Friday, December 6, 2019

An Ode To The Winter Bike

J.D. Salinger once said:

"The hardest thing about writing is laying down that first line.  So every morning I sit down, crack my knuckles, and type, 'fuckityfuckityfuckfuckfuck.'  After that the prose practically flows from my fingers like beer piss.'"

Please note the above quotation it completely made up.  I don't want to get in trouble again.


Right, so back in the spring of 2017 I signed on with New York City advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives to write their "Bike Forecast."  The idea was you'd wake up, pour yourself a piping hot mug of Bike Snob coffee:

(It makes a great holiday gift!)

Then you'd peruse the Bike Forecast and get caught up on the weather, bike-related news, DOT advisories, etc. before heading into the New York City street fuckery.

(Also somewhere in there you'd go to the bathroom, but I don't need to walk you through the whole process.)

Anyway, I mention this because this morning marked the final Bike Forecast post, and going forward the bike commuters of New York City will have to read something else while going to the bathroom.  And while I'll miss curating the Forecast--it was as much a part of my routine as going to the bathroom--no longer doing so will afford me more time to spend over here on this blog, and now that I look around the place I realize it sure could use some upgrading.  Maybe I'll even install a bidet.

 Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will continue to cement my position as the World's Most Thorough Bike Reviewer.  For example, we are now well into year four of my ongoing review of the Milwaukee road bike, which I received way back in 2015:

Well, a lot's happened since then.  Disc brakes took over, gravel bikes got big, and also a certain real estate developer became president.  (Coincidence?  I think not.)  And yet I'm still cranking away on the Milwaukee, and I still love it.  Here it is on the Col du Maison de Snack earlier this week:

Basically, the Milwaukee is a classic road bike with a sporty/racy geometry, except it also takes medium-reach brakes so you can fit it with wider tires and/or fenders--you know, all the stuff you "need" disc brakes in order to do.  (I have nothing against disc brakes, but if you don't feel like making the switch because you appreciate the simplicity of rim brakes or you have like 20 years worth of spare rim brake parts to go through it's good to know there's still a bike out there for you.)  In my time with this bike our relationship has changed and evolved: at first I basically used it as a "gravel" bike (mixed-terrain rides), but as I became a plus-tire convert and eventually a full-on Jones cult member I forewent the Milwaukee for those sorts of rides and instead outfitted it with skinny tires and fenders for messy-weather road riding.

"Winter road bike" is not a glamorous career for a bicycle, but in a place like New York it is an essential one.  From December through April it's crucial to have a bike for those days when the trails are too snowy or muddy, and the roads are rideable yet wet with snow run-off and strewn with salt.  Wide tires are not especially necessary during this time (you're not taking off-road detours when it's 40 degrees and the trails are slushy), but full-coverage fenders are, and a bike like this will see you through all but the very worst days.

Of course, conditions like these take their toll on bikes and components.  In fact, by the time the fall rolled around the Milwaukee was in rough shape, so I sidelined it until I had a chance to give it an overhaul.  Then December rolled around and I needed my winter road bike, at which point I decided it was silly to put new stuff on a bike that was just going to be subjected to months of salt and road spray, so I lubed the rusty chain, played with the derailleur until it would shift into all the gears again, and hit the road:

Yes, there's about 200 grams of extra grime and sludge on this bike, but it's still operating pretty smoothly, all things considered.  Really, the only issues are: 1) That the front shifting requires a little extra force, possibly due to the bent derailleur I had to subsequently un-bend, or possibly due to the digger I took on the Old Croton Aqueduct when I broke my thumb, or, most likely, both; and 2) the rear hub is super draggy:

I bought this hub as part of a second-hand wheelset many years ago, and being overbuilt as Chris King components are, it's now on its second rim with plenty of life in it.  At the same time, even after opening it up and lubing it it's always been draggy to the point that the chain will droop and hit the chainstay if I backpedal.  So I've basically relegated it to winter duty, where performance is secondary to imperviousness to the elements.

Other issues I've been loath to address include this unsightly gap between fender and rear tire:

Basically, these are the same fenders that were on my old Scattante:

Because of the way these fenders are designed you've basically got to remove the stays and cut them in order to get everything lined up perfectly.  Being the lazy person I am I was of course reluctant to bother with all that again, so when I put them on the Milwaukee and they didn't interfere with the tire I figured that was good enough and that was that.

The bar tape is also in really rough shape:

I've been meaning to change that, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like the proper attitude is, "Why bother?"

The one thing I will change before riding it again are the brake pads, which are virtually nonexistent:

I was easily one or two wet descents away from metal-on-metal, though fortunately I had my draggy Chris King hub to help slow me down.

Nevertheless, the Milwaukee still manages to emit a faint glow of class from beneath the grunge, thanks in part to the raised stainless downtube badge:

And head badge:

In a way it's a real shame I subject it to this sort of treatment.  This is a reasonably priced frame and fork made out of good quality tubing by Waterford and is well-deserving of a Campagnolo group and some fair-weather prancing about.  (Yes, I'm a born-again Campagnolo fan thanks to my New-To-Me Titanium "Forever Bike.")  Indeed, it appears the Potenza group is available in silver:

Milwaukee offer a whole bunch of colors, but seems to me you pair that with one of these and you've got yourself an extremely genteel Fred chariot:

That being said, apart from the aforementioned front shifting issues, the 10-speed 105 stuff on this bike has held up very well, and as a bonus it's also silver.  (I do like silver road bike groups, which I imagine won't be available much longer.)

And while I'm at it, I might as well pivot to another long-term bike review subject, that being the Brompton:

On Monday I rode it to the radio show, and yesterday morning I was sitting on the couch and staring at the wall like I usually when a text message reminded me I had a dentist appointment in like an hour.  Yikes!  Fortunately the Brompton was still sitting by the front door, so I grabbed it and off I went.  I didn't even bring so much as a lock, which was totally fine since I just left it in the waiting room while they went at my pearly yellows with the belt sander.

See that?  A Brompton will pay for itself in preventative dental maintenance alone.  Without it I'd probably have skipped the appointment and my teeth would eventually have fallen out.  Then I'd need to pay Renovo to make me a set of wooden ones...


Beck the biker said...

What's a couple of extra grams of grime? The LR road bike is a Euclidean ideal of the bicycle, and i hope it never sunsets. I've still got too many spare parts laying around.

wishiwasmerckx said...


Nina Paley said...

Yay! More Bike Snob posts! Since I no longer live in NYC the Bike Forecast was of little use to me, but I keep returning to this blog to find well-written and entertaining, if sadly sparse, entries. Hopefully they'll be a little less sparse in the future.

bad boy of the south said...

No more TA forecast? It was really good reading.
That's alright.We still have Milwaukee.
Onto bigger and better things,eh?

Tall Guy said...

That Potenza group is really good, except for some reason Campy decided to spec black plastic shift levers on it. They call it "chromoplastic," which I think means "expensive Italian plastic."

Also, beware a draggy Chris King hub. I had the same problem with a 10 speed King hub after a few New York winters and eventually the chain started flying right off the chainrings on descents, which is a little unsettling especially at 30 mph. I was told by mechanics that they ideally have 3 month maintenance intervals, after which point I swore off King hubs forever, being far too lazy to deal with that.

upper west side guy said...

I loved the TA forecast.

Especially the bits about the sunrise and sunset and the great videos of NYC cars acting badly.

Looking forward to that stuff in the nycbikesnobbie posts.

BPsucks said...

I'm finally going to be in NY! After years of riding bikes, hating cars, and reading snob, I'll finally have the chance to run into the snob while riding. Alas, I'm more likely to be run into chassidim peddling wraps for god's sake than snobs pedaling for pedaling sake. See, the same twist of fate that is landing me in NY next Friday has also resulted in me owning a car and arriving sans bike. Lob works in mysterious ways, or likely not at all. I'll make sure to drive with my helment to keep it happy.

On a more serious note, does anyone know how to find a place to stay for a night in NY? All the places I can find charge an ungodly amount. Thanks

wishiwasmerckx said...


Young man, there's a place you can go
I said, young man, when you're short on your dough
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time
It's fun to stay at the YMCA
It's fun to stay at the YMCA
They have everything for you men to enjoy
You can hang out with all the boys
It's fun to stay at the YMCA
It's fun to stay at the YMCA
You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal
You can do what ever you feel

mikeweb said...

I had occasionally read the Bike Forecast utilizing the TA app on my schmaltzphone, but then after a while it stopped working. After some fruitless rudimentary futzing with it I gave up.

loco said...

I have to say, I will truly miss the morning forgast! It was certainly part of my morning routine....even for those of us in jersey shitty. Thanks snobby for getting me pissed in the am!

huskerdont said...

(I do like silver road bike groups, which I imagine won't be available much longer.)

Wha? Say it ain't so.

mikeweb said...

Last weekend the woman, who for some reason still doesn't mind being in my presence, and I took a long weekend trip to...


It was a belated b-day gift to me of a trip to Yinzerland and tickets to a game of professional American Football.

Other highlights:

We visited the Andy Warhol museum, which was excellent.

Ate copious amounts of scrumptious local cuisine.

AND, we also went somewhere called 'Bicycle Heaven'. Possibly others here have heard of it... Ostensibly it's a bicycle shop 'and museum'. I was expecting a larger than average shop with maybe a dozen or two historic/ interesting/ unusual bicycles. Oh. My. LOB. This place was un-believable! Mind. Blown.

Anyway, if you're someone who loves bikes or anything bike related, I highly recommend a visit.

dnk said...

Tan Tenovo - I read the forecast religiously and I'm not even religious. Part of my morning routine. I'm gonna miss it, but thanks for making it happen these past few years.....

BikeSnobNYC said...


Actually I see 105 is still available in silver so maybe I spoke too soon.

--Tan Tenovo

Lucy Ball said...

Chris(t) K(r)ing(e) are seriously over-rated. What with the proprietary bearings/service tool-sets, persnickety-plus maintenance schedules, etc., it's no wonder they are the choice of ham-handed douche-wads expecting maximum distinction and zero service.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Lucy Ball,

Don't forget the soft-as-butter aluminum cassette carrier!

--Tan Tenovo

ktache said...

Having a look at that broken digit post, I thought that I would mention that I spent a couple of hundred British £s on HexLoxes to try and protect my expensive components, especially my Ti Jones bar, yes it looks exactly like the alloy version, but Ti. Go on, you know that you want one, now that you have the Jones habit.
Only time will tell how scrote proof they may be. A couple of Hex/Allen keys and most bikes can be stripped in minutes.
They really are rather cool little, expensive, powerful magnets. And an extra key. Though as long as they remain solvent, replacements are available with the relevant code.
Now available in Black, since Black Friday.

Anonymous said...

10 speed 105 for winter? Whatever.

My winter bike for years has been a Crosscheck with fixed wheel, YUGE fenders and studded tires when it got icy out. Absolutely unstoppable and reliable as gravity.

Oh, and a little extra clearance, Clarence, in the wheelbrow might be a good thing if there's much packy snow underfoot. Winter bikes don't have to be pretty, you know. And if they are, they don't stay that way for long.

huskerdont said...

Good to know. I actually prefer dark components cause grease and dirt, but variety is a beautiful thing, and silver is just necessary for certain bikes.

I've never owned one of these fender things you'ns speak of. Need to check that out some day.

Billy said...

I don't have a winter bike. I just use my regular bike and then pay the bike shop to replace the drive train every two years and the wheels every four. Hopefully I'll notice when the rims get worn down before they explode and rip off a giant shard of metal.

I once used my folding bike as a winter bike (REI Novara Flyby, basically a Tern) and didn't clean it for three months. Letting the salt from that one ride sit for that long ruined the Shimano Nexus IGH on it, which is now even draggier than it was when new.

Maybe someday I'll have a château with attached garage where I can keep an entire fleet of bicycles, but for now I make do with the one.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...oh, nah, TanT, who's going to warn us to look out for the popo ticketing blitzen???

...The Bike Forecast was an integral part of my morning routine. My bowls are used to the length of the posts.

...May one ask why it's ending?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Serial Regrogrouch,

I'm sorry for your bowels!

It was Transalt's decision.

--Tan Tenovo

Bungalow Bill said...

Pretty sure you can tidy those fenders up with an 8mm wrench.

Dan said...

I would gladly pay a subscription fee for your Bike Forecast--have you thought of that model?

BikeSnobNYC said...


It's an interesting idea!

Bungalow Bill,

It's tough to describe, but the little cap at the end of the display is integrated into the assembly. (Unlike the caps on, say, the Planet Bike fenders I have, which are just plastic caps.) The upshot is that you can't just loosen the nut and move the fender more than a few millimeters; you've got to take it off altogether and cut the stay. And since the fender works just fine apart from looking a little funky I haven't bothered.

--Tan Tenovo

Chazu said...

I just saw a real estate listing in New Jersey. The description says the home is "a short bike ride" from the Atlantic Ocean.

The house currently belongs to the guy who released this classic remake of a Beatles hit:

Brace yourself (youtube link)

BikeSnobNYC said...



--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll just look for you here.
I enjoyed the Bike Forecast from afar.
Captcha: Select all images with cars !!

dop said...

That rear hub on your Milwaukee sounded like someone strangling squirrels. (Or so it sounded to fondont pack fodder)

Coincidence? I think Not!

BikeTode said...

With the SKS fenders, you can cut the end off the cap and just use the nut thingy to attach to the stay and, if you don't mind a bit off extra stay extending above the fender, you can adjust the fender line with a little more freedom. If they extend too far, you can lop 'em off with pruning shears or a bolt cutter, then put the cut-off plastic caps on the cut ends. All without removing the fenders. Not elegant, maybe, but it's a winter bike...

Anonymous said...

Bike Tode:

Pruning shears? Dear Lob, man. Those are for branches and such, and would be ruined. Bolt cutters would work, I suppose, but would leave a ragged cut. Personally, I used my Milwaukee 12 volt battery bandsaw. Can't imagine anyone not having one.

A cyclist said...

Yay for geared bicycles for winter. Many folks will insist one needs a single speed for winter riding because salt, grime, etc. ruining the gears. But I have found the RD and cassette aren't actually an issue! I've ridden Shimano 105, SRAM X5, Shimano Tiagra and they all still work fine after several winters of salt and grime. It's really amazing how good bike shifting has become! Admittedly the FD sometimes gives me problems... I guess it simply doesn't move frequently enough to ungunk itself from the rust, slat, grime that is building up. So I guess 1x is the way to go? Or just WD40 the shit out of your FD. Or maybe just buy a new one every other year. They're something like $20. What a wonderful world we live in. [PS Do your future self a favour and degunk the bike before you put it away for summer storage. I found out the hard way...]

Anonymous said...

If you can find silver Potenza groupset, buy it as I believe they're no longer making them but you can get Centaur in silver based on what is shown for 2020 on the Campagnolo website. Centaur 11 works pretty well but I haven't had it long enough to comment on durability vs competitors. Chis King stuff is overrated and overpriced...but CNC'd and anodized in cool colors for those who care more about a cool factor than actual value.

dop said...

Anonymous at 3:32..

Rivendell's instructional video of how to mount fenders in fact suggests bolt cutters. (They're not just for B & E)

Great soundtrack. Bolt cutters in action at 7:30.

BikeSnobNYC said...

BikeTode et al,

I used a hacksaw when I installed them on the Scattante. If I remove the fenders again for any reason maybe I'll trim them to fit the Milwaukee better, otherwise it really doesn't bother me. Anyway, if I start fussing with one thing I start fussing with everything, better to just leave it.

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

dop @ 4:43

Grant says a lot of things. Yeah, I thought about grabbing my bolt cutters. Those things have saved my ass on many a job, mainly when doing demo. But 22 years in the electrical trade have left me with tools to fix tools, so I used my bandsaw. The thing is amazing. Goes right through anything up to an inch and a half, doesn't shake the shit out of you like a Sawzall does, and it's so light you can use it with one hand. But I could as easy have used my lineman's pliers, I guess. I might be retired, but I'm damned if I'm giving up my tools.

Boss @ 7:32

I hear ya. More than once I've walked into my shop just passing through and ended up spending two hours.

ColRisney said...

Tan, I was encouraged by this own slovenly maintenance habits don't make me a bad person! There's a real-live-blog-writer whose drivetrain looks like mine.

I live in Norfolk, where the military/industrial complex discourages any cycling except the recreational sort. The result is that there are only three types here: homeless people, weekend-spandex guys, and four commuters. The riding is gritty AF.

John Michael Swartz said...

Trimming the stays is always my least favorite part of the already onerous task of installing wheelbrows because I've never had the proper tools. However, this last time, I was able to abuse my cable cutters to the task by using my knees and some padding layers of cardboard. Saved about an hour with the hacksaw.

Furzsack said...

That's not a raised head badge, that's an actual spare cog for when the grime has eaten away the rear part of the drive train.

Anonymous said...

BSNYC, Would you consider doing a couple long-term fender reviews?