Trail Ramblings: There Were Plenty Of Tire Tracks In The Snow.

It was a wonderful sight. It seems to me there are more cold weather cyclists out there now than I see most years. What can we do to encourage them to keep it up? Clean trails certainly help and Parks and Rec was out early this morning removing snow. Not early enough to have it cleared for everyone’s commute, but it wasn’t so deep you couldn’t ride through it easily. Actually, it’s often easiest if you’re one of the first out because you don’t have to deal with other riders’ packed snow. That’s nothing compared to the slipperiness of packed snow left by cars on streets, however.

Look more closely. I’ve seen bikes in the creek before, but never a car. Photo Credit Jesse Poore.

I finally got to talk to the other bike commuter at the rack today. She said she slipped a few times coming in, and was wondering whether to get studded tires. She had skinnies with little tread on her Kona Honkeytonk. I suggested perhaps a second wheelset with studded tires, so she didn’t have to ride them on days she didn’t need them.

Photo Credit: Ice Biker

Most of the ice and packed snow had melted by the time I went in to work today, so it wasn’t much of a worry. I’m still debating about the virtues of last year’s relatively narrow studded tires on my old commuter v.s. my winter mountain bike with lower pressure and grippier knobby, wider tires. They both seemed to have their advantages. I think I’d like studded tires on the old mountain bike most of all. Many people swear that lower inflation in icy conditions is enough to get them through most anything. A larger area of tire in contact with the road surface certainly does help. On that packed ice we seem to have so much of though, I don’t know that it could ever be as good as a bite from a studded tire. Studded tires aren’t created equally though, and may wear down quickly if not steel carbide. Make sure you do some research and ask around first before buying.

Not from this morning, thankfully, but a good time to roll studded.

Also, I highly recommend fenders. You don’t want that icy spray giving you the rooster tail and getting even more gunk on your drive train and brakes. There are mountain bike fenders that go on bikes with no mounting eyelets, so they can go on any bike. There are many You Tube DIY instructions for making serviceable ones on the cheap, and even how to make studded tires, too, for those with more patience than I have.
For comfort, don’t forget the plastic-bag-over-the-sock trick if you get cold feet. Avoid the temptation to layer socks, as that will likely decrease blood circulation to your feet unless you have larger shoes. For hands, some swear by plastic gloves under or between gloves. As for your face, safety glasses may protect your eyes from the cold, and that Covid mask will feel good on your face, but the two together are likely to cause fogging. Pretty much anything on my face will cause my glasses to fog up, so when it really does get cold, I opt for fog-less ski goggles and a perforated mask to protect my face.
What have you found that makes your winter riding more comfortable? Let us know.