2014 Spring Tire Change

For four months of the year here in Sapporo, we cycle with spiked tires. That’s mid-December till mid-March. At the beginning of winter, in December, the decision to make the change from normal tires to spikes is fraught with uncertainty: It is snowing today, but will there still be snow on the ground in a couple of days? Inevitably, I do end up cycling a week or so on bare asphalt before the roads finally become firmly in the grip of snow.

In March, the opposite uncertainty is true: The roads are clear today, but will there be a big snowfall in a couple of days? That said, I’m pretty sure today was the right day to make the switch. I’ve grown tired of noisy metal spikes on pavement (and the bewildered looks from pedestrians as I noisily approach).

Haidee was there to document the 45-minute procedure in a relatively balmy 3 degrees Celsius.

First, off with the spikes on the front tire. I use the excellent Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tires. This is my third full season on the tires. I think they’ll last another couple of winters. With more than 400 aluminium-embedded carbide studs in each tire, they are some the most expensive mountain-bike-sized studded tires you can buy. But even then they cost less than a full tank of gas in most automobiles.

I opted to switch out the tubes for some lighter-weight ones. This is not so much for the literal weight savings, but the thinner tubes make the tires as a whole more pliable, making for a more comfortable ride (tubeless would be ideal, and I intend to make the change at some point).

The after-switch tires are the fat and plush Schwalbe Big Apple tires. These tires have a very pliable sidewall. That plus very high volume of air makes them a very comfortable and fast ride. This will be my third season on this set of tires. Wear looks to be acceptable on both tires.

I have a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub (IGH) on my back wheel. This means removing the back wheel involves a few more steps than a standard quick release setup. I also have a full chain cover (Hebie Chainglider). I haven’t removed the chain cover all winter, and the chain looks in relatively good shape (I give it regular squirts of very light lubricant).

The completed job…

Could do with a more thorough clean of the bike, but that’ll have to wait till a warm weekend.

After a third of a year on the knobbly crunchy spiked tires, the slicks feel like I’m on a magic carpet: Quiet, smooth, steering more direct. Lovely.

Jobs still to do:

  • Change handlebars to ‘butterfly’ trekking bars
  • Take the bike to bits and re-apply anti-rust to the inside of the frame
  • Change the brake pads (Aztec Organic are my pick for quiet braking)
  • Get the dynamo-powered back light wired up





UPDATE: DIY Bicycle Dynamo USB Charger

Following on from my previous post describing how to make a home-made DIY bicycle dynamo-hub USB charger, I have updated the old PVC-pipe container version (at the end of the last post). I removed the innards and transferred them to something more interesting: a clear acrylic pipe, with corks in the ends.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

As you can see, I have also replaced the micro-USB plug with a female USB-A socket, so that I can plug any USB-type cord into it (micro-USB, mini-USB, iPhone-charger-USB, etc). This particular version is not particularly weather-tight. The actual size of it is larger than the previous shrink-wrapped version also. But it is certainly smaller than the PVC-pipe version, and should serve me well.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Haidee and I are heading off on a two-week cycle tour starting in a couple of days, so both chargers will get a thorough testing :-)

The Shiroishi Cycling Road (Path) in Hokkaido – Sapporo to Kitahiroshima

Length: 19.7km (100% smooth asphalt)
Start: Sapporo Communication Park (SORA) - Sapporo City, Shiroishi-ku, Higashi Sapporo 6-jo 1-chome
End: Kita-Hiroshima JR Train Station - Kitahiroshima City, Chuou 6-chome
Other names: Elfin Road (Kitahiroshima section),  Hinatadamari Road (Atsubetu-ku section), Sapporo-Eniwa Cycling Road (extension is planned).
Winter usage: The Sapporo City section (13.2km) is cleared of snow in winter, so can be cycled all year round. The Kitahiroshima section (6.5km) is not cleared in winter, and is only passable with nordic skis or snowshoes.
Japanese info: Link 1, Link 2.

This is one of my favourite cycling paths in the Sapporo area. It follows the route of the decommissioned (1973) Chitose Line of the Japan Public Railway, so has those classic gentle gradients one would expect from an old train line. The section from the beginning at the Sapporo Communication Park, to the border with Kitahiroshima can be quite busy, especially in the mornings, with middle and high school students using the path to walk to school.

Shiroishi Cycling Road, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

 The path is, however, impressively wide at all points, and throughout the Sapporo City portion, there are only a few road crossings that are not furnished with tunnels or bridges. For the most part, the cycle road goes over or under roads.

Shiroishi Cycling Road, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan   A bridge on the Shiroishi Cycling Road, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

For those cyclists who want to ‘get away from it all’, the Shiroishi Cycling Road will not truly impress until the Kitahiroshima City border, where the urban sprawl ends, and lush forest (in summer and autumn) begins. Here, the cycling road really shines.

Shiroishi Cycling Road, Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan

There is a toilet just after the Kitahiroshima border; a clean bio-toilet with solar panels. There are also toilets at the top of the climb. That is to say, coming from the Sapporo side, the cycling road is a gentle climb all the way to the top of a ‘pass’ on the Kitahiroshima side (here). That said, the Kitahiroshima section of the cycling road has to be seen to be believed. The road is wiiiiide. And smoooooth.

On the Shiroishi/Elfin Cycling Road between Kitahiroshima and Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

The cycle road ends at the Kitahiroshima JR Station, where you can either turn round and cycle back to Sapporo, or bundle bikes into bike bags and take the train back to Sapporo station.

Bicycles on the train in Sapporo, Japan Bicycles on the train in Sapporo, Japan

Bicycles on the train in Sapporo, Japan

There are plans afoot to extend the cycle road all the way to Eniwa. This would be fantastic, as it would make an almost perfect cycling road loop, connecting the Shikotsu-Chitose cycling road, Sapporo-Shikotsu cycling road, Toyohira River cycling road, and Shiroishi Cycling road. This would be an almost 150km circular route, easily done in two days with a nice camping stop at the scenic Lake Shikotsu.

Shiroishi Cycling Road Route Map

View Map on Google Maps