Sunday, February 5, 2017

Winter Biking - My firsthand experiances and tips (in progress)

Background: I grew up partly in the Midwest, and rode a bmx through the snow during the long winters. Often though, no set of wheels could have gotten me through the several feet of lake effect snow we'd get most winters, so I did spend many days walking, yes, uphill in the snow, 2 miles to school. As an adult I lived in Milwaukee and wiped out on the ice on my way to work at 6am in 0 degree weather. Many years after that I spent in the south, mostly riding a road bike year round and making up for as much smooth flat pavement as I could.

My first winter of commuting was in 2012, I had a job at a coffee shop about a mile and a half from our house. I bought an old Diamondback Ascent frame, from the bike shop that I later worked three plus seasons at, and outfitted it for the snow, ice, melt, and debris. The strategy was like a true all terrain bike, the original purpose of these frames, slower but steady, bigger tires and lots of clearance.
Also, since the weather would do an enormous amount of wear and tear, I opted for all used parts. Besides, you don't fell much difference when you are pushing through the snow and ice, and I didn't have that far of a ride, so I wasn't too concerned with longevity.

 These were the aspects I focused on for the build:

  • Large frame with ATB geometry and lots of clearance
  • Wide, knobby, studded tires
  • Plastic bolt on fenders
  • Sealed bottom bracket
  • Large gear ratio/range
  • Thumb shifters , easy to use with gloves
  • High and close handlebars and stem
  • Wide pedals
  • Used quality components
Although I felt I would notice a difference between department store quality parts (and reliability) I didn't feel I would notice a difference between high and low end shop quality, so I mostly went with late 90's shimano parts. The click thumbies that generally came with these mtb sets worked well with my ski gloves, and I could get a triple up front and 9 speed rear for pretty cheap. (that winter I took off the front der. and made it a 1x the next winter)
   I scored a set of used studded tires and popped those on front and back, as I had already slipped out trying none or one. Being in the south for long, I certainly had a hard time staying upright on the half inch shelf of ice that was once our street.

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