2-Winter cycling in Wisconsin-The Gear
I have seen cyclists use about anything when riding in the winter. Mountain bikes, cross bikes, old Schwinns, even skinny tire road bikes. They all work. Some are more adept to the road conditions. I think a low center of gravity is the less ‘skiddish’ an more enjoyable ride. I have a fixed gear bike that has a high center. I leave it hanging until the streets are dry. My steed of choice for any of my daily winter commuting is an old cheap mountain bike that is 3 sizes too small for me with studded tires…and a fixed gear rear wheel. I also don’t have brakes. I do take simplicity to a bit extreme this way, but then I also love fixed gear bikes. That’s another article…
So, let me start with clothing, then the bike and bits.
I ride daily, my commutes vary in time and length so I try to be ready and versatile. My 2 mile ride to work is less layered because my work uniform is not good cycling clothing and it is a pretty short ride. I mostly use rain pants and a warm layer coat and high viz shell coat, warm hat or balaclava (facemask), winter boots. I keep street shoes at the shop. The pogies allow for thin cheap gloves (the end stand, one size fits all type found in department stores). I’m thus ready for rain, wind and cold. Non work day riding finds me wearing more like the following.
So, (right to left in the picture) there is an underarmor type long sleeve, a thin wool sweater, thin down coat and hi viz rain/wind coat. Jeans, wool socks, bike cap and helmet with the holes filled with foam I had left over from the extra pads. Sorell type boots. Rode all morning (about 30 miles with stops in between for errands), kept warm and was even getting a bit sweaty at 20°F. I add a thin layer like a long sleeve t-shirt over the first layer if the temp is below 10°F and have a thicker down coat for below zero. Usually the gloves and pogies are good to about zero, then I use ski type gloves.
Probably missed something, but you get the gist.
My bike is a custom beater built up on a department store mountain bike frame (named ‘Wynott’ as an opposite to my Wyatt fixed gear). I built up a 26″ fixed gear rear and have stainless chainring and cog. Not needed, just had them. Any drivetrain is good if it is kept lubed up. The seat is kept so my legs are flexed too much but I am close to the ground and more stable. Tires are 160 carbide stud tires. Carbide vs steel. In mixed riding (some exposed pavement, some packed snow and ice) go for the carbides. If you are riding on ice and packed snow, steel is less expensive and will work as well. The big key is maintenance. Either leave it frozen outside or bring it in and rinse it off with a pitcher of hot water to get the salt off. I do both, the water will cause you to need to lube the drivetrain more often. As you can see, Wynott is not fancy. Use any bike you have, but maintain it and it will serve you well in the cold and snow.
The bits. Platform pedals big enough to hold your snow boots. The pogies are hunters muffs. I got two and zip tied them to the handlebars. I have ATV mitts on a different bike. The fenders, front one is bolted on and has a DIY extension, the back fender is zip tied on. Lights of course. That about covers it.
On to the ride…