This morning's ride was quite difficult since there was quite a lot of what I've heard some people call "shortbread" snow on all but the busiest streets. "Shortbread" seems pretty apt to me... it is kind of soft and squishy and sticky but not at all wet. Part of the fun of riding in winter, at least for me, is rising to the challenges and learning how to ride better in somewhat ugly conditions, so overall this morning's commute was great.
I wanted to write about this shortbread kind of snow that sticks easily in between the knobs on your tires and on just about anything else it hits. This kind of snow may be one of the best arguments for thinner tires in winter since they would be less likely to get gummed up. I currently use "standard" 1.9 inch MTB tires. They are Schwalbe Snow Studs and they have been fine for several years. The knobs have worn down enough now that sticky snow represents more of a problem than it used to. This morning a couple of things occurred to me that I wanted to mention.
If you have to stop for some reason while riding in the sticky stuff, your tire treads may be full of snow. Resuming riding can be tough, because you need some speed for centrifugal force to throw that sticky snow away and give you some grip back. If you can find a bare spot, even on the wrong side of the road, go to it if it is safe to do so. The small amount of speed it will offer may well clear your tires so they can better handle the next serving of shortbread.
Speaking of throwing snow out of your treads, fenders that are a real boon in the wet can be a real curse in the shortbread. Since my winter ride is a snow-specific Mutant, the fenders are set up in a way that might look wrong, but they work just right in my opinion.
I originally attached the fender in this funky way because it wouldn't work well with the disc brakes. I think something snapped off of it at one point too and that's when I zip tied that other stay to the fork. As a result, the fender shakes and rattles around quite a bit. Some might find that highly annoying, but the up side is that snow can't stick to it for long!
One down side to this shorty fender setup is that it doesn't really protect the bike from the usual upward spray of the rear tire very well. I've always meant to add a bit of metal or something to it to push it back further while still allowing me to attach it to the rear bridge. Thankfully the 2nd best tub in town is there to block any spray until I get around to it.
If the colour of the pics is puzzling you, it is the result of some amber/pink lighting where I work. I didn't sepia tone pictures of my dirty mutant. That would be weird.
I know that designing a bike for such specific conditions is overkill for most people. I also know that many people would prefer a nice looking, attractive bicycle rather than this thing. The last thing I know is that this bike throws off the shortbread like nobody's business and never suffers from buildup under the fenders. Yeeeehawww!
Thanks for reading! It feels good to write about cycling again, almost as good as cycling itself. Almost. Yer Pal,
R A N T W I C K