Ahhhhh...Winter! January 08 2017
I have discovered that winter riding is really what I love the most. I shouldn’t be surprised since I consider myself a winter person anyway. Most of my childhood leisure time was spent outside with my father during the winter months, while his commercial fishing boat sat idle frozen in ice at the wharf. That and the fact that I find the heat of summer uncomfortable at least. Besides, extended summer touring rides, I prefer the crisp, fresh air and white landscapes for everyday rides.
Of course winter riding comes with its own demands on equipment, preparation and perceptions. I have written about some of my favourite winter riding apparel here and the public perception of the winter riding here. But at the centre of any riding, winter or otherwise, is the bicycle used for the task. Historically winter riding bicycles were beaters; old mountain bikes that no one cared about. This made sense; in many climates road salt and grim will make quick work of any bicycle irrespective of the cost or quality. Lately, fat-tire bicycles have made their way onto the scene as the premier choice for winter riding. These mammoth wheeled velocipedes seem ideally suited for this environment, although I have never ridden one. Their cost however can be a deterrent.
I have always been more of a generalist than a specialist when it comes to my bike choices. My go-to bicycle for the last 20 plus years was a rigid forked, hard tail, Deore LX equipped mountain bike purchased at a “sports store”, not a bicycle shop. It has served me very well. I used it to tour Newfoundland in 1993, do some light mountain biking, teach my kids how to ride and commute to work. The LX components were smooth and reliable and the smaller mountain bike geometry was comfortable. I rode it everywhere.
Sadly however the 21 speed drive train has been giving me increasing difficultly, despite regular maintenance and replacement, and the frame corrosion is causing me some concerns. I think it is time to retire “Blacky”, the name my daughter christened this bicycle. But Blacky has taught me many lessens about winter riding. I know that my next winter bike will have a single ring crank and I’m leaning towards a two-speed kick back Sturmey-Archer internally geared rear hub. Front and rear cantilever or v-brakes, although I am partial to cantis. A used alloy frame with horizontal drop-outs is a must, if I can find one. The bars will have bar extensions for leverage when I need to muscle my way through deep snow. As for tires, I plan to use my current tires. They are not studded but have great traction, making me question the need for studded tires for the majority of riding conditions.
I’ll keep you posted as to the progress I make with this project. Hopefully I’ll be back on the road before winter is over. I may be the only bicyclist to lament winters end…