Syv Fjell Sykkel

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." — H.G. Wells

Monday, February 14, 2011

Punt your Pigs!

”Piggdekk”, the Norwegian word for studded tires and the source of countless Petter Solberg jokes. My daily bicycle commute along the majestic Nordås waters is likely one of the most pleasant this fine city has to offer. Despite my ramblings on about how bicycle infrastructure is a gaping weak point in Bergen town, this stretch offers efficient travel with few pedestrians, few crossing roadways, adequate width and recent improvements in the form of cement barriers between the pathway and roadway to prevent streams fowl automobile fluid infested water from coating our pavement (or entering the pristine waters of Nordås for that matter).
It is along this thoroughfare that a majority of the cities few diehard, year round Gore-Tex clad two wheeled warriors pass each day to and from their rural themed dwellings in the citys perimeter to central places of work. They are their own definition of bicycle culture. Overly practical and alien to a seamless cityscape their bright yellow oversized capes of breathable water repellence flap rhythmically in winter winds and summer breezes alike. They are the definition of the office tough guy, feeding of the empowerment of being a pedaling minority. A breed conceived into an unchecked world of bicycle riding culture. A self defined subculture so practically unpractical you can hear them coming miles away. Their unmistakable hum of mechanical ignorance and misunderstanding of the machine they so eagerly stride, their studded tires.
Studded tires in Norway run in the range of 1000 kroners a pair. Studded tires in Bergen are burning pavement and pocketbooks like a Prius burns logic. We live in a coastal climate where we are fortunate to enjoy year round cycling opportunities. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing for more than a couple of days at a time in the dead of winter and road salt is used with such vigor on our streets that simply brushing your face over your hot dinner after even a short commute can bring out delight in the most monotonous dish. Studded tires are for ice and hard packed snow, none of which occur for more than a few meters at a time for an unfortunate few. Slippery surfaces caused by frost or wet pavement are not effectively dealt with by adding metal spikes to hard rubber tires. Lower tire pressures and soft rubber are on the other hand your weapons in safe speed during the winter months. Grinding your expensive studded tires away on bare pavement while at the same time grinding away any enjoyment of an effortless and quiet commuting experience is not conducive to sticking to your bike through thick and thin. My personal choice is to forgo studs all together and instead opt for aforementioned tire characteristics along with an upright approach to sharp corners and a light finger on the brakes. Relax, look ahead and let your bike interact in a rider controlled fashion with the surface you are traveling on. Dont rely on overpriced equipment to do the riding for you, fill you with false self confident and a dread of hours listening to the buzz and feeling the massive resistance of a misplaced set of studs. Studded tires are not optimal for use on bare pavement and are likely more dangerous cornering on asphalt as they offer very poor grip on hard surfaces. If your commute does in fact warrant studs for a portion of the journey, consider using only studs up front and either swap out the tire or keep and extra wheel with appropriate rubber for 99% of typical Bergen riding conditions. My personal thought on inappropriate studded tire use is that you are either too lazy to swap tires or wheels, ignorant to the incredible discomfort and mechanical disadvantage or afraid to work on your bike yourself.
If you are apprehensive about changing tires check out this helpful video to put an end to your studded enslavement.
You could make your own...
Start rolling, stay efficient and keep riding!

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