Winter, like water, can be fantastic, amazing, absolutely great – if taken in the right spirit. I had been building up the spirit (avoiding water) for nearly a week, before the snow finally returned to Baden-Württemberg. Wednesday night I rode the MTB home from work, still with standard rubber tires. On the way, I explored the local golf course perimeter road, which has a nice, undulating profile with quite a few scenic stretches, but also dull parts that run rather close to the autobahn. At home, I immediately headed for the garage and changed the wheels, putting on the Ice Spiker Pros. A test ride around the block left me exhilarated. I nearly declared the Apotheke a drive-in, but thought better about it and rather called David out, to show off my latest velocipedal toy.
On Thursday, the new set-up was finally taken on tour. The morning ride to work gave me a chance to get familiar with the handling of these wheels on different surfaces. Packed snow, compressed by car traffic, is definitely the preferred playground for spiked MTBs. I encountered no sheer ice, but I can imagine that it might work out well enough. In loose snow, however, there’s no difference to standard mud tires. It is even advisable to avoid pedestrian footsteps and cut your own track through five inches of virgin material, instead of having a few snow crystals throwing you off-balance. On tarmac, the spikes feel better than I had feared, allowing even decent braking downhill, at moderate speed, at least. Nonetheless I avoided the road down to the Neckar, taking the footpath instead. Towards the end of that path, I had an unexpected encounter with a miniature snow-truck that had got stuck there. With no room to get around, I had to wait for the workers to extract their vehicle and slide it down the rest of the way. That evening, I made another attempt at the Burgweg in Hoheneck. This time I made it, in fresh snow, without stopping. A quick tour towards Monrepos and back, then I had to rush to the airport and pick up my wife on her return from Spain, just in time before snowstorms upset flight schedules all over Europe.
On Friday, the Ludwigsburg technical services hit back. As I had shamed their micro-truck the day before, they sent their biggest weapon after me. While I was hammering down Mömpelgardstraße, I heard a noise like a George Lukas-inspired battleship coming after me. A mighty truck, spark-spraying snowshield scraping over the tarmac came closer with undefiable force. When the yellow flashlight engulfed me in its sheen, I surrendered and threw myself into the nearest snowbank, letting the monster thunder past.
In the afternoon, the grand finale: the whole tour, all the elements I had discovered over the last two weeks. Early in the afternoon, with daylight, snowfall and all the pizzazz. Here are a few impressions:
The sportive highlight was the perimeter road around the Monrepos golf course. After crossing, not without difficulty, the road to Heutingsheim, I cannonballed down the snow-covered tracks behind the ecurie, which I had seen, fortunately, without snow just a week before. The hard part followed immediately. The gravel road runs around the golf course, partly over and partly behind the landscaped hills that do their best to separate the small-balled part of society from the autobahn. With something like 5 inches of powdery snow, I fought my way uphill in the lowest gear, pedalling at a suicidal frequency, the rear wheel spinning, slithering and sliding all over the place, and with bursting lungs, I made it to the top. From there, the rest was cheesecake. Even the 147 stairs (counted twice by now) could hardly slow me down. Have a look for your good selves:
And if you (or I) thought that could not be topped, we were proven wrong. On Saturday, I finally convinced my friend Christian, who for months had been too busy to com either biking or running, to come for a ride. For an hour and a half, we let our rear wheels churn, burning the snow and dancing a four-wheeled ballet all over the Ossweil hills. Here’s two deers and one Christian: