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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051

    Winter bike or winter wheels?

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    I have a dilemma. Should I get a winter bike or a set of winter wheels? or neither?

    Last year I got studded tires and then we had almost no snow. I put a lot more miles on them than I needed to, since we didn't have any snow, but they are so hard to take on and off that I can only realistically put them on once a year.

    This year we will hopefully get more snow. We had our first snowfall and I put the tires on. It took me over an hour, in part because Schwalbes are so darn tight on my wheels, and in part because I got the rear one on backwards and had to reverse it, then discovered that the front was flat (not a pinch flat, but the tire lever itself had poked a hole in it, because did I mention those Schwalbes are really stinking tight?).

    The first day the snow was too thick and packed up inside the fender and in the brakes so neither the rear wheel nor the brakes could move. I put the bike back and walked.

    That night the brakes didn't seem to work. I'm still not sure what was wrong. I did my ABC check and they were fine, but when I was riding and squeezed the brake levers nothing happened. The bike lives inside so I wondered maybe frozen condensation? I don't know, I took it back inside and used the car.

    The next day I got to ride. The brakes worked, everything worked, it was a lot of fun biking on the hard packed snow and ice. And today it's all melting, and I won't need the tires again for a week or a month, who knows. But I'm stuck with them until spring now that they're on the bike, putting miles on them and they'll have to be replaced that much sooner even though there wasn't that much snow.

    I'm thinking about getting a separate set of wheels. It's easier to change out wheels than to change tires. That won't help with snow getting packed into the fenders, but that's not going to be an issue very often.

    On the other hand I could get a separate bike for these sorts of days. An old beater bike, which will save wear & tear on my commuter bike's drive train from the soot & grime they spread on the streets. (A set of winter wheels would at least save wear & tear on the cassette.)

    The one other issue is lights. I have monkey lights on my front wheel, and those are zip-tied on, they aren't impossible to move back and forth but I wouldn't say it's quick. I have a generator hub in my front wheel. I don't see me getting a second hub for either a set of winter wheels or a winter bike. I guess I'd just load up the winter bike with a couple sets of blinkies.

    I've got a source for a beater bike for free, though it needs some repair. The beater bike takes a different size tire so I'd have to get a new set of studded tires. So either way, winter wheels or a winter bike, will cost about the same ($150). Or I could just walk on those days. I'm just not sure we get enough snow to justify the expense. The main advantage of those tires is that it is so much FUN to bike on days when you think it's impossible to bike. But it's not as much fun to still be using those tires 2 days later when the streets have been cleared. (The studded tires really slow the bike down, and make it very noisy.)

    All right, what's your opinion?
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    perpetual traveler
    Posts
    1,302
    Kind of sideways to your topic, but I've improved my skills at getting really tough tires on a bike. When you put the tube in the practice is to put a bit of air in so the tube holds it shape. After the tube is in, let out most all that air. Make sure the side of the tire that is already on is down low on the inside of the rim. I now am able to get a tire on with my hands that I used to have to use levers on. I learned this at my bike maintenance class. The instructor demonstrated with my heavy duty hybrid tires as they were the hardest in the class to get on the bike. It still isn't easy but it sure is easier and faster.

    I've got a spare set of wheels for my hybrid. It really is handy. If the rim width isn't the same you will have to adjust the brakes when you swap wheels, which can be a bit of a pain. And make sure the cassette is the same too so you don't have derailleur worries.
    Trek Madone 4.7 WSD
    Cannondale Quick4
    1969 Schwinn Collegiate, original owner
    Terry Classic


    Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,083
    It depends on what the beater bike is like. If you have a sturdy utilitarian bike in the first place, I'd go for winter wheels, great way to go when conditions change rapidly. If the roads are salted where you live, and if you ride through slush regularly, and especially if you don't have access to a warm, indoor place to wash off your bike regularly and tinker with it, winter conditions are too harsh for a lovely lightweight bike with expensive components. I've read that one winter equals 4 to 5 summers in wear and tear, and I believe it.

    I wouldn't buy a beater bike if it's heavy or hard to maintain. Snow and cold and studded tires make it more than hard enough to ride already.
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
    2008 white Nakamura Summit Custom mtb/Terry Falcon X
    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051
    I called my friends at the bike shop and got their advice. They also recommend I go with a winter bike instead of winter wheels. (They know I'm not buying a new bike for this, just a freebie or beater bike. Besides, they are friends so I can trust their advice.)

    Serendipitously, someone was asking me for advice for his new bike, and during the conversation revealed that he has a bike, but the seat tube broke, and he was trying to give it away, thinking someone could use it for parts. I have a friend who is a free lance bike mechanic and has welding tools, and when he gets back from holiday traveling he's going to take a look at it and see if it's repairable.

    When I picked up the broken seat tube bike, I said in astonishment, "You have an entire fleet in here!" I ended up taking home a 2nd bike as well. It's a heavy walmart shimano mountain bike, but it has disc brakes. Although it being so heavy, after what you said, is a little bit of a concern, I could go ahead & try it out with studded tires--if I don't like it, I can use the studded tires on a different bike. (Both of the freebies are 26" wheels.) But I'll hang on to my current 700 cc studded tires a while longer, in case neither of the freebies work out for me and I end up with winter wheels, or yet another freebie bike that takes that size wheels.

    When we first got this snowfall, and I saw the forecast, I thought the roads would be clear after 2-3 days, and other wanting a chance to use my studded tires on snowy streets, it was hardly worth putting them on. However, the 2 warm afternoons were just enough to make it mushy and it's since frozen again, so the streets are actually really awful, with rough, bumpy ice that is unpredictably hard or slushy. I'd be awfully tired of walking by this point, if I hadn't put the studded tires on.

    The parking lots are even worse. I dropped by my office this morning briefly, and I hesitated when I reached the worst patch. Instead of plowing right on over it, I put my foot down. My foot slipped. I fought to keep my balance but gravity was inexorable. Eventually I landed! Although my hip hurts a little, my biggest regret is that no one was there to laugh. I'm sure it was a sight!
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Austria
    Posts
    374
    I'm thinking about the same thing the last days. We had a lot of snow and I did a LOT of walking, which takes me quite a lot ore time than biking to work.

    My usual bike - the Buena Vista with slick racing tires can't take winter tires as it is at the moment. I'd have to change the wheels to take fatter tires and then the brakes because I'd have to move the back wheel farther back to take fatter tires... I'm not even sure if it would work out.

    I'm considering searching for something like an old cyclocross for snowy conditions that would take studded tires and not cost too much, because the salt and grime on the street is really wrecking my drivetrain now. Or maybe an old MTB?

    About your problem with the brakes: I had the same problem on my old bike. I think water goes into the casing of the brake-cable (melting snow or rain) and starts to freeze when you go outside, which prevents the brakes from working. I had to exchange the cable + housing to stop this from happening, but it's a quick and realtively cheap fix.

    I was sithering through the snow yesterday evening too (only on the car-free parts of my way) because I got surprised by more snow during my working time and had a blast. But the slick tires are uncontrolable in fresh snow and if some slush gets caught in the wheels it's hardly impossible not to fall Still, it was such a nice evening, thick snow falling, everything quiet, all people on bikes grinned at each other

 

 

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