As you might remember, I bought my new bike, Ridley X-bow 2014 last autumn. About 1200 km behind so far, mostly commuting rides, and I still love it. 16km every day. My rear brakepads are almost finished, should buy and install new ones soon. I did consider bikes with disc brakes, but as there were only a few brands with my frame size, and the other bikes were a lot more expensive, I decided that rim brakes would do just fine(also the X-bow’s colours are exactly to my taste). I paid about 1100€ for the bike +the double-sided Shimano pedals (locks on other side, plain on other, haven’t bought the shoes yet). The pictures in this post are all of my own bike, I had to wash it after taking the pictures because it was so muddy..
I installed my mudguards almost as soon as the heavy rains begun in the autumn. (I biked to a bicycle shop when it was pouring but did get my back all muddy a couple of times after that as well) I had to shorten the spokes of the SKS-style mudguards, because I realized they were too long for my bike. The mudguards would not fit under my breaks or leave the desired 1 cm gap between the tyre and the mudguard.
My winter tyres are Nokia Hakkapeliitta W106, the narrowest and lightest model of the series. The tyres are steel studded, basic anti skid tyres. For my chain I am using White lightning’s Clean ride lube. I’m not sure if it is the best for winter. I should perhaps buy something more suitable for cold weather.
I think that cyclocross bicycles are the best for winter when it’s not too snowy. I admit that when there is new soft/wet snow on the ground a mountain bike would suit better. Or then a cyclo with wider tyres than mine. So far there has been one day this winter, that I can remember thinking that a mountain bike would be of some use right now. Nevertheless I have been able to cycle without accidents for many months now.
The bike’s downside is perhaps sensitivity that comes from its light weight and short wheelbase: It is easily maneuverable, and for example also more difficult to ride without keeping your hands on the handlebar. If the ride is really bumpy it gets tiring to hold onto your handlebar for long. But I´ve gotten used to the bike, and carrying the it is certainly very easy, as it weighs only about 9,4 kgs. (The disc brakes would have added to the weight, but they would have been cleaner: the rim brakes make mess from the brakepads when it is wet/muddy)
All in all the X-bow has performed admirably even when taken from +20 our flat to -20 outside. I keep my bicycle indoors at work as well as at home. I have had to adjust the breaks and gears a few times during these 1200 km, but otherwise it has been a smooth ride. Arts cyclery has some great videos on YouTube, so adjusting the gears has been tolerable. The ultimate source of bicycle information is (at least if you ask a bikegeek) Sheldon Browns website, it is a good cyclopedia. If you happen to read almost any country’s bicycle forums you are bound to find references to Sheldon.
This winter it was amusing to see when some snow finally came down in Helsinki there were dozens of cyclists who must have taken their mountain bikes out for this special occasion. They looked so thrilled to be able to use their bikes properly, that is how it is supposed to be. During winter it is also pretty funny to observe the other cyclists’ (mostly men) reactions when they realize that I am a woman. Winter cycling clothes tend to hide all signs of femininity.
I use Shimano’s cycling glasses with 3 kinds of lenses: yellow, clear photocromatic and brown. I think some glasses are useful for winter cycling. At least my eyes can’t take the wind when it’s below +5. Last winter I used clear sunglasses that I bought from a second-hand shop for 1€. They did the trick, they were a bit foggy but otherwise just fine. When it’s below zero I also put a scarf on my face to breathe through.
Long fleece underpants/ leggings are very useful in winter cycling. The basic 3-layer dress code is useful for the coldest days: ventilation, insulation and shell. Windproof boxers are also good. Skiing clothes are ideal for cycling, but the best is to remember that you don’t need expensive clothing, I’ve bought most of my cycling clothes from second-hand shops. If I later want to get new ones, I can buy them gradually when I can fully understand what I need.
Winter cycling is a different sport than summer cycling, I give you that. I sometimes say that winter cycling reminds summer cycling as much swamp football (yes there is such a thing in Finland) reminds regular football: same game instruments and goals, but different field. But cycling is also a priceless way to exercise and move from place to place. I have noticed that I am always happier when I get to work with my bike than by public transportation (even though if during the ride I swear to myself to take the bus tomorrow, I never do!) I most highly recommend winter cycling to everybody who is not afraid of getting a bit sweaty!