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Old 01-04-17, 04:38 PM   #1
chas58
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Winter tires: Nokian studded tire review

I've been comparing Nokian tires with 160, 240, and 294 studs, to understand what will work for me in the winter. I've just hit black ice too often (especially in the dark early mornings) and torn up handle bars, pants, and even sprained an ankle. I want to get out more in the winter and do it safely. Here is what I found with these 3 tires (W160 (Mount and Ground), W240, and Extreme 294).

1st: studded tires have opened up my winter world to do things I never would have done without them. Just taking a ride within a mile of my house is an adventure in the winter time, and encouraged me to see what is near where I live. I now look forward to below freezing temperatures, where I know the air will be dry and crisp, and there will be no mud or water to make a mess of things. Iím looking forward to some clear cold days coming up this week where I can do some bike riding across frozen lakes. That is going to make for an interesting STRAVA map!
In the past, I have hit the ground HARD trying to ride too early in the spring and finding ice. Now I have the traction to ride year round.

2nd: Studded (2") vs Fat tires (4-5")
Studded tires do not work well on hard or heavy snow. They follow ruts and bumps and get pushed all over the place. Fat tires (4" or bigger) float above this stuff and are better in bumpy snow Ė as long as they donít sink too deep to the point where I donít have the strength to plow through the mess. With studded tires, Iíll happily ride through deep virgin snow, next to a sidewalk or road, rather than try to ride through the ruts caused by footprints or tire marks. If bumps are deep, that is just not doable on studded tires

3rd Sizing: I use 54mm wide tires in the summer. I was shocked to see how small these Nokianís looked on my bike. All three have a tire carcass of only about 40mm. That is about the size of a cyclocross tire. While the nominal 54x559 sizing of the ďNokian Extreme 294Ē is important for knowing if the tire will fit in your frame, the tire pressure should be set more in align with a 40mm tire carcass.

W160 (26 x 1.9)
Short answer: this is my favorite tire. It slices through snow of any depth I have found, and provides plenty of traction for normal riding, commuting, cruising along. In spring/fall I can air these up and ride more on the rubber than on the studs. In the icy heart of winter, I can run them soft, and keep two rows of studs in contact with the ground. Even with the tires that have 4 rows of studs, only two rows are really doing the work unless I am trail riding. The W160 is not too bad on trails either, but they are super skinny for a mountain bike tire.

W240 (26 x 1.95 W240)

Iím not sure what good these tires are. If you want a heavy tire for the road, they might work. If you want an off road tire that is too narrow to work off road, that might work? They really donít seem to be good for anything that canít be done better by another tire. They donít have the float or the volume to go off road, and on the road, I donít ever use the outer row of studs, so it is rather like riding a heavy tire with only 120. I have used them as a front tire with the W160 in the rear, and that is a viable option, but the W160 is a better option for the roads.
Peter white call this ďNokian's best, all purpose, do just about everything really well, no compromise tireĒ Personally, I donít like it. No, I donít find it bigger than the W160, it is just that the lugs are bigger and more aggressive. It has been said that these are good for climbing out of ruts, but if the road is that poorly rutted Iím not going to be riding it. If the carcass is too skinny to ride rough roads/trails, what is the point?

Nokian Extreme 294 (54-559mm Extreme 294)
Woah, these are aggressive deeply lugged and studded tires. Almost 300 studs. At low pressure, these stick confidently on ice. I have taken them on fat bike trails, and they work OK, but in snow you donít need studs. The exception to this is if there has been a freeze/thaw cycle and glare ice under the snow. Riding trails without studs, I have gone down very hard, fast and painfully. 2-3 inch wide tires are pain on a fat bike snow trial as they wander all over the place, and are difficult to keep in the grove. A 4-5Ē wide tire will just cruise along with little effort. But, if the trail is a mixture of frozen mud, frozen ice puddles (very slick), and light snow, - these studded tires could be a lot of fun. On the road, they are heavy. The sound of the studs crawling along the pavement makes me think I donít have good traction, but I have yet to experience slippage on pavement.
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Old 01-04-17, 05:24 PM   #2
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I have two pairs of studded Nokian tires but the last few winters I get through on Continental TopContact Winter with no studs. Their benefit is that they work fine on pavement and thus in late winter or spring and let you plow fine into snowy and icy conditions. I still have to figure out fully how they work. For sure one issue is of the rubber compound that does become slippery at low temperatures. Second seems to be the fine tread that grabs small rock pieces that begin to work as studs. They are certainly not as good on ice as regular studded tires but typically they are good enough to get you through. They are just a different compromise than the studded tires but one which works for me during most winter. When it gets very rough, I put on W240.
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Old 01-04-17, 06:26 PM   #3
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I use road tires with studs 622x30, and they really don't work in deep snow but man are they great for the black Ice you didn't see.

I am happy to have 2 bikes and one with studs for the winter. Someday I'll have to get a bike I can fit bigger tires on.
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Old 01-05-17, 03:41 AM   #4
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For any-day, no-option bike commuting suburb to city Center I liked the 240 and found the 160 quite pointless.
The 106 rolled better, but the lack of side studs made even moderate ruts a challenge. They tracked poorly in mushy snow.
The 160 rolled poorer than the 106, tracked a little better in mush. But grip on hardpack and ice wasnt enough improved to be worth the increased rolling resistance.
The 240s do have considerable rolling resistance, but they track well in mush and also do OK on icy ruts.
This year I'm using Schwalbe Marathon Winter, and have simply opted to let the bike rest those days when snow is too deep.
The SMWs do well on ice, hardpack and bare ground. And seem to roll better than the 240s.
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Old 01-05-17, 09:04 AM   #5
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Thanks for starting the thread, chas58, very interesting to hear about other experiences with Nokian/Suomi tires. I'm on my fourth year on W240s and have always been curious about the other models. I also have a pair of A10s (700x32) for my cross bike, but found that I just didn't enjoy wrestling in and out of ruts on that bike.

I have the W240s on a rigid steel MTB, and for the first three years I rode with swept-back alt bars (On-One Mary); this year I'm riding with Salsa Cowbell 3 drop bars and liking it so far. Enough ability to correct skids and react to ruts, and the ability to cut through the wind a bit better.

But back to the tires. The W240s are always a shock when I put them on in the late fall. Heavy, as all studded tires seem to be, and stiff. I think I run about 30/45 F/R depending on how much cargo I have. They do roll better than an old set of Kenda Klondikes I had, but I was really hoping for more. When I was shopping, the Schwalbe Marathon Winter just didn't seem suited to the conditions I see on my rural commute, but maybe the W160s are worth checking out. My W240s have probably 3000 miles at this point, and I'm not sure I'll manage to ever wear them out.

What pressures have you all been using with W240s or W160s? The W240s seem pretty sensitive to high pressures, which make them skittish.
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Old 01-05-17, 09:43 AM   #6
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I've got the Nokian 106es. If they ever wear out (which I am beginning to doubt), I will get a different tire. The two things that I don't like about them are the lack of reflective sidewalls and the lack of studs up the sides. I had thought that I wouldn't need them, as I tend not to ride on ice-rutted roads. But just about every intersection seems to be rutted anyway, so I would opt for all the teeth I can get on my tires in the future. FWIW
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Old 01-05-17, 11:19 AM   #7
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Reflective side-walls are quickly covered with road grit. I don't judge a tyre's value by them. I always have reflective tape on the frame, and spoke reflectors.
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Old 01-05-17, 11:27 AM   #8
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Still using the same pair I got in 1990. [26x1.9 mount and ground W] on wide Snow Cat Rims.

This Year, so far, It gets Cold but stayed 'Dry' where I live, when the cloud cover let the heat of thesun escape.. at Sealevel.


Icy patches on the roads as I rode 'over the Hump' to Longview yesterday (in a Car) & snow on the roadside..






...

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Old 01-05-17, 11:32 AM   #9
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I got a set of Fiks reflective rim stickers as a gift a few years ago and only got around to putting them on my winter commuter this fall. Actually, I only did the front wheel as a test. So far they're doing well even with frequent road salt and occasional rinsing off with the rest of the bike. Doesn't work with rim brakes, which is probably obvious. I think they stay a bit cleaner than tire stripes.

Fiks: Reflective bike & running safety products with style and design in mind.

Yellow Fiks strip on the front: https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/t5...19249152_n.jpg
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Old 01-05-17, 01:30 PM   #10
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Jdoff, tire pressures? Me, 225 lbs +gear. The 26" x 1.95 mount and grounds see 30 -40 psi, lower for more grip. The 700 x35 hakkapelitta see 40-45 psi.
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Old 01-05-17, 02:06 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Slaninar View Post
Reflective side-walls are quickly covered with road grit.
agreed.

spoke reflectors are about a million times more effective than reflective sidewalls, unless you enjoy obsessively cleaning tire sidewalls after every ride.
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Old 01-05-17, 03:34 PM   #12
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agreed.

spoke reflectors are about a million times more effective than reflective sidewalls, unless you enjoy obsessively cleaning tire sidewalls after every ride.
I guess we just have different experience. My three-season bike has reflective sidewalls that have been fine for the couple of years that I've had them. The spoke reflectors that came on my winter beater, OTOH, didn't last through the first year.
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Old 01-05-17, 04:37 PM   #13
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@chas58 (and others), thanks for the reviews. We're 100% Schwalbe Marathon Winter's now but always interesting to hear others experiences.

Our sidewall reflectors stay clear and bright. This may be mostly due to our riding on protected bikeways with clean snow instead of the road with road grime snow. I don't remember ever having a problem w/ dirty sidewalls in NL, perhaps for same reason.
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Old 01-05-17, 09:34 PM   #14
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I used to use Nokian 106 until about five years ago when my office moved to a location near a bike path that got heavily rutted in winter. I switched to Marathon Winters at that point. I liked the performance of the Marathon Winters, but they seem to lack the durability of the Nokians. Now I have a new route and may switch back.
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Old 01-05-17, 11:53 PM   #15
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chas58 thanks for the review of the 3 tires, very interesting comparison! I have only ever used the 240 Nokian Hakapalitta so I can't really compare different studded tires to these. I am just starting my 4th winter with them, they are slow but work great! My bones are happy with slow and being upright!

jdoff asked what pressure in the 240's? For me it is 65 psi. I do watch taking turns but I have not had any problems sliding out with them. I use these on my ebike and only for on the road commuting, they have been a very good tire! With at least 2-3000 miles on them and still in good shape, I don't ride aggressively.

I leave these on all year round as this hqs been a dedicated winter biker he last few years. When roads are clear I take the Velomobile, its like lightning compared to the ebike, especially with the studded tires.
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Old 01-06-17, 07:56 AM   #16
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thanks for this review of the 3 tires. i have the nokian hakkas W240s and i agree with you that they are kind of slow and they're great for low snow coverage - but they slide around in deep stuff b/c well they're only 40 wide which i can definitely see is thin for deep snow. however i don't normally ride in deep stuff tho and conditions in NYC when they are snowy are kinda great for this tire for the most part - so i haven't ventured into getting anything else, plus our season is short here comparatively. it's really interesting to hear how the other tires are.

like @Bizman i also ride unaggressively and the slow nature of this tire is just fine by me - and i also ride them with medium psi
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Old 01-06-17, 07:32 PM   #17
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Interesting comparison, though my experience has certainly been different. But I ride 700c in the winter.

Schwalbe Marathon Winter 35c - the fastest all around tire for "real" winter states like Minnesota. They handle ice well, slice through thin snow to the road surface, don't handle rutted ice real well. Don't handle snow on top of ice that well either, but nothing does.

W160 (26 x 1.9) - my brother has ridden this one, I don't really like it. To fat to slice through snow, now enough studs to handle hard ice conditions. He went down with it on some snowpack on a trail. Would prefer either wider or skinnier, either one is better.

W240 (26 x 1.95 W240) - I haven't ridden them, but imagine they're better for road riding with rutted ice. Being a little fatter handles ruts better than the 35c marathon winters, and they still have the outer row of studs.

Nokian Extreme 294 (54-559mm Extreme 294) - these are the ones I say I'm not sure what they're good for exactly. Riding back trails on a cheaper bike? They're fat enough to slide everywhere, they don't cut through the snow to the road surface at all. But they're not fat enough to glide over snow (like fatbike tires), so the slog down in snow. I experimented after a snowfall with my mountain bike, riding the marathon winters (700x35c) back to back with the Nokian Extreme 26's. They handled exactly the same conditions, and got stuck in almost exactly the same spots.

Fat Bikes: Fat Bikes handle the most amount of snow. Their ride is different - it always feels float, it never cuts through snow so any snow at all and you're floating around on top of it. But, the tire is wide enough that you can ride over a lot of snow that you just get bogged down in with skinnier tires. They are of course also fairly slow. They're the most versatile, but also the most expensive, slowest, and personally sometimes unsatisfying to ride because they're so floaty you have to constantly pay attention to your balance.

45nrth Gravdal (700x38c) - these seem to be the best tire if you're road riding but prioritize grip and stability over speed. Schwalbe Marathons are faster, but Gravals are slower and more steady and can handle ruts and snow better.
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Old 01-08-17, 11:34 AM   #18
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Gravdals don't look different, functionally, from SMWs. Tight spaced chevron/v tread. Inner and outer row of studs.

SMWs were cheaper though, and Schwalbe tires have always got me there. So I got Marathon Winters.

Given the close similarities, I don't see Gravdals outperforming the SMW.
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Old 01-10-17, 03:18 PM   #19
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Update: Pure ice.

The conditions in the last week have created ice skating rinks out of all of our lakes (temps in the teens, no snow). What better test conditions for studs then to test them on a lake of smooth glare ice?

I tried the 296 on the front and rear, and the w160 on the rear.

W160 (two rows of studs for a total of 160 studs)
With some good bike handling skills, these did relatively well as a rear tire. Above 8mph, I could really accelerate hard on these. They obviously had less traction than the 294 tires, but either way I typically had two rows of studs on the ice.

I finally found a weakness in these tires. At 30psi, they put two rows of studs on the ice, except when turning. If turning one row of studs can pick up, reducing the number of studs by 50%. This is not a problem with the 240 or the 294. Anything more than a gentle turn or a bump in the ice could cause these tires to get loose. I found it controllable, but a bit squirrely.

W294.
Rear. Wow. I had about 30psi in the tires, so I had 4 rows of studs on the ice. But when accelerating hard from a stop, I would lift the front tire of the ice rather than spin. I was impressed! Out of the saddle acceleration with my weigh forward could get some spin, but while seated I could accelerate hard.

The only problem with this was the front tire does not have near the traction with a 40F60R weight distribution, the front tire had much less traction on the front, so I had to be careful with that wheel. It was easy to lock up the tires braking, but the acceleration and turning performance surprised me.

Conclusion:
For commuting, the W160 is a great tire. If you are concerned about traction and steering, the combination of the W240 front and W160 rear makes for a neutral handling bike. Both tires break free at the same time in my case. However, I think the W240 is a bit narrow to “climb out of a rut” as that requires a big soft footprint to do – and the W240 is a pretty narrow tire.

For commuting and general winter riding, I’ll use the 294 as a front tire on really bad days, and only use the 294 as a rear tire off road.

The W160 is a great winter tire in all conditions other than an ice rink. Its main drawback is that it can not corner hard without 4 rows of studs, as turning can lift one of the 2 rows off the ice.

The W240’s 4 rows of studs adds a little more security than the W160’s 2 rows, but I don’t see much of an advantage to this tire, unless possibly you don’t ride in bumpy conditions and want the extra security on your front tire.
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Old 01-10-17, 03:22 PM   #20
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What pressures have you all been using with W240s or W160s? The W240s seem pretty sensitive to high pressures, which make them skittish.
The newer ones are rated 30-45psi. in bad conditions I tend to run them about 28 front and 32 rear.
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Old 01-10-17, 11:48 PM   #21
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Gravdals don't look different, functionally, from SMWs. Tight spaced chevron/v tread. Inner and outer row of studs. SMWs were cheaper though, and Schwalbe tires have always got me there. So I got Marathon Winters. Given the close similarities, I don't see Gravdals outperforming the SMW.
Here was the review from someone who used both:
45Nrth Gravdal

Third winter biking. Previous winters have been with the schwalbe marathon...In both directions I run into the same things: snow, slush, frozen ruts & ice. And in both directions I have the same feedback: They push through slush (what wouldn't?), react to ruts as any tire (BUMPBUMPBUMP) & can take on ice better than the marathons, which are the only other studded tires I've ridden extensively...

These are marathon winters:


These are Gravdals:


Another maybe a little tougher looking pic of the marathon winters:


They look fairly different to me.

The Marathon Winters are great tires. They're what I ride in the winter. And they're definitely a lot cheaper. I just keep getting the impression that the marathons are faster, the gravdals are slower but grippier (and way more expensive). Schwalbe Marathon Winters are grippy enough for me for most of the riding I do.
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Old 01-11-17, 03:10 PM   #22
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We got the same ice storm here in Madison yesterday. In the morning, the bike path was a sheet of ice, with rain falling on it. I couldn't walk on it, but a pair of W160's got me to work just fine. I was quite cautious going around turns, and didn't have any slip-outs. One cyclist was walking his bike along a strip of grass next to the path, where the rain had melted the snow away.

However... I was quite concerned about cars. My street comes to the bottom of a hill, where there's a traffic light. Rain or melt water runs down that hill, then freezes over night, even when they lay down a lot of salt and sand. I've seen cars going sideways, running off the road, crashing at the bottom, etc. So I alter my route, even if I'm confident that my tires will get my bike down the same hill.
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Old 01-11-17, 09:00 PM   #23
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My observations in the midst of winter in Finland: Everybody and his brother was riding bikes. Rationalizing, I suppose if you were to wait for optimal conditions during the year you would not get a lot of time to ride. Yet when I went to do statistics on the bikes parked at racks in that motherland of studded tires I saw that only about 10% of the parked bikes had them. Conclusion: Yes studded tires yield more stability and can convince you to get out of the door, yet they are not a must - you can get by using caution. I continue riding this winter without touching the studded tires and I appreciate the fact that I do not get slowed down on pavement and not bothered swapping tires back and forth.
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Old 01-12-17, 02:25 AM   #24
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My observations in the midst of winter in Finland: Everybody and his brother was riding bikes. ... Yet ...only about 10% of the parked bikes had them. ...

All winter roads are not created equal.
There's ice, hardpack, snow and bare ground. Studs ever only help on surfaces too hard for the tread to leave an impression.



Temperature influences the surface of the ice.
The colder it gets, the more friction it can provide.


Amount of traffic influences the surface of the ice.
Each passing vehicle does a bit of polishing.
In neighboring Sweden, there's a recurring debate about studded vs "friction" winter tires for cars.
"Friction" tires do OK - as long as there's a decent fraction of studded tires being used to roughen up the surface.
Should the majority switch to "friction" tires, there would in all likelihood be an increase of accidents on winter roads.


Humidity also influences the characteristics of the ice, but is (usually) so closely tied to temperature not to merit its own entry.


Riding in Stockholm, Sweden, I truly appreciate my studded tires.
Ice here often have a sheen to it.
Further north, I can quite easily do without them. Colder and less traffic. Ice is overwhelmingly dull/matte in appearence.
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Old 01-12-17, 11:38 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by dabac View Post
All winter roads are not created equal.
All good points. For me there has been one more factor. When I started riding in winter, the studded tires were a revelation. In fact the first winters I rode pretty religiously on the studded tires. However, as I gained more winter experience and better tailored actions to the circumstances I realized that the gain I was getting from the studded tires was shrinking. With overly mixed conditions I eventually found that the studded tires could become more a drag than gain. In an ideal world one would want to have a switch altering tread, studs and pressure depending on the conditions for a particular stretch of the route .
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