Ice Spikers require bedding in. In my case, not just to ensure the spikes are properly inserted, but to try and get the tubeless to seal. Steve had kindly changed the tyres over, but they were sat there flat, sealant leaking out of the all-too-porous sidewalls. Amazing bits of kit though, those little lightweight studs are pretty high tech, especially when you consider the alternative of cut down screws.
The other issue I had been struggling with was finding decent winter weather flat pedal shoes. Not so much because of the leather issue, but also because there just aren't any out there. Five Ten shoes, Shimano, many of the other flat-pedal options all hold water and are no where near as warm as people like to think when your feet are soaked the temperature drops sub-zero. The Northwave Celsius boots are great, but only come in SPD format. I don't want to return to SPD pedals. I like riding flats, even for the long distances, and definitely in ice and snow.
After a lot of research, failed trials with cheaper snow boots I settled for some Adidas Libria Pearl waterproof winter boots. Primaloft insulated, thus warm when wet and very light. I was so impressed when they arrived through the post from Germany they went straight off to Feet First to be resoled with Five Ten rubber. I won't go into detail about Five Ten, sticky soles and flat pedals here. If you want to know more ask in the comments section and I will happily elaborate.
I had spoken to Feet First beforehand, to confirm they would be able to just resole the mid section of the boot, leaving me some spikes to the front and rear, hopefully adding a modicum of grip. Anyone who has tried to walk in Five Ten soles will confirm, it's no easy feat (pun intended) trying to stay upright on mud or ice. There was also the choice of Dotty Stealth rubber, or Mi6 (yes, developed for those Tom Cruise films) to chose from. It was all getting a bit technical, but research showed Mi6 was softer, stickier and only a little more expensive. I know I am not the only one to find ordinary Dotty Stealth a problem as the weather turns cold and it stiffens making it much harder for the pedal pins to insert into the rubber and much harder for them to release. So I went with the Mi6 option.
A few weeks later and the boots were returned with a perfectly placed mid-sole of Dotty Stealth....argh! Well, actually, to be fair Feet First were brilliant, they phoned in advance to let me know they had made a mistake and put on the Dotty rubber, gave me the option of trying it with a discount on the price and assured me the Dotty would be better anyway as it was much harder wearing than the liquorice-soft Mi6.
When the boots arrived, I rode them a couple of times but found my feet skittering around on the pedals. The pins just weren't digging in, maybe because there isn't a lot of leeway with pedal space and maybe because it was actually quite cold. So I phoned Feet First and, again with brilliant customer service, the boots were resoled with Mi6 and returned in no time. Now they are perfect. They are my first choice for footwear at the moment. So comfy, grippy and light! Fully waterproof too, although obviously if the rain gets in from the top, they hold the water inside. However, even when soaked inside, they are still so warm. I have been riding around in little trainer socks and have toasty warm feet at 5 degrees. I'll be getting gaiters or similar sorted before Strathpuffer, in case of torrential downpours.
So, other kit notes. I got a new helmet. It's about time, I've been uber-naughty and riding around in an old Fox Flux I have crashed in numerous times and with an outer shell that is badly delaminating. We visited our new bike shop in town over Christmas - UK Cycle Centre. They are a web based selling company, that deals in both new and secondhand parts, but they also have a little shop front and really friendly staff we know through local riding. It's nice to see these small companies trying to compete with the likes of the world-dominating CRC and Wiggle. Malvern now has four independent bike shops which is great for all the local riders.
Anyway, whilst in there I thought I'd try on one of these 7iDP helmets but they didn't have my size, which is, to be honest, stupidly small. However, they did get an XS for me to try a few days later and it was a perfect fit. So comfy, cheap as chips and (despite being a bit Mario Mushroom in the selfie below) actually looked pretty good.
I figured, as I was having to ride around on studs, I may as well stick a bottle on the bike to get used to taking it in and out of the cage rather than using the faithful hydration pack. I have pretty broken hands, two old injuries has left me without decent grip and I am forever dropping things, not least water bottles, but it is still better than riding round for 24 hours wearing a rucksack. There is just enough room for a 500 ml bottle on this Rumor.
It's safe to say, if everyone had to ride around on ice tyres, the words "You need to get a bell, I never heard you coming" would never be spoken again. Blimy almighty. They are LOUD. Like riding relentlessly over shell gravel. People turn and look from 30 meters away. It's a good job the lanes were mostly deserted.
The tyres actually roll pretty fast when inflated, and at the start I was pleased there wasn't that much effort involved in bedding the studs in. Gradually though, it started to feel a bit harder and the noise was getting a little too much. So I stopped to get some photos of an awesome looking tree and propped the bike up against it, half in a puddle. Didn't take long to realise the effort was increasing as the inflation was decreasing, watching bubbles pour out of the sidewalls into the water.
Few snaps later and I was on a mission to get home before they went totally flat as, despite knowing they weren't sealing, I had come out without either a pump, or CO2. Go me. It's amazing how far you can get on 5 PSI.