By: Tim Ek
If you commute to work by bike year round and you come from a land of 4 real seasons then you know that having more than one horse in the corral is ideal. Riding through winter city streets on a machine that is worth over two thousand dollars is not recommended as it is sure to have a very short life.
Keeping this in mind, I converted one of my first “gravel grinders” into a winter commuting beast. I should add that this bike was no slouch in it’s day and mind you, that day was long before the term “gravel grinder” was even a term. In fact, the races back then were simply referred to as “races on gravel roads”. The Specialized Tri Cross that is now my winter “beater” held it’s own just fine back in the day. I will humbly add that I was able to roll to a second place finish in the 3rd version of the now famous Trans Iowa upon this “beater’s” back. It was and still is a very capable machine, But, the black beauty has now been replaced with even finer rigs made of carbon and titanium.
Back to the conversion. So, I made some changes in order to get her more “sloppy street friendly”. First, I dropped everything that had to do with changing gears, it’s just more that can go wrong and more stuff for salty grit to cling to. Next, I slapped a studded tire on the front (not necessary for the rear, but not a bad idea if you really need the added security, but keep in mind it will make you slower). Fenders were added and modified to make them even more efficeient. Lights were a must! I found a nice little commuting light for the handle bar and a little blinker for the rear. They’re nothing fancy, but they let the cars know I’m out there. Finally, I found a good frame bag and threw some winter essentials in it, like a complete tool kit with a pump, some chemical hand warmers, and some other items of convenience that might help me in uncomfortablly cold situations, like a heavier set of mittens.
Here’s the rub when it comes to building up a “sloppy street grinder”, it’s slow and combersome to ride. The studs grib even dry pavement, the small single speed cog in the back doesn’t like the hills, and I swear the grease “gums” up in the hubs during extreme cold. When I’m hating it most I think about my race horses hanging in the garage nice and clean while this Clydesdale takes it for the team.
Enter spring! The street sweepers have all done their job, a few hard rains have come and gone, and the streets are free of salt. Ice seems to be a thing of the past, so now it’s time to make the switch. The winter machine is going to get a bath and it will be her turn for the hook in the garage. The true summer speed machine will make it’s appearance now. The Ti Salsa Warbird is my go fast on dirt bike. She’s just built for it. I’ve never been much for commenting on the tiny nuances of bike differences, but the Titanium frame compared to the aluminum is undeniable. Those first few rides in the spring on the “A-Team” bike make me feel like I can fly.
As the summer wears on and I’ll let my mind wander back to my old “sloppy street grinder” and I’ll give a little smile, because I know she’s resting comfortably now, warm and comfy in the garage. It wont be long until that first snow flake flies again and she’ll be dragging me through the winter streets once again.
Thanks for reading,
If you’re interested to find out more about Tim, head over to his site, The Eki Chronicles.
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