Tradition has it that it rarely ever snows in Seattle, the first frost happens after Thanksgiving, and temperatures rarely drop below freezing. All of these rules were broken yesterday. Blizzard-like conditions hit the Puget Sound area late Monday (11/23/10) with snowfall of 3-5 inches, very windy conditions with gusts of 40-55 mph, and temps in the lower 20s F.
Tuesday morning was spectacular. Blue skies and 23F. The streets were icy but most of the drivers stayed off the roads, having been traumatized by Monday evening’s commute which took people up to 6 hours due to icy roads, abandoned cars, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Bummer!
A couple years ago I bought a pair of nearly new studded snow tires via Craigslist. Today was my first opportunity to try them out, and simultaneously test some of my new winter cycling gear. I’m hoping to put together a winter cycling kit and hope these reviews and recommendations will also work for you.
Kenda Klondike Studded Snow Tires
I’m riding their Skinny Road Bike Tires (700 x 35) with fenders. Each tire has 100 carbide tipped studs. Available in 700×35 or 700×40. My cyclocross bike has frame clearance that can accommodate these tires.
I was skeptical about how well snow tires would perform. I started out cautiously, not so much afraid of falling as about whether or not I would be able to get up. As the day progressed I became more experienced on a wide range of conditions, from compact snow to glazed ice. The tires performed remarkably well under all conditions. Occasionally, I’d channel into a rut created by another cyclist. I never saw another cyclist during my 25 mile ride, so these may have been left over from the previous night’s commute.
My original plan was to see if I could safely and comfortably ride from my house down to Alki Beach, about 3 miles. Although the entirety of the bike trail was icy snow and snowy ice, I felt reasonably safe, in control, and became more confident as the ride progressed. I rode across the low bridge and along East Marginal Way to the International District where I had a wonderful bowl of soup at my favorite restaurant, Szechuan Noodle Bowl.
A mountain bike would likely be a better setup, but I don’t yet own one. My cyclocross bike worked great. The bike tracked well, with only occasional and minor fishtailing. I avoided making sudden turns. Traction was excellent while climbing a very icy steep hill on my way home. Before heading out I switched out my clipless pedals for a pair of old flat pedals. This allowed me to wear boots and not worry about being able to unclip should I start to fall.
A pair of studded snow tires is a great thing for the cyclist who likes to get out in all weather as long as your frame can accommodate the 35mm tire width.
Ibex El Fito Tight
Until not too long ago I was Art Director at a company called Filson (outdoor clothing & gear since 1897). It’s there that I got to know and love wool. Not the itchy & scratchy old-fashioned wool, but soft super-fine Merino Wool. Not only did I learn to appreciate wool, but I’m the guy that sold lots of it to customers through the web and email. There’s no man-made fibre that compares to wool for it’s ability to keep you warm without getting clammy.
Since last week, I’ve ridden nearly 100 miles in the full length Ibex El Fito Tights, in temperatures ranging from 50F down to 23F, plus a windchill factor that made it seem like 8F. Ibex El Fito Tights are magnificent. Seriously. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re comfortable down to 0F. No cold spots. 100% breathable. Like pajamas. I put them on at about 10 AM, wore them all day in arctic conditions and am still wearing them while sitting indoors writing at 10 PM. I’m looking forward to bike camping this winter and expect I’ll be sleeping in them.
Made in USA from 92% New Zealand Merino wool, 6% nylon, 2% lycra on body; 87% Polyester/ 13% Spandex on seat and back legs. Climawool lite ® softshell knee front. I haven’t tested them in rain yet, but wool tends to shed light rain, keeps you warm even when wet, and dries quickly.
Ibex makes a full length tight, 3/4 length knicker, 3/4 length bib, and has a mix of men’s, women’s, and unisex styles. They seem committed to providing an expanding line of cycling gear for men and women that includes jerseys, arm warmers, leg warmers, tops, and bottoms.
At $160 list the El Fito Tight isn’t cheap. It’s a beautifully designed and crafted essential piece of gear that would make a great gift for any bike geek.
Below is a video someone made during the 11/22/10 Seattle snowstorm, while watching traffic from their front porch.