In the saddle: Burnin’ rubber |

In the saddle: Burnin’ rubber

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – My friendly neighborhood bicycle dealer knows by now that I’m into bargain shopping. So when it was time for new tires (actually, long past time, as my old ones were bursting tumor-like out from the sides), Bikeman said he’d pull out some quasi-unused tires that he couldn’t quite sell as new. When I picked up the bike, he pointed out that I was now sporting, for less than half-price, some sweet new rubber – the same tires that were on the $8,000 ride he was selling.

As I prepared to mount my bike, he added, very nonchalantly, “They’re fast. Real fast. Racing tires. You’ll be trading a little bit of traction for speed.”

Now I’ve always considered myself more a traction guy than a speed guy. Sure, I like going fast … but what I really like is staying upright, my tires – not my ass, elbows and knees – making contact with the pavement. Bikeman never strikes me as the most cautious guy, so I questioned the guy who had actually put my tires on: Just how fast were these? “Depends how fast you pedal,” he shot back. I was impressed with the quick wit, less impressed with the lack of usable information his response provided. Guess I’d need to do my own empirical research.

It took about three minutes and one modest-sized hill to get my answer: Holy smokes! Had they installed discount jet engines on my bike as well? Or maybe my old tires were that worn? Good thing I don’t regularly grease my chain and gears. Tootling around town, I felt like Dash from “The Incredibles” – zip, zap, zoop, I’m there. I glanced down at my legs, half-expecting that I had sprouted Lance Armstrong-like calves.

Then I came back down to earth (not physically, thanks be). I thought about the traction I was sacrificing: Extra speed + diminished traction = potential pain. This is a different experience of biking. Turns need to be considered ahead of time (to say nothing of pedestrians); I might have to spring for those brake pads that the bike guys said should be OK through August.

I figure to adapt to this new dimension of biking by summer’s end. But I do wonder: What effect will snow, ice and winter have on traction?

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