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Goin' Snowbile 

Machine screws, slick tires and fresh power

I remember it all so clearly now ... (fade to fuzzy flashback visual) ... James Bond is flying down the Swiss Alps. He tucks through the trees as the evil Aryan bad guys attack him on their spike-tired motorcycles. It looked all so intense -- spikes, bad guys and ungroomed snow.

What stuck with me these many years later wasn't the stunning Bond Girls, but those wild bikes with the evil tires. I remember those spikes. Somehow they were dangerously cool. Salida may not be the Alps, and the Bond Girls are long overdue, but I can still get the subtle thrill of doing something I wasn't supposed to do. I'm not nasty or evil or Aryan, but I can be bad.

Living in a small town where firing up the gas-hog with every transportational whim is socially and rationally unacceptable gives one many fair reasons to ride. Just tooling around town is good for both the body and the head. So we ride. Even in the nastiest of winters, locals ride their bikes.

Riding my '68 Schwinn Camelback on three to six inches of dry squeaky snow is a fun unique dance. I love the crunch of freshies under my tires and boots, the smell of new snow, and the way light bounces and glows off the old Victorian buildings in town as I follow my tracks back home through fat snowflakes lit only by the corner street lamp and warmed by a few pints. It's a thick, damp surreal world. A dense place where everything's muted and muffled. It's part of the reason we live here. We bought into the scenic postcard thing. Occasionally, we get to live in the postcard world.


Get a grip -- the basics of being a stud(er)

My friend Damian is the real deal. He's been riding around Salida for several winters as he commutes from his house in Smeltertown to the brewpub where he's the head brewer.

"I pull up to a stop leaving a six-foot scrape and go, 'Yea, I can stop.' You get a feeling of superiority with motorists sitting there [during a blizzard] thinking 'this guy is nuts.'"

Damian's technique is a combination of careful riding -- "You can't lean much. Any further than the grip of your studs, it's whoops and you're down" -- and the aforementioned studs. They are simple to install and maintain.

Damian suggests you "use the shittiest tires you've got. Whatever tread they do or don't have won't matter once the studs are on." Use an awl to poke, from the inside out, a hole to push the machine screw through. Offset your studs, alternating the offset every other stud. Start by putting in studs opposite each other, 180 degrees apart. Then keep splitting the difference until you have around 16 studs. Put a washer on the inside of the tire with a lockwasher and nut on the outside. Keep the nuts tight. You need to lower the tube's pressure a bit. With weight on, keep two studs touching at the same time.

One occasional problem with running at low pressure is that the tube slips and the stem will go off angle. Just reduce the pressure, adjust the tube and refill. Check it every other week or so. Line the inside of the studded tire with an old tube with the valve cut out. This will reduce flats--everyone's best buddy on a cold windy night.

Once the studs are in place, keep these ice-riding basics in mind. If you don't trust your studs, don't ride. Remember that the nuts attached to the machine screws are part of the studding. Learn to use them. Riding ice is a combination of velocity and steering control. It's better to have less velocity and more steering. The other way around can be quite scary. Loosen up. Interact with the conditions instead of reacting. Overreacting can hurt. Cornering should be made carefully with as little lean as possible. Too much lean and contact with the ice is imminent. If your studs aren't grabbing the ice, you're going down. Always put your feet down while stopping. Just don't put too much weight on them or you could slip. Crashing when not moving has absolutely zero cool factor.

That's it. A helmet (and full body armor) are good ideas. And, the next time the wimps are singing "Let it Snow, Let It Snow" and wanting to stay inside, pity them.

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