Friday, 13 February 2015

Dinna' Cast Yer Clout' Just Yet!

My mate Tricia mentioned that this year would be her year of resurrecting her commute to work. Considering that clear cold nights are making for heavily frosted mornings I asked her if she wasn't worried about the ice in the earlier hours of the day? But then the belt and braces kind of gal my pal is goes and mentions she's already got those having being told by The Dutchy (her blokie) that if the Russians can cycle in the winter so can she. and needs to fit them on her own town style pootler.  OOooo, says me, gees a shot?!  And she does.

Now, the third thing on my list things I hate about cycling, besides the wind (number one) and mountain biking (number two) is Ice.  Snow itself isn't too bad to cycle in, but ice - the kind you can see or no - is a nasty little fecker that wants to whip the table cloth off your formal cream tea of life just so it can laugh as scones go flying.

Greasy, black icy horrible cobbles!
It is with this in mind I have often wondered if studdED tyres would be useful.  My pootling bike at the moment is the Brompton, and Brompton being purveyors of very fine and high end bikes, are also purveyors of very fine prices I mean seriously £30 for one (1) tyre?  The expense isn't something I can justify right now, at least not to 'just see' if I like them or not. Further to this I have often assumed they'd be a faff, besides the fitting could I have left them on all year or would I have to change them back on wet or warm mornings so this all in all was the perfect opportunity to find out. 

By happenstance Tricias' house is one of the coldest streets in Aberdeen,  indeed, at 10 am on a fine crisp morning there was still a great deal of sheet ice and snow when everywhere else has come over slushily patchy.  Our arrangement was that I'd come round for a shot to give her the incentive of fitting the tyres, which after we'd switched to teaspoons instead of a lone flat head screw driver, was a doddle.

Tricias' replacement horse

Her Burgundy Ridgeback Town Bike sits' you up so high you feel a mixture of Pope-like in his Pope mobile and vertigo.  The large seat and wide tyre base is definitely more for comfort and safety than speed (not that I go very fast on any of my bikes) and it does take a wee while to get over yourself parading like the Queen to pedestrians who think you 'a mental'.  By the time we'd had our coffees, got the tyres on, and I'd stopped waving at folk there was still spots of ice and snow on the road.  Pen face at the ready, I got down to some serious 'in the interests of blogging' trialing.

The White Stuffs the Ice and snow*

Things I learnt about Studded Tyres:

1.  It's spelled StuddED, not StuddIED.

2. They can go on both tarmac and icy roads - in fact, they need to be 'worn in' for 40km before their optimum grip on the roads can be reached. So say the icy roads have put a damper on your commute, this year, if you get them in August/September, they'll be good to go by mid October!

3.  They have the same wear as normal tyres so you could infact leave them on all year round. 

4. They do make a noise on normal tarmac.  I didn't find it too distressing but then Trish's bike is so high I might not have been close enough to appreciate the sound in it's full annoying glory.

5.  They do work.  And you can feel it.  On snow you can feel the tyre slide then suddenly grip faster than you are used to.  Now, I've cycled where the snow has lain so thick, it's shaved off by mudguards as the tyres have gone round, I've cycled on ice where tyre wheels have stopped turning and I've only got the camber of the road and my own procarious ballance holding me up, I've felt my back wheel go from under me round a secluded corner and had to do the counter-intuitive thing of going faster - and squealled when doing it.  So I know when my wheels have gone from under me, to somewhere else, but what was interesting is that I felt the wheels slip and then latch on.  It's quite odd and not what I expected.  It's different from normal tyre grip - that's something you don't really notice until you don't have it any more - because you feel like you're going to fall but you don't.

Having had a shot, I would now consider investing in studded tyres.  I think, however, if I was doing a spectacuarly wintery sportive/race I'd feel better off with some knobbly treaded ones, but for the day to day commute they'd be perfect.

Have you tried studded tyres, and how did you get on?  Do you prefer knobbly tires?  Are they an investment you plan to make, and what other items do you plan to add to your winter to spring commute?


*To protect privacy I blacked out a lot of the street detail, I may have got a bit splash happy.

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