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Winter commuting: It's NOT the SALT, it's the SAND.

Posted Dec 11 2010 2:22pm
One of the first questions I get when people find out I bicycle commute all year is, "Doesn't the salt eat up your bike?" Or something to that effect. If it was just salt, it'd be easy. Salt easily dissolves in water and washes off with very little effort. It's the SAND that destroys bicycle components. I live in a city on a hill where it routinely gets down into sub-zero temperatures. Cold enough that salt and other chemicals dumped on the road lose their effectiveness, or stop working altogether. So tons, and tons, and tons of sand are also spread on the roadways to provide traction.
Typically during this time of year, through March, I wash my bicycle daily to remove all this material picked up from the roadways. Above and below you can see the piles of debris that have fallen off the bikes so far this winter during these cleanings.
Below the bike in the work stand you can see three distinct piles. One under the rear wheel, one under the bottom bracket, and one under the front wheel.

This amount of sand, if left on the bike, would create large amounts of bicycle component eating friction.

Thus my experiments with different drive trains for winter riding. A single chain line so far has been the answer. Whether it be fixed, SS, or internally driven hubs. Simplicity is the answer to keeping up with the maintenance required of a winter bicycle.
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