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With the snow coming down in great lumps I finally gave in and fitted spikes on my main commuting bike. It was snowing so fast that by the time I finished clearing our entranceway and went inside, it was almost impossible to see where I’d started, so it seemed a good idea to be snow ready for the morning commute, especially as the cycle lanes locally aren’t cleared because “That’d mean putting salt on them and salt is bad for the environment.”

As I fully expected, within 24 hours the snow vanished and the roads were back to their normal state of being just damp enough to make everything thoroughly muddy. Since then we’ve had rain with temperatures just above freezing so the roads were wet, or subzero temperatures and dry roads.

This happens every year, without fail.

I’ve kept the snow tyres though, because with exams coming along I’m a bit short of time to change tyres again, and from experience snow clouds will sneak over the horizon and we’ll have about a week of blizzards within hours of me putting semi slicks back on the bike.

I suspect I’ll now spent most of the winter dragging myself to the tram stop and muttering about how I’m definitely going to get a new set of wheels by next winter, and then forget to do anything about it by Spring…

nosnow

Xtracycle with snow tyres.

Notice clear sky, warm sunshine, and complete absence of any snow as far as the eye can see…

The picture says it all really. Apparently the main effect of fitting snow tires on the Xtracycle is to make the weather warmer. This is no surprise as I seem to have made it rain over Christmas by cleaning the Xtracycle the week before.

However, in the brief days between fitting the tyres and the change in the weather, I found they worked pretty well. After riding on semi slicks for more years than I wish to remember they’re a bit heavy and noisy, rather like trying to run in clogs, but they work about 99% of the time so I didn’t have to approach every unknown surface wondering if I’d soon be sitting on the road, and proved very handy several times when swerving or braking to avoid cars which were approaching sideways.

The only exceptions to this were a few places where the snow had drifted, compacted, then frozen and melted so many times it had given up and turned into and evil mix of slush and ice which is unpredictably solid or slippery and has one ambition in life, namely to make cyclists fall, slide or tip off their bikes*, especially as the local farmers are enthusiastically ploughing the fields in monster sized tractors and adding great wodges of clay soil to the surface. Just the thing when riding downhill in the dark…

I’d been riding for a couple of days when someone pointed out that I’ve been Doing It Wrong. Again. The local newspaper had kindly printed “instructions for snow cycling” which helpfully suggested we “Ride slowly and carefully” and sternly warned people using snow tyres to “ride at least 50km on clear asphalt and get plenty of practice before using the tires on snow” and to make sure that we “Ride on low pressure on snow, then pump them to high pressure for asphalt”. As I ride on a mix of cleared roads and snow covered cycle lanes this would mean I’d be inflating or deflating every half a kilometre or so and would arrive at work sometime after lunch. Thank goodnes I didn’t find out until it was too late…

But of course this no longer matters because we now have warm weather for the next few weeks until I change back to slicks. You’re welcome.

I am now accepting invitations to anywhere that needs a change in the weather.

*What is the cyclist’s name for this, by the way? I’ve called it ‘Choss’ after the climbing term for dangerously loose and unpredictable rock. Any other names out there?

Having winter tires and then riding on ice with semi-slicks seems silly to the point of irresponsible, so last night I manned up and went down to the garage to fit them before my hands froze up. As with most of my endeavours, this did not go quite as planned.

The first problem was how to get at the wheels, the local bike shop being inexplicably closed at 9pm. Resting the bike on a Brooks saddle on a concrete floor simply isn’t done.  No worries, I thought: remove new tyres from box, use box to cover floor, put bike upside down on the box and change wheels.

All went well until I let go of the upturned bike, whereupon the heaviest unsupported part, the Xtracycle frame, went down and the front wheel flipped up. How did I not expect this to happen? I caught the bike mid pirouette and managed to wrestle the back wheel off it*.

Then came changing the back tyre. Puncture proof Schwalbe Marathon tyres are very convenient to ride on and a pain in the backside to change, but I managed with minimal swearing and a minor injury to one hand.

I took the front wheel off the bike. The bike tipped backwards again. I put the rear wheel in the front forks so the bike would stay still and got on with the front wheel. More swearing and a bruise later and the new tyre was on the front wheel. I braced the bike against my knee, lifted the rear wheel out of the front forks and swapped in the front before I fell over.

With the bike the right way up again, I took the bunged up gear cable out, noting the rust, and squirted lube down the tubes. A shower of water, ice, several chunks of the local forest and one very dead beetle came out of the other end, reducing the weight of the bike by about a third.

Fitted new gear cable. I’ve discovered  that I can -just- use a normal gear cable on an Xtracycle. Some people would suggest that the fact I think this is interesting means I am a Very Boring Person, but those people regularly spend hours discussing mobile phone contracts. I rest my case.

I put the bike back together and took it out for a test run. It worked well enough for me to be confident about riding on the packed ice and snow that is normal here from January to March. returned to apartment feeling smug. Just before going to bed I checked the weather report.

Next weeks forecast: warm, with sunshine.

 
*Of course this meant turning the bike over again because I’d forgotten to release the brake and it is almost impossible to reach when the Xtracycle is upside down, but we’ll skip over that detail.

Hmpf…

So yesterday my main concern was avoiding the worst of the puddles on the way to work, so I wouldn’t have to wash the Xtracycle again this week…

Then this happened…

snowtyresyes

Six hours of snow. mostly horizontal, &  -3°c.

Looks like I’ll be getting those snow tyres…

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