Tic Tac Toe

X’s and O’s

I used to have very cool racing slicks on my front tires. They were custom tires made for trikes, and I liked them very much. I was sad to see the threads in the center of the tire, because it meant that they were worn out. And the company no longer made those tires.

I’m not saying that I’m banned from bicycle shops, but I would say that I had to develop a relationship with my local shop. Being a trike owner puts me in a different category. They do not sell or service trikes, so I’m never going to upgrade. But I can buy accessories!

I went to my local shop and asked about my tire replacement problems. They had a solution. My front tires were the same size as a kid’s first mountain bike. So I could use tires from an eight year old’s bike. Hmm, fine. Tread is tread, I purchased two and put them on, they worked great.

One slight hiccup. The tread pattern was X’s and O’s in a tic tac toe pattern. The shop owner said it was easier for the kids to know that the tires were wearing out. If they couldn’t see tic tac toe, then the tire was gone. Plus it made a cool track in the dirt, endless tic tac toe marks.

Okay, it didn’t matter much to me, I couldn’t have my custom racing slicks, so I settled for tic tac toe. The tires performed well, I ran them for over a year and then I noticed I couldn’t see tic tac toe anymore, so I went back to the bike shop for another pair of the same tires and I put them on.

I’m now resting at a water stop and I’m looking at the current tic tac toe pattern and I notice that there isn’t much wear. I haven’t ridden nearly as much this year. The tires look almost new. This is where my thoughts went a little off track.

I had already worn a set of tic tac toe tires completely bald. There was no tic tac toe visible. I’m on the trail most every day, I haven’t seen any X’s and O’s laying beside the trail. Where did they go?

It was a fair question, when a tire wears down, where does the rubber go. There should be mounds of black rubber like sand every quarter of a mile. There is a lot of bikes on the trial, there should be rubber residue.

And of course, what about cars, and the freeway? Much more rubber, the mounds should be higher and more frequent. It’s true that I have seen chunks of retreads from truck tires laying on the freeway, but not the usual wear and tear of tires. Where does the rubber go?

Google to the rescue again. It turns out that a lot of the rubber is so fine that it is airborne, so we might actually have some in our lungs. Of course there are so many other breathable pollutants, that we don’t really notice the rubber. If the rubber particles are not fine enough to be airborne, they lay on the road, only washed off during the rainy season, and they end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

So now I know where the rubber goes. It isn’t worn away, it isn’t rubbed off into a vacuum. Nothing can be destroyed, it is only changed. We are in a closed system. All atoms are already here, nothing new is created, nothing old is destroyed. Everything is in the process of being rearranged. Physics was explained while pondering tic tac toe.