Working at a Colorado shop one winter seemed to be the year folks wanted to try some winter bike commuting. It was fun, kinda. One customer wanted me to convert his bike to a fixed gear, hmm for ice and snow? Another guy wanted all suspension, hydraulics, etc. Told the fixed gear guy I just didn't feel it was a good idea given his riding experience and took offense.
There aren't a whole lot of folks wanting to try bicycle commuting in a smallish remote-ish mountain town, especially in winter. It was funny how some customers didn't want to hear the keep it simple principle as applies to winter biking.
At that time I had been winter bike commuting for a couple years and realized the importance of varying terrain and surfaces requiring different equipment needs. For instance, my cabin has a very, very steep grade that is a dirt and gravel road. Majority of which was shaded so on warmer days may or may not thaw in the sun. Steepness of the grade there requires keeping the butt on the saddle, when I would stand up to pedal the back tire would spin spitting dirt and gravel as I struggled to maintain balance until the tire would intermittently "grab and go" up the hill. So for winter I definitely needed studded tires and successfully made my own (different blog). One evening after riding the eight miles of highway from town back to my cabin I noticed several cars parked and sitting at the beginning of the road just off the highway. I stopped to chat with a gentleman who explained that the vehicles were trying to get up the hill and consequently slid back down the steep grade with a vehicle or two going into the ditch. For whatever reason the dirt road had become a solid sheet of ice. Here's the punch line; with my studded tires I was able to effortlessly go my way pedaling and grinning up the hill. I saw the old guy a few days later and he was laughing and complementing me about it. I was feeling so happy about my bike commuting that winter and hoping some other customers who were riding those frigid winter days out were enjoying it as much as I was......well, not so. Our customer who bought the full suspension awoke every morning to a flat rear shock. He brought it to the shop, we bench tested it, we put it in water to check for leaks and found nothing. We sent it to the manufacturer and they didn't find anything wrong with it either and received a long explanation about altitude and cold and alright, ride a rigid to beat the frigid. Hmm, Surly and some other folks building frames landed on something worthwhile considering the success they've been having over the past several years.
. Something of note, also at that time Surly's Pugsley had only been on the market a year or two. Nowadays surfing the internet seeing photos of monster tire winter bikes is common, and still very pricey. This brings another point in that more often than not the older steel frame mountain bikes were designed to accept a larger diameter tire, particularly with cantilever brakes. When descending the aforementioned hill the canti's worked good enough.
Another interesting point is how well designed the older frames were for adding commuting accessories such as racks and or fenders. I have a late 80's Diamond Back Ascent EX that even has three bottle cage mounts most commonly found on touring specific frames. I can also fit 2.5 wide tires on it with no problems.
This week's "blog about" is an ode to the old steel frames of yesteryear, often readily retrievable at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. And I just so happen to have some photos from a couple of bikes in commemoration of July 4th. These beauties are made of 4130 cro-moly steel with original paint still taking a good polish.
If you're someone looking for a good project bike these are such fun bikes to find and throw some cash at them to build them up and customize the way you want it. Check Jenson USA huge sale by clicking on banner ad.
Happy Fourth! Be Safe, have fun.