The Winter Commute

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  • 08-02-2011
    OmaHaq
    The Winter Commute
    Those of you who are lucky enough to winter commute in the snow and slop... what kind of rig are you using? I've been doing it for a while, but this upcoming season I am going to change my rig up a bit.

    Opinions on what works really well for you are appreciated. I'd also like to know what riding conditions you see. For instance once in a while I'll have some drifts, but mainly it is packed snow or slop... which makes a difference in what works for my riding conditions.

    Thanks in advance.
  • 08-02-2011
    JAGI410
    Surly Pugsley, tires at 7-8psi. Not having to rely on the snowplow to get to work is awesome. If the snow is really slushy (rarely happens, because its too damn cold here in Fargo) then its a bit more challenging and I just drive.
  • 08-02-2011
    mtbxplorer
    26" MTB (Litespeed Unicoi with Marz Marathon XC fork) with studded tires, flat (pinned) pedals, Dogwood Designs regular pogies (these are great, no more cold hands!), wide riser bars. Disc brakes front (critical on my hill!), V's rear. Our snow is usually cold too, and usually the plow has been by to keep it from getting super deep. It can get more slickery in town where traffic has mashed it up into that nasty mealy stuff, the newly fallen or lightly packed stuff is more predictable traction-wise. The uphills are the biggest challenge here, a real energy sucker in snow, definitely need the low gears. The downhills were whiteknucklers at first, and still can be occasionally, but for the most part I am pretty confident on them now, though I take them much slower than when the pavement is bare.
  • 08-02-2011
    ghettocruiser
    Normal aluminum XC hardtail with disc brakes, clip-on fenders.

    3 wheelsets for 26"studs, 26" knobbies, and 700C slick tires that are swapped based on road conditions and forecast.
  • 08-02-2011
    newfangled
    Winters are basically 6 months of hardpack and ice here. Pretty dry, but it can be very cold.

    Spent the last 2 winters on a 26er walmart hardtail with 1.95 nokian studded tires. It worked okay, but I'm thinking that 1.95 isn't an ideal size - it's too narrow for any float, but too wide to dig down to anything solid.

    This winter I'll be using a rigid 29er with DIY studded 2.1's. I really liked how the big wheels handled (unstudded) on some spring snowrides. I figure that I only need studs about 10% of the time, but when I need them I really, really need them. I'll be running 1x8, because the front derailleur gets so dirty. I think disk brakes are a must, since snowy rims have led to zero brakes a few times.
  • 08-02-2011
    mrbigisbudgood
    I usually don't have to deal with a ton of snow, ice is the big issue here in Stockholm. So....

    Bike......Jamis Coda Elite. All I do is throw Schwalabe Marathon Winters on the bike come late October and carry on.

    Body....Craft Thermal Bibs, long sleeve (tight) jerseys under a Gore Jacket, Baclava, Gore Winter Gloves, Shoe Covers.....nothing special really. edit....and Gore Rain pants for the wet days.
  • 08-03-2011
    Dann C
    I will be riding my Vaya. I will throw my Schwalbe Marathon studded on the front only and i'll keep my continental on the back. I'll keep my full fender on the back so the drivetrain stays as clean as I can keep it on the daily. I'm gonna be getting a headlamp as well for more visibility. I also learned my lesson last year and am getting a way brighter rear light (gonna pick up that DiNotte 300R). Best advice I can give about the winter riding is clothing and layers are key. Dealing with the snow and slush and ice are all very managable. But they become so much more of a chore if you're not at least comfortable. My set up for clothing is full thermal bib tights, long sleeve wool jersey and a mountain hardwear dragon softshell over it. I usually wear my Showers Pass pants over the bibs on those super cold days. I made sure to pick up thermal shoe covers because your feet will freeze without them. Gloves are key too. I usually wear my liners over my thick burton gloves. Works like a charm. Balaclava and snow goggles (or at least some clear glasses) to keep the super cold air off of your eyes. It can really damage your eyes if you're flying down a hill with no eye protection, especially when snowing and windy. Hope this information helps.
  • 08-03-2011
    OmaHaq
    Interesting feedback so far, I really appreciate it! For the last few years I've run snowcat rims with DH tires on an old Motobecane w/ canti's. My first upgrade this summer was changing over to a disc brake in the front.

    Those of you who are running Nokian carbide studs... if you could run one a 26" studded tire, would you go front or back?

    For the last few years I've run snowcat rims with DH tires on an old Motobecane w/ canti's. My first upgrade this summer was changing over to a disc brake in the front.
  • 08-03-2011
    jeffscott
    I ride a 2005 Element FS 26 inch...

    Mavic SLR wheels in the winter, XT BB

    XTR drive train...

    Drive train was new for winter of 2006...

    I ride studs cause I got feed up with hitting a patch of ice under snow and going down.

    Winters are 6 months min temp -35C, but lots of wet chinooks blow in, so salt and gravel on the roads and paths.

    I do about 2500 to 3000 km fo winter commuting per year...every work day.
  • 08-03-2011
    jeffscott
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by OmaHaq View Post
    Interesting feedback so far, I really appreciate it! For the last few years I've run snowcat rims with DH tires on an old Motobecane w/ canti's. My first upgrade this summer was changing over to a disc brake in the front.

    Those of you who are running Nokian carbide studs... if you could run one a 26" studded tire, would you go front or back?

    For the last few years I've run snowcat rims with DH tires on an old Motobecane w/ canti's. My first upgrade this summer was changing over to a disc brake in the front.

    Go front for sure...

    But geez go front and back....imagine sliding into some car at 15 k cause there is a sheet of black ice....

    Studs will stop you...nothing else will.

    I have chickened out when riding ice up a hill stepped of the bike and fell and slide to the bottom....studs work.....should have stayed on the bike.
  • 08-03-2011
    OmaHaq
    Jeff -

    So for you, the idea of a fat-tire setup really isn't applicable, or is that something you've looked into?

    Not saying it is better or worse... I have no clue. Just want your opinion since you obviously ride a lot in the cold.
  • 08-03-2011
    newfangled
    I've got pretty much the same weather as Jeff (with a few less chinooks), and we can get a stretch of -25C/-15F for a few weeks straight. Everything gets polished up like an ice rink, and it's the kindof stuff that you can't even walk on. But with front and rear studs riding is no problem, and like Jeff says the biggest danger is when you put your foot down.

    So that's why I say I need studs 10% of the time. Normal knobbies are fine probably 89% of the time. And then maybe 1% of the time I really wish I had the crazy floatation of a fatbike - but that's really only if we have 6" of fresh snow, and even pugsleys are supposed to have problems with that. And not having a fatbike just means that I get stuck, but not having studs means I'm probably ending up on my butt (possibly in front of a car).
  • 08-03-2011
    jeffscott
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by OmaHaq View Post
    Jeff -

    So for you, the idea of a fat-tire setup really isn't applicable, or is that something you've looked into?

    Not saying it is better or worse... I have no clue. Just want your opinion since you obviously ride a lot in the cold.

    Not really for my conditons....Fat tires don't help on ice.

    Depending upon the snow conditions fat tires may float up and really make thing s easier.

    But in a lot of conditions thinner tires will cut throught the snow to a more consolidated layer that will have traction...

    In my conditons about 2 or 3 days a year I wish I had my fat studs on Freddy Revenz....

    Most of the time though the 1.95 in Mount and Ground studs are better....

    I do take the Freddies out on the trails in the winter though.
  • 08-03-2011
    jeffscott
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by newfangled View Post
    Winters are basically 6 months of hardpack and ice here. Pretty dry, but it can be very cold.

    Spent the last 2 winters on a 26er walmart hardtail with 1.95 nokian studded tires. It worked okay, but I'm thinking that 1.95 isn't an ideal size - it's too narrow for any float, but too wide to dig down to anything solid.

    This winter I'll be using a rigid 29er with DIY studded 2.1's. I really liked how the big wheels handled (unstudded) on some spring snowrides. I figure that I only need studs about 10% of the time, but when I need them I really, really need them. I'll be running 1x8, because the front derailleur gets so dirty. I think disk brakes are a must, since snowy rims have led to zero brakes a few times.

    Wait till you get a disk ice up...seems to happen about -20C with new snow...you brake warm up the disk snow melts and then freezes to a thin hard layer....

    next time you grab a brake, nothing and I mean nothing....just start hammeriing the brakes on and off....it seems to break the ice of (or maybe bend the rotor a bit more)...then bamm full power is back.

    Still way rather have disks than rims.
  • 08-03-2011
    newfangled
    ^ yeah, I'd forgotten that I did have my front disk ice up once last winter. With rim brakes you only lose braking for a few seconds, but with the disk it lasted the entire ride home. But even with that the disk brakes are still better.
  • 08-04-2011
    nepbug
    I'm on an old rigid 26" MTB. I have two wheelsets for the winter, one with Nokian Studs, one with Schwalbe Marathon Pluses. I run full fenders front and back with cantilever brakes up front and a u-brake out back.

    I also have a Pugsley for those days that the plows are a bit slow.

    My observations are this:
    -Pugsley is great for packed snow, the deeper the packed snow the more it is advantageous. In deep light fluffy fresh stuff it's still nearly impossible, over 3-4" of fluff is where it starts getting tough.
    -Studs are ridiculously useful in ice, but are slow. If you're on pavement all the time, go for a smoother studded tire over a nobby studded tire. If it's thin/patchy ice that will likely melt off during the day only ride with a front stud, it will speed things up and riding dry pavement on studs kinda sucks.
    -For slushy stuff my 1.75 Schwalbes seem to cut through just fine.
    -If you have ice, consider adding screws to the bottom of your shoes in the winter, you don't want to step off and slide around, especially if you're stopped at a traffic light.

    I'm in Denver, CO so my winters aren't that bad because we get so much sunshine; in reality I need the studs 10-20 times in the winter, usually just on the way in, and the Pugsley 5-6 times through the winter; all other times it's just running the smoothies while being careful over a few 10-20 foot ice patches.
  • 08-09-2011
    Trail_rat
    how far are you guys riding to work on your pugs ....
  • 08-09-2011
    JAGI410
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Trail_rat View Post
    how far are you guys riding to work on your pugs ....

    5 miles round trip. Short, but when its -20F I don't wish for a longer commute :)
  • 08-09-2011
    nepbug
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Trail_rat View Post
    how far are you guys riding to work on your pugs ....

    14.5 miles each way. If there's 4-5" of snow then the commute turns into 2 hours or so each way. If a blizzard has started and I've got drifts then it can take 3-4 hours, but you're plenty warm because it is some hard work.
  • 08-09-2011
    OmaHaq
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JAGI410 View Post
    5 miles round trip. Short, but when its -20F I don't wish for a longer commute :)

    HAHAHA...

    Mine has been 10miles round trip since 2001. Been on and off of fat tires over the years.
  • 08-09-2011
    David C
    I have a alu-steel dual-suspension bike with Dart 2 fork and coil shock. I use regular 1.95 tires (26") and fenders rear and front. I used the Defender fender at front, from Topeak and it goes well. I use a 1x7 with 42 tooth and basic Shimano drivetrain and v-brakes. I have platform pedals and normal riser bar. The v-brake up front as last over a year and still going strong. I also have a winter coat, snowmobile gloves and snowmobile full face helmet, so very good visibility and keep warm.

    My bike weight about 38 lbs and was custom built. I use Teflon based lube for cables and fork. Wet oil extreme condition for the chain. Nu-finish wax on the bike to ease cleaning. Rinse it off with hot water every ride and let it dry in a heated place (basement).

    Bike was really great and never broke down on my every day commute in nasty city snow.

    Pic on my profile page. SnowRider.

    Btw, value is about $100 worth of parts. $300 of suspension. Best bike yet.

    David
  • 08-09-2011
    markf
    omahaq are you in omaha, neb? you probably have similar winters to me in des moines. i run a single speed conversion on an old motobecane frame with 700x35 knobby cross tires (old touring bikes have plenty of clearance) and flat bars. lower gearing helps with the snow and when it's clearer the spin helps me stay warm. i do about 4 miles each way and it can take 15 mins or it can take 45 mins. i like the skinny tires because i'm on pavement, either road or bike path most the way and they cut through the light snow and drifts really well. if it's really deep snow, i push for a bit. the biggest hardship for me is usually the wind. headwinds destroy your soul. they increase windchill even more and make you work much harder for every inch.
  • 08-10-2011
    Trail_rat
    hmm just debating with my self for winter ...

    used to have a 14 mile round trip commute - was great - skinnys on a fixed cross bike even in the snow.

    now have a 70 mile commute that i do once a month on good weather only - and have a train to bail me out if needs be

    moving today to a 45 mile round trip which is easily doable on my shopping / woodcollecting bike (rohloffed with 700x32 cross tires) but i think in winter 45 miles in snow is too much for riding the sandman to work .... by the time i got there it be time to go home - think ill stick to the land rover for that (if i bother to attempt to go - last time i made an effort to get to work in the snow i was the only one there and it took 5 hrs to get home in the LR driving up the ditch past stuck cars)- going to pick up some winter marathons though for the icy days though 4wd doesnt help on ice :D

    kicking my self for turning down a house that was 20 mile round trip - shite house mind but whats a house - just a base for many adventures !
  • 08-10-2011
    connolm
    Mine commute is about 7 miles round trip - but I'm committed to riding it every work day as it's my only option for getting to work here in Boston.

    I'm on a Redline Monocog 29er I got on CraigsList for $200. 2.1 semislick tires. From about January to March, I switch them over to knobbies. When the snow gets bad, I change my route to ride on sidewalks through MIT. They usually do a better job of shovelling than the city does. I'm riding at a time when no one is out and about on the sidewalks.

    Of course, fenders and disk brakes. I put avid BB7s on right away. V-brakes loose their stopping power in the muck.

    I double glove - a liner under a mitten type glove. I also have ski goggles for my eyes. Riding in 3F without the goggles is really painful! And the snow feels like little missiles hitting my eyes! Below about 15F I also have a baclava to keep my face protected.

    The bike sports platform pedals with grippy screws protruding from them so I can wear boots.
  • 08-10-2011
    ghettocruiser
    In the process of snowfall, drifting, plowing, packing, melting, and refreezing, you get a much greater range of riding surfaces then in the summer.

    No one would try to prescribe a summer tire suitable for both long road rides and deep rooty mud. But that's more or less what we're trying to do here. Winter tires involve massive compromises. I find studs are absolutely needed some of the time and worse than useless at some other point on the same ride.
  • 08-10-2011
    newfangled
    One thing I have to change this winter is to get ski goggles. I've ridden down to -30C with only my contact lenses to protect me, and I haven't had any problems...but it feels like I'm tempting fate. I don't ski and don't know anything about goggles, so does anyone have any suggestions on what to look for? The only thing that I know is that I want clear lenses with as much visible light transmission as possible.
  • 08-10-2011
    David C
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by newfangled View Post
    One thing I have to change this winter is to get ski goggles. I've ridden down to -30C with only my contact lenses to protect me, and I haven't had any problems...but it feels like I'm tempting fate. I don't ski and don't know anything about goggles, so does anyone have any suggestions on what to look for? The only thing that I know is that I want clear lenses with as much visible light transmission as possible.

    Get some yellow or light orange/amber one to reduce the fatigue due to white bright snow, and to enhance your vision at night... I think about any pair of goggles should do the job, as my $20 one are pretty good. Just make sure they fit nice over your helmet and regular glasses (if apply).

    A snowboarding helmet is also good. And will keep you warm for little money.

    David

    Edit : some with UV protection would be good if you plan on long rides in the sun, pretty much the same as sunglasses.
  • 08-10-2011
    jeffscott
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by newfangled View Post
    One thing I have to change this winter is to get ski goggles. I've ridden down to -30C with only my contact lenses to protect me, and I haven't had any problems...but it feels like I'm tempting fate. I don't ski and don't know anything about goggles, so does anyone have any suggestions on what to look for? The only thing that I know is that I want clear lenses with as much visible light transmission as possible.

    Check out some ski shops...make sure you get the ones with the double lens, and foam vents to prevent fogging...

    They have some with nose covers already on....that really helps, but you can get nose covers that stick on with velcro too..

    They have special lens for night skiing as well....you may not want clear lenses my night googles are a very light grey.

    A pair of googles will keep you a lot warmer...

    Make sure to protect the lens from scratching.
  • 08-10-2011
    perttime
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nepbug View Post
    Pugsley ...
    ... In deep light fluffy fresh stuff it's still nearly impossible, over 3-4" of fluff is where it starts getting tough.

    If your fluff is dry, a relatively skinny tire should cut through 3-4" of it quite well.
  • 08-10-2011
    jeffscott
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by newfangled View Post
    One thing I have to change this winter is to get ski goggles. I've ridden down to -30C with only my contact lenses to protect me, and I haven't had any problems...but it feels like I'm tempting fate. I don't ski and don't know anything about goggles, so does anyone have any suggestions on what to look for? The only thing that I know is that I want clear lenses with as much visible light transmission as possible.

    I should add take your helmet or buy a new one that covers your ears to make sure the goggles fit well around the sides of the helmet....that can keep the cold air out nicely as well.

    I also have a small Petzel light that goes around my helmet...very nice touch especially if you have to find something, or open a lock etc, when it is dark.

    Point is it all has to fit togeather nicely.
  • 08-10-2011
    mtbxplorer
    1 Attachment(s)
    Goggles make me a little claustraphobic, so unless it's below zero, I prefer glasses with foam on the side/behind lens to block the wind. Like these...

    I got mine at Results for "panoptyx" up to 58% off at Sierra Trading Post
  • 08-10-2011
    David C
    The helmet I have is a ZOX, I do not remember the model, but I think its the Kaba. (Edit : it's the Kaba S, as it's the only one that ZOX manufacture.)

    Link here : AllSnowmobileGear.com - ZOX - Kaba S Snow Helmet by Zox



    The helmet is open face and come with a face mask that cover from upper chest to right under the eyes. You can also remove the shield when weather get better during the spring. It look a little bit big when compared to regular bike helmet, but I swear you won't get cold and the elements won't be a problem for visibility and comfort. I ride in close downtown, so in the car traffic and the side visibility is quite good, same as using ski goggles. This one is at $80 free shipping.

    So you only need the helmet and no goggles, scarf, mask, etc. And its strong. Air vent for cooling too.
    I also have glasses and they do not interfere with the helmet, so bonus point. I bought mine in a motorcycle store, so I've paid around $100, but at least I had the good fit for me. And I do not look awful when arriving in the office after changing up. My hair are greats and no cold/leaking nose :)

    David
  • 08-11-2011
    newfangled
    Alright, another question:

    Bottom Brackets - External vs. Cartridge (vs. loose bearing, I guess)

    My winterbike is currently set up as a singlespeed, but I'm going to rebuild it as a 1x8 for the winter, and since I'm doing that anyway I'm debating swapping the external BB to a cartridge and running some old cranks.

    I've done 2 winters on a $10 shimano cartridge BB with zero problems. For external BBs I know that Jeffscott and maybe other people run ceramic bearings. Any opinions?
  • 08-11-2011
    David C
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by newfangled View Post
    Alright, another question:

    Bottom Brackets - External vs. Cartridge (vs. loose bearing, I guess)

    My winterbike is currently set up as a singlespeed, but I'm going to rebuild it as a 1x8 for the winter, and since I'm doing that anyway I'm debating swapping the external BB to a cartridge and running some old cranks.

    I've done 2 winters on a $10 shimano cartridge BB with zero problems. For external BBs I know that Jeffscott and maybe other people run ceramic bearings. Any opinions?

    A simple sealed one would do the job perfect. Unless you like to put so much tension on the crank, a $10 one like the Shimano UN-26 will be good. I had a adjustable basic one and it did not make half-way through the winter, because the snow and chemicals got inside the BB by the seat tube and other frame openings.

    Never had problem with a sealed one.

    David