Posted by: Karen | December 1, 2011


For my geeky friends who like big words, traction is described as “..a physical process in which a tangential force is transmitted across an interface between two bodies through dry friction or an intervening fluid film resulting in motion, stoppage or the transmission of power”

In other words, Traction is:

  1. the adhesive friction of a body on some surface, as a wheel on a rail or a tire on a road.
  2. the action of drawing a body, vehicle, train, or the like, along a surface.
  3. the deliberate and prolonged pulling of a muscle, organ, or the like, as by weights, to correct dislocation, relieve pressure, etc.
  4. the act of drawing or pulling.
  5. the state of being drawn.

This word has been on my mind a lot lately. Mostly, I have thought of it in terms of 1. and 2., in that if I manage 1. “the adhesive friction of a body on some surface” well, I’m way more successful at 2. “the action of drawing (my body) along a surface”.

My enjoyment of hurtling myself across the earth depends heavily on trusting lots of launches and landings. It’s a blast to throw myself forward, but I know that if I land too far off balance at the wrong velocity, I could lose my ability to do it again. It could be painful. I really don’t want to think about applying definition 3. to myself.

Plus, slipping a lot tires me out, eh? I’m 45. I don’t have as much energy to waste as I used to have.

Hobnails in Trail Shoes

Last weekend a friend installed some hobnails in my trail shoes. I have enjoyed using Yaktrax for years, but sometimes I forget to bring them along. Sometimes they slide around on my shoe and collect mud. I have borrowed spikes, but they offered less overall support than my trail shoes. Now I have the best of both options! I relished a wonderful run through the woods and marveled at how well a handful of metal bits improved my footing and confidence on dirt, snow and ice.

Studded Bike Tires

A couple of weekends ago I bought some studded bike tires. After consulting with some bike buddies off and online, I bought a Snow Stud from Mountain Equipment Co-op for my back wheel and a Marathon Winter tire for my front wheel from Bike Bike, the latter of which kindly installed them both for me. I’ve used the tires on five wintery bike commutes so far (including #112 today) and am looking forward to many more! I’m getting used to the staticky, zingy sound of the metal hitting pavement, and I like being able to stop and steer on ice.

Today’s ride was my most challenging winter ride so far. During yesterday’s blizzard I worked from home with a kiddo who was under the weather. Today there was still a good amount of snow on the ground, but I patiently muddled through in low gear on the way in. It was a workout, but that’s one of the reasons I do it, right? The way home was much better, as a Chinook blew in and melted much of the snow.

The State of Being Drawn

I don’t think I’ve gone totally crazy on winter bike commuting. I don’t expect to bike commute 5 days a week all winter long. As a winter runner, I have certain cut-off limits. I don’t run very far when it’s below -20C, for instance, though for a XC race I push that limit. I suspect that my cycling cut-off temps will be warmer than my running ones. I will still take the bus to work this winter, but it will be less than I did last winter.

The challenge of a streak of XC races easily drew me into trail running. Counting my bike commutes is inspiring me to keep bike commuting, even in the winter. I like this word, this state, this feeling of progressing along.


  1. Impressed.


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