How Do You Choose a Winter Bike?

Snow in Somerville/Cambridge, October 2011
With the snow bound to arrive any week now, I am hearing local cyclists talk about "winter bikes" again. Before my first winter of cycling, the very notion surprised me. You're supposed to ride a different bike in the winter than you do during the rest of the year? why?? But then I understood that not everyone's transportation bicycle is a "tank" that is already winter-proof. Some bikes are more suitable for winter conditions than others. And while there is no one bicycle that is universally considered to be the ideal winter bike, there are certain characteristics most cyclists would probably agree are beneficial for winter commuting in snowy climates:

Stability: One reason the number of cyclists decreases so dramatically in the winter, is that cycling on ice and snow is scary. On the right bike, it is much less so. A winter bicycle should handle well on slippery, snowy, muddy and plow-ravaged winter roads. City bicycles and mountain bikes tend to do best in this respect. Those who commute on aggressive bikes during the warmer months may prefer a more relaxed and more upright bike for winter, with wider tires. If there is a great deal of snow where you live, studded tires could be a good idea, or at least knobby tires. Tame, predictable handling becomes much more important than speed in the winter months. Stepover is another factor to consider. A slippery road surface can make it easier to lose one's balance when mounting and dismounting a bike, and even those who normally ride diamond frames might prefer their winter bike to have a step-though frame or a sloping top tube.

Reliability: Related to the above, it is important that the bicycle's crucial functions - in particular, braking power and shifting ability - are not compromised by winter conditions. Rim brakes and derailleur gears can function poorly (or not at all) if clogged with snow or frozen over, which is why many prefer for their winter commuter to have enclosed hub brakes and hub (or single speed) gearing. 

Durability: Understandably, cyclists may not want to expose their nice bikes to freezing temperatures and road salt, for fear that doing so might damage the frame and components. This is why some recommend getting a "beater bike" for the winter. Personally I am uncomfortable with this advice, because a beater bike is unlikely to be reliable (see above). The approach I prefer is to get a bike that is not vulnerable to the elements in the first place. A tough paintjob, stainless and aluminum components where possible, hub gears and a chaincase should get your bike through the winter relatively unscathed with little maintenance. 

Visibility: Not only does it get dark much earlier in the winter months, but snowfall can further decrease visibility - making good lighting more crucial than ever. 

Presentability: Just because it's winter, does not mean that we are no longer expected to look presentable at work. With road conditions messier than ever, it is important that a winter bicycle be equipped with features that protect the cyclist's clothing: full fenders, and ideally a chaincase or chainguard. 

Taken together, these features suggest a number of candidates that could work especially well as winter bikes. If buying new, fully equipped classic city bikes are worth looking into: They already offer hub gears, hub brakes, a full chaincase, a resilient powdercoated frame, stable handling, generous fenders and reasonably wide tires. Recently I wrote about city bikes with mountain bike heritage, which might be particularly appropriate due to their super-stable handling. For those who prefer to put a bike together from scratch, frames with horizontal dropouts (suitable for hub and single speed conversion) and clearances for reasonably wide tires are now easily available from a number of manufacturers: Soma, Surly, Rawland, Rivendell, Salsa and Velo Orange are just a few that come to mind. For extreme conditions there are even all-terrain models that will fit monstrously wide tires, such as the Surly Pugsley and Moonlander, and the Salsa Mukluk. If you prefer to refurbish a used bicycle, an old mountain bike converted to a single speed and fitted with some upright handlebars could work nicely. Same with a vintage 3-speed, fitted with a modern wheelset with hub brakes.

It goes without saying that not everything mentioned here will be applicable to every cyclist who reads this. The kind of winter bike that is ideal for you will depend on everything from the harshness of your winters, to the character of your route, to your bike handling skills, to your bike storage situation, to the amount of time you are willing to devote to bike maintenance, and to the type of clothing you wear when cycling for transportation. Your current bike may already be a winter bike, either as is or with minor modifications. Or you may need to get an additional bike specifically for winter cycling. My own preference gravitates toward classic city bicycles, and those I've owned have made great winter bikes. But I've been increasingly curious to try a mountain bike with knobby tires and see how that compares. What is your idea of a winter bike?


  1. I like my heavy, full-featured English roadster style bike for winter riding. Typical hills I encounter aren't a problem, but head wind certainly slows me down.

    On the plus side, I enjoy the relatively upright seating position. I can see the road conditions over cars. Rear wheel slips are less of an issue, and I have more weight over my rear wheel. My setup is compatible with winter jackets and coats. I don't need special stuff to wear on my transport bike. The part of my rear wheel closest to me is completely encased with dress guards. So is the chain and I have full fenders. No salt spray ends up on my clothes from my own bike. Of course other road uses may still splash you, but it happens more to me as a pedestrian than as a cyclist for some reason.

    Not having to worry about shifting or braking ever is nice. I recall days when my rims and tires are iced over with snow stuck to the spokes when I arrive. All shifting/braking happens in the hubs where ice doesn't get in. The cable housing extends almost 100% of the way from levers/shifters to its destination.

    Flat protection is important. Who wants to mess with flats on a full chain case bike in the middle of winter? I mean... that's just not worth it. Marathon Plus are good if you are not going studded route.

    Having a bright light is absolutely crucial. Almost none of the stock dynamo head lights are good enough, you'll probably have to buy a better dynamo light, like the wonderful IQ Cyo ($100).

  2. Nice extensive detailed blog! Wanted to mention about my budget option for commuting a Diamondback Insight RS in essence a Diamondback Insight but sold with fenders and rear rack outside of adding lights,powergrips(which required changing petals) and ditching the terrible stock seat for a used seat It is very reasonable in price. Got it at Performance Bike which carries it on and off. One might consider buying a Insight and modifying to taste. I commute to work and have found this bike perfect for my needs. Good enough to get me there, not so pricey that some scumbag will dream up some way to steal my transportation.

  3. In Vancouver, where snow rarely sticks around for very long, and where it rains pretty consistently for most of the year, a winter bike doesn't always necessarily look all that different. The biggest thing, for me at least, is making sure I always have my lights with me.

    If anything, it's the fender-less summer bike that is the oddball.

  4. Re durability: the top performance is not necessarily more durable, which is the genesis of the "beater" notion for winter. Those solid beaters will outlast many a thoroughbred such as you'd ride in a paceline. Friction shifters may be called "beater," but they are simple and will work even when crud accumulates.

  5. For me visibility and being able to see where I go is really important as we have the sun going up at 8:30 and down at 14:45 this time of year. So hub dynamo and a good light (IQ Cyo mentioned above works for me), also spiked tires although I hate using them the days when they are not needed, so much rolling resistance and bad curve-taking. Disc-brakes or hub brakes and internal gearing would be nice, once the snow arrives, but I'll just have to do without. I don't have a dedicated winter bike I just change wheels, tires and attach the dynamo light come winter. Otherwise the obvious change for me in the winter is the biking outfit; short sleeved jerseys and bib shorts go in the bottom of the closet, long sleeve merino wool top, biking jacket, roubaix bib tights, gloves, helmet hat, gloves and those things you put over your shoes goes on. In the worst case scenario so does the balaclava.
    Writing this makes me want to book a biking trip to the Canary islands.

  6. Hard top beat an aluminum,rigid disc brake equipped singlespeed (SS) mtn bike...but I'm biased :p. Good subject,great post :)

    Disabled Cyclist

  7. Wondering if anyone has tried the Surly Pugsley, Salsa Mukluk, or one of the other "moon bikes" with the huge tires that are supposed to be good for riding in the snow. Maybe a good snow bike but not commuter bike (lack of fenders)?

  8. My experience (5 winters so far): derailer shifting was reliable, but chain and jockey wheel wear were appalling (IGH now). Aluminum doesn't rust, but it still can corrode from salt, especially in proximity to other metals (galvanic corrosion). Aluminum components in steel tubes need greasing, else they will corrode into a single piece. Continuous cable runs to brakes and gears are good; one year I got ice in a brake cable back when I had a bike with bare-wire cable runs (water gets in at the top of a break in the cable, runs inside, freezes later).

    Disk brakes work well, my dynamo hub+lights work well, fenders work well. Studded tires are overkill till you need them. Relatively upright posture is good. Weigle's frame saver is good. Boeshield T-9 is good. A speck of oil, almost any kind, on exposed threads at every nut and bolt is a good thing for cutting rust/corrosion (light oil from a Q-tip, or use a fine-point applicator)

    On studded tires: I've tried four different kinds, I have preferences: .
    I have not yet tried anything less studly than a Schwalbe Marathon Winter, so I don't know how (for example) the Nokian A10 compares. In general, with snow tires, rolling resistance is appalling.

    The Big Dummy's got that stretched-out rear, so when it breaks loose (happens somewhat more often because of less weight on the rear wheel) , the rear end comes around more slowly. It's fairly easy to maneuver in a skid (more of a "that's kinda fun" and less of a "whoa did I just pull that off?"). It's exceptionally stable; I've stayed upright in two-(studded-)wheel skids on ice. Super-low gears are not so useful, because the wheel will just spin.

  9. The only reason I would consider a "beater" would be to get a cheap bike that would fit studded tires, since I can't find 26" x 1 3/8" studded tires. On the other hand, if the weather is so bad that I need studded tires, I might just take the T or walk.
    @ Steve A, what I think of when people say "beater" is a BSO, which is why reliability is an issue.

    All good points, and why I'm desperate to get Gilbert fixed up and running (problems with pedals again, kickstand, lights, everything going to hell). Riding the rod brake conversion is doing OK in wet weather, but I don't really want to try it in snow...

  10. Steve A - I guess it depends on the definition of "beater bike!" If it is used to describe a non- racing bike, then I agree it is probably plenty reliable. But here it usually means a rusty box store faux-MTB contraption from the basement, and so many of those are just mechanical malfunctions waiting to happen.

  11. oops, just posted nearly the same thing as cycler : )

  12. Try studded tires!!
    Of course fenders and lights are of utmost importance, especially in conditions that require studs!
    I lived in New Haven, CT and found studded tires so revolutionary that I put them on my sole bike from the first snow until mid-March. I sacrificed the rolling resistance for the absolutely game changing stability.
    Velouria, since your stable has grown, please put studded tires on one bike for this winter.

  13. I bought a V-O chainguard for the Raleigh fixed gear this September with a mind towards supplemental weather protection for my pants and shoes, but then wound up having it break off this past weekend after excessive crank rub (apparently a common risk with aftermarket chainguards -- either it mounts too far outboard and the crank rubs against the outside on the upward rotation or mounts too far in and rubs against the chain)

    I'll probably go without the chainguard this year and just stick my shoes and pants in my bag and go back to pedaling with tights, sandals and sealskin socks.

  14. What Steve said. What makes a "beater" a beater is subjective. My beater is an incredibly sturdy bike with top quality XT mountain components. It's just old, ugly and there isn't much paint left on the frame to worry about scratching. It isn't like any authoritative voice has defined beaters as meaning a box store BSO exclusively.

  15. Around here, Vermont, a respected bike shop owner suggested an older, shockless mountain bike works well for winter riding. We have hills, so ample gears are paramount. We have salted roads also so that may be his reasoning for a cheaper, but reliable component-wise alternative to specifically buying a new disc brake bike.

    I don't ride when it gets slushy and nasty as I can walk most anywhere I need to go. But currently, with only a bit of salt on dry roads, I use a women's style Ross Mount Saint Helen's - a "beater" mountain bike.

  16. @cris - which V-O chainguard? I ended up customizing mine quite a bit, and it now works well:


    First mods:

    Latest mods:

  17. To me, a "beater" is a bike whose owner is comfortable seeing it develop corrosion and wear at a significantly faster rate over the winter than in other months. Or, in other words, a bike that you simply don't care about keeping in pristine condition. That is not to imply that the components don't work well or that they are unreliable. A beater should be, in my mind, very reliable and in excellent mechanical condition. It simply has "beausage" or "patina" or other cosmetic scars which will undoubtedly get worse after a typical New England winter.

    In previous years I rode a "beater" mtb conversion, which performed very well with components that were considered "high end" in the early days of mtn biking, and therefore held up well. I also made sure it was in perfect mechanical condition. But the bike itself was rather ugly, and I really didn't care about it weathering underneath a layer of salt and crud. I've since retired it to my summer home where it gets used a few times a year when we're there on holiday or for a long weekend.

    This year I have decided to use my everyday commuter bike (which is not quite a beater-- you know it, it's the Jeunet):

    But since

    a) it doesn't really have any historical value

    b) has a durable powder coat

    c) does so many things incredibly well

    I decided to let it suffer through the winter. I just enjoy it so much more than any other bike for zipping around the city.

  18. dr2chase -- not the porteur chaincase, but just the normal chainguard. Picture here ... and you can already see scratches where the end of the crank starts rubbing up against the bottom of the chainguard.

    I'm considering just hammering it back into flat and trying out another set of screws to give it a second shot, but am also considering getting a slightly wider bottom bracket just to avoid repeating the problem.

  19. A beater is a bike that doesn't owe you anything.That cost very very little and has already repaid that cost. If it gets buried in a snow drift, if a city snowplow buries it in a mound of frozen slush, you simply move on to the next beater. Come back after the thaw and see if the lock works, if there's salvage.

    I've never even thought of the idea of a presentable beater. Especially for winter. That makes it hard.
    Chicago's universal beater is an old Schwinn. Good fenders, good stability, designed in the first place to be very simple to work on and hard to kill. Old Schwinns with presentable paint and good chrome cost real money. Rust and dented fenders and you'll need to find a saddle bikes are plentiful and free or close to it.

    I've rusted too much stainless steel to believe in that concept. Our salt is mean. The good corrosion preventative is layers of caked grease. The good way to deal with salt all over the bike is to have a heated garage or basement with floor drain and hot running water where no one cares about your mess. I have been so lucky. Temporarily.

    If you must have derailleurs the only good choice is SunTour from the seventies and eighties. They work brilliantly, set up easily. keep working caked in ice, and can be found as salvage anywhere. SunTour freewheels almost as good.

    Panasonic and Panasonic-built bikes from the late seventies and eighties are as sturdy as Schwinns and come in more flavors. No one gives away Bridgestones anymore but Miyata 90s and 110s are still out there at beater prices.

    Going back to the mid seventies there are small numbers of faux British and faux French Japanese bikes with all the features of 2011 American bike couture. Some are so nice they should be curated, some are ready for winter.

  20. I have winter commuted in Burlington, VT, Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN and did great with an old steel Trek 950 mtn bike. I adjusted tires according to what seemed best for the conditions. In Vermont studs were best. In the other places big knobby tires were fine.

    If you could find something like that I bet you'd enjoy it. Super stable with plenty of zip and room for fenders and racks.

  21. My favorite bike last winter was my Union folder with 24 inch tires. The bottom bracket is really low to the ground. Not so far to fall off of. This year I've gotten a Sinclair C5. While it should handle most of the ikky weather, if the snow gets too deep it will float on top like a sled because of the plastic body. I do love the wind protection and if I get too cold I bring a blanket. We're still looking for an affordable velomobile!

  22. Anon @ 11:54: definitely agree re: caked grease on things. And stainless rust.

    Fortunately one thing I have not had to worry was leaving it on the street to be destroyed by a snow plow. Indoor only both at home and at work (well, garage really).

    I guess I don't really have a beater bike. My recently assembled French bike wouldn't do well in snow.

  23. Another criteria could be contact points that don't retain water. Fabric-covered seats that double as sponges and soggy foamy grips or bar tape are no fun at all.

    Use a good cover if you're using a leather saddle, too.

  24. Now the ideal bike would be one that has enclosed everything, dynamo lighting and frame painted in such a way that it doesn't rust. In fact this is a bike I ride also throughout the summer since I see no reason not to :)

  25. Here in Seattle it doesn't snow much, but we do get it about once a winter. With our hills, it tends to shut the city down as the streets become impassable with ice. If you are on foot or bike though, you are smart!

    I do have an "alterna-bike" (I refuse to call it a beater because it's awesome). It's my back up in case my regular bike is out of service or it's snowing. It's a Gary Fisher hard-tail old school aluminum mountain bike. And although it's not comfy to ride daily, it's fun. It climbs hills easy. It's got a lower center of gravity than my Soma and thus, more "grab" in slippery conditions, along with the wider tires. I don't tend to run knobbies in the snow/ice but run a more rugged, smoother tire with good tread and notch down the air pressure a bit. Last winter on a horrible snow day, it took people hours and hours via car or bus to get home (to go 5-10 miles). It took me 15 extra minutes. Oh, and I run with toeclips not clipless so I can ride in my winter walking shoes for walking down/up some of the steeper slopes.

  26. Val, you forgot one other key feature to use in choosing a winter bike.........expendability. A throw away bike to be sure.......

    Yes, expendability due to winters salts and other assorted glop that will in time ruin any bike used in winter time.

  27. Here in Manchester I use my Dawes tourer for everyday cycling in winter, just as I do at other times of the year.

    The only changes I make for winter are inceased use of lights and more frequent cleaning and lubrication.

  28. One issue I haven't seen discussed is the distribution of cargo weight. I no longer live in an area with serious winters, but when I did, I found that my normal cargo setup -- Wald folding baskets on the rear racks -- became much more unstable on ice or snow. I'm sure that a backpack would be even worse. Is it worth it to switch to a trailer for winter? Or does that make it worse, too?

  29. Ballon tires were great for me last winter. And last winter was heinous beyond heinous. I think they are my only requirement for winter riding.

  30. @BG

    "I found that my normal cargo setup -- Wald folding baskets on the rear racks -- became much more unstable on ice or snow."

    That surprises me. It seems to me that having extra weight over the rear tire would increase stability. Was it because the front wheel had so little weight on it that it tended to slip?

  31. Another option, depending upon where one rides and weather conditions, would be to pick up a relatively inexpensive adult trike and use that during the winter.

  32. Re: tire width

    When it comes to ideal tire width for winter bikes there are two approaches: You have presented the "wide tire because it floats" approach, but there are also lots of people advocating "narrow tire because it cuts." The underlying idea is that in most city riding conditions you won't have to deal with really deep snow. A narrow tire then can cut through the snow/slush and get grip on the pavement underneath. For me 32-622 cross tires worked pretty well in Upstate New York winters. This year I'm using studded tires for the first time (now in Montreal), and in 37-622 I actually find them to be a bit too floaty on snow.

    Re: studded tires and speed

    I think this is highly overrated, unless you ride the really aggressive ones with >200 studs. I would say that my 110 stud tires cost me about 2-3 km/h in speed. For short to medium distance commutes that doesn't make much of a difference.

  33. Re wide vs skinny tires, here is a post from last winter with an interesting discussion in the comments.

    "Salsa Mukluk..."

    Didn't know about that one, will have to look it up!

  34. All this talk about "beaters"; how about a real Beater??? Looking ahead to when my current bike rusts beyond safety I have been considering a 3-speed diamond frame from "beaterbikes", a neat little company, I think this from Toronto where we need a real beater. This is kind an off the shelf version of what I have built from an old Peugeot frame...3-speed hub, fenders, big basket, good mafac brakes with cool stop pads...I put big mountain bike pedals on so can wear my boots when I really need. Layers of wool, ski goggles. My daily adventure.

  35. I must say that the whole concept of a "beater" is alien to me. Maybe I anthropomorphize bikes too much, but I could never mistreat or regard as expendable almost any bike. I have only bikes that I have more or less saved, either from somebody's garage (with their permission!) or from a dumpster. They are like adopted children.

    A "winter bike" is one that I choose from the stable that I have ridden 1000's of kms and am very familiar with, and then in the late fall really clean it up good, wax it and lubricate it. And plan to keep up a high level of maitanance all winter. This year it is my Swedish Cresent 92302 road bike from 1966. It is pretty much a "thoroughbred", but old and simple enough (friction shifters, etc.) that it simply doesn't ever freeze up and is easy to service.

    Actually, I think more in terms of "Summer bikes". One might joke that here (in Finland), winter is the norm. The minimalist Peugeot PX-10 with treadless tires is a summer bike. Conditions are optimal for it about three months a year. It sets here in my room now as I write this just being good looking. Most of my other bikes are year-round machines.


  36. Winter bike? Pashley Paramount. Every base covered. In Spades!!!

  37. I used to ride mostly fixed gear in the winter, with cyclocross tires and it worked fine. However, I blew the hub on my fixie and can't afford to replace it at the moment, so I'm just "winterizing" my functional bikes.

    I'll be stripping the 8-speed hub on the commuter, filling it with oil and coating all the seals with waterproof marine grease a la Sheldon Brown (never done this before, but - famous last words - how hard could it be?).
    The Raleigh Twenty I use for multi-mode commuting I'll... well, I guess I'll pretty much leave it as it is, maybe swap out the pedals for something grippier.

  38. For me, an ideal winter bike is one that can be ridden like this. Coated in ice and still rideable! This will be my first winter with the Pashley. I don't have covered parking at work, so it is exposed to the elements all day. Should be fun!

  39. MDI @ 12:38

    IMHO your Moto could be fine in snow. But you don't want to find out. Packing snow and chunking ice under those pretty aluminum fenders will bend things up good.

    Matt DB

    Stripping an old 8spd freehub is really easy. No worries. Raleigh Twenty is wonderfully secure, easy to control when it starts to slide.

    Knobby tires don't do much in snow. Maybe offroad, maybe rarely onroad for propulsive traction. For lateral skid resistance you're better off with slick tread and low pressure. More rubber on road increases the chance something will grab. Slick tires also fling less slop and crud at the bike/fenders/rider. In some snow types knobbies will grab a thick coat of slushy ice to weigh you down while slicks just roll. Unless your knobs are carbide it's best to stay with wide as fits, soft as possible.

  40. Lots of good information already posted but I'm surprised nobody's discussed carrying kids in the winter. By bike is how we roll in Holland so not carrying the kids on bikes in cold, icy, snowy conditions isn't really an option. Switching to some other bike also isn't generally an option.

    My wife and I share a Cargobike (aka Bakfiets) and a Workcycles Fr8 transport bike but since I own the company I can ride anything I want. When it snows we pretty much only carry the kids in the Cargobike. The center of gravity is super low and the kids are protected inside a sturdy wooden box and canopy. The kids and stuff are also warm and dry in there. When you fall, and do mean "when" since it's inevitable, the kids don't fall far and nobody gets hurt. Actually my kids think it's fun, giggling and yelling "bakfiets boom! Again! Again!" The downside is that the Cargobike is a heavy slog when you have to push it through deeper snow (which is generally when you'll drop it).

    We avoid carrying the kids on a "normal" bike in child seats when it snows. It handles fine but it you do begin to lose control the CG is very high making it almost impossible to pull off a "save". Once that 15 or more kilos of kid, seat and groceries isn't centered over the contact patch it's all going to fall a long ways down. And then you've got a screaming, scared, wet, slushy, dirty child or two which I wouldn't wish upon my enemies.

    But in general, as many have noted above, a euro city bike with enclosed drivetrain and hub brakes is pretty much ideal for winter cycling. The simpler the better since the main pitfall is frozen cables, especially rear brake and shift cables. The lower the BB the better, fatter tires are a little better, the more fender clearance the better and good lights are a must. Tire dynamos don't work in snow so think either hub dynamo or battery lights. Not many people bother with studded tires here but they really do work.

    Running your tires really soft in snow really helps. The fatter the tires the softer you can go but even normal 37mm tires with 1 bar work just fine.

  41. "one other key feature to use in choosing a winter bike.........expendability. A throw away bike"

    I guess I don't believe in the very concept of a throw-away bike, let alone in riding one during a time of the year that presents the most challenging conditions when both ride quality and mechanical reliability are particularly important. There are lots of bikes out there that are more or less impervious to the elements and are fine after a winter's use.

  42. Anonymous@10:16 oh, I've done plenty of freehubs, this is a Nexus gearhub. It needs an overhaul and I'm going to make it a bit better suited to the wet NJ winter.
    I agree the Twenty seems to offer plenty of stability, I've even "crashed" it once already when a minivan pulled out of a driveway and I couldn't stop in time. I just laid it down and stepped off, no harm to the bike or myself.

  43. My winter bike is a somewhat battered, ladies' Green Raleigh Sports that I picked up earlier this fall. A quick tune up, some new tires/tubes, brake pads, saddle and grease and it's a fairly passable, sturdy winter bike. The Surly Cross Check was just not appropriate for the icy, snowy roads here and I was terrified of diving over the handlebars if I skidded out or had to stop suddenly.

    All in all, the Raleigh turned out to be a good choice, largely because I've already had some near falls due to ice, and the heavy, steel frame helps me feel a bit more steady on the road.

    Does anyone know if there are studden tires available for this size wheel? Or have any recommendations for a heavy-tread winter tire? I've got Schwalbe Deltas on it for now, but they tend to skid a bit too readily on ice...
    I'm fairly sure that the Schwalbe studded tires are not sold in the Raleigh Sports-compatible size.

  44. My ideal winter bike is one with fenders!

    It never ceases to amaze me how many Seattle cyclists ride sans fenders.
    How they manage to get through the day with that distinctive wet stripe on their backside is beyond me.

    I do notice that treaded tires actually cause far less water spin-off than very smooth tires. But my rain bike hangs in the basement all summer, waiting for the real puddles.

  45. @MFarrington: I'm fairly sure that studded tires in 26x1 3/8 do not exist. This size of tire is so rare that even normal tires can be difficult to find. Harris sells a number of tires but none of them have much tread. So your only two options are to change the wheels or to go the DIY-studded tire route.

    Maybe you should give the CC another chance. I'm pretty happy with mine on studded tires.

  46. "But I've been increasingly curious to try a mountain bike with knobby tires and see how that compares."

    Hm. There's been a lot of talk about hating mtbs, yet there seems to be a lot of mention of them lately. I's just sayin'.

  47. No-no. I hate mountain bikING, as in the dangerous activity where you get to cycle downhill over rocks and fall a lot and get your face pierced by tree branches. But the bikes themselves can be interesting. I almost bought a vintage Bridgestone MTB with suspension fork recently, but thankfully stopped myself. The third bike here.

  48. There are so many levels of reference here I will try to contain myself:

    A friend just pierced his face while jogging.

    Grant would have smiled at the purchase.

    Yeah, but car doors are more heinous.

    That bike looks slightly long in the tt/stem, but otherwise a perfect candidate.

    That Endless Velo girl sure goes through a lot of bikes.

  49. Yes to all of it! I know, I know.

    The MTB is tiny, so the TT is only long relative to the ST. It's probably a normal length TT for a person my size. And the bike has no TCO. Also, I would put different bars on it. My idea was, that with the top tube so low, it would be almost like a step-through bike and I could ride it in the winter in a skirt. I was very close to getting it and now that I'm describing it I sort of want it again. Peppy pointed out that the suspension fork could cancel out its winter stability effect, so that was one of the things that stopped me. I think it's a nice looking bike. Lugged, lovely colour. Even the fork is kind of cute is a sporty suspensiony way. Was this model post-Grant?

  50. Generally you'd want a tt a little shorter than that of a road bike but it could be ok. Yep, old mtbs have that low tt for bailing. Here's a case where a longish tt and short stem can stabilize things, so your SH comment isn't far off.

    You'd get used to the fork fast. It's probably going to be a little unnerving at first but since it follows the ground it'll feel like an under inflated tire, roughly.

    I thought Bstone USA was all Grant but now don't know when he left. My thinking is when he did, so did Bstone.

  51. If you were to put different bars on it, which ones would they be? I just purchased on CL a 1999 Jamis Cross Country and was trying to see what modifications would make the most sense.

  52. @Hobbes: I feared as much regarding the tires, but something about the Crosscheck in the winter freaks me out. Maybe it's the drop bars? I just hate the thought of having to bail off that bike on ice...

    I've seen Crosschecks set up with upright bars, but that would mean tearing out my brake cables and shifters (which I only recently moved up to the bars) once again, and all the work/expense associated with that. What to do!

  53. MFarrington: I don't think a leaned over bike is going to work on snow/ice.

    People's brains are wired to stay balanced on slippery surfaces while upright. I don't think we can balance a skidding/sliding bike as well if we are not upright.

  54. Velouria said, "Was this model post-Grant?

    V - it's my understanding that these bikes were one of the things that pushed Petersen into leaving and starting his own company (though I could be wrong). From what I've read, he was opposed to the direction that Bridgestone was heading, and they ended up taking everything out of the US anyway. I agree that the suspension fork could be an issue for use in the snowy winter months. I think if I were going to use it in such a manner, I'd probably get a rigid fork (of course, that's just more money to spend). Plus, the fork is around 18 years old now, so it's probably time for a new one anyway (though it does still works). Anyway, my two cents on the matter.

  55. My winter bike in the past has been my Phillips 3 speed, a Univega hybrid converted to drops (with 38c tires...put 28c's on it in the spring, it's a rando bike), a coaster braked mixte with Huffy fenders, and a fixed gear Peugeot.

    I guess it depends on where I'm going. When I commuted, they didn't salt the roads where I lived, so the 3 speed got most of the rides, with the Uni getting in on quicker/plowed road days and the coaster with the thawing muddy days.

    This last year, I rode the Phillips ONCE and it was so salty that even with a quick wipe down, there was rust on the fenders, chainguard, and a result I pulled out my Nishiki touring bike and threw some 27X1-3/8" (really more like 1-1/4) cyclocross tires. It doesn't like hills as much when you stand up on it in the slippery stuff, but haven't had a problem since.

    I guess for me a winter bike has to have the ability to have fenders and non-slick tires, sufficient gearing that I'm not sweating when I get where I'm going, and either enclosed (coaster/3 speed) or cheap(er) components so that I don't have to worry about packing up. Then again, I"ve been through some DEEP slush without much trouble...just carry a toothbrush.

  56. Apparently nobody else here transports kids by bike? Do none of you have young kids or do you just not ride bikes with them? Just curious since, statistically speaking, lots of 30-40 somethings are parents and I'm guessing that I'm not the only 30-40 something reading here. I could be wrong.

    By extension being a bike geek and a parent are inseparable facts for myself and most of our peers here (Amsterdam); I ride bikes for transportation and fun and moving the kids about is part of the package.

    I guess I'm a little surprised that a bunch of adults can have a discussion about the practicalities of riding (preferably nice) bikes for transport through the seasons but it's all limited to riding alone. I don't mean to provoke nor suggest that one should or shouldn't have kids; I'm just genuinely curious how this can be.

  57. Henry - While this blog does not focus on family cycling, a portion of my readers do have children and ride with them. In lots of other posts this enters the discussion in the comments and people will discuss the various issues they experience with kids on the bike. However I am not sure how that matters here. A bike can either already accommodate children or not, but that is independent of whether it would make a suitable winter bike, it seems to me.

  58. V,
    Thanks. I suppose my point is that "family cycling" isn't something special, it's just "transportation cycling" amongst people who are not only cyclists but also parents. If you have kids you'll at least sometimes be carrying them by bike... at least in this part of the world.

    The choice of bike is then influenced heavily by what you're carrying . In the more seasonable months I generally prefer riding a city bike around town, even with the kids. But when the weather turns nasty and the streets slippery the lower CG and weather protection of the bakfiets becomes enormously handy. It's safer and also saves us tons of time and hassle pulling rain gear on and off the kids. When not with the little ones I ride my normal city bike in the winter.

    In terms of component specs these bikes aren't so different though, with upright ergonomics, fenders, enclosed drivetrains, hub brakes and dynamo lights and all the stuff that you and many commenters recommend.

  59. Henry, family cycling is very regional even where I live.

    But mostly you have been away a long time - it's weird here!

  60. Henry - Speaking generally, it really boils down to my writing about what I know or am trying to learn about, which is not necessarily reflective of what is normal or typical for the majority of the population. I don't have children and do not ride my bike with other people's children, so this topic does not usually enter my posts. Not only do I have no personal interest in it, but I doubt readers would be interested in what a childless person has to say about transporting kids by bike - there are so many other blogs written by experienced parents that address this topic.

    As for why readers did not bring up kids in the comments of this particular post, that's a good question and I don't know the answer. Some of my readers most definitely ride with their kids in the winter. Maybe they honestly did not feel it was relevant. No idea.

    Now that you mention the bakfiets, it also occurs to me that I have not read any N American accounts of them being ridden in the snow. Considering your point about the extra protection they offer, I wonder why that is. Among the locals here, I know of one family with a bakfiets, one with a Larry vs Harry Bullitt, and one with a Christiania trike. All three bikes/trikes were gotten after last winter's snow, and now I wonder what their experience with them this winter will be. Their blogs are worth visiting if you're interested in following along: Suburban Bike Mama, Car Free Cambridge and Bummels & Jaunts.

  61. Hi V,
    I assumed you don't have kids and thus don't write about them. No surprise there. But as you note above it's strange though that the readers/commenters here universally seem to separate their cycling from their parenting. One who rides with kids (or other significant cargo for that matter) year-round in a place with winter can't possibly ignore the cargo while discussing this topic.

    My guess is that I have indeed been in the NL a long time. I forget that in the US (I grew up in NY) most transportation cyclists are mostly focused on the "commute", a concept fairly foreign to the Dutch. There (correct me if it's changed), adult cyclists ride themselves from home to work and back, often a surprisingly long distance. It's analog to the car commute except on a bike.

    Here people just get around by bike. My daily "commute" (if you can call it that) is typical: Down the stairs with one or two children to bike locked outside. Ride kid(s) 2km to daycare center. Ride self 500m to work. Reverse procedure in the evening. I often stop along the way for errands, activities etc. My wife, being an artist and a mom has more varied travels. Regardless, it almost all occurs on bikes, mostly with lots of short rides between the various daily destinations, mostly within a radius of about 5km.

    So maybe I was expecting oranges where there are mostly apples.

  62. IMO the "commuting" thing is more confusing than it needs to be. It simply means traveling to/from work. Then there is "errands." Then there is "going out." I suppose an American would say that they ride their bike to "get around" - which they could further break down into those 3 categories. A European would simply say that they ride their bike to get around, only because specific terms for those other categories do not necessarily exist. But I do not think there is a great difference, at least not anymore and not in urban areas.

    In a way I am the opposite of you in that I spent my childhood in Europe, then moved to the US, then went back and forth, and am now settled in the US. I still go back and forth a lot for work and to visit and frankly I do not notice a hugely different attitude toward transportational cycling between here and there anymore. In 2008 yes, but not so much anymore. In Boston I now see women in skirts and men with kids in the child seat on the rear rack cycling down the street or locking up outside a restaurant as a totally normal thing. It's nice.

  63. Hi HenryinAmsterdam, thank you for asking about winter cycling with children. Here in Bozeman, Montana we need to hear more about this and we need more parents to show others how easy and fun it is to transport kids via bike. Unfortunately, our options are limited for kid-carrying bikes; most pull trailers or mount the pedal-assist frame that kid ride behind. A long frame bike (Xtracycle) with a seat mounted over the pannier rack is a good option (with studs and slow speeds for our often ice-packed roads). Sadly I have never seen Bozeman parents riding with kids in the winter.

    Most parents here transport their kids in large automobiles, not even turning them off to load/unload. If you bike by any Bozeman school in the morning, the air pollution is quite toxic. We are much behind the NL as far as bicycle transportation goes.

    We need your examples and your encouragement and we need some of your cargo bikes to carry our children and dogs, even in the winter. Maybe then the idea will catch on!

    PS. My winter ride is a Japanese Mamachari with large front basket, fully covered drive train, 3-speed internal hub, studs, dynamo light system, and an obnoxious flashing safety vest, however these bikes are very rare in the US. Thank you, -Catherine

  64. I ride year-round in northern Vermont, which usually gets a few feet of snow each winter, along with subzero (°F) temps. the most important consideration for me is a bike that has enough clearance between the wheels and frame to accept both full fenders and studded tires. I used an older Trek mountain bike for a while, which was fine, and it helped me refine my criteria for the perfect winter bike. I bought a Kona Dew Drop because it is a 29er (700c wheels, only wider,) with disk brakes (freezing rain-proof) and dropped handlebars (more comfortable over long distances, and good for crouching in strong winds.) It also has mountain range gearing, because I often carry a bunch of shopping and the hills here are steep. Unfortunately, Kona doesn't make that model anymore, but their Sutra looks at least as good. I have found that using the largest size snow board mittens work the best in cold weather, but they should be really roomy so they don't restrain your hand's flexibility for shifting, plus you have room to ball your hand when your fingers get chilly and you have room to insert reusable hand warmers (Hot Snapz) This year my son gave me a set of Bar Mitts and they made a huge difference. I now use lighter gloves. You won't need a warm jacket, it just should be windproof (dress for the second mile.) And use a snowboard or skateboard helmet in temps under 35°F (much less airflow) and ski goggles when it gets below 20°F or in storms. Also get at least 2 rear red lights, reflector tape on your fenders and helmet, and a reflective safety vest. I know this sounds hellish to everyone, but I wouldn't miss it for the world, and I find myself looking forward to the winters.


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