If you ride in an area where the streets are sanded and salted, I don’t have to explain just how corrosive this is to a bicycle, especially the transmission. Now an internal geared bike is a great way to go, but building up a 14 gear Rohloff may not be in everyone’s budget. Even old school three speeds, which can be had for a fraction of the price of a Rohloff, are geared so tall that they usually require steroid injections for comfortable use. In fairness, you can replace the rear cog with a 22 or 23 tooth gear. This modification makes an old Sturmey 3 speed work for normal humans. But I hate to see nice old 3 speeds ruined by the nasty old wintery elements.
The other way to go is less costly and can give an overripe bike or frame a second chance at usefulness. I’ve had a few snow bikes over the years. The last couple of years, I’ve ridden an old Raleigh Super Course. It has definitely gone to seed, but I love those Capella lugs, so I thought it deserved a break this winter. Instead, I decided to go with an old Nishiki mountain bike I found at the Iowa City Bike Library. I did a transplant on most of the parts from the Super Course, but I did make a change to the transmission.
This time around I went with a 2 speed friction transmission. My thought was that on snow and ice you’re really just trying to maintain a steady speed, but there are still hills to climb and deep snow to chug through. And I like the fact that with high/low shifting, I basically have an indexed system. Lever goes down for low and up for high. This makes shifting in bulky mittens a breeze. I also have a studded front tire.
We’ve had very little snow in Iowa City this winter, but I did take it out this past week after we got a couple of inches. I’m thinking it works pretty well, however, I won’t be able to make a final judgment until we’ve had our first blizzard. I’ll keep you posted.