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Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
Last Monday, after much deliberation, I ordered some Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded snow tires for my bike. I’ve always just used wide knobby mountain bike tires, and I figured if I was going to commute through the winter, I would need them. I was unsure if I did the right thing by ordering the tires, then on Tuesday I wiped out in the parking lot at work in front of my boss. I did the right thing! Fast forward one week, I was eagerly waiting for the tires to arrive. UPS came and went; no tires. Well, I ended up staying later because other scheduled plans later this week, and luckily I did; the tires arrived FedEx!
Of course, I immediately installed the tires. Let me start off by saying that I am a big fan of fat tires and these are not. They are 26″x1.75″, and most companies’ tires run narrow. I used a digital caliper to accurately measure them and much to my surprise, the came out to a whopping 1.77″.
After work I had to run some errands, so I was more than happy to try out the new tires. I had a 3 mile ride to my stop, 2 of which were uphill. The tires were pretty noisy, which I figured they would be, since there was a couple hundred steel studs hitting the ground, but they still rolled pretty smoothly. At this point, the roads were dry. Schwalbe recommends that on dry pavement you run maximum pressure, which is 70 psi, and when it’s icy, run minimum air pressure, which is 30 psi. They also suggest 20 to 40 miles of hardpack riding to set the studs firmly in the tire. After my errand, I headed home, and I had about 8 miles to go. A mile into the ride the wind started to blow and the rain started; after another couple miles the rain tuned to sleet, which felt like I was getting sandblasted. By the time I started to descend back into the valley, I was in a ful-on Ohio winter mess. Snow was accumulating on the road, the wind was blasting, and all this over ice. Got to love winter commuting in Ohio! The descent back home wasn’t even fun; I had to ride the brakes (thank you disc brakes), then I was worried that the cars around me were going to lose control and crush me. Finally, I arrived home in one piece, and you know what? The tires never lost traction. I made a wise choice!
I haven’t posted in a few days because of Turkey day, and I really have been lazy about commuting. On Sunday, I got up early to go to a pancake breakfast at the Moose lodge in Cuyahoga Falls. The plan was for Kevin to ride from his house, me to ride , and Sarah to drive form our place. Well, to make a long story short, I rode, and everyone else drove.
Luckily, I forgave Kevin quickly because I love pancakes, and I gave him a proper amount of harassment. The breakfast was in benefit of the Freedom Greyhound Rescue, and I hope it was a great success because the people were extremely nice and the food was great.
Since I did not ride home on Tuesday (combination of cold, wet, and lure of wings and beer), I drove in Thursday and rode the bike trail home. If you ride quite a bit, you notice and witness some weird things. Last night was one of those nights. First, as I’m riding, I hear something running in the brush next to me. It was a deer that decided it was time to cross the path, right in front of me. Well, I’m sure it was as startled as me, because wet disc brakes, are not quiet and the screeching echoed through the valley. This was actually the third or fourth time I almost hit a deer this fall. Sadly, I did not get a photo of that. Secondly, I stopped to take some photos by the Akron Compost Facility, and I notice this flame shooting out of a pipe; some kind of gas burn off I suspect; weird, but cool! I had just never seen it before, and I ride past there all the time. Finally, as I got home, I have a hill to ride up. Well, there were cars behind me, so I got as close to the curb as I could, but there was a few inches of fresh snow, so I couldn’t get over all the way. The cars just stayed behind me, and when I made the turn in, the driver’s window must have been down, because I heard him say, “What the hell is that?” I could only assume he was wondering about my bike and why I was riding in a snowstorm.
Alright, so Monday was not the horrendous multiple feet of snow that it could have been, but it did snow enough to make a interesting ride. If you haven’t commuted in cold temperatures, it’s a bit of trial and error when it comes to clothing. You have to be warm enough to stop at lights and on downhills not to freeze, but if you dress too warm, you sweat like a pig while pedaling. I rarely get it right, but I do make it tolerable. I am a huge fan of wool as a base layer. Synthetics are good also, but they tend to get a little smelly. My latest commuting wear has been, Helmet(Duh), wool cycling cap over a balaclava, wool jersey, wool long sleeve, soft shell jacket or rain jacket, cycling shorts, insulated tights, waterproof pants, wool hiking socks, waterproof hiking boots. I run platform pedals and boots, I don’t slip and slide when I go in somewhere, plus it’s just easier and more comfortable.
The ride on Monday was little chilly, the temps were around 36 degrees and it was pretty wet out. The first part of my ride is about 3-3.5 miles of road, then I hop on the Towpath trail. Like I said, the road was wet and no ice. The Towpath was still warm enough that the snow was not sticking, so it was pretty sloppy. I got off at 3:00 pm so the ride home was much of the same, but a little more snow on the surrounding grassy areas. I was a good ride to test out my clothing and winter commuting set up. Stay tuned for my Tuesday report, It was an adventure!
Hopefully everyone has voted today, I know I did. It was a nice morning for a ride. I was happy to see so many people voting. I haven’t had this experience since 1992, when I turned 18. What if Ross Perot would have won? We’ll never know! Good luck to the canidates!