Friday January 22nd 2021 – Normally in winter I ride studded tyres. I do so because they’re bombproof and hold me upright even on black, sheet ice. They are noisy and hard to ride, but always my winter weapon of choice.
This year I read about other, studless winter tyres: Continental Top Contact 2 Winter.
Now I’ve not had a great experience of Continental tyres before now – Gatorskins were dire, although Continental’s inner tubes are up there with the best. So I tried this complex-treaded soft rubber commuting tyre with some trepidation.
I needn’t have worried: They are stunning. Not as good on black ice, but they are extraordinarily grippy. They have dealt with snow, ice, slippery mud and good old fashioned wet leaves. The grip is incredible.I am seriously impressed.
What’s more they’re pretty fast and silent too.
I could get used to these. Well done, Continental. Well done.
Wednesday December 30th 2020 – I was less keen to ride far today – overnight the partially thawing snow had frozen solid, formed hard pack-ice and I needed to gently find out how the tyres I’m currently using – Continental Top Contact II Winter – would cope.
I needn’t have worried. Not as good as studs, but perfectly acceptable without the noise and rolling resistance. A run up the canal and back through Clayhanger after night fell was enough to find out what I needed.
I think I can happily commute on these now.
The canal is partially frozen – about a IC2 on the Dra Marland canal scale.
Be nice if we had a real snowfall, I think. We’re due a really cold winter.
Friday November 21st 2020 – One here for Bob’s big book of bizarre mechanical failures – specifically the ‘This is not my circus, and those are most definitely not my monkeys’ chapter.
This is not my bike. I was asked by an old family friend to change their tyres, as they didn’t feel comfortable to do so themselves. ‘No problem!’ I assured them as they wheeled the bike into the garage.
First step, remove rear wheel and let air out of the old tyre. Simple enough. Since the tubes would be too big for the new tyres, I removed the valve for a full deflation – and the telltale green ooze of tyre sealant – slime brand – bubbled out.
This would be no problem, usually, except the local bike shop who originally fitted these tyres made a mistake.
What I found was only half of the tyre went down – the other half opposite the valve state inflated. That I was astounded and somewhat bemused is an understatement.
Never, ever had seen that before, and it took me a few minutes to work out – with the help of a mate by text – to diagnose that the tube had been twisted when fitted, under inflation the pressure had compressed the two twists, and the sealant blocked them creating an effective seal.
Great. But how do you release the trapped air?
I didn’t want to try puncturing it. Friend suggested a sharp tap with a blunt, soft object on the inflated section, or bouncing it off the floor. I grabbed an offcut of 2×2 and rapped the tire sharply.
There was a loud bang, and a volcanic ejaculation of green sealant.
Everywhere.It went everywhere. It’s just possible there’s an object in the workshop that doesn’t have green slime on it somewhere, but as yet I’ve not found one. A total mess. I was dripping.
The areas where the tube had twisted had clearly worn tissue-thin against the tyre, and the tap with the wood was the straw that broke it’s back.There was no patching THAT tube.
I have never seen this before, and probably never will do again, but it was a messy, if perplexing adventure.
That was a blowout on the road waiting to happen, and the bike shop deserve a slap.
Fixing other people’s bikes is never as simple as you think…
January 20th – One of the few hard frosts of the season so far greeted me as I left on my bike for work.
I was very, very glad on the cycleways of Telford particularly for the studded winter tyres: Surefooted and grippy as ever. There was a lot of black ice, and I never once felt unstable.
Sadly what did cause me problems was my back brake losing all bite: For some reason my pads chose this morning to wear completely out to the point at which they were just about useless. The crossover point between ‘These are OK’ and ‘Where’s my stopping power gone?’ was one braking action on a downhill.
The one set of conditions when you really need to leave the front brake alone and only use the back… Oh dear.
November 22nd – First really cold morning of the year I think, with lurking black ice and hedgerows and verges adorned with a hoar frost. It was the kind of penetrating cold that hurts your throat and forehead, and even though I was wrapped up, on the morning trail, towpaths and cycleways the -2.5 degree temperatures were still a little raw for me.
Every year it takes time to re-adjust.
I was certainly glad of the ice tyres this morning.
365daysofbiking Ladies, please:
October 8th – This is a post that will hopefully confine us to a mild winter.
After suffering a spill in November last year on ice while riding summer tyres, I’m taking no chances this year and have the ice studs on now as we’ve already had a couple of heavy frosts, and I’m, getting too old for the falling off lark.
My rubber of choice for the cold months is Schwalbe Active Winter 30mm which has a good tread and several hundred tungsten carbide studs that bite into black ice and keep me upright.
They are a little noisy, and although not slow, not the nippiest tyres in the world.
Now I’ve fitted them, expect it to be warm throughout the winter…
December 18th – Off to Telford again, and caught out by a sharp frost, I nearly lost the bike on black ice, having chosen the one bike without ice tyres as I thought it was too warm.
I’d set out at dawn, and in Brownhills, it wa misty and warm. Unusually, as I got to Mill Green, it was cold, clear and frosty. This was unusual, as normally the reverse is true. Turning into Mill Lane I realised ice was a problem and about 100 yards on I did a series of shimmies that would have please Torville and Dean.
Luckily, I had no following vehicles, and relaxed, I let the bike go where it wanted and gradually let the velocity drain away, before walking back up the lane to the main road.
A close shave, which meant I missed my train; but it did give me chance to catch an icy dawn over Hill Hook.
December 4th – Although it suddenly got warmer over the weekend, I’ve taken the plunge (late this year) and fitted ice tyres to a couple of my bikes as I do every winter.
Slightly fatter than my normal road tyre of choice at 35mm, these have a pronounced tread more akin to a cross tyre, with 4 radial bands of carbide-tipped spikes that bite into ice and packed snow.
Last week was cold, but mercifully, due to the dry spell, not too icy, but a close shave with a frozen puddle concentrated my mind. Although noisy and draggy, these tyres won’t slip easily on ice and wash down slime and will make me feel more secure on those dark, icy commutes.
If you’re out on the roads in a cold spell, here are my tips for safe cycling, even if you don’t have winter tyres…
Stick to main routes where possible. Avoid backlanes and canal towpaths.
Ride on the road, out of the gutter where standing water freezes.
Take it steady, and ease off on the speed – particularly downhill.
Use your momentum and judge it – avoid braking where possible.
Turn gently without braking.
Use your back brake rather than your front, and pulse it don’t clamp it on. Just light touches.
Move with the bike. Go with it if it slides, don’t fight it.
If you lose the back, you can pull out of it with care. Lose the front and you’re gone. Bear that in mind in a slide.
Give other roadusers more space, and consider the consequences if they slide.
Let a little air out of your tyres to increase contact area.
Take it easy, folks.
October 7th – Time for a seasonal warning, I guess. Along the canal from Anchor Bridge to around Wharf Lane Bridge, the hedge flail has been out and the towpath is covered in cut foliage debris and thorns from the hawthorn that constitutes the hedge here. This thorns are just lying, waiting to be picked up in soft tyres where they’ll quickly cause a period of deflation.
If your rubber is a bit thin, best avoid this route for a couple of weeks until the thorny problem has passed.
March 14th – My experiment with Specialized Armadillo tyres is now over.
I will not be buying another set.
On my favourite steed, I have tyre clearance issues with the mudguards, so wanting to return to the softer, more forgiving ride of a 28mm tyre over the usual 25s, last September when tyre replacement was needed, I got a pair of Specialised Armadillo tyres I’d heard were very good – apparently nearly as resilient as Martathon Plus which I normally use, at a lower profile.
People ho liked them recommended them with an almost religious zeal.
My initial feeling was that the tyre were not as tough, but they bedded in and proved very puncture resistant, which surprised me. My issue was that for a tyre described as ‘all condition’ their grip was sketchy at best in even moderate rain and useless on even slight ice, as two offs and various skids in the winter had proven.
The compound seemed very hard and they tyres were noisy when rolling.
Leaving work this evening, I flatted on the rear. examination of the tyre revealed the surface had totally delaminated from the inner lining, and was shredding. Within five months.
I’ve popped Schwalbe Marathon Plus 28mm back on. The quiet and feel is heavenly. Stick with what you know, folks…