Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Black death

Or maybe not... I used to view ice as a waiting death trap. After quickly finding out how easily a bicycle loses traction and crashes on ice last year, I gained a healthy, if not a bit fearful respect for the black death. Low tire pressures, puckered cheeks, and smooth steady pedal strokes were the remedies of choice for me. I still managed to wipe out more times than I care to remember last winter.

Last night I just had to answer the call to get back outside. In a feat of hopelessness, I first tried to check out Denman's. The levee trail was a mess of frozen icy tracks that were basically unridable so I peered over the edge to the entrance line close to the creek. Hmm, I saw a solitary track through the snow that looked like it might be rideable. I plunged over the edge and immediately began a slide for life down the frozen crust of the levee hillside while still partially clipped in to my bike. If it weren't for blind luck and my bike staying something upright and slowed down by breaking through the crust at random points, I'd have ended the ride quicker and much wetter after crawling out of the creek. I quickly deduced that the track I was seeing had been ridden in above freezing temps and now was again unusable. Back to the drawing board.

I figured if nothing else, the black label might be interested to check out and see how bad it truly was. After our heatwave on Friday and plowing 2" of slush for most of the way, I figured they'd be frozen over and as ugly as the levee trail. Thankfully I was pretty much wrong. I opted to head up into the Windsor Heights trail system and ended up north of Douglas before turning back as I was headed further into unfamiliar neighborhood trails at night and didn't want to force having to ride roads to get back home. The trails were an eclectic mix of perfectly dry trail sprinkled with slush, glare ice, packed ice, and snow sprinkled ice. Notice a theme here? Actually, the ice was only truly bad in a few spots where it covered the trail for extended sections.

I turned back and opted to get a few more miles in by heading out on the Clive Greenbelt. Courtney and I were the only two bike tracks on the trail. Once I got about a mile in, I knew why. There was an extended section of the slush that had indeed frozen into a sheet of glare ice with ridges. This sent me just squirrely enough on the bike that I decided I'd pressed my luck enough for one evening and turned back. All in all an hour and fifteen on the bike with around 15 miles on the meter. Not the greatest, but I'll take what I can get for being outside in this weather. What we need is a nice 2-3" slightly tacky snow that can be packed down over this ice and for the weather to stay cold. I think that would give us back some of the trails for sure.

So how did I do on the ice you ask? The new studded tires are the cat's meow and then some. While I still treated some of the extended ice spots with reverence, I blew through most of it with nary a thought other than whee, I'm riding like its dry pavement over stuff that could potentially slam me to the ground and splatter my brains out like a week old stew. Actually, it was pretty fun and a great feeling to be back to only respecting the ice in lieu of fearing it.


Brian said...

Its official: I have studded tire envy.

Buckshot77 said...

I'll reserve my complete envy of having them for a head to head test against Squirrel's bike chains with someone other than him riding them. I'm sure he'd outdo me on plain knobbies versus my studs so it would be an unfair comparison. I think Conlan is building up a set this week.