange for less light, maintenance of the system is much lower, and I never need to think about it. When the bike rolls, the lights run. On top of those two lights, I use a USB-charged blinky tail light and a spoke light in my rear wheel powered by a watch battery. The latter catches a lot of attention despite the fact that its intensity is low.
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Old 08-26-16, 12:46 PM
  #33  
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I should add that I'm in New York City where the winters are mild compared with Minneapolis. One day, I want to experience that kind of winter. I can scarcely imagine it. Then again, we have a lot of dampness and rain and temperatures hovering above and below the freezing point, which is pretty miserable in its own way. And we have high winds.
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Old 08-26-16, 02:17 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by Tundra_Man View Post
Studs are great in icy conditions. Just be aware that while they increase traction on ice, they also reduce traction on dry pavement. It's more of an issue on those early spring days when it's icy on the way to work, but sunny and dry on the way home.

I went down twice last winter, both times because I got way too aggressive around corners in areas where the roads were perfectly clear. It's pretty easy to think, "Wow it's a nice day today", let your guard down and ride like you do in the summer.
Agreed here. I've never fallen with studs on in dry conditions simply because the tires come with a warning that says "Don't ride too aggressively or you may pull the studs out." Basically that means I slow down more before I turn and I don't accelerate too quickly.

Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
Very Strongly recommend:
- 700c tires, I've ridden both and they're noteably better than 26" tires
- Full fenders
- Either a cheaper bike, or an expensive winter specific bike - for what you wrote I'd go with cheaper. I'd point you towards a $400 or so hybrid (new cost). If you can find used great, I'm to lazy to go used to save $150 lol.

Recommend:
- Straight handlebars, for the same reason mountain bikes have straight bars - leverage is much better for dealing with nasty uneven road surfaces.
- I've not seen many people using shocks. The sentiment seems to be that they might be nice if they worked perfectly, but the tend to get gunked up and fall apart in winter riding, and because a lot less effective when it gets real cold anyways, so don't use them.

My 2 cents.
Mr. Rivers always has very good advice for winter riding, I'd definitely take heed. However I will say that I ride both a 700c bike and a 26" mountain bike in the winter. Different bikes for different kinds of snow/weather. (Montana gets lots of winter weather...) The mountain bike puts me a bit closer to the ground and has slightly wider bars, so I take that when it's really bad outside. The other 95% of the time I'm on the 700c cross bike.

Originally Posted by absoludicrous View Post
The next thing that has piqued my interest is what bike to ride in the winter. Based off what I've read here I'm less inclined to ride my warm-season drop bar bike, and more inclined to think a cheap old hard-tail mountain bike or all-terrain bike might be the way to go.

Is it pretty much an "anything'll do" sort of deal or are there recommendations for capable winter bikes? Flat-bar better suited than drop?
It REALLY depends. What are you mostly going to be riding on? If the answer is "plowed roads" then a 700c bike with studs will be great. If the answer is "sometimes plowed MUPs that are likely to have ice ruts and frozen footprints" then I'd suggest a front suspension MTB. Keep in mind the 700c studded tires are often more expensive than the 26" ones. At least that's my experience.

Another thing to keep in mind is that thinner tires tend to cut through snow where thicker tires tend to ride on it. That often means that my 700c bike with 35c tires is easier to ride in 4" of fluffy snow than my 26" mtb with 2" tires on it. Neither bike will ride through 4"-6" of mashed potatoes. It just doesn't happen.

I suggest going and buying an old rigid MTB from craigslist. Those make GREAT winter bikes. Do it now so you can go through and fix anything needing done to the bike. That way you'll figure out what you want in a winter bike for next year and you won't have spent too much money on it! We sell plenty of bikes at the COOP for around $120-$150 that would make absolutely great winter bikes. On craigslist you can probably score them for $20-$40 cheaper. In all honesty, winter is HARD on bikes. It honestly is. Especially in a place with lots of salt.

I do suggest flat bars, especially on rutted/icy multi use paths...

And yes, definitely, 100% full fenders. Don't buy the bike if it doesn't have adequate clearance for fenders.

Man this thread is becoming a treasure trove of good information. It should be a sticky... in the winter cycling forum...

Last edited by corrado33; 08-26-16 at 02:25 PM.
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Old 08-26-16, 02:38 PM
  #35  
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I put my experience after some 10 years of all year commuting and 8 of commuting in ice and snow as well, into these three articles. They address how to dress, how to choose tyres and riding style:

Winter cycling Archives - Cycle Gremlin


Of course, good lights and reflective clothing are good for any lower visibility conditions: night, fog, snow, rain...
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Old 08-26-16, 02:43 PM
  #36  
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Thank you thank you thank you, all. Awesome (and eye opening) stuff here.
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Old 08-26-16, 02:58 PM
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Chiming in from Atlanta, I don't know about snow and real winters but for freezing rain here's a tip: keep your feet dry. The only foolproof way that I've discovered is: plastic shopping bag over the shoe, tucked in over the sock and covered by a neoprene shoe cover. I sometimes put a strip of duct tape on bottom so that I don't slip as much.
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Old 08-26-16, 05:32 PM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by absoludicrous View Post
Looking for some insight, tips, tricks for those who commute during the winter. I will be riding in Minneapolis, MN.

I have never done this before and would like to continue my commute through the winter.

My current bike plans to be an All City Space Horse set up with 35mm Gravel King SKs. I'd like to add fenders, headlight, and possibly a rack, but I don' thave an issue continuing to ride with my back pack. I will convert my SPD pedals over to platform in order to wear a hiking boot. I also plan on wearing my insulated snowboarding helmet along with goggles and a face mask.

What are some things I should also consider in order to make the winter commute as enjoyable as possible? Tips on bike handling, gear, etc?
Best wishes; that’s a great set of replies from some BF winter stalwarts.
I have a 14 mile one-way commute here in Boston. Back in 2015 we had a legendary Snowpocalypse and had to deal with markedly narrowed streets. For anyweather commuting I advise a rear view mirror, in particular for winter riding because beside the narrowed streets, you have the unique and sudden hazard of skidding cars from front and back.

If interested, I have a rundown of my winter dress on this Commuting Forum thread, “Cold Commute Selfie."

One other serious hazard I have posted extensively about is fogging eyewear; in particular I wear prescription eyeglasses. See this post, this one, and this one:

Originally Posted by chefisaac View Post
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Old 08-26-16, 06:11 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Chiming in from Atlanta, I don't know about snow and real winters but for freezing rain here's a tip: keep your feet dry. The only foolproof way that I've discovered is: plastic shopping bag over the shoe, tucked in over the sock and covered by a neoprene shoe cover. I sometimes put a strip of duct tape on bottom so that I don't slip as much.
I hoard plastic bags, since some of the People's Republics of Metro Boston want to ban them. I also really like these Gortex shoe covers, and rubber Totes complete my winter ensemble.

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
This past Monday (12/30/13) I did my 14 mile commute at about 15°F and tried a new set of foot coverings that IMO that kept my feet significantly warmer than usual. In the past I had bought a pair of neon green shoe covers made by Gore-Tex, for wet riding. During the winter, I use platform pedals with toeclips, and my usual footwear is thin and thick socks, running shoes and Totes rubber overshoes. I use plastic bags over my running shoes to put on the Totes more easily (see the sequence below). [Besides for the waterproofing.]

So with the additional Gore-Tex shoe coverings at 15ºF, I did not perceive cold until about mile 10, and I did not feel cold in the sense of permeating the soft tissues of my foot until about mile 12, but it was tolerable. At about mile 12 I have a downhill run of several hundred yards that irreversibly drains the heat from my extremities. The next day at 21ºF, I rode without the Goretex, and started feeling cold at about mile 9 and finished significantly colder at my mile 14 destination than the day before.


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Old 08-27-16, 03:44 AM
  #40  
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Winter riding can be fun, but challenging as you figure out what kit works for you. For myself in Anchorage AK I have had good luck with a 2000 Specialized Rockhopper with Nokian (now Sumi) studded tires 2.3 up front and 2.1 on the rear. My current bike is a 2015 Salsa Fargo and I ran the 2.25 Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro front and rear. The Nokians on the Rockhopper rode better. I also use the Snowcat 44mm wide rims on both bikes to give a bit more width to the tires as most of my route doesn't get plowed. Expect your enroute times to increase and your burritos per mile to increase as well. And sport awesome ice formations on your face covering.
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Old 08-27-16, 06:15 AM
  #41  
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Bicycling conditions around the Twin Cities vary quite a bit. Where will you be riding? Minneapolis is fairly good, St Paul is quite bad. Some suburbs like Shoreview are very good, others poor.

1) Schwalbe Marathon Winter tyres are critical regardless of what bike you ride.

2) I did one winter with an external derailleur, never again. There are good reasons why the vast majority in Europe ride IGH. We now ride Workcycles Opafiets (w/ Marathon Winters during winter). Much happier. City Bikes | LocalMile

3) Hands and feet get cold the fastest. Good boots and gloves/mitts are critical. Plan for several pair of gloves/mitts based on temp/wind/sun. For the coldest days I use regular ski mitts rather than bar mitts.

4) Layers are important. Many days you'll warm up quite a bit as you ride but you don't want to start out freezing. If I'm on the chilly side starting out then I'll be comfortable in 3-5 minutes.

5) I don't wear a helmet for daily transportation. Too hot and sweaty in summer and too cold in winter. If helmets were effective then we'd have a lower rate of TBI than The Netherlands, Denmark, and other countries where nobody wears them but we actually have a slightly higher rate of TBI from bicycle crashes. I have 2 or 3 ski hats that do the trick for me with the warmest a lined Columbia.

6) Be rational. If it's below maybe -10f or really windy or snowing hard then I don't ride. We each have our own comfort zones. I'm not a glutton for punishment so my low temp is gradually moving higher for longer trips.

7) Support Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition

8) Read streets.mn
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Old 08-27-16, 06:44 AM
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http://www.bikeforums.net/winter-cyc...free-last.html

Tried out this winter riding hint out last winter at 0 F and it worked ok. The only issue I had was that as I started to huff and puff climbing one of the hills on the route I was riding the mask would move down and pinch off my nose. Otherwise while on the flats where I was breathing through just my nose it worked good. Didn't try it in any warmer temps as it made my face too warm.
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Old 08-27-16, 01:38 PM
  #43  
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Someone upstream

mentioned how badly salt and other road chemicals can affect bikes, especially aluminum components. I use Boeshield T9 as a protectant and lubricant. To protect components i spray a bit on and then gently wipe it off, which leaves enough residue to protect the metal. As a lubricant (chain, pivot points, springs, etc) i use the liquid. Its very effective.
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Old 08-27-16, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I should add that I'm in New York City where the winters are mild compared with Minneapolis. One day, I want to experience that kind of winter. I can scarcely imagine it. Then again, we have a lot of dampness and rain and temperatures hovering above and below the freezing point, which is pretty miserable in its own way. And we have high winds.
Just ran across this:
Coldest Winters in Twin Cities History: 1873-2014: Minnesota DNR

The winter of 2013-14 from December-February in the Twin Cities was the coldest Meteorological Winter in 35 years.
They called it a "Polar Vortex" where the air that's normally sitting over the north pole gets pushed down onto us somehow.

I know what you mean about the dampness and rain though. If it's humid, it feels a lot colder at 32F than it does at 25F, ironically because of the humidity difference.
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Old 08-28-16, 07:39 AM
  #45  
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
Just ran across this:
Coldest Winters in Twin Cities History: 1873-2014: Minnesota DNR



They called it a "Polar Vortex" where the air that's normally sitting over the north pole gets pushed down onto us somehow.

I know what you mean about the dampness and rain though. If it's humid, it feels a lot colder at 32F than it does at 25F, ironically because of the humidity difference.
We remember that one even here. Not snow so much - though we did have the first November snows since the early 1900's and were shut down twice by storms - but that frigid polar air spilling down. And the ice storms when Gulf low systems collided with it. I got a kick out of riding every commute through it all and pretending that I was an intrepid Minnesota ice-man type. But only for awhile. Keep your vortex up North where it belongs please!
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Old 08-28-16, 04:34 PM
  #46  
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Originally Posted by absoludicrous View Post
The next thing that has piqued my interest is what bike to ride in the winter. Based off what I've read here I'm less inclined to ride my warm-season drop bar bike, and more inclined to think a cheap old hard-tail mountain bike or all-terrain bike might be the way to go.

Is it pretty much an "anything'll do" sort of deal or are there recommendations for capable winter bikes? Flat-bar better suited than drop?
I'm in Madison. My dedicated winter bike is an old steel MTB without suspension. It was kind of a cast-off in the first place, so I'm not going to be heartbroken if some of the parts eventually dissolve and have to replaced by more winter-compatible parts such as IGH or even single speed. All of my bikes have upright handlebars, this one included.

This winter I got bar mitts for Xmas, and they look dorky but really work great.

Last time I rode without studded tires during the winter, I fell on black ice and broke a rib. They plow, but don't salt, the bike paths in Madison. So the paths are generally passable but can be slippery.

One reason for a dedicated winter bike is to keep road salt off of your nice bikes. I coat any exposed steel parts with chainsaw bar oil, which is super sticky. I keep some in a tin can, and apply it with a little brush.
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Old 08-28-16, 07:00 PM
  #47  
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This is some great information on winter riding. Makes me want to start riding this coming winter.
From what I gathered from this post is I should look for a good used MTB.
Any recommended bikes I should be looking at?
Thank you.
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Old 08-28-16, 11:28 PM
  #48  
Bike Gremlin
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Originally Posted by Midtown View Post
This is some great information on winter riding. Makes me want to start riding this coming winter.
From what I gathered from this post is I should look for a good used MTB.
Any recommended bikes I should be looking at?
Thank you.
I have an old MTB, so that's my winter bike. However, if I was looking to buy a winter bike, I'd look for 622 mm ("28 inch") wheeled bicycle, with a flat bar and enough clearance for mudguards and fatter tyres.

Unless the roads where I plan to ride aren't ploughed - then, if riding is possible, it is with wide, MTB tyres.
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Old 08-29-16, 04:13 PM
  #49  
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In the US and Canada, 622 is called 700c, not 28".
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