Stud Test

This morning, at long last, I was able to give my studded tires their first true test.  We got around an inch of snow Saturday, followed by a nice glaze of ice, plus a little bit of melting and re-freezing action on Sunday and Sunday night.  As a result, I had a nice variety of road conditions on which to try out the tires this morning.  For the record, these are the “Marathon Winter” tires by Schwalbe, 26″x1.75″, and I’m running them on a 1993 Specialized Rockhopper.  These tires are designed mainly for traction on icy roads, more so than for deep snow.  Each tire has 200 studs and the tread is not very aggressive.

Most of the roads on my commute were salted into oblivion, and pretty clear.  The only icy spots were on overpasses.  The real fun was in the state park.  The access road I ride into the park never gets touched in the winter, and it was still covered with 1″ of snow, with footprints and tire tracks from those who braved it before me.  Despite the Marathons not being snow tires per se, I was able to plow through the snow pretty confidently, with just a bit of side-to-side deflection from the ruts.  I wouldn’t even think of riding through that on one of my road bikes.  Any more snow, though, and I would have been hiking it.  The roads and paved trails inside the park appeared to have been plowed but not salted.  There was a lot of ice everywhere, and the tires handled it extremely well, with no slippage at all.  I’ve never felt more confident riding on ice.  I was actually purposely riding through ice in spots where I could have avoided it.  It kind of reminded me of my first ride with fenders, splashing through puddles just for the hell of it.

Anyhow, we have another warmup coming for later this week, so it may be awhile before the tires get tested again.  I’d like to test them out on some really hard-core ice, as opposed to the slippery-slushy stuff we had today.  This winter just hasn’t been cold enough for that.  I guess we’ll see what February brings.

The Joys of Winter Biking

Took my first fall of 2009 yesterday.  We were coming off two straight days of rain, it was 7:45am and the temperature was right around freezing.  All of that adds up to (you guessed it) ice on the road.  Most of the roads were treated and in pretty good shape, but in my infinite wisdom I decided to extend the ride with a lap through the State Park.  And in the park, the roads were..  not good.  Long story short, I was coming down a hill, braking a bit, hit a previously-unseen patch of black ice, and the bike promptly came out from under me.

Falls happen so quickly and suddenly that it’s often hard to tell right away what happened and if there’s been any damage.  Sometimes it doesn’t become apparent until you try to get back on the bike and resume the ride.  In my case, I ended up completely undamaged (yay for slippery ice and multiple layers of winter clothing) but my front wheel was knocked out of true.  Turned out to be a loose spoke.  A quick twist with a spoke wrench got me back on the road.  I also had to re-position my front fender, which I did after the ride.  So apparently my front wheel must have taken some kind of impact, although the fall was so smooth that it’s hard to picture how it could have happened.

I guess I should count myself lucky that this was such an easy fall and it happened in the park where there’s no traffic.  It’s been north of 20 years since I last did any regular riding in the winter, but this was enough to remind me of the perils of icy roads..