Thursday, January 8, 2015

This Winter's Icy/Slick Streets Bike

My trusty Marin Muirwoods decked out with the 2' wide Marathon studs:
pic taken before we finally got some snow to speak of. obv.
My first decent bike, the Muirwoods is pretty cool - it came equipped with smooth 700 x 40mm street tires - Continental Town Rides that weren't available retail last time I checked - but has room for mountain bike tires. Shoot, could almost get a 3" tire in the front.

Last year I had these Marathons on my mountain bike but had trouble with the front tire skittering over the ice and not gripping very well. It worked okay on the smooth thin ice, but I had trouble when the street was a lumpy compact snow mixture.  I  attributed it to the longish effective top tube length on the mtb and therefore not much weight pressing down on the front end. The Marin is a 17" model compared to the 19.5" model mtb, and the ETT is about 2 inches shorter so I figured the Marin might work better and I put the 2" studs on it this winter.  I've always complained this bike feels too small for me, but so far it's handling snow and ice better than the mtb.

(sidebar: I usually have the seat post extended past the warning line, but it keeps slipping down because I have trouble getting the quick release style clamp tight enough.  Working on finding a longer seat post.)

I remember my first winter commuting on 35mm studded Marathon's and I was a little disappointed in the results.  The studs worked great on those days when the streets were just frosty or icy, and for those hidden patches of black ice, but when the streets were a bumpy, lumpy, jumble of ice and compacted snow, it was hard to stay upright.  Or if the snow was deep and between slushy and frozen,  I couldn't get much traction. Somedays, a regular mountain bike tire worked better than the studs.  The 2" Marathons work better for the bumpy conditions, but I'm still not sure if some days an un-studded mountain bike would be just as good.

This brings me to what really works great for winter commuting - the fat bike.  It's a good complement to the studded bike. I ride a lot of side streets that turn into a rumbly solid sheet of compact snow and ice, and the fat tires roll over them with ease.  Even without studs - I think due to the wide track.  They also work in the deep slush better than studs.  With our variable street conditions, it's great to have both options.

oh yeah and happy new year!