Author Topic: How should I prepare for Winter biking?  (Read 4463 times)

MissStache

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How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« on: September 23, 2015, 01:09:19 PM »
I live in DC, where we typically have a good number of days with snow actively falling or snow/ice sitting around on the ground getting nasty.  We commute about 5 minutes by bike to our nearest Metro station, which we've been doing for about 2 months. I LOVE it.  It is so much faster than the 25 minute walk we had before, plus I love the burst of exercise in the morning.  It is all on regular streets, but some of them are one-way residential streets which don't get outstanding plow coverage. 

BF was mentioning the colder weather the other day and said "well, I guess we'll have to go back to walking on snowy days" but I really don't want to give up the bikes just because the weather turns bad.  I also don't want to do anything stupid, so I'm curious to know if it is foolish to think that we can still bike on snowy/icy roads. 

We have such a short ride that I'm not really concerned about any special clothes or anything like that, but I am curious to know if there is something we should/can do to the bikes themselves to make them more functional on crappy streets.  Are there snow tires for bikes? 

Thanks for your insight!


nereo

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2015, 01:22:27 PM »
Quote
...so I'm curious to know if it is foolish to think that we can still bike on snowy/icy roads.

We have such a short ride that I'm not really concerned about any special clothes or anything like that, but I am curious to know if there is something we should/can do to the bikes themselves to make them more functional on crappy streets.  Are there snow tires for bikes? 

Posting mostly to follow (because "winter is coming" here in Canada too) - but yes they certainly do make snow tires for bikes (studded even!).  Some of the hardcore/crazies here in Quebec will continue biking when it's -20F and snowing hard.  Bit too much for me, but I want to extend my biking season through November if I can (which is a lot like DC's Feb., where I grew up).

realityinabox

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2015, 01:26:59 PM »
The short answer is dress in layers and get studded tires.

yyc-phil

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2015, 01:54:11 PM »
The short answer is dress in layers and get studded tires.

That's pretty much it. You probably will only need a studded tire at the front. Layers is the only way to go. I dress up pretty much the same way all year round but add or remove layers as needed. My top layer is an unlined gore-tex jacket (North Face) that I use in summer on its own over a t-shirt, but in winter, I add a medium fleece pullover and a soft-shell zipped jacket. For gloves, regular gloves or mitts when the temperature is not too low, but below -20, I use bar mitts. A face mask or balaclava is essential. As for footwear, again I use the same boots in summer and winter (Scarpa hiking boot) and never got cold. In Yellowknife, temperature regularly reach -45 for days on end, and I never got cold except once on a not-so-cold -25 day but the windchill factor was below -60.

EDIT: obviously, I don't bike pant-less, even in summer. In winter, I wear a pair of fleece pants under a pair of unlined biking pants.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 01:55:53 PM by ykphil »

nereo

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2015, 02:10:02 PM »
All of the studded tires I've seen seem to be in the $60-100 range (per tire).  Does that seem about right?  Any types/brands that work better (700c wheel)?  Does the # of studs really matter (I've seen tires range from 72 studs to 240).

Also good to know about only needing studs on the front tire.  My brain was going in circles trying to figure that out... Propulsion comes from the rear wheel, but I steer with the front wheel...

sorry for jacking this thread MissStache - somehow I'm just excited about the idea of winter cycling now.

KCM5

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #5 on: September 23, 2015, 02:18:31 PM »
So, I bike year round in Iowa and put studded tires on in December and take them off in March. I know some people put them on when they know they'll need them and take them off at other times, but my bike is a real pain to change tires on, so I don't.

The studded tires are great for ice and packed snow. They're no help at all in fresh snow or deep snow.

If I had a really short commute (5 min is what, a mile?) I think I may try it out without the studs because they're kind of expensive and they may be unnecessary. Just lower the seat, go slow, and see how you feel. If you feel unsafe, obviously get some studded tires or walk, but you may feel just fine.

yyc-phil

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2015, 02:25:28 PM »
All of the studded tires I've seen seem to be in the $60-100 range (per tire).  Does that seem about right?  Any types/brands that work better (700c wheel)?  Does the # of studs really matter (I've seen tires range from 72 studs to 240).

Also good to know about only needing studs on the front tire.  My brain was going in circles trying to figure that out... Propulsion comes from the rear wheel, but I steer with the front wheel...

sorry for jacking this thread MissStache - somehow I'm just excited about the idea of winter cycling now.

I bought the cheapest studded tire I could find 5-6 winters ago for about $60, and have been using it every winter. I think it is a Schwalbe Marathon which has 200 studs, and I am happy with it. Be extremely cautious with studded tires when you ride on dry pavement. Depending on where you live, you may or may not need studs. I swear by studs for winter biking, other people prefer regular knobby tires that look like car tires.

Here is a link to a short and sweet write-up on winter biking:

http://www.mec.ca/AST/contentprimary/learn/cycling/introtocycling/wintercycling.jsp

DaveR

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2015, 02:39:43 PM »
I had a paper route when I was younger: rain, snow, ice, a tornado once...I rode my bike every day. I never had studded tires then, though I do now. I picked up an extra set of rims on Craigslist, so have a set of snow tires for the bike. However, I rarely use them.

I would suggest you just keep on riding. When the snow hits, just leave yourself enough time to get off and walk your bike. Play in the snow and find what works for you and your own comfort and limits.

Also, winter riding means more maintenance--salt and sand on the roads can be pretty rough on bikes. Depending on grime level, you might have to do a deep clean and tune up more frequently.

infogoon

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2015, 03:04:01 PM »
My favorite winter bike was a single-speed, fixed-gear road bike with studded tires. No derailleur to clean salt out of, great traction, and the fixed-gear setup means you felt it IMMEDIATELY when the back end started to slip.

Tester

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2015, 04:59:51 PM »
You say it is a 5 minute bike ride/25 minute walk.
What is the distance?
Because 25 minutes of (hard) walking means 2.5 km for me (1.5 miles).
If you do the 1.5 mile in 5 minutes one the bike that means you are really going on the bike too - 18 mph or 29 km/h (at least for town conditions).

If the distance is shorter you might be fine with walking instead of biking in the snow.
I don't know too much about biking in the winter (regular winter with snow and cold) as I did not try it.
I still think it could be a little more dangerous than having a brisk walk.

I used to walk to work for around 25 minutes in -25-30 degrees C (-13 to -22 F) with 1 foot (some places more) of snow  and I got enough workout to not feel cold :).

Right now I use the bicycle to go to work around 3 times/week.
It takes me 30 minutes from door to desk - 4.5 miles.
I am looking to get fenders as the winter is coming - but where I am right now the winter does not mean cold...
I really like it after 10 years of not owning a bike.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 05:57:57 PM by Tester »

yyc-phil

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2015, 05:08:35 PM »
The short answer is dress in layers and get studded tires.

That's pretty much it. You probably will only need a studded tire at the front.

I should add to that: without a studded tire at the front, you won't go anywhere on an icy surface except down, and hard. A studded tire at the back will help traction on a steep incline but will be useless in all other situation where you keep your butt on the seat. So if the terrain is relatively flat, you won't need a studded tire at the back.

MissStache

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2015, 06:35:28 AM »
Thank you all so much for the info!  It is just a touch over a mile, but honestly we use our bikes so much that it may be a worthwile investment for our weekend riding as well.  $60 seems a small price to pay to be able to bike confidently all through the winter!  And it is almost all flat, so I think we can get away with a single studded tire in the front.   I love this forum!


MissStache

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2015, 06:35:57 AM »


EDIT: obviously, I don't bike pant-less, even in summer. In winter, I wear a pair of fleece pants under a pair of unlined biking pants.

Dang...I was about to be really impressed/horrified

spokey doke

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2015, 07:36:56 AM »
I've biked through a lot of tough winters and don't think studs are really necessary (but they can make a difference on solid ice).  Having some width is much more helpful for me all around in the snow, so if you have skinny tires, I might go with wider ones for winter.  I still ride with skinny slick tires quite a bit in the snow, and know plenty of others who do as well, but if you are at all uneasy about handling a bike in tricky circumstances, then a tire change is probably a good idea.

Matt_D

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2015, 08:28:30 AM »
In the DC area, studs can be nice because we get a lot of slush that turns frozen overnight, then melts, then refreezes, etc... though honestly it can vary a lot from year to year.

I have a set of studded tires I paid around $160 for if memory serves... was a few years ago and I still have them and they're stull functional. Nokian, Hakkapeliita I think? I seem to remember I bought them from this guy: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/studdedtires.asp




winterbike

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2015, 08:59:45 AM »
Quote
...so I'm curious to know if it is foolish to think that we can still bike on snowy/icy roads.

We have such a short ride that I'm not really concerned about any special clothes or anything like that, but I am curious to know if there is something we should/can do to the bikes themselves to make them more functional on crappy streets.  Are there snow tires for bikes? 

Posting mostly to follow (because "winter is coming" here in Canada too) - but yes they certainly do make snow tires for bikes (studded even!).  Some of the hardcore/crazies here in Quebec will continue biking when it's -20F and snowing hard.  Bit too much for me, but I want to extend my biking season through November if I can (which is a lot like DC's Feb., where I grew up).

For some reason, I felt your thread title resonated with my identity :-D

Part in bold: that's me. I bike year round in Quebec, no matter the weather. My honest opinion is you don't need studded tires at all. A regular mountain bike gives you plenty of stability and ability to handle snow bumps on the road. Last winter I had a 100$ used mountain bike and it went fine.

Some key points:
- Never to lean when you turn. Always keep the bike straight.
- Leaving the bike outside will kill it 5x as fast.
- Don't use an expensive bike.
- Under -25 degrees Celsius, your bike might stop pedaling. The thingie (deeply technical term, sorry) in the rear wheel freezes.

Enjoy the ride. Seriously it's not hard. People think about biking in the snow when it's summer time, and it shocks them. Reality is, if you ride daily, you get gradually used to the lower temperatures and barely notice when winter comes.

GuitarStv

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2015, 09:15:15 AM »
I bike all year round in Toronto, and don't use studded tires.  They aren't any better in snow than tires with treads.  If you're going any significant distance they slow you down too much to be useful.  They're great on glare ice, but that's usually only a problem for a week or so in the fall and a week or so in the spring around here.  Frozen slush is grips OK with regular tires.  Our city is very aggressive with salting the roads (not necessarily clearing away snow unfortunately), so ice isn't really a huge problem even when you would think it should be.  Corrosion is.


My tips for getting your bike ready for winter riding are largely maintenance related:
- Grease your stuff up.  I am talking everything on the bike that can be greased should be.  Use any cheap waterproof grease (snowmobile grease works great - works in extremely cold temperatures without seizing, waterproof marine grease is awesome for not washing away).  Grease your seat post.  Remove any bolt that goes into your frame, grease it, and replace it (no water entry into the frame is a good thing to prevent corrosion).  Take your cassette off and liberally grease your freehub (prevents hub corrosion from salt over the winter), then put the cassette back on.  Use a syringe to apply waterproof grease to every pivot point on both your front and rear derailleur.  Pull the jockey wheels out of your RD and grease them.  Grease your headset.  Take your axles apart and repack them with grease (replace the bearings if they don't look shiny).  Take your pedals off, grease the threads, also remove the axles and grease them, then put them back together and back on.  Pull your brakes off their pivots, and ensure the pivots have a good dollop of grease too.
- I get a small bottle of nail polish that matches the colour of my bike in the fall and touch up any paint that has been scraped or damaged over the summer.  Then clean the bike off, and wax it with car wax (makes mud and snow fall off better over the winter).
- I have found that replacing my brake pads with Kool-Stop ones (either the salmon, or the dual compound black/salmon) significantly improves braking all the wet winter long.
- This winter I've purchased some spray on dry silicone lube that I'll be spraying over the front and rear derailleur periodically to try and keep grit and salt off of them, and to use as a water repellent lube for cable housings.

During the winter:
- Regularly lube your chain with a thick 'wet conditions' type of lube.
- Regularly check your rims and brakes (grit can kill rims quickly, and you don't want to be cycling on cracked rims).
- After every long ride (or after 3-4 short rides) take a large watering can of boiling hot water out to the end of your driveway and rinse all the crap off your bike, then bounce it a few times to knock the water off.

Post winter:
- Replace your chain (it probably will have worn out).
- Replace your cables (and probably the cable housings every two winters).
- Check your cassette for signs of wear, and replace if necessary.
- Repack hubs with grease.


Essential winter accessories for bike:
- Lights (I commute at 6:00 am and it's pitch black all winter . . . I run two bright tail lights most of the winter (really like the cygolite Hot Shot and the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo for this), and two bright headlights when visibility is poor - foggy/snowing)
- Reflective tape (like lights that are always on and don't need batteries!)
- Fenders (keeps slush and crap off your drivetrain and headset - also off your face)
- Studded flat pedals (you can use any type of warm winter boot, the studs grip your feet very securely, you can take your foot off easily when you start to wipe out and need to get a foot down)
- Face mask . . . this is the most important cycling item of clothing for winter.  You can get by with a ski jacket, heavy gloves, hat, and warm boots, but your face gets WAY colder cycling than you would running or jogging, or doing most regular winter outdoor activities.  I cover my face pretty much all the time that it's below freezing.



YMMV - I've done four cycling winters, commuting 11 miles each way several times a week, (plus fun rides in the winter) in Toronto and that's what works for me.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2015, 09:19:49 AM by GuitarStv »

Matt_D

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2015, 09:19:47 AM »
GuitarStv -

You're right about studs not being better in snow - but given DC I think ice is more the worry. Though for a mile commute maybe some aggressive treads would be just as good.

Definitely agree on lights, reflective things, pedals and face mask. Grease is good too though I don't think we have to be quite as hardcore about it as folks up your way!


GuitarStv

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2015, 09:21:46 AM »
GuitarStv -

You're right about studs not being better in snow - but given DC I think ice is more the worry. Though for a mile commute maybe some aggressive treads would be just as good.

Definitely agree on lights, reflective things, pedals and face mask. Grease is good too though I don't think we have to be quite as hardcore about it as folks up your way!

The amount of salt that I see on my bike after every winter ride is disheartening, hence the fall time 'ritual of the grease'.  Otherwise your bike is pretty much disposable after a couple winters.  :P

MissStache

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2015, 09:24:18 AM »
Dang GuitarStv, you officially win today's Mustachian Badass award!  Super impressed with your dedication to biking!  And thanks for all of that awesome info.  BF is in charge of the bike maintenance, so I will pass all of that off to him.  THANK YOU!

powersuitrecall

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #20 on: September 24, 2015, 11:16:01 AM »
I bike all year round in Toronto, and don't use studded tires.  They aren't any better in snow than tires with treads.  If you're going any significant distance they slow you down too much to be useful.  They're great on glare ice, but that's usually only a problem for a week or so in the fall and a week or so in the spring around here. 

...

I'm just a couple of hours NorthEast of you (Ottawa) and my experience has been that studded tires are absolutely required, especially on the side streets.  The plows never quite manage to get down to the road, leaving a layer of ice, grit and packed snow.  I use 2 schwalbe Winter Marathons (700c) and they don't slow me down too much.

I follow a slightly lazier version of the maintenance schedule you describe.  Thanks for the tip on snowmobile grease.  I've been using general purpose grease (because it's what I have).  Any tips on "wet condition" chain lube? I've been using plain old 3-in-1 (weekly) and it seems to be ok.

frompa

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #21 on: September 24, 2015, 11:34:33 AM »
Hey OP, especially as you are in DC, your post brought to mind an account of two Canadians who bicycled from Quebec to DC a few years ago.  Here's the URL, if you're interested in reading:  http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/sdd   I bike all Winter in relatively snowy Pennsylvania, but these Canadians' story gave me a wholly fresh and inspirational perspective.  Consider that you in DC are the southern-most part of these guys' trip. HEH HEH.  (And the pictures are terrifying and awesome.) 

GuitarStv

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #22 on: September 24, 2015, 11:57:29 AM »
I bike all year round in Toronto, and don't use studded tires.  They aren't any better in snow than tires with treads.  If you're going any significant distance they slow you down too much to be useful.  They're great on glare ice, but that's usually only a problem for a week or so in the fall and a week or so in the spring around here. 

...

I'm just a couple of hours NorthEast of you (Ottawa) and my experience has been that studded tires are absolutely required, especially on the side streets.  The plows never quite manage to get down to the road, leaving a layer of ice, grit and packed snow.  I use 2 schwalbe Winter Marathons (700c) and they don't slow me down too much.

I follow a slightly lazier version of the maintenance schedule you describe.  Thanks for the tip on snowmobile grease.  I've been using general purpose grease (because it's what I have).  Any tips on "wet condition" chain lube? I've been using plain old 3-in-1 (weekly) and it seems to be ok.

Ottawa's a totally different climate.  Much colder, much more snow.  In Toronto even in the dead of winter we usually get enough sunshine on the roads to melt the snow away.

Use the snowmobile grease to pack your wheel bearings.  Regular stuff can get very sluggish or even freeze solid when it gets down to -30 or so (at least it did for me).

I like White Lightning's Wet Ride for winter conditions.  It's very thick, and will pick up an astounding amount of dirt if you try to use it in dry/dusty summer . . . but doesn't wash off the chain in the worst of weather and seems pretty good at preventing rust.

hyla

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Re: How should I prepare for Winter biking?
« Reply #23 on: September 24, 2015, 01:31:13 PM »
Studs are awesome for ice and hardpack - but if you get studded tires, get ones with carbide studs - these are harder than regular steel and will wear down less on pavement.  Schwalbe and Nokian both make good carbide studded winter tires, but expect to pay close to $80 a tire. 

Also, full fenders (I'm assuming DC means lots of salty slush) and good lights.