Buying a winter mountain bike

Is there any such thing as the perfect mountain bike for riding through the winter? Obviously, the bike you’re currently riding is, of course. But what if you have some spare cash and want to buy a bike dedicated to the task of ploughing though the wet squelchy winter, saving your main bike from the wear and tear that riding through several feet of mud brings?

There are several considerations that can make a mountain bike easier to live with through the winter, whether it cuts down on the maintenance required frequently to ensure good working order, or reducing the number of moving parts susceptible to the grime and grind and the cost of replacing parts as they wear out.

The classic move is to ride a singlespeed mountain bike through the winter. Removing the transmission reduces the number of expensive parts to wear into a gritty paste, reducing the toll on your wallet. And as there’s fewer moving parts, you don’t need to be so picky about your cleaning regime. Sometimes get away with a squirt of oil on the chain before each ride.

And speak to any singlespeed advocate and they’ll also tell of the attraction of riding a bike with so few parts, and the strength and fitness you acquire from having to hoof that single gear over any terrain.

But what if you like your gears? Another option to reduce the maintenance is to choose an internal gear system, such as a Shimano Alfine or Rohloff. These place all the working parts of a groupset inside a hub, which protects them from the elements ensuring your gears continue to work smoothly all of the time.

So, with that in mind, here’s a few different bikes that we think fit the bill of the perfect low maintenance winter bike.

Trek Gary Fisher Marlin

Ah, the venerable singlespeed. For many Brits, this is the quintessential answer to what bike to ride through the winter. The lack of a drivetrain means a lot less cleaning and maintenance after every ride, there’s no chain slipping across the cassette and less things generally to go wrong.

This £450 Trek Gary Fisher Marlin 29er perhaps isn’t the obvious choice for a singlespeed, but we love the look of it and just had to include it here. It’s got a 6061 T6 aluminium frame with sliding vertical dropouts and Fisher’s G2 geometry.

£450 from www.trekbikes.com

Genesis iO Alfine 11

If singlespeed doesn’t turn you on then how about a mud-proof hub gear option? Genesis have being offering an Alfine hub gear fitted bike since they launched a couple of years ago, and the latest incarnation gets the new 11-speed hub, updated with more gearing options and revised shifter.

The frame remains the same, a classic and sorted Reynolds 520 chromoly tubeset with a slimmer top tube for a refined ride feel. Geometry is designed around a 100mm suspension fork and there’s cable guides designed for the Alfine hub.

£1499.99 from www.genesisbikes.co.uk

Singular Swift

It’s not hard picking a singlespeed mountain bike frame or complete bike these days; such is the popularity of ditching the complete transmission in exchange for the simplicity of one speed. It’s more difficult to find a rigid mountain bike however, but Singular Cycles popped onto the scene a couple of years ago with its rigid ready Swift.

The classically-styled frame, made from amixture of Reynolds and proprietary butted 4130 chromoly, features an eccentric bottom bracket to tension the chain. However, there are cable guides should you decide to add gears at a later date.

Frameset £440 www.singularcycles.com

Surly Pugsley

If it gets really bad (anything like last winter will do) then how about this extreme example of a bicycle.

Massive volume 3.8in tyres are fitted to a custom designed 4130 chromoly frame which will accept conventional derailleur gears, a gear hub or singlespeed and the special fork accepts 135mm rear hubs – opening up the option of interchangeable rear wheels.

No matter how bad the weather gets, this bike will surely keep on going, we can’t see anything getting in its path.

£1599.99 from www.surlybikes.com

Cotic >X<

When preparing this article, we wanted to include one cyclo-cross bike, just for the simple fact that a ‘cross bike can be a lot of fun during the winter.

So it seemed, following its launch earlier this year, that Cotic’s >X< cyclo-cross frame should be the one we picked. This is a brand with a strong following the UK mountain biking community and should tempt many mountain bikers into the strange world of cyclo-cross riding.

From £900 www.cotic.co.uk

  1. Mark D. Chapman

    First: if in Norway: forget the singel speed, if you don’t have gargantuan leg muscles and want to go up our steep hills on ice or ride in the woods (prepared ski tracks, especially after thaws and before preparation!), through snow drifts etc.
    Secondly: A test here showed more trouble with the internal gears, than the external. the internal stopped working, while the external functioned for 100s of kilometers. There is a cleaning job of course. But an extra large water bottle (hot water if freezing) gives you a possibility of cleaning out the muck before drying the bike indoors after you ride. Reduces wear substantially, especially because of the heavy use of salt on roads and sidewalks here. Doesn’t work on long rides in well below freezing though!
    Thirdly: Forget the front suspension. If it’s not top of the line with air/oli (thin!) it doesn’t work when it’s freezing anyway. If it works the salt etc. might wreck it in one winter (I had one that was corroded nearly through after one winter, so the suspension nearly came out the bottom of the forks!). Rather expensive to by a new top of the line every year! Since the bike won’t last that long anyway, you don’t spend to much on it. A working suspension in freezing conditions might cost as much as he bike! No suspension, less moving parts to wear out. The problem is of course that it’s not easy finding a bike without suspension.
    Of course if I was loaded with money a full suspension gives a lovely ride on the very uneven surfaces you can get in winter (frozen slush/mud etc.). I sometimes take my FS into the woods when there is lots of clean snow. its just great! I carry it over all the salt and slush to get there!
    Forthly: Earlier I would have said that disk brakes are out in winter, but tried it this last and it actually worked better. You have to clean them after every ride or you might find them completely stuck next time, but the time used on cleaning is’nt actually much more than for cantis or Vs, if you can use the waterbottle method. And you save your rims. No new wheeels every year!

    The Surly Pugsley lookes great for the purpose, but I guess you can’t get studs on 3.8″? Of course your traction is better with the wide tyers, and I have done a lot of biking on ice without studs, though now getting on towards 60 I prefeer biking with studs in winter now! I don’t think the bike is available here in Norway. Winter conditions here are very varied, some times actually narrow tyers do the trick, they go trhough the loose snow down on the solid surface, while fat tiers float. Most of the time though I’d prefer riding FAT!

    Have som good rides this winter!

    Mark

  2. Rod Morrison

    I have bought a Winter bike (I call it my wet bike) and although our Winters here are maybe not as bad as you have them in the Northern hemisphere, I guess mud and slush is just that…mud and slush, no matter where you might be. Back to the bike, my main bike is an S-WORKS Epic, so yes the parts are a tad expensive, so I bought an entry level fully (Specialized of course lol) and it has almost turned out to be my favorite bike. I am not worried so much with the parts being worn out faster as they are cheaper to replace, the ride is great and the handling has given me no drama’s, if anything my riding on the S-WORKS have improved a great deal because of riding the heavier bike. As for the cleaning? Of that I have no problem, with this bike or the other, it is a part of riding where I can have a look if things are also ok on the bike after a ride. Where we ride it is a gritty sort of terrain that is unforgiving on equipment and body should a fall happen, so riding style changes as so do the tyres and clothing. But the riding feels just as good knowing that the parts that will have to be changed at the end of the wet, will not be hurting the hip pocket so much and when you look back over Winter you just know you have just had a great (although at times wet and cold) time of it all, mud, slush, water, slips slides, falls, wind and rain……oh and not to forget…..cccold. Get out there and don’t miss it.

X

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