Saturday, January 19, 2008

Half-way through January with way-more miles than December

After riding back and forth to work (19 miles each way) for four days in a row, I was really beat. I started with my Fat Chance mountain bike (no longer considered a mountain bike according to the younger set, because it lacks any type of suspension). After slogging through mud with the consistency of mashed potatoes, due to the January thaw, I was happy to see the temperature drop below freezing. The Fat Chance has studded Nokian tires in the winter and these things claw out of pretty much anything winter throws in the way, but riding such a long commute sure takes a toll out of my energy reserves. It's amazing how quickly a cyclist can lose that warm-weather muscle tone in the off-season.

I wanted to speed up the commute, so I sprung for a pair of Nokian A10 35 x 700C studded tires. These tires have only 70 or so studs, while the tires I have on the Fat Chance have more than 100. Really aggressive studded tires often have over 300 studs. Still, the A10s have their studs located close to the outside edges and they are staggered. This puts them where you really need them, helping you to climb out of frozen ruts. I came up the hill on my dirt road on knobby tires without studs on my fourth day of riding and fell twice when I got caught in ruts--not something that typically happens to me. I was going quite slow climbing the hill and nothing got hurt or damaged. Riding up the same hill, with the same ruts, on the same bike, but now with the Nokians, I didn't even come close to going over.

The Nokians are still pretty heavy, but they are a lot easier to ride than the more aggressive ones I have on the Fat Chance. I highly recommend them to anyone who is doing winter riding and wants the advantages of studs with the lowest cost in performance. Winter conditions can put treacherous ice in your path without warning. As far as I'm concerned, studded tires are an absolute necessity for winter riding an cold. snowy climates
like Vermont.

I got my Nokians from Peter White Cycles. Peter ships very fast, has many models in stock and offers good prices. Unless you think there is a very good possibility that you will not be putting many miles on them, don't waste your money on tires with steel studs. Pay the money and get carbide studs. You won't regret it. If you live near Burlington, the Old Spokes Home has studded tires in stock. These guys ride their bikes year-round and can give you good advice.