Friday, November 12, 2010


Dreading the cold. We've all been there.

Alex put it best this evening, as I was putting off heading home from TC's. He said it's only getting colder.

So I bundled up. Slowly. Two pairs of socks because I didn't pack toe warmers. I lingered. Played with Zoe. And finally wheeled out the door.

I'm hit with a blast of cold, square in the face. Take off the rockin' gloves to turn on the lights. They're already cold by the time I put them back on, 10 seconds later.

It is going to be a long ride home.

Crank up Switzer and spin to Beaver Street. Roll downtown. See the crossing arms drop for an approaching train and turn right on 66. Gotta keep moving to stay warm.

My face is freezing. My fingers are chilly. My feet are cold. I follow 66 up the hill, past the car dealerships. I turn left on Woodlands. Down the hill, backpedaling to regulate speed.

I'm not as cold. My fingers are warm, my toes aren't that cold, and my arms are borderline sweating. Even my face isn't half bad.

Amazing how just a few hours earlier, my toes were in pain from the cold, and my fingers were chilled enough to restrict their movement.

Coming up on Lake Mary Road, and a decision is made. I roll straight, following 89 out to the fairgrounds. "What the heck." I think.

The cars are less frequent this way at 11:30 at night. I'm sure the few that pass me are thinking about just how cold I am, and happy that they're sitting in nice warm cars.

They don't realize just how warm I am now, as I crank up and down the rolling hills. The cold is no longer dreaded. It is enjoyed, embraced. It fuels my ride.

I find myself too soon on Pulliam, aimed at home. I look up at the stars, and veer into the oncoming lane. No matter, there are no cars here now.

On the urban trail through High Country. My face is cold again. The high is wearing off. The cold is creeping back, reminding me that it is indeed Winter. Almost.

Roll to the door. Go inside, where my glasses instantly fog. Curiosity begs to know how cold it was... A balmy 22 degrees.

Yes, it was a long ride home, though not the way I was afraid it would be.
Mileage: 25

Monday, November 8, 2010

What a bunch of studs.

The question I get asked most often when I say I ride my bike all winter, no matter the weather, is surprisingly not, "Wow, how do you stay warm?"

No, people are more interested about whether or not I make my own studded tires.

This will be my something'th winter with bicycles as my primary mode of transit, and my third with studded tires on my commuter bike, Bi. The last two years I ran a pair of Innova studded tires. Nothing fancy, I needed studded tires, and they were affordable, as well as the only thing Absolute had on the shelf for a 29'er. But, with regular steel studs, not carbide, the studs wore down after two seasons, leaving me with two perfectly good tire casings, with worn down nubs of metal embedded in the tread.

They still work... a little.

Well, this year, I considered my options for the winter riding season. I could shell out some money for longer lasting carbide studded tires, (Starting at ~$60 per tire.) or, I could buy carbide studs to replace the worn down ones in the existing tires. (Also about $60 per tire.)

Studs be expensive, yo.

I ultimately decided on neither of these, and spent $15 dollars on three hundred #6 x 3/8" sheetmetal screws. Yes, this may be a little overkill, since each tire needs 114 studs.

The plan was to rip all the old studs out of the little tread pocket they are embedded in, and jam the heads of the screws in their place. Easy enough. So, I set to work, using a quick clamp (To squish the tire and make the tread release the studs easier) and the can opener on my Leathermans. (to get under the stud and pry it out.)

I should warn you at this point, should you decide to try this, WEAR EYE PROTECTION! Sometimes the studs will fly away, with great speed, and like most small rapidly moving objects, they aim for eyes and fine china.

220 studs later... (Some went missing...)
It was time to start installing the screws. I used a pair of needle nose pliers to grip the sharp end of the screw. I squeezed the tire to open the tread pocket, and just sort of twisted and forced the head of the screw in.

Once again, USE EYE PROTECTION! There's more force behind the screws than the studs, and they will fly far and hit hard. A few screws flew away, and I'm sure I won't find them again unless we move out.

If all goes well, and you haven't shot your eyes out, you'll have tires that look like this:

Now. Having just finished both tires, I have yet to ride them at all. I can tell you now, traction on pavement will be horrible, what with 1/4" of screw sticking out of the tires, and will likely result in several of the studs being ripped out. Even on ice, this is a bit impractical. For this reason, I'm thinking of trimming them down shorter with a pair of heavy wire cutters. Also, my fingers and thumbs hurt from removing and installing 228 studs total.

These screws are steel, just like the studs I replaced them with, and therefore won't last more than a season or two. However, they're cheap to replace, (If a bit labor intensive) and I can keep replacing them as long as the tire casing is still good. I'll be sure to post an update if anything significant (Good or bad) happens.

So, in answer to the question, do I make my own studded tires?

Not really, but I replace the studs with screws when they get too worn down.

Mileage: 5.3

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Contrast Ratio

I love Fall in Flagstaff. The contrast between changing leaves and evergreens just makes me take a deep breath and wait for Winter to bring it.

I had thought I had missed the majority of the leaves changing colors this year. Normally I'd have ridden into the Inner Basin to see the aspens, but it's closed off as a result of the Schultz fire. So, I headed south on the Arizona Trail in search of some gold, and not expecting much.

Methinks I was just in time.
Mileage: 41.7