The perfect Winter Bike – the quest for the Unicorn

I was looking over on Scott’s blog http://girodilento.com/2011-winter-bike-build-shortlist on his recent ponderings on what to do for a WInter Bike.

It’s a sad fact that I spend as much time thinking about this as I do a Good Weather bike as half of our time can be spent on one. In my world you should really look to spend half as much as you would on your best bike,  why I’ll explain. The rider wil be used to a certain quality based on their Best Bike and for the rider to have a similar experience you need to look to having good durable kit and not a pile of crap to ride on. Much of the expense can be saved by not going for a carbon frame and opting for something less expensive. Steel, Aluminimum and to a lesser degree Titanium. I’d always opt for a good set of handbuilts for winter, and a lesser groupset. Don’t scrimp on contact points, use the same saddle, bar tape and shape of bars, stem and seatpost to mimic your position on the bike to achieve the desired fit.The frame can be lesser, and having ridden a steel fork I’d always go for a carbon option where available. 

So to Scott’s thoughts.

I’ve looked at his geometry on his Neil Pryde bike, a pretty normal 56 squared bike with a 160mm headtube. Seat and head angles are pretty normal, so there’s no surprises in looking for a caomparable Winter Steed. Scott threw in a curve ball in the form of that he might want to fit a rack for carrying his daughter, and some light touring. Ok, my thoughts on his prospective choices, I’ll do these in groups.

 

Kinesis

TK2 – I think this is a great bike with some good thought process with the option of full guards, rack mounts and the option of 28mm tyres it will offers bags of comfort with a stiff frame to make power transfer effective. I’ve got a couple of friends who have these, and they have nothing but praise for them. This is especially good as they work for a Big Brand which doesn’t make an English style Audax bike. 

Tk2-grey1

 

Grandfondo’s

Whether you look at the Scandium or Ti version these could be a nice option. There are some limitations compared to the TK2. The biggest one being the lack of provision for a wider tyre which will be useful for the family duties. Otherwise they would give a sportier ride than the TK, although with the wheelbase being nearly 16mm longer it may feel sluggish compared to the shorter one on the Neil Pryde. RIch the Roadie has just bought one, seems to love it, but that’s this week and it’s only his first ride impressions I’ve read. It could well be a different story in two weeks.

On All of the Kinesis frames should be able to replicate his postion with some tweaking but if he’s running a zero stack set up on his main bike he may have to switch out to a -17* stem to achieve the same feel.

 

Cannondale

Their CX bikes have a great reputation and I am convinced that many Cross bikes in the UK are bought with many of Scott’s questions in mind. Some partners struggle with the two brand question but when presented with a slightly different bike with a broader wealth of use options it can get past the financial controller. For Scott’s use I’d buck the normal trend and go for the size that closely resembles his road frame. This way if he switches out tyres, fits guards he’s got a pretty cool good all rounder which has a lively ride due to the frame. Another option actually maybe to look at the http://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/products/crosslight/prosix which is new from Kinesis. This sounds a great option and with the disc brakes will offer more stopping power when carrying his daughter.

 

Genesis

This actually might be one of the best bikes they make. I have a friend who has one and loves the ride. He was recommended it from some people he was working with as they had been using it all Winter and raved on and on about it. Although having a close look at the frame I don’t think this is the right machine for Scott. Two many unknown variables, and I think it lacks some nature of being as flexible as he may need it to be.

 

Enigma

This looks to be a No no from a frame geometry as the 56 looks to be close in length but not knowing what Scott’s Floor to bar height is it may not be possible to achieve his position on the bike and the 57cm may just be a little too long. At that kind money it’s a lot to pay for not being right. I’d pass on by and look elsewhere.

 

My Thoughts on what next

In regards to how to proceed I see it that Scott has a couple of options.

  • Split the budget up. Go for a cheap MTB to do the family thing and blow the rest of the budget on a bike that he’d be happy to spend ours on, busting his ass, but at least keeping it dry with some guards on.
  • If it’s to be one bike to work in all the varied situations I’d say that a CX bike looks like being the better option. I would go for the Pro 6 as with the wider axle and stronger wheels available it will be robust when needed and light enough for some serious training when required. 
  • The third option is kind of connected to the first in that if Scott chose a cheap MTB, he could get the best of both worlds and use a pair of Crud Road Racer II guards and have no issues in making the bikes feel the same. The only downside would be that a prospective thief would be attracted like a moth to a lightbulb.

Maybe around 5 years ago I came to this cross roads and came away with a Surly Pacer. It’s pretty flexible, can fit wide tyres but not a rack. It’s been solid (in both senses of the word) and really hasn’t missed a beat. I got a cracking price at the time so its been one of my best buys. As I mentioned at the top of this post the ideal winter bike crosses my mind from time to time. Currently the technology isn’t there yet, but its getting closer. For me it’d have to be the following.

  • Frame to fit. Material is a secondary consideration. I’d go for an Alloy (Scandium maybe) or Ti as both resist salt water well.
  • I’d run 27/28 mm tyres. Comfort in winter and better road handling would be paramount.
  • Guards (yes), rack mounts (yes, more of a just in case than needed), Carbon fork (yes)
  • Brakes, I’m open although for a Winter bike discs make loads of sense.
  • I’m intrigued by the V23 Velocity Rims or the HED Ardennes option, wider rim track, wider tyres some plush and well needed comfort on the murky days.
  • The Hampsten below is a really nice version (only made on request I think) but having a stiff frame coupled with a Moots Ti seatpost and stem makes some sense. Durable and comfy, yet stiff enough to respond sounds all good to me. Years ago I had a bike like this (minus the clearance for the wide 28mm tyres) and for winter it was pure awesomeness. It was surprising as it wasn’t a really expensive frame, but the concept worked. 
    Strada_bianca_side_118_alloy

In Summary I think that the journey in looking for this bike you have to be brutally honest with yourself and remove the guilt factor that comes with justifying it on multiple levels. Will you really do those rides that require the bike to be X, Y and Z or if you’re really honest you may only do them 3 or 4 times a year. The whole process at times can feel like a quest for a mythical unicorn as the over riding question is ‘Does the perfect Winter Bike exist’, the answer is only yes if you can clearly and honestly define this.The above thoughts, above all will really decide what bike Scott ends up buying, but we all know the whole process is just as much fun as throwing your leg over it for the first time, good luck Scott.

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2 thoughts on “The perfect Winter Bike – the quest for the Unicorn

  1. ScottI’ve been thinking some more after reading your response to my response!I think that the get it right approach for next year is a real sensible option.This will give you time to explore the custom route and have a chance to chat with the builder. So where does that leave you? For me we are back to two bikes, the Kinesis TK2 or the Cannondale CX bike.Both have there good points which could easily sway a buyer to this way or that. I personally think that the TK2 may well tick the boxes at the moment and would give an engaging ride for such Winter follies like the Hell of the Ashdown. This bike http://www.somafab.com/archives/product/es fom Soma may be worth a look as it’s steel and the geometry should work. It has rack mounts and space for 28mm tyres with guards. From memory their prices aren’t crazy and the quality is good.If money was no object I’d get the folks over at Hampsten to build me a frame. Why, well they love gravel and pavé and understand how to make a bike with big tyres and guards look sexy, and I think thats a pretty tough gig. The only issue with looking at this process with Scott is that is makes me wish I had a bundle of cash to go a little mad with.Keep me posted Scott, I’m really interested to see where the journey will take you.

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