Saturday, December 27, 2008

frosty rides in Madison


Just home from a x-mas visit to Madison. I FINALLY received these Nokian tires I'd been waiting for and managed to mount them on my Velocity deep V wheels the night before we left for Madison. They looked great out of the box. Very rideable and not at all over the top tread or stud-wise.

We set off with the bike and a station wagon full of gifts and whatnot to Madison on Wednesday. Thursday morning we were all meant to go across town to my brother-in-law's house for a big brunch and I decided I'd give it a try on the bike. The trip is about 9 miles and the temperature outside was supposedly going to get up to 20 degrees but as I left around 10 am, it was actually 0, wind chill of something like -10. So needless to say, the snow and ice was bone dry. As soon as I hit the road, I could tell what a MASSIVELY different feeling it was riding on these things. They just made the back streets (which were plowed but had been unplowed for some days, so there was a good layer of ice and packed snow, it was just more or less flat) feel like more or less normal riding conditions. I could also blast through the little pile ups where one plow went by later and made a sort of "curb" of snow and ice where streets crossed. It was really a fun feeling, very liberating to feel as if you could just ride normally in these conditions.

When I reached the top of the city's bike trail I was really happy to find that, on Christmas day, the trail was very nicely and completely plowed. Mind you, these are off street trails, so there is a whole little separate job to go and plow these miles and miles and miles of trails. NICE JOB MADISON! If it wasn't so freezing, I'd consider moving there!

The only downside of this ride was that my gloves are not at all fit for such temps. I did, however, discover and new ad hoc hand warming method whereby I stop and take off my gloves and stick them under my armpits (outside all my layers) and take my hands (with glove liners still on) and stick them down my pants where it is plenty warm. I did this twice on the way over to brunch, about every three miles. I received the Craft Siberian gloves I ordered to remedy this problem a few days before but was chagrined to discover that they were a bit too small, so hopefully this won't be something I'll have to get very good at, as they are enroute for an exchange now.

The other downside later in the day is that it never got past 10 degrees and by the time I rode home, there wasn't even the direct sun to help me out and the ride back is composed of a lot of very slight uphill inclines that you don't really notice on the way down them, but after bruch in the 10 degree weather with freezing hands, you start to notice!

But, hey, at least I was biking! Nokian A-10 tires: A+++++ (as the say in the land of ebay!)

Here are a couple of pics, one is me in the window of Monona terrace stopping for hand warming. Lake Monona is in the background. The next is the mighty Steamroller with the new invincible tires on.

The next day, I rode about another 15 miles or so (my computer was on the fritz). The temp was up into the 20s/30s on this day, so everything was melting! Slush everywhere. Tires still worked quite well, but there was a bit more slip/sliding around in the thick melting slush. Went by a couple of area bike shops just to have somewhere to stop and warm up. I was the only person on a bike at both of them though, so much for the hardy Wisconson biker! I did see about three other bikes over the course of the day altogether. They actually had the gloves I'm waiting for at Machinery Row Bicycles at a good price, but only in sizes XS through M. Doh! I found out that my footwear scenario (Cheapo Specialized cycling shoes with 2 pairs of socks and some Pearl Izumi neoprene shoe covers) cannot stay all that dry when you are riding through slush all day. I ended up stopping at a local Laotian restaurant for lunch and slipping out of my shoes and tucking my freezing toes one foot at a time under my legs under the table to thaw. A pot of hot tea and a plate of squash curry later, I was ready to finish it off. Same uphill slog, kind of harder with the half-melt, but I made it and got some pretty fearsome exercise. At least for this time of year.

Here is a picture of the exemplary bike trail conditions I found most of the day:

Kudos again to the city of Madison for taking cycling seriously and putting their money where it counts!

I now feel ready to face whatever Chicago has to dish out. Bring it!!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Surly love b/w A brief reprieve from the cold


Went out today and rode about 9 miles, doing some x-mas shopping. I am in love with my Surly Steamroller now. What a dream. It was already set up with almost everything I needed. The fenders are great! I rode around in melting snow and slush and it was actually lightly raining on me during the 4-ish mile ride home and without rainpants, I'm still clean and dry enough to just come in my house and not need to change clothes. The gearing is really nice. It's not ridiculously high for riding in windy conditions, etc, yet I can still get going up to about 25mph with a slight tailwind without spinning out. Solid!

I cannot wait to tackle the next spell of crap weather with these new studded tires (see below), but I decided today I am going to keep this wheelset (I was thinking on selling it off to help ameliorate the costs of this bike) and put the ice tires on the set of Velocity wheels I was riding this spring before I converted my Paramount to geared. I hear the Nokians are kind of a pain to change out and I think I shall be riding this bike a lot for a long time, so having ice and non-ice wheels seems like a good move in the long run.

The temp got up to a balmy 35-ish today. Thanks weather gods! All the ice is melting off, so we can start from scratch next week I reckon. Here is a great picture from the "winter gear" discussion over at the chicago fixed gear forum:

My sentiments exactly! What kindred spirits sculpted this monumental piece of sculpture?!

In other news of warmer weather adventures, I had my mind somewhat blown by this guy's quest from a couple years back. This is hardcore!

The wife and I are mulling over playing a little winter hooky and heading down to Austin on some frequent flier miles in a few weeks. She has off from school for an unexpected 4+ weeks, so wethinks we are going to take in some 60 to 70 degree Texas relaxation. I can bike in shorts most likely! Huzzah, huzzah!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First ride on the Surly


Well, I wiped out about a 1/2 mile from my house going down a snowy (and as it turned out, ICY) street. Jammed my thumb pretty good. Not so terrific to jam my left thumb when I dislocated my right pinky only 4 days ago. Come on Nokian tires, I need you!

Otherwise, though, it was real nice to be rolling on 2 wheels again. I've goofed up the rear brake cable path with that wreck somehow, but I was planning on changing out these bars and levers anyway, so I'll just have to get right to it.

(Later that same evening)

I did it. Here are some current pics. I have fenders, huzzah!!

sexy bike pics / winter continued


Well, winter is really ON here now. My street out front is covered in a good 1/2" of ice and packed snow and it's pretty much between 10 and 30 degrees. This, of course, isn't OFFICIALLY winter yet, it's technically "late Fall" which means that we've got a very long way to go.

I had a sexy photo shoot of my "stable" a few days ago on a lark after my wife had been shooting some pictures. Below are pics of the finished Orbea Euskaltel team bike, my trusty Paramount, the Look 171 I have had sitting around for a few months which I pilfered the Dura Ace on the Paramount from (it is now resurrected with a nice mixed Shimano 600/105 setup), and finally, the finished Trek 400 from a few posts ago that I fixed up for my friend Jeremy.

Here we go:

Nice right?! My basement is getting a little cozy though. I did get the Trek out of there and I'm getting ready to hand over this Centurion, which was my (for lack of a better term) "beater" bike. This, however, presented a little problem since, with the crappy weather, it leaves me without a less-than-quite-nice bike to ride in these slippery, falling down, salted road months. It also wasn't super ideal due to the lack of clearance for anything larger than a 700 x 25 tire (700 x 28 MIGHT have fit, but not by much). So I started hunting around for some kind of cross bike, commuter bike etc. with more ample tire clearance.

After about 3 days of posting, searching and e-mailing, I ended up finding a pretty decent deal on a Surly Steamroller. It's got the so-called "fatties fit fine" chainstay/seatstay as well as plenty of clearance at the front fork as well. As a winter riding experiment, I have also ordered a pair of these:

They are carbide-studded snow/ice tires. It may be overkill, but my neighborhood as well as the long street I work on are often not plowed at all. In addition, I commute down the hike/bike path in Humboldt Park, which is also un- or underpaved regularly. These tires are supposedly they best choice for mostly plowed roads with some icy patches and offer the least rolling resistance, so I'm gonna give them a go on the Surly. I'll keep everyone posted.

Here is the bike in it's original incarnation on craigslist:

Speaking of which, I'm out the door now to give this thing a test ride to work (no ice tires yet, but at least it's not super awful out right now.

Bike on!