Dealing with the slippery issue of icy roads

Winter arrived in full force late Dec. 8.

It seemed that it would blow through Willmar even sooner than it did so I wimped out and cancelled a trip to the Twin Cities.

So I needlessly blew the chance to spend an afternoon with our daughter, see the terracotta soldiers at the Minneapolis Art Institute and check out the Winter Bike Expo.

If I had just taken off early that morning, we would have been safely back home well before the weather turned bad that evening.

Rick Norsten shows off the studded tires he has in stock.

A week later it rained and snowed; keeping with a trend that seems to have held for months — if there’s going to be bad weather, it will happen on a weekend.

Since then, it’s been only once or twice that the daytime high temperature has approached or risen above freezing leaving plenty of ice on streets.

Since the first storm blew through the area, I’ve had one opportunity to ride outside, the day before the second storm.

Wanting to be ready to ride when the weather permitted, I recently visited the local bike shop, Rick’s Cycling, to talk to owner Rick Norsten about studded tires.

Rick showed me some homemade studded tires made with conventional tires and studs from car tires.

He put several dozen studs on his front tire and about half as many on his rear tire because it was so much work.

He’d run the studs all the way through the tire, which meant that the base of each stud would rub against the inner tube causing a potential puncture hazard.

Punctures by the studs were prevented by inserting an additional layer of lining between the tube and tire, which added to the weight of the tire.

By comparison, the current factory-made studded tires only require installation like any other tire and some break-in time on iceless pavement, Rick said.

While some companies still make studs of steel, many tires have carbide studs.

Carbide extends the life of the studs, Rick said.

He has tires in stock that have 160 carbide studs each – several times what he installed on his tires by hand. Some mountain bike tires might contain as many as 300 studs.

Several winters ago, Rick said, he put a pair of studded tires on a woman’s bike. She didn’t bother to change them for regular tires when the snow melted and he didn’t see her bike for a couple years.

Rick said he was surprised when he saw those studded tires were still on her bike.

But it didn’t seem to be a problem, he added.

The tires were nearly like new.

Well, I left the store with a pair of studded tires, but haven’t had the time yet to install them on my bike.

Once I do, I’ll post a report.

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