Mind over Matter: Stuff I cared about at the time

Keep the Rubber Side Down

This autumn, I’ve had three good friends suffer falls and injuries from their bike slipping on ice. Probably a decade ago, I had a similar incident, on the Minuteman Bike Trail, where I was turning to go around the gates they had setup at the time, and my front wheel slipped right out from under me. My shoulder went directly into the bollard. I wasn’t going fast at the time, but it hurt like heck, and I could barely move my arm. I limped home on the bike from there, and wondered whether I’d broken anything, but nothing seemed broken. After a couple of days, I could move my arm again reasonably.

Susan and I share one car, which generally means that if one person has the car, the other is left with a bike. (Or walking, or public transit, all of which are reasonable options around here, thankfully). Not wanting to relive my previous experience, with bones a decade more brittle, and after seeing so many other experienced cyclists go down, I decided to set myself up with a second set of wheels, with studded tires.

I first spent some time researching what I had on my existing back wheel for sprockets, and started looking for used wheels on eBay and Craigslist, but it’s a little complicated and hard to be 100% certain that everything would work together. So in the end, I opted for new wheels. I was super excited when they came, but when I opened the boxes, I discovered that I had ordered wheels with nutted axles instead of quick release. Thankfully, even though it was my mistake, the shop allowed me to return them, and refunded me, and I ordered the proper wheels.

So when the new order arrived, I thought I had everything I needed: wheels, tires, tubes, cassette. But I didn’t have rim tape. So I had to go to the local bike shop for that. The owner there was nice enough to install it on the one wheel that I brought, and sent me home with a second piece for the other wheel. And then the tubes. The tubes I bought had “normal” length stems, but the rims are slightly aero, so the stems are barely long enough — really hard to get the pump to grab on. Sigh. But now I have a set of winter wheels, and hopefully that greatly reduces the chance of slipping and tumbling.

It would of course have been possible to just replace the tires on the existing rims, at much lower cost. The tires themselves are not particularly inexpensive, so this was a pretty costly endeavor — about $400 when you add it all up. I just doubted my ability to follow through and actually swap tires twice a year. Swapping wheels seems a lot more likely.