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  1. #1
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    Should I get studded tires for winter cycling?

    I seem to be getting conflicting advice about whether to get studded tires for commutting in the city during winter. Some say it's not necessary since city roads are typically cleared of snow and ice and you ride slower anyway so its fine. Other people are saying it is essential to riding safely in the winter. Any opinions here?

  2. #2
    tsl
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    Depends. Where do you live? How often do you expect to commute in the snow and ice? Do you have health insurance and disability insurance to cover you if you fall, break some bones and can't work?

    In my case, I live in a Great Lakes city, with lake-effect snow from two lakes which gives us measurable snow almost daily for three months straight. I don't own a car, so I commute by bike daily. And I don't have health or disability insurance. I wouldn't do it without studded tires. They're far cheaper than spending six to eight weeks in a cast and out of work.

    Remember, unlike cars where getting the thing moving is the reason for snow tires, with bikes, preventing falls is the reason for studded tires.
    Last edited by tsl; 10-05-11 at 07:23 PM.
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  3. #3
    xtrajack xtrajack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Depends. Where do you live? How often do you expect to commute in the snow and ice? Do you have health insurance and disability insurance to cover you if you fall, break some bones and can't work?

    In my case, I live in a Great Lakes city, with lake-effect snow from two lakes which gives us measurable snow almost daily for three months straight. I don't own a car, so I commute by bike daily. And I don't have health or disability insurance. I wouldn't do it without studded tires. They're far cheaper than spending six to eight weeks in a cast and out of work.

    Remember, unlike cars where getting the thing moving is the reason for snow tires, with bikes, preventing falls is the reason for studded tires.

    This pretty much says it all.
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    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rvelasquez View Post
    Some say it's not necessary since city roads are typically cleared of snow and ice
    Key word: "typically."

    and you ride slower anyway so its fine.
    You can break bones falling down while you're stopped. Forward speed's not the main problem, it's downward speed

    I'd play it safe and get high-quality studded tires (Nokian, for example). Got my own pair of new Nokain Extremes waiting in the closet for signs of frost or snow.

  5. #5
    Senior Member alan s's Avatar
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    If you have to ride in snow or ice, get studded tires for ice, knobby tires for snow, and knobby studded tires for snow and ice. You will likely get more useful information if we know where you live and what conditions you ride in.
    Last edited by alan s; 10-05-11 at 08:07 PM.

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    Whatever happened to the good old "Trial and Error" means of testing?

    Why not test w/o studded, and if you feel the need, then you can always buy some!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rvelasquez View Post
    Some say it's not necessary since city roads are typically cleared of snow and ice
    Around here they don't really plow the snow so much as give it a haircut. Many roads only see a plow close to the end of winter so they can prevent flooding during the melt.

  8. #8
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    My city is good about plowing after a snowfall, but I will not consider riding without my studded tires once the mercury dips below freezing.
    Gettin' my Fred on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Depends. Where do you live? How often do you expect to commute in the snow and ice? Do you have health insurance and disability insurance to cover you if you fall, break some bones and can't work?

    In my case, I live in a Great Lakes city, with lake-effect snow from two lakes which gives us measurable snow almost daily for three months straight. I don't own a car, so I commute by bike daily. And I don't have health or disability insurance. I wouldn't do it without studded tires. They're far cheaper than spending six to eight weeks in a cast and out of work.

    Remember, unlike cars where getting the thing moving is the reason for snow tires, with bikes, preventing falls is the reason for studded tires.
    Yeah, that says most of it.

    I think it's kind of funny, actually, that we feel a need to define not wanting to break limbs in terms of monetary value. I don't want to break a bone not because of my job, but just because I don't want to break a bone.

    Studs are for ice, not snow. They won't help at all with snow. But they do make it possible to ride across an ice skating rink on your bike regularly including making turns and such - one wouldn't ride "aggressively", but fairly normally. I've done it at least twice, just to show off, lol.

    Some people do aggressive mountain biking knowing they'll break a few bones. Some people are professional bike racers and they pretty much live with the prospect that they will break a bone somewhere in their career.

    But I'm to risk averse to willingly take a sizeable risk doing a recreational activity so I ride with studs from the first snowfall or freezing rain well into spring until there's no ice under bridges, the part of the path where it's in the woods, etc.

    Of course I live in Minnesota - once ice gets here it stays around quite a while. It might be different in other states, I don't know. I know in some places it just rains (though you probably wouldn't be asking if you lived there), in other places apparently it snows but melts right away and ice pretty much never forms. Where I am there's ice all winter and I just don't see the point in taking the risk.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    Depends. Where do you live? How often do you expect to commute in the snow and ice? Do you have health insurance and disability insurance to cover you if you fall, break some bones and can't work?

    In my case, I live in a Great Lakes city, with lake-effect snow from two lakes which gives us measurable snow almost daily for three months straight. I don't own a car, so I commute by bike daily. And I don't have health or disability insurance. I wouldn't do it without studded tires. They're far cheaper than spending six to eight weeks in a cast and out of work.

    Remember, unlike cars where getting the thing moving is the reason for snow tires, with bikes, preventing falls is the reason for studded tires.
    I live in Toronto so we do sometimes get very snowy winters but most of the time it's pretty dry and you do get black ice on the roads. They use a lot of salt and sand on the streets as well. I think regardless of whether I have any kind of insurance I'm more interested in preventing myself from getting hurt altogether.

    I want to be safe but I don't want to go overboard and spend money if I don't have too. I'm not trying to be cheap, it's just that this is my first time riding in the winter and I don't know what to expect.

    Thanks for the advice.

  11. #11
    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    It's worth mentioning that good studded tires will last for several seasons. If you happen to use 26" wheels, the Nokian Mount & Ground is worth a look.

  12. #12
    Senior Member blakcloud's Avatar
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    I live in Toronto and I cycle everyday in the winter and I have yet to use studs but that is going to change for this winter. Every year I take at least one big tumble and it is always on ice. The older I get the more it hurts when I hit the ground. Last year was the final year with knobby tires when I fell twice. I also met a guy who fell on the first icy day and broke his leg last year.

    Of course we have Universal Health Care since we are Canadian, so that is taken care of. I even have great insurance at work, so I will get paid if I get hurt but I don't want to get hurt. I have broken my leg before, it's not fun and it hurts.

    This year it will all change and I am getting studs. Since I cycle along the lake to downtown there is lots of freeze and refreeze which screams out for studs. Yes, commuting can be done with out them but if you cycle everyday and don't want to take chances, buy the studs.

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    Studs provide an excellent peace of mind.

  14. #14
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    Studs are for ice, not snow. They won't help at all with snow.
    To OP, it's important to keep this in mind. Another thing to consider is, it's impossible to tell what's beneath a fresh layer of snow. It can be bare pavement (in which case you wouldn't need studs), it could be ice, it could be hard packed snow that in terms of grip is practically the same as ice. Some days I get all of these.

    When I choose studded vs. not in the morning, I want to err on the safe side. That calls for good quality studs (in my case Nokian W106 tyres), so I don't have to worry about wearing them out on the occasional bare pavement patch. I suspect for most commuters it's nearly impossible to completely avoid mixed conditions, especially if you have more than just a few kilometers to ride.

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  15. #15
    commuter and barbarian scroca's Avatar
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    If your community does a decent job of clearing snow, then maybe you don't need snow tires. I don't use them, but we typically don't get enough snow to justify it.

    However, they can never do enough to guarantee that I won't hit icy patches. For that reason, I use studded tires.

    If you plan to ride through the winter and you get snow and ice or even rain that might freeze overnight, then don't make the mistake of thinking how the roads are usually fine. It's when they are not fine that makes a difference when you're on two wheels. Believe me, when your front wheel suddenly goes out from under you, you can get hurt pretty badly.
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  16. #16
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by rvelasquez View Post
    I live in Toronto so we do sometimes get very snowy winters
    You get considerably less snow on the northern side of the lake. Lots more sun too.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Anyone try out the Schwalbe Marathon Winters? I've been thinking about buying those to try out for my first winter of cycling. Hell I'm not really sure I'm going to stick with it though...

  18. #18
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    I tried to ride every week last year without studded tires. The risk of falling on ice kept me off the road about 50% of the time. Like tsl said, the risk of injury is not acceptable.

    This year I'll have 700x35 studded tires on a second set of wheels. Anytime ice is along the shoulder, I'll use studded tires. If mild weather persists and the roads are clear, I'll easily install the second wheelset with studless tires.

    Michael
    Last edited by Barrettscv; 10-06-11 at 06:44 AM.

  19. #19
    ride for a change modernjess's Avatar
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    As a minneapolis winter rider, To me the price I pay for having studs (weight, rolling resistance, cost) is well worth it for not having to pick myself up off the ground. They certainly aren't a guarantee but for me and my route there is no question they reduce the risk and have saved my a** more times than I can remember.

    I think the most dangerous season of all is spring. The melt/thaw cycle that happens everyday is unpredictable and treacherous. In the morning it's sheer ice, or black ice, in the afternoon it's puddles until the snow is all gone. Not only that but that the urge to take the studs off the bike after a long winter is almost unbearable by that point which I'll admit has caused me to make some poor choices in the past.

    This year I'm seriously considering 2 winter bikes, a fat bike (surly pugsly) for my main winter bike, and keeping the Cross Check mounted with studs for the icy days.

  20. #20
    born again cyclist Steely Dan's Avatar
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    i live in chicago where we have a very aggressive fleet of plow/salt trucks that actually do a pretty decent job of keeping streets clear in the winter, but i still wouldn't want to ride in ice season without studs. i can get by without super knobby snow tires because i very rarely have to deal with deep snow, but ice can be anywhere.

    one caution about studded tires: if ice is a threat, do not inflate your studded tires to their max pressure. as i found last winter, the greater the pressure in a studded tire, the less effective the studs are (they can't dig into the ice as well). i was rolling my schwalbe snow studs at around 65psi (max recommended) and i want down hard on a patch of black ice.
    Last edited by Steely Dan; 10-06-11 at 08:48 AM.
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    Senior Member Slaninar's Avatar
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    In my town, ice stays very short. We often have mild winters. I was thinking of getting just a 2nd pair of wheels, to see which ones to fit every morning, depending on the situation. I would probably use the studded tyre ones for about 10 days each winter month. Is it a good idea? Getting another winter bike is a bit too much I think.
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  22. #22
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tsl View Post
    You get considerably less snow on the northern side of the lake. Lots more sun too.
    I dunno about that... last year here in London we got 200 cm (79 inches) of snow just from Dec. 5th to the 9th, and we're just down the road apiece from T.O.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    Anyone try out the Schwalbe Marathon Winters? I've been thinking about buying those to try out for my first winter of cycling. Hell I'm not really sure I'm going to stick with it though...
    That's what I use, and they're great tires. I originally wanted some Nokian W240s for their more aggressive tread blocks, but the wouldn't fit under my fenders. I thought about getting a set of W106s, but I didn't like how the studs run only down the center of the the tire. The Marathon Winters turned out to be the ideal tire for my commute. Sure, they were inadequate for the huge dump of snow we got over those few days last year, but then again motorists were getting stranded on the highways and needed to be rescued by snowmobiles, so I felt no guilt about parking my bike and calling in a "snow day". For 95% of my winter commuting the Schwalbes perform flawlessly and (knock on wood) they've kept me upright for two winters so far.
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  23. #23
    Spinning @ 33 RPM Glynis27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
    Anyone try out the Schwalbe Marathon Winters? I've been thinking about buying those to try out for my first winter of cycling. Hell I'm not really sure I'm going to stick with it though...
    I got a set of the Marathon Winters last year. They do awesome on ice, but have lots of trouble with snow. They do roll pretty well on recently plowed roads and dry pavement. If you come upon some snow more than 1/2" deep they slide and float all over the place unless it's the very light, powdery stuff. I would not recommend them for areas that get much snow. They are perfect for places that get ice and an occasional dusting. I'm thinking of trying a different studded tire with actual knobs this season.
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    Depends on where you live. Around here, we have a freeze and thaw cycle, which results in all snow having an ice layer below it.

    The tires I use, Nokiam W-106, are both knobby and studded, as opposed to my Marathon Plus summer tires, which are essentially smooth, with minimal tread.

    The benefits of winter tires are 1) not falling down on ice and 2) being able to go uphill in snow.

    I put mine on in early December and take them off in early March. That means that most of my riding is on clear pavement. Even so, the pair I bought ten years ago have lasted until this season, or about 6,000 miles.

    Safety, convenience, and economics all make a good case for them.

    Paul

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    Thanks guys for all your advice. I think I will get a pair of studded tires after the first snowfall. I don't really want to swap out my tires since I have a hub dynamo and an internal hub, it would be too much work. On the streets of Toronto I will have some snow, some ice, and mostly slushy/dry asphalt. Any recommendation for a tire for these conditions? I have a hybrid size tire (not sure what the actual size is).

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