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01/22/2010: "Treading Water"
We waited for it long enough, and it's finally here: the rain! The storms have been rolling in one after the other, with rarely even a day's break between, and by now Portland and Seattle are veritable Saharas by comparison with usually dessicated Los I write, the water in our little street is just overtopping the curb. And as I ride my bike, protected from below by fenders and from above by my British rain cape, I start to think about tires....

Okay, maybe first I think about the perfumes of a thousand ethnic cuisines that drift out of the restaurants I pass on my rides, but eventually--since I write a cycling blog--I think about tires.

I've ridden every day in the rain, sometimes forty miles in a day, sometimes twenty, sometimes just three or four--gotta get things done, after all. Sometimes the rain is a veritable deluge, sometimes a pattering that doesn't even require the cape, and sometimes a light mist--but one thing it always is, is wet. And so are the roads.

Almost all of us belong to an internet affinity group or two or three, and my main one is the iBOB list, descended from the old Bridgestone Owners' Bunch that Rivendell's Grant Petersen founded long ago when the internet was barely more than a few eggheads texting back and forth between university basements. And, as members of such affinity groups often do, we have--ahem--opinions.

And one of the opinions vociferously put forth is that tread on bicycle tires is as useless as tits on a boar.

Now, I've ridden many many miles in the rain, both on slicks and on treaded tires, and in fact I agree with my listpals, and with the various tire companies, that in an ideal world a bicycle tire does not need tread on it to work well in the rain. It is narrow enough--even a fat bicycle tire is narrow enough--that it will cut through any amount of water and find the road beneath.

That is, in Switzerland, or some other place where the roads are steel-drum smooth and the populations' taxes are in part applied to keeping those roads not only smooth but clean enough to dine off of.

However, this is Los Angeles. At the best of times, our roads are scabbed with potholes, cracks, ruts, heaves, loose chunks of asphalt and concrete, and the varied detritus that falls off of shabby pickups and battered dumptrucks.

Add torrential rains, howling winds (up to 80mph this week!), sodden yards, and hundreds of sandstone hills bulging out of the alluvial plain, and you find that the roads become somewhat less perfect than they were in their previous imperfect but at least dry condition. I've encountered: smears of spilled automotive fluids of various sorts, sand, mud, twigs, branches, swathes of mashed leaves ranging from pine needles to the broad hands of sycamores, sodden cardboard, and more.

Not to mention the detour I purposely took through an unpaved alley, just for fun.

Begging my colleagues' pardon, I'd like to say that in this not-quite-ideal world of neglected macadam, you just might want a tire with a nice healthy tread on it, as well as some damned sticky rubber. Because it's usually not just nice smooth road beneath that water....

My Marathons are only 25mm wide, but so far they haven't slipped an inch.

I'm glad I had 'em, because they've given me some beautiful rain rides all this week.

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