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Rat Biker
454 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alright looking on recommendations for studded tires. Yeah we are in a heatwave at the moment but I'm a commuter looking to get ready for winter riding.
Looking forward to it actually.

Also looking to get a second wheel specifically for the winter be going to price that out from my local shop .
Also tire size be 700x38c tubes not tubeless

Deranged Touring Cyclist
5,882 Posts
At the moment I roll on Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus studded tires. They offer carbide studs, which resist corrosion better than the studs in many lower cost tires. If I could, I'd still be running my Nokian Hakkapeliitta W240s. Sadly they are no longer made. 45 North appears to offer some good quality studded rubber, but I am not personally familiar with their products.

Are you familiar with the different types of studded tires? Speaking generally, there are 3 varieties: basic, with a single row of studs on either side of the tire for a total of 2 rows, usually totaling ~100 studs per tire.

Then there's mid level with a double row on either side of the tire, 4 rows total, some ~200 studs per tire.

Finally, there are the MTB grade tires apparently intended for playing on frozen waterfalls, with 300+ studs per tire.

The MTB tires came across as extreme for my needs. Basic studded tires are said to be good for frozen roads which are nice and flat - not in terms of grade but in terms of ruts, holes, foot-churned, re-frozen sections, and the like. For those, the extra rows of studs found on the mid-grade tires come into play, providing grip to pull the wheels up and over, out of ruts and so forth.

I ended up going with the middle option and have never looked back. There is a definite learning curve when it comes to riding over hard frozen terrain, but learning to do so has made me a better cyclist on loose surfaces, especially sand. There is nothing in the world like the feeling of riding a bicycle even as both tires slip in different directions at the same time. This is survivable because the sliding is usually limited to fractions of an inch. The best technique I have found is to consciously relax, gear down, and keep spinning no matter what. Let the bike find its own line and keep your grip on the bars relaxed and loose. Let them wiggle and bounce as they will. The ride will feel extremely unstable, as though you're about to pancake at any second.

In my experience, the pancaking never happened, at least until I wore out my studs 馃槧. As for the spinning, it's much more stable if you are spinning your cranks than not. This is true to the point that I've actually found myself spinning while riding my brakes on a descent. Not spinning was too unstable, but I still couldn't afford to do much over 10mph due to the nature of the frozen nastiness I was traversing.

It's worth being aware that the studs only provide traction against frozen surfaces. They don't work on slush, wet, etc. That said, I've lost track of the number of times I've heard the crackle of studs against unseen ice while riding through fresh or falling snow. I have also found them to be of some benefit on intermediate surfaces, say where a lot of snow has been compressed by vehicles until it's not exactly frozen, but still nearly hard and slick as ice. That stuff can be quite challenging, but I feel slightly more planted and in control riding it on studs than on MTB knobbies without them.

If you plan to ride on the street with cars, please be aware that just because you have studs and the ability to use your brakes without skidding, the automobiles around you may or may not share this happy capability. Situational awareness is critical at any time, but all the more so when riding on frozen roads with cars. It's rare, but I have more than once grabbed some brake after noting a driver approaching from a side street and guessing correctly that the car wouldn't be able to stop in time due to an otherwise unremarkable grade. Better to watch a driver panic a bit as they slide into an intersection just in front of me rather than right over the top of me. I keep a sharp eye on my mirror any time I'm overtaken, and try to have a plan for where to go in the event a car abruptly loses traction in a way that affects me.

I like riding on the road with cars in the winter, but it's well to move slowly, build skills and think about what you're doing and what those around you are doing. I strive for excellent situational awareness any time I'm playing in traffic, but the bar is significantly higher in winter.

Another potential bugaboo is remembering that just because your tires have traction does not mean your feet will when you put one down for whatever reason. Unless of course, your shoes are also studded. I've considered that but not sure about the interaction of shoe and flat pedal studs. I typically wear hiking boots or inclement weather cycling shoes, depending on temp. I have found that I can successfully put a foot down on solid ice without falling, but it takes deliberation and care if we're talking very slick ice, or any sort of grade. The trick is to recognize that your foot will slip when it goes down, but you can use the muscles in your leg to to hold it about where you want it so that it doesn't slide right out from under you.

It's much easier to stand on non-studded shoes supporting a bike with studded tires than to do the same for one without studded tires. For the latter, I've found myself sitting on the top bar, with legs splayed to either side, shifting weight quickly from bar to feet to bar. No fun at all, and I'm still surprised to have managed it more than twice without either falling or smashing certain parts of the anatomy against the top bar.

As said earlier, studs are quite heavy and many cyclists will therefore assert that they shouldn't be used in any but the most extreme situations. All the more so in that aggressive riding on pavement tends to dislodge studs. It's been my experience that studded tires don't slow me down that much (perhaps because I'm not too fast to begin with) and provide me with peace of mind any time I cross a shady patch where ice may lurk.

With studs, I've learned I can all but ignore a lot of minor winter trail hazards which force me to slow down and look hard if I'm riding a bike without studs. To me, that's worth the extra weight. It also makes for a great boost in Spring when the studded tires get swapped for summer rubber and suddenly you can ride much faster than before.

I've missed out on the last couple of years of winter cycling due to an emergency surgery and events arising from it. Prior to that event, I enjoyed several great winter seasons and look forward to resuming such rides, hopefully this winter. As much as I love the more 'usual' cycling seasons, winter holds a higher proportion of really memorable rides. There's nothing like rolling over virgin snow and hearing the continuous crunching moan of the snow being compressed by tires. I have ridden on a river of diamonds following an ice storm which coated everything in 1/2" of the stuff before the sun came out to make it all glitter. I've straight shocked pedestrians by riding over frozen puddles which could easily double as skating rinks or plowing through 4" of fresh snow, leaving pedal marks in the snow to go with the wheel tracks.

Riding in the winter on studded tires is a whole new cycling world, one I encourage others to sample and enjoy. There is no reason bicycling can't be a year round activity, but it takes planning and experience.

I hope you're able to find some tires which work for you, and that you get to enjoy the frozen outdoors this winter!
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