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Winter Commute Preparation? (wheels and tyres)

defeverdefever Posts: 171
edited October 2018 in Commuting general
Hello fellow commuters,

***Warning – Long Post***


I have an inherited (and sentimental) 80s retro road bike that I use for commuting and had few iterations from original over the last couple of years (due to aged original components and customising to my preference). And I am due another iteration to go single speed (freewheel) on budget and prepare for the winter soon.

My commuting scenario:
It’s approx. 28miles round trip, 3x 3-7% gradient hills, route involving through towns, B roads with inappropriate “bike” symbol painted on road (i.e. in the gutter). I’ve done 1,700miles so far this year, equating to approx. 200miles / month commute, averaging 17mph pace.

My current set up:
Wheels are bog standard boxed alloy retro wheels (Mach1 freewheel and original Wienmann front) with Clement Strada LLG 25c tyres. Front wheel is from original and buckled. Rear was renewed 12months ago and still okay (slight buckle). The tyre mileage is approx. 2,000miles with handful of cuts, 2x slow punctures so far (last one found yesterday). I feel that I may need to renew the tyres before the winter, and definitely the front wheel.

The original Huret rear derailleur had its life and can’t keep the tension so it’ll be removed for now as single speed using the existing freewheel (the dream of full restoration with NOS components has long gone and I moved on from being a “period” snob… I’m now function over status). Been riding on 52-19T gearing (GI: 72.49, Ratio: 2.74) since June (approx. 600miles and counting) and I’m perfectly fine with it. Chain line is very straight on this gearing so I intend to just remove the derailleur, keep the original freewheel and get single speed chain sized for permanent 52-19T gearing for simplicity.

My thoughts:
  1. Shiny Upgrade: With the current condition of the wheels and the tyres (and intention of single speed conversion), I’d be interested in getting what seems to be the popular and reliable wheelset & tyre for commuters: Mavic Aksium and Schwalbe Marathon 25c. This will involve £200-220 spend for the combo + single speed cog, as well as cold setting the frame (current OLN is 123mm). I see this as long-term investment.
  2. Patch-up: The rear wheel is still okay (only 12months old) so a quick visit to LBS and replace front wheel to Mach1 equivalent box retro wheel and buy Strada LLG again or budget tyres with in mind to replace once the winter is over. Much cheaper option than the above (£80 or so for the front wheel and a pair of budget tyres), no need to “cold set”, but short-term solution and intention to replace the tyres in Spring.
  3. Bodge-up: Keep as it is, cycle it to ground. Get the cheapest tyre and put up through the winter with buckled wheel until the rear wheel also buckles. Then replace the whole hog.
  4. N+1: Just get a budget / second-hand single speed like Mango as winter bike… approx. £150 budget, but I wonder the reliability.

Money is tight (of course, when isn’t and who isn’t) and I’m not 100% convinced option 1 warrants the spending or going through the hassle of “cold setting” right now. But I believe it’s the best option long-term.

So, fellow honourable commuters, what would you do in this situation?

Happy cycling!


  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    If it's sentimental value - which I can understand - now regretting skipping my Uni commute bike - then perhaps N+1 is the best option - get a cheap s/h single speed that'll see you through winter whilst you sort this one out for "summer best"
    As for reliability of a s/h single speed machine - what can go wrong with it? worst case would be a split/cracked frame which renders the whole bike useless - the rest can be managed...

    (btw - the answer is always N+1!)
  • defeverdefever Posts: 171
    Thanks slow bike.

    Attempted SS conversion but failing miserably so far. The rear wheel keeps slipping. Understandably, it’s because the wheel is on quick release skewer. Long story short, I went to LBS for advice: they kindly trued (as much as possible quickly, knowing it needs replacing anyways) the front wheel and put on nutted skewer (hex head) in replacement of the original Shimano skewer (for free of charge, which I’m grateful of) just to get me back on road for few more days.

    Wheel still slips with the nutted skewer. It doesn’t slip gradually, but suddenly pings very aggressively and wedges against the seat post and non-drive side chain stay.

    I’m not so convinced that nutted axle will resolve this wheel slippage. When I release the skewer after the slippage, the whole rear triangle of the frame visibly springs back and the skewer slips back in the place like a loaded spring.

    I’m starting to wonder whether the frame is made from inferior or softer steel as it seems to flex so much underload. Not suitable to hold the torque applied on single speed set up? But then, how has it held up when I was grinding gears uphill when it was still 10 speed?

    Back to LBS for advice; luckily there is one mechanic who is very familiar with older frames.

    I can’t be without a bike for too long. The train fair is ridiculous and I don’t get my exercise. Looks like I just need to put this poor bike aside for now and waste my money on some junk bike to get through the winter.

    Sad times, but quite frankly a first world problem, really.
  • If I am missing the point, then I apologize, but are you trying for single speed as a method to deal with ice? I've heard proponents of this method (single speed forces your pedals to keep turning, therefore you always "feel" ice and can prepare for it, rather than if you had coasted into it), though I have never tried it myself (I like my gears). If you live in a low-ice climate, or if it has nothing to do with ice, then feel free to disregard the rest of this, but if it *is* for ice then you might consider studded tires. When I first tried winter riding I used standard knobby mountain bike tires. They seemed fine for a while, then I split my chin open on a patch of black ice. My parents bought me some carbide studded tires (I was a teenager at the time), and they made a big difference. They are by no means foolproof, you still need to have healthy respect for those icy patches and mind your turns, but they are a great help. They also are kinda irritating for times when there is a little snow/ice here and there, but the roads have mostly melted clear (they make an irritating noise and increase rolling resistance a bit on bare road). They are mostly sized for mountain bikes, but there are a few models for road bikes out there. I can't recommend a specific model for a road bike, because the slimmest ones I could find just barely violated the clearance that my fork allows, so instead I went out and bought a used mountain bike when I decided I wanted to once again ride all winter. The road style tires I was looking at were kenda brand, I believe. Their price came in just under $100 US ,I don't know the conversion off the top of my head, but I think it would be considerably lower than the price range you're looking at (those are sorta the bargain basement ones, though). Anyway, maybe that's helpful and maybe I missed your intent, but if you are looking for an ice setup, I definitely recommend studs. When my coworkers don't make it in because their trucks and SUVs are stuck in the driveway, I like to text them pics of my studs with the ice hanging off (from work). They lovingly tell me I can go f--- myself.
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