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  1. #1
    Senior Member Sir Lunch-a-lot's Avatar
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    Winter Cycling in Saskatoon

    Rather than hi-jack the Saskatchewan Bike Shop thread, I thought I would start my own.

    Does anybody know if any of the bike paths or multi-user paths get cleared of snow in winter? I am asking, because I am hoping to commute to work via bicycle this winter, and am hoping that I may be able to continue to use some of the paths. Do the on-road bike paths get cleared, or do they just become a spot to put the snow from the rest of the road? And do the off-road multi-user-paths (such as the one that runs the length of Preston Ave) get cleared? If not, I suppose I will have to ride on road with the rest of traffic, meaning that it may behoove me to work out an alternate route with less intense traffic.

    And on a side-note, I am just curious if anyone else here is planning on commuting this winter in Saskatoon.
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  2. #2
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    Don't know about Saskatoon, but I did ride through the winter one year in Calgary and found that dry packed snow was actually quite easy to ride on, with knobby tires. It wasn't until a chinook wind hit, melted the snow, and it turned back to lumpy wet ice overnight that I had problems and had to switch to public transit.
    I'm interested to see answers from Saskatoon people as I'll probably be moving there in January. I've heard that the wind chill can get pretty fierce.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Sir Lunch-a-lot's Avatar
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    As much as I miss chinooks out here, at least we won't have those making the snow slushy all the time. Hmm... I'm thinking it may not be a bad idea, then, to see about finding some knobby tires for my rims. As it is, I have been running smooth street tires on my bike (and I have such old rims that it may be difficult to find knobby tires that fit). But, I suppose I shall play that one by ear and see just how icy the roads/paths get.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    Yay, a Saskatoon thread, how exciting!

    All sidewalks in the city are supposed get cleared within 24 or 48 hours, depending on the area. I think the city holds themselves to this standard for the sidewalks they maintain. However, bare pavement is rare, and on-road bike paths disappear. Sidewalks in residential areas are the home-owners' responsibility, and some are cleared a lot sooner than the major streets! I don't think the Meewasin trail paths get cleared, either. I'm not above riding on certain sidewalks (like on Preston near campus, since it has no driveways). It's not legal, of course, but in winter, with the combination of fewer pedestrians, my reduced speed, and poorer visibility (low sun, darkness, fogged/frosted windshields) it's a lot safer than using the road, and I am just careful and deferential to motorists and pedestrians at intersections. I haven't found a route yet that is impassable on bike, but you do have to have the right attitude; it's about enjoying the fresh air and arriving in one piece, not about getting somewhere quickly or exerting your legal right to the use the road.

    If you don't mind some gratuitous advice, one absolute necessity here, in my opinion, is a pair of studded tires, because of the hard-pack ice ruts that will develop. Even the cheap ones will be a big improvement in traction, with little sacrifice to speed (in fact, you may even be able to go faster, since you'd be able to ride more aggressively). It's a small price to pay to potentially avoid a broken bone, or worse. Also, if you're in a rut, and there's an oncoming car using the same pair of ruts, pull over ASAP. That's a game of chicken you don't want to lose, and there's no gurantee that the motorist has seen you (especially if they did a crappy job clearing their windshield or warming up the defroster). It's not fair, I know, but most of them, even if they do see you, expect that you should yield to them (it's winter, and you're on a bike, afterall...are you insane?), and they don't realize that you can't just jump out of their way; wheel diversions when exiting a deep rut are something they don't understand.

    Did you commute by bike this morning? Not many did, but, to Rhodabike, today was about as bad as it gets temperature-wise: -33C, and with what I was wearing*, I arrived sweating. Usually it's pretty decent, simply because it's nice and cold... no slop, spray, and mush, or slippery water over ice. Not much salt used, either, so it's not hard on your bike or clothing. Dress right, and you won't even notice the cold. It's sunny, too, and I need all the sun I can get in winter... too long and depressing otherwise. Hard-packed snow can be a nice ride, and this year I'm going to try to do some recreational trail riding along the river.

    Wave if you see me out there. I'm the girl (not that you could tell when it's really cold!) with the pogies and dark grey snowboarding helmet on the green Giant Boulder with the reflective tape addiction. Hope you manage to keep commuting through the winter... it's a great way to beat the blahs, improve your bike-handling, and make everyone think you're Superman (or weird, or maybe both). Also, it always makes me happy when I see another winter cyclist.

    *Jeans, cotton shirt, 2 pairs socks, regular shoes, windpants, a typical winter jacket, gloves, neoprene face mask, snowboard helmet with ear flaps, handlebar pogies. Really, nothing too special, and I was too warm for the 15 minutes I was out there. For a longer trip, I'd probably trade the winter coat for a few layers and a windbreaker to be cooler, and get out my neoprene booties, but it's not worth the bother of layering for such a short trip.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for posting! I'm not riding to work right now, we've had really lousy weather here in Calgary and I don't have snow tires. Plus, my temperature limit is about -10. So, I'll happily walk to the train station and back instead.
    I guess whether I ride in winter when I get to Saskatoon will depend on where we end up living. The realtor has sent me about 20 possible houses in my price range, some very close to work - in which case I'd walk - some about 6-8 km away. Compared to my hilly 10k commute in Calgary they don't seem too bad, but I don't think I'd want to be too much further away. Something close to the Harry Bailey pool would be nice as well!
    My office hours will be 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., so I won't be seeing much sunlight until March. The building I'll be working in is on Research Road on the campus though, so maybe I will see you riding by.

  6. #6
    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    Hi Rhodabike, if your bike commute is a consideration, let me make a couple suggestions for where to buy. I can't comment on routes in areas 4 or 5, but here are some of my impressions of bike commuting on the east side/downtown. Anything that gets you within reach of Spadina Cres/Whiteswan will make for an awesome commute with bike paths along the river (on-road geneoursly wide bike lanes (you can ride two-abreast,, they're so wide) or MUP, your choice) and virtually no stops or intersections. That would be my first pick, if the commute was the only consideration... there are even some fun MTB trails paralleling the route, if you want a bit of variety. Lots of good neighbourhoods, schools, and shopping there, too. All the car bridges are bike-friendly (I like Circle best, since it has a wide underpass, but you're able to use the long, mostly deserted sidewalks on any of the bridges. The railway bridge is narrow and has stairs at each end, but it can be biked. There's a matching MUP that winds along the east bank of the river from Cricle to College. Neighbourhoods south and south west of campus (without crossing the river) are all pretty good, and the traffic is typically calm, with wide roads. Taylor is wide enough for most of its length to be a nice east-west artery for bikes.

    Attridge drive, Warman Rd., Idylwyld, 8th St., and College are NOT bike-friendly (fast, multi-lane, narrow). You have to be speedy, high-vis, and super-assertive to ride on those, but there is a nice MUP that follows the train tracks behind the Preston Crossing shopping area, and 115th is a decent alternative to Attridge. For some reason, travelling north/south in this city is typically more bike-friendly than travelling east-west. Maybe it's the river?

    Also be aware that many older neighbourhoods with grid-style streets do not have signed yields and stops. It's 'rule of the right' although far too many people seem to think it's 'I didn't have a stop sign', so you need to be watchful.
    Last edited by hshearer; 12-11-09 at 11:41 AM.

  7. #7
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    Thanks again! Unfortunately most of the houses near Spadina are a little out of my price range, apart from some tiny two-storey jobs in North Park. How's 33rd street for bike commuting? A lot of the half-decent affordable places seem to be in the Westview/Dundonald/Mayfair/Massey Place neighborhoods.

  8. #8
    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    I think 33rd would be a bit of a nightmare, sorry to say... I'm pretty sure there are no bike paths or alternate through routes (lots of parks, the cemetery, and raill lines/industrial area). Since it's the only through route for cars, it's always busy, and I seem to remember that it's two narrow lanes in each direction. Might want to check streetview, though, regarding the bike lanes. I've only been there by car, so I don't remember whether there are bike lanes of if they're any good (probably not). Also, you'd be mingling with some of the least 'bike-tolerant' types of people in that vicinity, if I can be alllowed a bit of sterotyping... Kelsey is nearby, and so there are plenty of obnoxious early twenties guys in trucks and beater cars speeding around (not that they're all a problem, of course, but the only times I'm ever harrassed, it's almost always 'that guy'). I've also heard that the Mayfair neighbourhood near Idylwyld is starting to have a prostitution problem, and that probably also means drugs, gangs, and violence. As a single female bike rider, I'd take a large detour to avoid going through there every day.

    Those are all decent neighbourhoods you mentioned. On the east side, Sutherland/Forest grove is in a similar price range, I think, and a revitalization for Central av was in the news earlier this month (don't remember the details).
    Last edited by hshearer; 12-14-09 at 09:31 AM.

  9. #9
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    Traffic doesn't really faze me, after 28 years of riding through downtown rush hour in Calgary. I've got my eye on two nice little places in Sutherland, which will be within walking distance, assuming they're still available in January.

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    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    Update: MUPs DO get plowed, at least along the river and Preston south of the university.
    Last edited by hshearer; 01-05-10 at 03:26 PM.

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    I have rode a electric assist trek navigator the last 4 winters in north battleford

  12. #12
    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    Interesting... how cold has that electric bike been able to handle? Do you find you don't stay as warm if you use the assist vs. pedaling, or do you still pedal just as hard as you normally would, just go faster for it? Does it tend go fast in all conditions? By that last question, what I mean is that ebikes are capped at 30 km/h, right? However, a bike rider that can do 30km/h (muscle power) would not be able to keep that up in cold weather (due to greater resistance), so is the electric motor still able to do 30 km/h? I think ebikes are a great solution for some people and circumstances, but I've never heard of anyone using one in winter.

  13. #13
    Fir
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    Hello! Great to see Saskatoon input :-)

    This is my third winter riding in Saskatoon and second since we sold our car. I agree with you hshearer about warmth: i could never work up a sweat driving in January the way I can biking. I find the most important clothing is mitts, boots, ear-covering, and when colder, chin etc covering.

    Meewasin trail does get ploughed but this can take time after any blizzard or snow event. They seem to be more serious about it now than even a couple of years ago -emails to your councillor are a good idea to let them know we rely upon these MUTs. We too, bought our house near the trail for commuting purposes and are very glad we did.





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    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    Hi Fir, welcome to the Saskatoon thread! Car-free, eh? Me too, at least right now (husband moved away for work, and I don't need a car the way he thinks he does ).

    One route I DONT recommend... 51st St. I went up there recently with my trailer, assuming I could just use the sidewalks until I hit upon the business I was looking for. I like taking the main streets, so that I can actually find my destination, and also because many of the side streets dead-end (railways, Circle drive, etc). Nope, as far as I can see, there ARE no sidewalks. Also, all the businesses' parking lots are fenced and curbed to prevent travel between lots. I'm not usually much of a sidewalk rider, but in winter with the trailer on a busy street, it generally seems like the safest option. 8th St. with a trailer isn't much better, since the sidewalks disappear in places or don't have ramped curbs. At least I have the option of picking up my trailer, but I always feel bad for people with mobility challenges who don't have cars. I guess they're just out of luck.

    I'm new to the car-free with a trailer thing... do you have any tips for navigating the city with a trailer, especially a loaded one?

  15. #15
    Fir
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    I totally hear you about the north end! I hauled a new toilet from Centennial Plumbing and a garden wagon from Princess Auto along 51st, in both cases I just went into my belligerent mode and took one whole lane. We do have the right to do so. The one time a car followed me like a guardian angel - I think they did it on purpose. If there is no sidewalk and the road is narrow I will take the whole lane. I feel that I have a right to shop anywhere, and a right to live without a car. My wagon is fairly large looking, so most drivers seem to understand. In fact a lot of drivers are hyper-courteous to me, letting me go when they have the right-of-way, etc. I'm always mentally prepared to write down a license number if I need to complain to the police about drivers who need a friendly chat with someone in blue.

    As for 8th street, I tend to go along the alleys or streets parallel to it and then swoop into particular stores from behind where practical. I think 20 minutes in that traffic would like smoking a half a pack of Exports without the filters...

    I think a bike is like a pedestrian uphill, so I tend to take the sidewalk going uphill, and like a car going downhill, so I tend to take the roadway coming down. When coming from the eastside with a heavy load I usually take the Victoria bridge. I wait up by that school for a long gap in traffic (not hard to find there) then I coast down the road and take the whole lane across the bridge. I just got so tired of picking my way across that narrow sidewalk there, from pedestrian to pedestrian!

    But I definitely prefer to be on the MUTs and the quiet side-streets for sure. I go kilometres out of my way to take the Meewasin instead of car-streets. The air is so much healthier that way. When I have our 3 year-old in his Chariot, I stick to the sidewalk on the University bridge. He weighs about 30 lbs and SUVs weigh what, 4,000 lbs or so?

    I plan my routes beforehand using Google Earth if I don't know the neighbourhood. And I'm making notes about what places "go." I mean, I am always looking for car-free places to bike and then trying to link them all together. It really saddens me to open up the paper and see a notice that they are closing another pedestrian walkway between cul-de-sacs in the older suburbs.

    Tall curbs are an issue with a heavy load, hey? I would be inclined to bring a piece of wood to lay alongside the curb to make things easier on the trailer if there were any unavoidable tall curb-jumps on my regular routes - I see some people do that at the end of their driveways. It's definitely an issue to point out to city officials.

    I guess the most important thing I've learned doing this is not to assume that car-drivers hate you. Cars like to know what your plans are. Communicate clearly with them in cases where they don't understand where you are headed. For instance, waiting at a red light, a driver might wait a car-length back for you. But you might not be planning to cross where they are making room for you. If you clearly point out in mime-ese where you are going and wave them on, they are more likely to be courteous to the next bike they see. Just a thought.

    I highly recommend emailling the occasional note to your councillor about good/bad things you experience en route. Lets them know that people really do use the trails and encourages them to think about bikes when planning/budgetting.

    We are near Holiday Park, above the water treatment plant, so the Meewasin is nice and convenient for us. What part of town are you in? Do you use studs?

  16. #16
    Senior Member hshearer's Avatar
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    Those are some good sensible ideas. I think planning my routes better is probably the key to success for me... never assume there will be a sidewalk, and know how to get there 'the back way'! Yeah, I far prefer taking the lane when the situation calls for it, but I'm nervous about doing it with the trailer, since I figure it sort of limits my ability to ditch if I have to (in crowded, but fast, traffic, I'm mostly worried about the car behind the car behind me). Good to hear you've been successful with that... maybe I'll give it a go.

    I actually live right at the top of the hill by the Victoria bridge... I'll say hi if I ever see you waiting there with a trailer! Meewasin trails are also a big favourite of mine, but only in bad weather (they're too crowded otherwise, and I'm too fast in summer ). How fast do you go down Victoria? Any trouble with control and braking on that steep of a hill and with a load?

    Yes, I use studs... went for the Nokian extremes front and back this year on a mountain bike. They've been great, very solid feeling. Last year I managed with only a studded tire on the front of a hybrid bike (700C tires). It was good for improving my bike handling skills, I guess, but I prefer the better control I have this year with my 'tank'. However, I think last year was tougher riding, too, since the ice ruts were deeper... what's your thought on that?
    Last edited by hshearer; 02-24-10 at 03:19 PM.

  17. #17
    Fir
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    it was quite simple and made all the difference

    Yeah Meewasin slow in summer. Not as much the other bikes for me, but the pedestrians - oof! I think bikes are easier to pass or something. I called the MVA (sp?) a couple of years ago to complain about the extended closure along riverlanding and also asked if they had any plans to make separate bikeways, like they have on the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver. The manager I talked to said they were just starting to think about that. They certainly should do it in some busy spots. Hard to believe they didn't think of it when they were planning all that $80 million (?) Riverfront... Well they are planning Victoria park now, so it is our chance to remind them...

    Railways are for trains. Motorways are for cars. Walkways are for walkers. And... there's one thing missing here...

    Definitely say hi if you see me :-) My waggon is quite distinctive with large red reflectors at the top corners at the back. Today is grocery day and one more week where i say 'ok, this is the last week with the old waggon for sure' then another week and still no new trailer finished yet :-) . I will put a photo of the new one when it hits the road. Here is a closer picture of my current waggon: http://saskatoontrail.org/linkableim...ryday-0001.JPG Did you see the photo I put on your 'icecycle' thread?

    200 riders showed up for 'ice-cycle'

    Speed on Victoria depends on the load size and how my brakes are. Last time I had my wife's spare bike and the brakes are terrible, so I kept it slow until I could see the road right onto the bridge (there's a bit of a dogleg there) then I let it go at full accelleration and part way across the bridge start pedalling. Then at the end of the bridge i signal left and hit the sidewalk and down to the riverside. A surprising number of times there is no car behind me by the other end of the bridge, but it's no big deal if there is. That is not a freeway and I'm moving reasonably along. I took a bandsaw across there last summer. At the time you think it's some kind of extreme load, then get home and weigh it and realize that it's actually lighter than many of my grocery loads

    By the way, I had to modify my trailer to be stable on hills like that at speed. It had a horrible speed wobble before that. I will have to take a photo of what I did, it was quite simple and made all the difference. And it helped a lot with accellerating with a load, especially up a hill. The hitch tongue used to flex with every leg-push something awful. My next trailer will hitch directly behind the rear wheel instead of having that long pipe/hitch to the rear axle.

    You definitely have to realize you have a lot of mass and cannot, absolutely cannot stop quickly once you have some momentum. I don't know what I'd do if something went really bad at that speed with a heavy waggon. Hope I'd be able to jump aside quick and let the whole thing go by

    Basically if a bike wheel was to lock up, that would be worst, because the trailer would be trying to come visit us. If a trailer wheel locked up, it would just skid and try to put you over the handlebars - probably wouldn't be that big of a deal. Worst of all is -as usual- getting intimate with a car somehow. That is why I don't like cars sharing a small lane with me. It's best to have 6 feet or so of empty pavement on either side of you.

    Yes, I think last year was heavier going than this. More snow I think and they are clearing better this year. Sidestreets and especially Meewasin ploughing improved around last January - hope that's permanent. Riverlanding being open helps a lot too. Haha, I used to go and shovel the Meewasin myself. No time this year though, and less need.

    Ok, I have a bike and waggon all ready for me, loitering and getting bored out there... yikes, things might get mushy today - I better dash.

  18. #18
    Custom User Title cowtown_cowboy's Avatar
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    I have lived for 18 years in Calgary, but used to cycle to uni. for years in Saskatoon. I say just go for it - it's great. Watch out for the redneck A-holes though. I got splashed on purpose once from some punk in a pick up. I threw him the finger, to which he promptly jumps out of his truck going "you want t get punch the F out?"
    *sigh* got to love the prairies. Stick to the side streets and you'll be fine.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Sir Lunch-a-lot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hshearer View Post
    I think 33rd would be a bit of a nightmare, sorry to say... I'm pretty sure there are no bike paths or alternate through routes (lots of parks, the cemetery, and raill lines/industrial area).
    In my experience, 33rd isn't horrible. During rush hour it can be pretty crazy (crazy enough that I can actually keep up with the flow of traffic in some sections). Going westbound from Spadina, there are 2 lanes, one of which will sometimes hold parked cars. Thus, cars have to make for the center lane of traffic anyway. So, I have been finding that the outside lanes make for pretty descent riding. Although, when the snow was melting and getting all icy, it wasn't the best.

    From Spadina to Ave P (possible further), there is a route that you can travel if you are willing to cross a horde of tracks at one point. Take one of the residential streets to King St (I think I took Duke Ave or something). King Street is pretty good except for one intersection it crosses that is pretty busy. That can be a bit of a nightmare trying to cross. A few blocks after that you come to a dead end by this bus place. Cross the tracks there (warning: based on my friends experience with this route, there can be a lot of train-cars here, and occasional train traffic that can hold you up. You can climb over the hitch of the train cars, but if you have a trailer or a heavy bike setup, this would be a nuisance if not downright dangerous. I don't take this route anymore because I am worried that I could get into trouble for trespassing or something). After you cross the tracks, you are on 29th street. This will cross Idylwyld, and keep going (I think it actually goes for a while past Ave-P). There is some traffic, but I think there is also a bit of a shoulder/parking area you can pull onto to let traffic by (less of an issue in summer, I think, as there is not as much snow and ice making ruts). On the other hand, I think I would prefer 33rd simply because I have a full lane that is less used along parts.
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    I guess a new thread should be started on Spring Cycling in Saskatoon.
    When do those of you that use studded tires take them off? I've still got mine but they seem a bit silly now given that there isn't any ice left on my route (115th ave-Rutherford Cres - m.u.p. to Preston). Is that a bit premature? I'm sure there will be spring snow storms but is there likely to be any more accumulation?

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    Senior Member Sir Lunch-a-lot's Avatar
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    I took 'em off ass soon as the roads were clear enough for it. A bit premature, maybe. But the way I was figuring it, if I am going to be riding most days, I ought to make it as easy on myself as possible.
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    Fir
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    steering and braking

    I took my studs off more than a month ago I think. After they graded everything and the ruts were knocked right down. I just tried to do steering and braking when I was on bare ground. I like to think they will stay sharper if they mostly see ice and snow. My summers are quieter and take less effort. Having said that I avoid car-places when slippery.

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    bright and crisp

    Just throwing the studs on my bike and it reminded me of this thread :-) Hope everyone is still rolling and having fun. Also hope we don't get too much of this thaw - give me bright and crisp and icy over melting slop any day :-)
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    Senior Member Sir Lunch-a-lot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fir View Post
    Just throwing the studs on my bike and it reminded me of this thread :-) Hope everyone is still rolling and having fun. Also hope we don't get too much of this thaw - give me bright and crisp and icy over melting slop any day :-)
    Yeah, especially when it melts and freezes again making for really slick roads... or really rough roads in residential areas. I'm hoping to get my studs on tonight.
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    I put my studs on last weekend, which was a learning experience. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I've never had a flat on the back wheel, as I'm new to internal gears and didn't know how to get the shifter cable off without two or three readings of the instruction sheet.
    Well, I've had plenty of practice now.
    First removal: got the tire on backwards. Apparently the tread has to go a certain direction, as indicated by an arrow on the sidewall.
    Second removal: Got the tire on correctly but forgot to put the chain back on the cog. Then discovered the fender had to come off as there was no room with the 40c tire.
    Third removal: Went back into the house to put on a helmet and jacket to test drive. Heard a loud bang from the garage. Must have pinched the tube, although I carefully rolled the tire back and forth partially full to release any pinches before full inflation.
    Fourth removal: Finally got it all together. I think I could get a Shimano Alfine wheel off in my sleep now.
    Then, of course, the roads dried up. Still the odd patch of ice on Tuesday morning, though. I rode to the Harry Bailey for a swim before work and was only five minute slower than with the smoother tires. Didn't get to ride again this week for various reasons, but I'm hoping to do a couple of rides this weekend before more precipitation comes.

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