13 December, 2017

Bike Build Ideas: Winter Road Bike

by Igor

Now that we've had our first snowfall of the year, I'm seeing an influx of social media posts showing riders dragging their winter bike out of the shed/garage/stack of other bikes.

Thermos', great for keeping coffee hot as well as bikes upright
While winter bikes are frequently under-appreciated, each part and accessory is chosen and built with under-appreciation in mind. That is, if your chain gets rusty from the salt and sand mixture on the road, it isn't a big deal - just get another cheap one and ride the bike. Tire shredded from debris after a big melt? There's another hanging in the shed, aging. So what if the color doesn't match?


The biggest difference between a winter bike and a not-winter bike is the meticulous curation of components and accessories to give you maximum enjoyment without breaking the bank with upkeep.


First, make sure your steel frame (do they make other kinds?) is frame-saver'd. Our frames are prepped out of the factory, but if you have an older frame and fork, or don't know if it has been done, it's worth the afternoon and do it before building it up.

Sometimes you just need a reminder
Most obviously: fenders. Full coverage fenders are a must-have for winter and the rain. They'll keep you, your drivetrain, and, more importantly, your riding buddies clean and happy. If you've ever ridden behind someone without fenders during a rainstorm, you know what I mean. No one likes road grime to the face. I've selected the 700c Facetted Fenders for this build - they're a favorite of mine. I've also added a low-hanging mudflap on the front to protect my feet against stray washouts.


I've selected a few components that are cheap, plentiful, and have been serving me well for years. They come with the added benefit of cheap chains and cassettes, so I don't feel bad dropping a few dozens of dollars on a basic Shimano 10 speed cassette and KMC chain.

To stop in the slop, disc brakes are a must. You'll never worry about frozen pads and rims like on rim brakes and disc pads only get more bite when they've got road junk in them. These cable actuated Spyres are really good. Hydros are better, but I'm not really into messing with hydraulic brakes.

As the sun gets lazier and the days get shorter, lighting is even more important. Winter bikes need to have integrated lighting, at least in the front. I have a cheap and surprisingly not bad light up front matched to a Shutter Precision disc hub. For the rear, I have a bunch of reflective gear and a very bright blinking light with extra batteries in the saddle bag.


Truthfully, I'd be happy to ride this on a warm Spring day or on a blustery December morning like today, so I don't really know if it is a true "winter bike". I think it's simply a great road-ridin' bike to just hop on and explore backroad twistys and climb some hills regardless of the weather.


Do you really need to have a winter specific bike? What makes it special for you?

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P.S. There are only a few days left in our 20% off Winter Sale!

14 comments:

BrianB said...

I have a Pass Hunter Disc, and have it built up in a similar way for yearround use here in Seattle. One thing I've done is go with 28mm tires, which are a pretty good compromise IMO for lightness and having better traction on damp roads.

Mike the Bike PT said...

The "nice bike" has been hung up in the garage. My winter steeds are a fat bike and my year-round commuter, an old 12 speed converted to a fixie. The fat bike will get me through the west Michigan winters but I would actually prefer the fixie (the fat bike is great on trails but feels like a dog on the roads). I have considered studded tires on both bikes. It would be much more expensive on the fattie but I would need to take off the full coverage fenders from the fixie and throw on some less full coverage clip on fenders. First world problems.

Anonymous said...

I live up north with a long winter and I've riding all days in heavy snow storm for 15 years now. I've seen all condition (15 inch of snow, -30°F, etc.) and I do agree with the article with one exception. Mechanical disk brake are really useful (even thought cantilever does the job for me) but hydros disk brake are a bad idea.

If you bike under 5°F the oil with start to freeze (maybe for the exception of DOT oil disk brakes). You can loose all braking power on occasions and the change of temperature will damage rubber seals faster augmenting the risk of leaks. You better stick with the cables.

Master Brain said...

"Mechanical disk brake are really useful (even thought cantilever does the job for me) but hydros disk brake are a bad idea."

We see frozen mechanicals all winter. When bikes have full run housing to the back brake induction sucks moisture into the brake line where it pools and freezes during a ride. You can flush the lines with a healthy dose of Tri Flow, it freezes at a lower temperature and being denser then water will displace moisture from the lowest point.

this is a couple years old but addresses hydro brakes in the winter. Though I've seen almost zero issues in our New England winters.
http://www.velonews.com/2015/01/bikes-and-tech/technical-faq/technical-faq-disc-brakes-cold-weather_358172

Anonymous said...

Front mech looks really high?

VeloOrange said...

It's a bit higher than usual to clear the large rear cassette. Still shifts beautifully, though!

Beau said...

What headlight is that? It's got a sweet 80's vibe to it. Boxy but fun.

VeloOrange said...

It's labeled as Gestar. I got in during our last trip to Taiwan. Its cheap and works well enough! Though my trusty E3 is better.

-Igor

teamdarb said...

I just use the same rig year round. I swap out the tires for something narrow so I don't have to raise the fenders and the snow can fall through the roller cam brakes.

Anonymous said...

Nice! Looks like a cyclocross bike to me. Add spiked winter tyres and you are good to go!

The freezing problem comes from the otherwise clever way the rear brake is placed on this bike. The end of the outer cable points upwards. Water tends to go down. There is a fair chance it gets inside the cable housing and freezes.

Anonymous said...




surly Crosscheck with rack and fenders. Currently singlespeed with Shimano wheel of uncertain pedigree, single cog and handful of spacers. When shtf, will go to Mavic MA3s laced to Suzue hubs and Kenda studded tires. As God is my witness I WILL ride this thing out.

Will said...

I have a lovely Raleigh Gran Sport in robins egg which has tons of clearance for VO fenders plus 35mm Schwalbe marathon winter tires. They are heavy and slow, but I've already gone down on my regular commuter on some black ice, so I choose the Gran Sport when there's any chance of freeze in the Boston area. Have yet to upgrade to a disc brake road frame, but maybe in the next 10 years. Centerpulls + Kool Stops do the job so far.

patti fundament said...

I've been riding on studs for years now, in Minneapolis. Love em. As soon as the weather turns crappy, I put the good wheels away, and ride crummy dirty delgado rims through the salt and ice. My commute is mostly on ice for 3 months, and through salty slush for a couple more. It's amazing to hit a deep pothole in winter and make it through.. pro schwalbe over here. The rims are rough, but still rideable. Not fast, but faster than all my other options. Frames rust out after a few years too, unfortunately. It's still fun, even when temps hit -20F like this week.

patti fundament said...

I've been riding on studs for years now, in Minneapolis. Love em. As soon as the weather turns crappy, I put the good wheels away, and ride crummy dirty delgado rims through the salt and ice. My commute is mostly on ice for 3 months, and through salty slush for a couple more. It's amazing to hit a deep pothole in winter and make it through.. pro schwalbe over here. The rims are rough, but still rideable. Not fast, but faster than all my other options. Frames rust out after a few years too, unfortunately. It's still fun, even when temps hit -20F like this week.