The Itch.

The snow was almost gone in the Anchorage bowl. We just toppled a record of snowless days that has stood for over 50 years, and warmer temperatures had reduced what was there to patches of ice. I keep reading reports from fat bikers referring to this trail or that train as "good", but we're obviously operating on a sliding scale. It's mid-February, and it looks like it's early April.

For a skier like me, it leads me to occasionally question my life choices. For an unrepentant roadie like me, this isn't horrible. Each inch of pavement that is revealed is another possibility, and sooner or later those possibilities will add up to a reality. I'll be back on the road.

In the near term, those possibilities would require studded tires. That is, if I want to stay upright and avoid breaking a collarbone or some other structural part of my anatomy.

This is where the itching starts.

Since I sold my 'cross bike to save my body from the abuses that discipline inflicted, I don't have a bike that will fit the barely-used studded tires I have in my garage.

Maybe a gravel-grinder.

All of the parts are there in the garage. All I would need is a frameset.

I started searching the internet for a bike and went round and round. Frame materials, colors (anything but white), axle standards, bottom bracket standards, weight, geometry...

As I worked my magic on the interwebs, I kept coming back to one undeniable point-

Those studded tires were barely used.

As in, even when I owned a bike that could fit them, they didn't see much use. My 'cross bike, which was supposed to act as a foul-weather bike, was abandoned as soon as I could safely navigate the roads on skinny tires. The bike the tires were originally purchased for spent far more time in the garage than any other bike- including the TT bike. That's saying something.

The studded tires are heavy, and ride like iron. While they do provide adequate traction on ice, they do little to mute the bumps you encounter in such conditions. They beat you up.

Then I reflected on the fact that I don't particularly like riding on icy roads. I don't mind the cold. I've spent my share of days out in it. With a road-oriented bike, it's different (for me). The shoulders are narrowed by plowed snow, ice, and debris. The bike paths are bumpier than anything in Paris-Roubaix, to the point your arms go numb and itchy within the first mile. Dealing with already unpredictable drivers means your head is constantly on a swivel and an abundance of caution is needed at every intersection, driveway, hill, turn... It makes me excessively tense, and I'm not usually affected like that riding on the roads.

So, if I wouldn't use it much during the icy seasons, what would I use it for? The obvious thought would be for gravel grinders. It just so happens that we have a couple in the area, one of which I help facilitate. However, gravel grinders involve a lot of dust, and I wear hard contact lenses. A couple granules can feel like railroad spikes to the eyes, so that option is DOA.

Cyclocross? Like I said, I can't afford the physical damage anymore.

Thus, this project dies a quiet death before it had a chance to put me further in debt.

Eventually the roads will clear. I'll be out there on a road bike, coughing up a lung as I try to do intervals in the chilly air. Until then, I'll be in the garage, spinning in place and surrounded by half finished or outright neglected projects. It's better that some die in the planning phases, because I'm running out of room.

I'll scratch the itch, but that doesn't mean I have to make it worse.

I awoke Sunday morning to a light dusting of snow instead of the "up to 12 inches" that was projected. Other parts of town report rain on top of their trace amounts of snow. Alyeska apparently got enough to delay their opening until 1:00PM. A local fat bike race had a considerable amount of hydroplaning involved for the participants.

Winter can't decide what they want to do, and neither can I.

Sleep sounds like a good option.


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