Showing posts with label snow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snow. Show all posts

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fat Bikes and Grip Studs

pic source:

As much as I am happy and excited about Mutant Winter III, there is another winter cycling solution I am interested in. Fat Bikes. These are bikes that are designed for use on snow or sand or generally ugly terrain, characterized by crazy wide rims and very wide and usually rather soft tires. Good examples of the most popular are the Salsa Mukluk and the Surly Pugsley.

The reason I'm interested is that I could ride the unplowed and icy MUPs in London Ontario on one of these wonderful mutant-by-design bicycles. Studded skinny or even MTB tires aren't good enough to handle them; I have tried. The thing is, crazy wide rims and tires require crazy wide forks and crazy everything else. Crazy is expensive, especially when 1 in 1000 cyclists* will really want and actually pay for one. To give you an idea, searching for "surly pugsley" or "salsa mukluk" doesn't even yield any results featuring full bikes... $300 rims, etc, but no bikes.

I don't have the money to buy one of these things. A Pugsley sells for about $1700 on REI. A Mukluk runs about the same. I started looking into building one, but quickly realized that even the parts and tires put these things out of reach for me right now.

One nice thing I discovered while looking into building one of these monsters was There have always been DIY methods of studding bike tires, but I've never really believed that hardware store screws would hold up very well. Grip Studs fill the gap nicely. They are expensive, but with these you could stud any tire you wanted with high quality studs rather than trying to find a finished product like I have so far.

I think I'm gonna go talk to the people at First Cycleworks... they seem to enjoy building mutant cycles more than most other shops in town and I'm hoping they might have some useful and doable fat bike advice for me. Wish me luck!

Yer Pal,

* That statistic is based on nothing tangible. The 1000 could as easily be 500 or 10000. The author of this blog is thinking you'll get the idea whether number is accurate or not.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Snowy Street Riding - A Pointers Page

Here's a little video of what can be the most difficult kind of snow condition for bicycle commuting in winter. The snow that remains after a decent snowfall that doesn't quite justify sending out the plows can be tricky stuff when it has been driven on by only a few cars. When snow has been packed down by lots of cars or hasn't been driven over at all, it is relatively easy to ride on, unlike the aforementioned difficult stuff:

As you can see, a straight line is nearly impossible, at least for most people. It is, of course, even more difficult when the snow is deeper, but at least here in London Ontario the plows run and create some good riding streets when there is a little more snow than pictured in the video.

The purpose of this post is to be a good online resource for pointers on street riding in difficult winter road conditions. As such, this is an open invitation to winter riders to share what works for them on snow like this. Useful comments will be added to the main body of this post as they come in (if they come in).

To get the ball rolling, here are some pointers:

1) Eyes Up - It is natural to want to look at the snow that the front wheel is going to encounter and seek the best line. However, balance is improved by focusing on a point in the distance whenever possible.

2) Stay Loose - When the front wheel tries to slip one way or another, a common reaction is to tense the arms and shoulders and grip the bar tightly. Better control can be achieved by consciously relaxing the upper body and grip as much possible while still maintaining control of the bars. Resting the fingers on the brake levers helps to prevent a "panic grip".

3) Stay Put - If at all possible stay on the saddle even when trying to power through stuff. Rear traction pretty much goes away when standing.

4) Keep Pedaling - Keep those legs moving even when things get dicey and ride almost as fast as possible. A little momentum helps a lot in maintaining a line while the snow tries to knock the bike around.

5) Walk Sometimes - Walk the bike when necessary, including when cars are anywhere near and control is not 100%. It is not safe or fair to slip and slide around while vehicles are trying to overtake or when space is tight. It is OK to slip and slide down roads like these, but dismount or stop on the side for a moment to let cars go by when they approach. It is more safe, and will minimize the animosity drivers show toward winter cyclists in general. With this one it is not about whether one could proceed, but whether one should in that context.

6) Skip the Sidewalk - The sidewalk is a terrible waste of time and effort and is even more dangerous than in summer thanks to high snow banks, etc. The surface is also usually much worse thanks to foot traffic.

That's it for now. All should feel free to disagree or offer other helpful ideas like the following from the comments:

Big Oak adds: prepared for varying snow and ice conditions on the road all at the same time. Sometimes the snow is loose and not frozen to the road, and right next to that there are frozen car tire tracks, and next to that might be perfect, unpacked snow. Thanks Big Oak!

Rollz adds: I read one time to try to hold a golf club like it was a baby bird and you don't want to crush it. I found this useful when riding streets like the one you were on in the video. I hold the bars light and put my massive weight back on the rear wheel. I also ride a MTB in winter. Thanks Rollz!

These bits are just excerpts. For everything these contributors had to say, check the comments.

Thanks for reading, and please slide on by any old time.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Clearing Snow in London Ontario: Should They Do The Pathways?

Source: - Chronicle file photo/Ken Stevens

London City Council, as part of its transportation master plan, is looking at whether to maintain pathways in winter, and if so, which ones. As much as I love riding the path in winter, I am undecided on this one. Recent winters have included some very heavy snowfalls, and everybody has an opinion on this stuff. I ride all winter long, and the number of other cyclists I see doing the same is growing. As it stands right now, as soon as the snow stays for a while and people walk on the paths, they become very difficult to ride a bike or even walk on because they develop an icy, dimpled surface that really knocks you around.

When the City is struggling to get snow cleared, however, I know I can ride on the street, and I often choose the street for speed reasons anyway. People who are disabled need the sidewalks cleared in order to get out, and certainly trump my desire to ride on the path.

So, let's assume the City has its priorities right, and clears sidewalks before pathways. It then becomes a question of whether the money spent to clear the paths benefits enough people (whether they cycle or not) to justify the cost. I guess it is worth a study, because I have no idea.

I was home sick last week, and watched a little city Council on TV. It seemed to me that Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser thinks winter cycling is stupid, and the City is stupid for even thinking about helping people do it on the paths.

The gist of his comments were "who the hell rides their bike in the winter anyway? We're thinking about spending money on this?" He has chosen to focus solely on the cycling aspect of cleared paths, when there are other benefits for pedestrians and joggers and who knows who else. I have determined that Stephen Orser and I should probably never go out for a few drinks.

He's totally put me in the mood for every winter's letters to the editor suggesting bicycles be banned in winter. I love those. They are like the seasons themselves, in that you can count on them pretty much every year, just as you can count on a bunch of cyclists attacking the author in the comments. I never engage in that way, but I do enjoy reading that stuff. It used to make me angry, but these days it just gives me a chuckle as I suit up and ride on.

Agreeing to disagree is totally acceptable, and I do it a lot.