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Creating A Road Bike To Handle Foul Weather

27 Feb

Riding in foul weather is really hard on your bike. In my area of the country it’s not the snow that bothers you, but all the junk that goes along with it. Every winter our roads turn white—not from the snow but from numerous layers of road salt (on a quiet night you can sit in your garage and listen to your car rust). The highway department also uses a lot of sand to give motorists better traction on icy roads. Salt and sand will eat through all the components on your bike, even if you wash it off after each ride. I also spend a lot of time riding in the rain and that can be just as hard on a bike. It’s not the water falling from the sky that hurts your bike—it’s all of the grit and road grime that splashes up on your chain, cables, brakes, derailleurs and crankset.

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Trek 1200 With A Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Geared Hub

Last week I had the local bike shop (Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois) rebuild my old Trek 1200 road bike. By rebuild I mean they replaced everything except the frame, handlebars and headset. The sad fact is that I could have bought a new Trek Madone for what the overhaul cost, but I already have a Madone and what I really need is a great bike for riding in foul weather.

The Trek 1200 is an aluminum frame road bike with Shimano Tiagra components that I bought back in 2005. The Tiagra product line is on the lower end of Shimano’s shop quality parts and is best suited for “advanced recreational” riders (still better than anything you will find at the “big box” stores). I was able to get over 10,000 miles out of these components, and most of that was in bad weather. Unfortunately, road salt had eaten through the chrome plating on all the components. Since the Trek 1200 has a lifetime warranty on the frame I decided to keep it and build a “new” bike with higher quality components that could withstand the harsh conditions I often ride in.

The biggest expense on this overhaul was the Shimano Alfine 11 Internal Hub Geared (SG-S700). The hub has a much wider gear ratio than the Alfine 8 found on two of my other bikes, so I decided to go with a single gear in the front and installed a Shimano Alfine FC-S500 Front Crankset (45T). The Alfine 11 weights a bit less than the Alfine 8, but it is nearly twice the price. Since all the gears are internal I don’t have to worry about salt, sand, road grime or rust. My old shifters were not compatible with the Alfine hub so they put Versa 11-Speed Road Shifters on (at the moment Shimano does not make an 11-speed shifter for drop bars).

If you ride in bad weather your brake pads will end up having grit embedded in them and this can wear down bike rims rather quickly. The original rims on my 1200 had worm down, so we went with new Mavic Open Sport rims and used brass nipples on the spokes (better for wet weather). Since the front rim was going to be replaced they dropped in a new Shimano 105 front hub (a higher quality hub than the original). Both the front and rear brakes on the 1200 were pretty well-worn, so new Shimano caliper brakes were installed. The Continental Touring Plus road bike tires I had on the bike were still in good shape, so I didn’t change them out.

Finishing touches included Lizard Skins DuraSoft Polymer Handlebar Tape. This handlebar tape is not only extremely comfortable, but offers incredible grip in wet weather (remember, this is going on a bike that is only used in foul weather). I also had Gore Ride-On Derailleur Cables installed. These sealed cables are maintenance free and shift smoother than anything else I’ve ever tried.

Was the cost of the rebuild worth it? It’s too early to tell yet. However, when I got home from my first long ride after the overhaul my bike frame and all the components were covered with road salt. It had snowed the day before and by the time I went out the road salt had been ground to powder by highway traffic and even something as light as my bike kicked up a lot of dust. This layer of dust (salt) reminded me of why I needed to have the bike “weatherproofed” in the first place.

 

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4 responses to “Creating A Road Bike To Handle Foul Weather

  1. tuckamoredew

    February 27, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    Nice build. As usual.

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      February 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      Thanks! Went out for a quick 52 mile ride today and got caught in a snow/ice storm during the last 20 miles — the bike did great.

       
  2. Jim Lunney

    April 27, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    I commute 18 miles each way in Ottawa Canada when it is safe i.e. not too icy to do so, which is from late March or early April to ~ December first.

    I have an aluminum frame, all Shimano 8 speed running gear with an Alivio rear derailleur, heavy wide wheels with, in the coldest weather, Panaracer Pasela Tourguards 700x 32, which grip well in subfreezing weather .

    Issues in harsh weather include spray comes up from the front wheel, hits the cranks, coats them and hits the front derailleur and chain stay.
    I stick with 8 speed as the chain and cogs are thicker and wear less quickly than 10 speed gear. Haven’t tried an internally geared hub.

    Ice will build up in the fenders, has to be kicked to get it out.

    Components become brittle and will loosen, especially bottom brackets. Also in a gentle fall, I broke a bottom bracket axle.

    My bike has 54,000 km of mostly commuting over 9 years. Some tips – buy the cheapest cranks you can as you’ll replace them frequently. Crank Bros pedals shed goo, resist loosening when cold, and are easily serviced. Rims will wear through in ~ 12000 km no matter how often you wipe the dirt off your brake pads.

    All the non-consumable components (bar stem seat, fenders etc) can be as good as you can afford as you’ll not wear them out.

    Still looking for durable hubs and a light whose seals don’t fail in subfreezing weather.

    Great bike you have, I assume the fenders are off for the photos

     
    • All Seasons Cyclist

      April 28, 2014 at 8:24 PM

      I only run the frames when have to — and the day that photo was taken the roads were pretty clear, but we had a good bit of snow on the ground. The sealed Alfine hub on this bike (and on two of my other bikes) has really cut down my repair costs — winter cycling can really get expensive!

       

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