Author Topic: Riding a road bike in the winter  (Read 8948 times)

berns

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Riding a road bike in the winter
« on: June 10, 2013, 02:10:19 PM »
Granted summer is just getting going here in Chicago, but I'm already thinking about riding my bike in the winter. It's an older road bike (Raleigh Super Grand Prix). Anyone have experience with this and/or know whether I'd be able to find suitable winter tires for a road bike? Not looking to ride in super heavy snow, but something that would handle reasonably well in light snow/slushy conditions. Or should I be looking into getting a mountain or hybrid bike?

Steve Ainslie

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2013, 02:22:37 PM »
My best winter bike had 26" knobby tires for snow and ice days.
I rarely had any problems other than brakes freezing if they got too iced up.

It was a hybrid.

When the streets were clear I rode a 700cc hybrid with street slicks.

berns

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2013, 09:02:17 PM »
Thanks for the info. Still curious if anyone has experience riding a road bike in the winter with some kind of knobby road bike tires... Obviously I'm trying to avoid getting a second bike, but will have to consider it if that's my only option.

capital

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2013, 11:38:10 PM »
If old means mid-80s or older, you're golden-- you want to be able to fit on full fenders (to keep the salt and slush off of the drivetrain, frame, and you) and wide tires (which you may already have). Knobbies aren't parcitularly useful except for trails or unplowed roads. Studded tires help when you get water that melts during the day freezing on the road at night.

If you want to ride every day in the winter, as opposed to merely most days, you should probably buy an old mountain bike as a semi-sacrificial beater and put studded tires on it. Days with tons of fresh snow on the road demand a bunch of room between your tires and fenders so they don't pack up with snow, days with salty slush will kill your drivetrain, and melty days call for studded tires.

GuitarStv

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2013, 06:34:12 AM »
I ride all winter long on 32 mm 700C tires on a hybrid bike, with a little tread pattern (definitely not knobby).  Thinner tires are better in the winter for me . . . they punch through the snow and give you traction on the road.  The only time that studded tires would be nice is when it's extremely icy, and frankly, I don't trust biking around the cars when it's that slippery.  The areas that my hybrid really shines over my road bike for winter riding:

- Cheaper components.  This is a big relief every time a wave of salty slush sprays over you and your bike.
- Thumb and trigger shifters are a lot easier to manipulate with gloves on than STI paddles (which always seem to get my fingers caught)
- v-brakes stop better than the cantilevers I have on my road bike.  You do want a brake that has decent clearance for sticky snow/ice, otherwise your brakes are constantly grabbing and slowing you down as you ride through all the crap.
- The road bike has a skinnier chain (30 speed) and I don't trust it to handle the same amount of wear and tear that the thicker chain on my hybrid 24 speed would.
- The hybrid has easier gearing.  You go much slower in the winter, between the cold, the snow, the blowing winds, and the ski-pants.  Having those easier gears really makes a world of difference when you come to the super-mountain that every winter destination seems to be on.

Of course, any winter bike NEEDS decent fenders and lots of blinky lights since most of your riding will be after dark.

berns

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2013, 08:34:55 AM »
Yes, it is a mid-80s road bike.

So, sounds like the fenders are going to be quite useful. Even more so of a concern than the tires. Didn't realize that. I'll get on that.

The bike already has 700x28 tires on it with tread pattern. Not as thick as mountain bike tires, but somewhat thick, and would be surprised if there is much more room for thicker tires. I've definitely seen even thinner ones on other bikes. I didn't realize knobby/studded tires were only necessary for fresh snow and ice.

I do only plan on riding in most conditions, not the super snowy/icy ones, although there haven't been many of those in recent winters (just the cold). For those blizzard-type days, I do have access to our incredibly luxurious $2.25 each way transit system...

anastrophe

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2013, 10:42:41 AM »
GuitarStv has outlined most of the major issues. It's not just that you won't have room for larger tires, the road bike's brakes are probably not up to snuff (slush?) for winter riding. Try it, but you may not like the results.

Another aspect is cleaning and maintenance. I know your bike is old, but how much do you care about it? Even when it's not super snowy/icy, the salt and grime can be significant and you need to clear your drivetrain of that stuff fairly often.

infogoon

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2013, 10:55:08 AM »
Are you open to buying a new wheelset? My winter ride for years was a road bike with a fixed-gear rear wheel and studded snow tires. The fixed-gear takes some getting used to, but it's awesome on snow and ice; you feel it immediately when you start losing traction. I never took a spill on that bike.

berns

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2013, 11:14:30 AM »
I do care about the bike. At the same time, if possible, I'd like to make do with one bike if that's reasonable/safe. Therefore, I'll clean it more often if necessary.

So sounds like braking is another concern that I should consider. I'm not sure how brakes on a different bike would be better though? Wouldn't it just depend on the brake pads?

Also, didn't know fixed gear would handle better in winter. I don't necessarily want to go that route, though perhaps I can do that temporarily for the winter.

All in all, just trying to learn as much as possible about winter riding and decide what to do.

BlueMR2

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2013, 11:47:24 AM »
Around here it's popular to have just one frame, but with a set of road wheels/tires and a set of cyclocross wheels/tires.  The cyclocross tires look a lot like the tires that work best on my MTB in the Winter...

anastrophe

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2013, 12:22:42 PM »
No, it's not just the brake pads. There are also different types of brake mechanisms, and different lever styles, both of which have an effect on handling--differing levels of mechanical advantage. Your road bike probably has side-pull brakes, these tend to slip more than linear-pull (v-brakes), ditto for the levers.

Fixed gear bikes do handle better in the wet, you lose a lot of precision and power between the pedal and the derailleur, etc. And the cleaning is so much simpler. But YMMV [literally], of course.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 01:19:55 PM by anastrophe »

amerikian

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2013, 08:15:59 AM »
I just started riding a bike to work in February in Madison, WI.  I got a Cycle Cross bike with disc brakes (Cannondale CAADX Disc).  I put Kenda Klondike Skinnys on there (studded tires) and was able to handle ice and up to 6" of snow covered bike trails.  Now in the summer i ride narrow 28 road orientated tires.  Recently switched from rack and panniers to a backpack. 

917 miles bike commuting YTD after 47 days of riding in.  Goal is 100 times this year.

I really like the cycle cross bike = off road when you need it.  fast enough to keep up with most "road" bikes too.  The steering is VERY touchy which is good for maneuvering and hard cornering.  Disc brakes require a little fine tuning now and then, but they work very well rain or snow.

jawisco

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 08:33:21 AM »
I used a road bike for 8 years of winter commuting in Madison, WI.  I used 700x32 tires and they worked fine for 99% of the days.  In the fall, I would give my bike a good lube job and then in the spring I would clean it up good with wash and then lube.  If something looks rusty or is squeaking during winter, just give it a squirt of lube.  I still have this bike and I have had it for 18 years, but it is older than that - it is from the 80's (Panasonic touring bike) - still going strong.

Chicago has climate very similar to Madison - cold winters, but not tons of snow usually.  This makes winter biking very do-able.

AJDZee

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2013, 01:22:02 PM »
I ride all winter long on 32 mm 700C tires on a hybrid bike, with a little tread pattern (definitely not knobby).  Thinner tires are better in the winter for me . . . they punch through the snow and give you traction on the road.  The only time that studded tires would be nice is when it's extremely icy, and frankly, I don't trust biking around the cars when it's that slippery.  The areas that my hybrid really shines over my road bike for winter riding:

- Cheaper components.  This is a big relief every time a wave of salty slush sprays over you and your bike.
- Thumb and trigger shifters are a lot easier to manipulate with gloves on than STI paddles (which always seem to get my fingers caught)
- v-brakes stop better than the cantilevers I have on my road bike.  You do want a brake that has decent clearance for sticky snow/ice, otherwise your brakes are constantly grabbing and slowing you down as you ride through all the crap.
- The road bike has a skinnier chain (30 speed) and I don't trust it to handle the same amount of wear and tear that the thicker chain on my hybrid 24 speed would.
- The hybrid has easier gearing.  You go much slower in the winter, between the cold, the snow, the blowing winds, and the ski-pants.  Having those easier gears really makes a world of difference when you come to the super-mountain that every winter destination seems to be on.

Of course, any winter bike NEEDS decent fenders and lots of blinky lights since most of your riding will be after dark.

Wow, you got it covered, GuitarStv! If there is ever a Toronto MMM meet up I will need to pick your brain and get my ride ready. I don't know much about bikes or their components.
I have my hybrid for summers and a mountain bike I bought for $30 a few years ago I might try and get to working condition for fall/winter.

GuitarStv

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2013, 01:28:40 PM »
I ride all winter long on 32 mm 700C tires on a hybrid bike, with a little tread pattern (definitely not knobby).  Thinner tires are better in the winter for me . . . they punch through the snow and give you traction on the road.  The only time that studded tires would be nice is when it's extremely icy, and frankly, I don't trust biking around the cars when it's that slippery.  The areas that my hybrid really shines over my road bike for winter riding:

- Cheaper components.  This is a big relief every time a wave of salty slush sprays over you and your bike.
- Thumb and trigger shifters are a lot easier to manipulate with gloves on than STI paddles (which always seem to get my fingers caught)
- v-brakes stop better than the cantilevers I have on my road bike.  You do want a brake that has decent clearance for sticky snow/ice, otherwise your brakes are constantly grabbing and slowing you down as you ride through all the crap.
- The road bike has a skinnier chain (30 speed) and I don't trust it to handle the same amount of wear and tear that the thicker chain on my hybrid 24 speed would.
- The hybrid has easier gearing.  You go much slower in the winter, between the cold, the snow, the blowing winds, and the ski-pants.  Having those easier gears really makes a world of difference when you come to the super-mountain that every winter destination seems to be on.

Of course, any winter bike NEEDS decent fenders and lots of blinky lights since most of your riding will be after dark.

Wow, you got it covered, GuitarStv! If there is ever a Toronto MMM meet up I will need to pick your brain and get my ride ready. I don't know much about bikes or their components.
I have my hybrid for summers and a mountain bike I bought for $30 a few years ago I might try and get to working condition for fall/winter.

I did the mountain bike commuting in winter for a while.  Swap out the knobby mountain bike tires for some 1.5 inch slicks and you'll go hella faster without really giving up much grip.  Totally worth doing in my opinion.

AJDZee

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2013, 01:38:23 PM »

I did the mountain bike commuting in winter for a while.  Swap out the knobby mountain bike tires for some 1.5 inch slicks and you'll go hella faster without really giving up much grip.  Totally worth doing in my opinion.

I have no idea what my hybrid tires are... all i know is they are very thin and have NO grip when there is any water/leaves/grass/debris whatsoever.  I was actually going to post a topic when I got home of 'how do you know when to replace tires' when I get home and can post a pic of my tread.

Thanks i will look into 1.5 inch slick looks like.

GuitarStv

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2013, 01:53:55 PM »
By slicks I'm just talking about less of a tread pattern.  You don't want a completely smooth tire, because when there's snow on the road they'll slide over the snow.  But you don't want giant bumpy treads like most mountain bike tires because they'll make it way too hard to pedal.  Something like this:

will roll pretty well, but also grip better in the snow.  Most mountain bike tires are a little more than 2 inches wide.  You can usually fit a 1.5 inch tire on a 2 inch mountain bike rim.  This reduces the surface area of the tire on snow and lets it punch through to the asphalt below a little bit easier (which makes for less slipping).

AJDZee

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2013, 02:10:21 PM »
Beauty. I'll look into getting something like that... either for my mountain bike or my hybrid (Specialized Sirrus).

I hate to ask such noob questions, I'm just hesitant to go to the bike store down the street because they are expensive, and I hate using the sales reps fully knowing I won't buy anything from them.

GuitarStv

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2013, 02:17:17 PM »
The slicks I put on my mountain bike were cheap, 40$ for both new tires.  Check with your shop, they should have something decent for winter commuting if you ask them.

Jimbo

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2013, 02:18:55 PM »
Yeah tires are pretty cheap, even at bike shops...

Sure you can get them cheaper online, but you also want to have a bike shop around...

Tires/tubes are pretty much the most cost effective way to give them business, IMO.

lackofstache

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Re: Riding a road bike in the winter
« Reply #20 on: September 13, 2013, 07:05:13 AM »
Mike Berry (and many others) have done it for years, on very small tires: http://bicyclespecialties.blogspot.com/2010/11/four-out-of-one-hundred.html

I've done it w/ 700x32-35 cyclocross tires w/ low-ish pressure. I prefer the knobs for our bikepaths becuase they don't get plowed often. A decent tire can be ridden below the marked pressure indicators on the tire and lower pressure will produce much more grip on snow, sluck, & ice. You will want fenders, just get the biggest tires you can under said fenders. Many bikes from the 80's don't have a ton of clearance, more than current road bikes, but far less than most bikes from the 70's boom era and before. You can do it w/o a second bike, but you'll end up spending a fair amount either way when winter is over is there's a lot of salt on your roads.