I’ve been doing some thinking lately, and I’m questioning some of my approach to winter cycling. After recently building up the MUTT, I wondered if this is the correct approach. As I ride that bike, there is much of it that I question, much that I’m not too fond of, and it kind of got me to thinking…….is it better to keep your “good” bikes nice, un-ridden and make them last forever. Or is it best just to ride your bikes and if they wear out, replace them with new bikes?
Obviously I’m not talking about super high end, racing bikes. My “good” bikes are pretty plain, simple, steel bicycles. Ie: Surly Long Haul Trucker, Surly Karate Monkey, my Xtracycle and my Fixie.
Now, I have giving the fixie a pretty hard smattering of nasties and slop. I could re-install the brake, and add some studded tires, and this might be a great option for a winter commuter. I’ve got a Paul rear flip-flop hub that I don’t want to waste; but then again, wouldn’t a Paul hub stand up better to being used in real life than a less expensive hub?
My LHT; this bike would probably not be my first option as a winter commuter. It’s got some serious gearing, most of which is un-used while commuting, and the more gears, the more damage caused by salt and grime. The dynamo head light would be nice, but this bike is one that I actually don’t know if I would want to ride in the snow. It’s a touring bike, not one that would be conducive to riding with both feet out to break a fall if things get hairy.
My Karate Monkey; here’s one that I’m seriously thinking about using for winter. The single speed drive train is what’s wanted for grime and muck, the disc brakes also will save heavy rim wear that happens with the salt and dirt used in the winter, and the big tires would be a huge benefit. Planet Bike Cascadia fenders are available in 29er size, and I am a huge fan of these fenders since putting them on the Xtracycle.
Part of this is also driven by the idea of simplifying every aspect of my life. First of all, I’ve got 3 bikes that are kind of junk bikes, but for some reason I keep them. I could save space in the garage and basement if I just got rid of them. Also, I spend time and money (while it may not be much, a little on each bike adds up over time) and all these bikes. I think about the money and time I spend on “junk” bikes, and wonder what I could be upgrading or tweaking on a bike that’s half decent to begin with. Sure, my bikes won’t last as long if they’re exposed to salt, and dirt, sand and all the rest that comes with winter commuting; but, how much time are we talking? Would a Surly steel framed bike last 5 years with proper maintenance and care? Would I mind upgrading and buying a new bike when anyone of mine actually wears out? No, not at all. These are not collectors pieces, they are real, practical, and tough bikes that are meant to be ridden and could be bought over again if needed.
Here is what I’m thinking for my commuter setup:
· My fixie with studs, a front brake and a basket, and full fenders for the icy and sloppy conditions.
· My Karate Monkey with fenders, leave the stock 29” X 2.3” tires on there, and ride this on days when there’s snow melting, or when there is deep snow to contend with.
· My Xtracycle with the snow studs off of MUTT, for days when I need to haul stuff. Well, maybe for most days. I just like riding the Xtracycle for some reason.
The idea being that between the fixie and the KM I’d be covered for the “bad’ winter conditions. I’d have my Xtra for hauling in any weather and I’d still have my LHT for days when all is dry.
I’d like to hear your thoughts. Do you have any insight you could share about using good bikes for bad weather, or if you think it’s worth just using beater bikes like the MUTT? What’s your winter setup?