Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just Say No to Trainers

I mounted new Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires size 700x35, with carbide steel studs. The idea is to provide some traction on the ice that now pops out everywhere on the roads here as 4ft of recent snow melts by day and freezes again by night. This was the maiden voyage to break them in.

They're heavy and offer more rolling resistance than regular tires, but they definitely do the job re. traction. Either that or they have a great placebo effect. They are not a panacea but the studs grab a bit where normal road rubber would just slide. Peter White has a pretty good write up about how they work; just scroll down to the paragraph titled "How effective are the studs?" They cost less than an indoor trainer and I know I'll enjoy them more. With 4ft of snow on the ground, and likely more to come, the snow will last well in to spring. Which means we'll now enjoy a daily freeze / thaw cycle until it starts to warm up, leaving little rivers of ice across every road in the county. Hopefully only another 4 or 5 weeks. But until then, the ice will be a constant.

Here's a close up of the tire with the studs.

Here's the Surly with the new Schwalbes, thermos bottles and otherwise ready for winter riding close to home.

Only two things scare me on a bike: falling on ice and riding too close to traffic. The tires help with ice. I'm probably more comfortable in traffic I than should be. Give me a wide shoulder and I'm fine sharing the road with 50 mph traffic. But right now those wide shoulders are buried under 6 foot piles of dirty icy plowed snow. Also the side roads with no traffic were never plowed well and are now rutted and lumpy with ice and packed snow. So this morning I rode early to beat the traffic.

It felt very good to get back on the bike after a week. Hopefully as I learn the new tires' handling I can improve on a 12.4 mph average, or it will take forever to get my mileage in. But it's better than falling down and certainly better than riding a stationary trainer with no scenery.

A few notes on road conditions:
  • The entire route was susceptible to small patches of ice where melting snow flows on to the road and re-freezes, "dry" in the descriptions below refer to the general trend of the road pavement, small patches of ice can be found everywhere
  • College Parkway - dry with 2 - 3ft of clear shoulder
  • East College Parkway - has no shoulder anyway, but it's clear and wet
  • Jones Station Rd to Baydale - Clear pavement, but the plowed snow blocks the shoulders and in some spots the travel lanes
  • Old County Road - a disaster, needs a few days of sun before I try that again
  • Evergreen - fresh plow work left a half inch of road snow, should improve quickly
  • Benfield Blvd - passable, mostly dry, shoulders are still a little more narrow than normal. Watch traffic turning on to Benfield from your right, many driveways and smaller intersections are blind with plowed snow blocking drivers' view as they turn on to Benfield.
  • EW Blvd - travel lane was passable on a bike, but there was no room for traffic to pass, I had to pull over to let them by periodically
  • Light St Ave - clear and mostly dry
  • Truck House Rd - clear and mostly dry
  • B & A Blvd - wet pavement, no shoulders

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