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Old 11-08-12, 06:27 AM   #1
Trek_geek
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Tires For Ice/Snow Conditions

To stay off I-95, I am committed to continue my train and cycle commute in all weather conditions. I ride a total of 18-20 miles in 4 sections. Home to train, train to work and return. I am riding a stock Trek 520, new in March 2012. Tires are the original Bontrager 700x32. Since March this year I have handled several steady rains, downpours and a thunderstorm or two. Rain hasn't been a problem. Traction in the wet hasn’t been a problem. My concern here in Northern VA as winter approaches will be icy conditions, black ice or even a commute in snowy slush.
Would I be better off with a more aggressive cyclocross tire? I am on paved roads the whole way but I am expecting that if there is enough snow to plow that the bike lanes will be snow covered.
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Old 11-08-12, 06:40 AM   #2
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For light snow, fat tires with low pressure work best (though some swear by skinnier ones). The same holds true with ice, but in that case the addition of studs makes your day go just a little less eventful. But of course most days your roads will be fine and you probably won't want to use your snow/ice tires all the time...but it can be a pain swapping tires based on the weather forecast. It's a little easier if you have a spare set of wheels with your snow/ice tires mounted on them, but personally I have a cheap MTB with rack, fenders and Nokian w240 studded tires that I use just for those snowy/icy days.
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Old 11-08-12, 07:15 AM   #3
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Spare bike with studded snow tires is your best bet. Get a used mtn bike. Then be prepared to spend more than you paid for the used bike for studded tires... More expensive: spare set of wheels, with a cassette installed on the rear, studded tires. Do the wheel swap when you need them. Various manufacturers make studded tires in 700x35 size, which should fit.

If you splash out the cash for studded tires, you'll be amazed at how few days you actually need them...

CX tires would be OK for light snow, but not so much for ice.
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Old 11-08-12, 07:29 AM   #4
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This being my first significant fall and hopefully winter of commuting, I wondered about studded tires too but then I got to thinking that on days when the roads are icy, it is not my slipping and falling that I'd be worried about but rather cars slipping into me. I'll be especially selective about the days I ride and the routes/paths I take.
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Old 11-08-12, 07:43 AM   #5
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I used to run studded MTB tires, but those things are so heavy and ponderous, the thought of riding 20 miles on 'em is inconceivable, especially when, most of the time, they're not really needed. They're noisy when on the pavement, too.

Switching to 700c wheels with cyclocross tires for the winter was a revelation; I find they handle both slush and powder much better. In part, that's due to their tendency to have low, widely spaced knobs that just don't pack up, but also their narrowness seems to allow them to knife in better.

Yes, they're treacherous on ice, but barely more so than a 26" fat tire. There's an intersection on a secondary road that I go through that always gets compacted snow that glazes over like an ice rink; I've gone down in a fraction of an eyeblink on both wheels, so if your roads are like that, studs are the only way to go. Also, the skinny ones are not as confidence inspiring, but once you learn to trust 'em, you can get along just fine.

Here in Michigan they salt the bejeezus out of the roads, so more than snow and ice, we've got supercold slush, but otherwise dry roads.

Choosing studs or whatever really depends on your local conditions and what kind of surface you ride on.
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Old 11-08-12, 07:48 AM   #6
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Choosing studs or whatever really depends on your local conditions and what kind of surface you ride on.
This. And, if you decide on studs, you don't necessarily have to go all the way to wide and heavy MTB studded tyres. I use a pair of Nokian W106s in 700x35C, they're excellent for commuting on the streets. If you have a lot of unplowed snow, or off-road sections, wider tyre might be a good idea.
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Old 11-08-12, 08:36 AM   #7
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I do have the old Performance 505 MTB I started my commute on before the 520, but I had switched to 26x1.5 city tires on that. Less tread then the 700x32s. I saw that Clement has a new CX tire the X'Plor MSO with plenty of knobbies and a center rib. They come in a 700x40 which I think will fit on the 520. I like that thought because I can also use them on my unpaved rails-to-trails rides.
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Old 11-08-12, 08:36 AM   #8
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My concern here in Northern VA as winter approaches will be icy conditions, black ice or even a commute in snowy slush.
<snip> I am on paved roads the whole way but I am expecting that if there is enough snow to plow that the bike lanes will be snow covered.
It depends on how concerned you are with the ice.

The primary purpose of studs in studded tires is to keep you from falling. On ice, your tires will slide out sideways from under you. If it's the back, most times you can recover. Since we use the front to maintain balance, when the front slides out, you go down fast and hard. And probably in front of a bus. (This is why it's recommended that if you use only one, that you put it on the front.) The "traction", steering, and braking benefits of studded tires are happy side-effects. The studs are really there to keep you upright.

Snowy slush isn't a problem, even for road slicks. I've misjudged the forecast have ridden both 25s and 28s in up to several inches of slush. It gushes out from under the tires, so it's really no problem. Same with up to an inch of light snow. You just use some extra care. On packed snow, or once it begins to clump rather than gush, you'll need some tread. On ice, no amount of tread will help.

Like Juha, I run 700x35 Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106s. I have six winters on them and it looks like they have at least six more left. When buying studded tires for commuting purposes, avoid plain steel studs. You'll likely get only a month or two out of them before you'll need to re-stud. Go with carbide. Nokian and Schwalbe are carbide. Perhaps others too, but I can confirm only those brands.

EDIT: As for cyclocross tires, remember that they're intended for off-road use. I've never seen any with puncture resistance (although some may have it) and their compound is generally soft, meaning they wear quickly on pavement. I have a set of CX tires I use on vacation when I'm 50/50 paved and dirt roads. The rear is nearly worn out at just under 1,000 miles.

Last edited by tsl; 11-08-12 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 11-08-12, 09:16 AM   #9
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I used studded CX tires the winter of 2010-11 (11-12 was a "What's Winter?" winter in NoVA-land and never needed them). 700x35, just fit under my fenders on my cross-style commuter. I think they are the biketiresdirect house brand. They did great on occassional ice patches and light snow/slush conditions. The day the DC area had the unexpected snow/ice storm (I forget if that was the Snowpocalypse, Snowmageedon, Snomore, whatever!), I had no problems getting home. Having fallen on ice (which hurt! and screwed up my riding for several weeks) when the W&OD has been "mostly" clear, I've become very paranoid about it. I went the spare set of wheels/cassette route for my commuter. My commute at the time used a local bike trail. While it is now plowed (usually a few days after storms), road crossings can remain a problem (plow walls from the road crews) On really severe days following storms, I was able to use plowed streets, with just one short section that was sketchy for car traffic. Until the regional park authority started plowing the trail, anything more than a light snow became rutted from walkers and the daily freeze/thaw cycles and nigh-impossible to ride. A friend using an MTB had it much easier (lower pressure/wider tires) than I did. Studs are very noisy on clear pavement and slower than comparable width knobby, treaded, or of course, slick road tires. As mentioned above - not many days I needed them, but very glad when I had them!

I'd recommend fenders, it will keep alot of crud off you & the bike! Tradeoff is I can just fit the studded tires with them vs a slightly wider tire without studs. Also recommend some combination of weather-resistant shoe covers, socks, or winter cycling boots (or platform pedals and real boots) to keep feet warm and sort of dry.

You'll be slower in snow / studs / boots, but you can keep moving. It's awesome when the traffic is at a standstill and you can still make steady progress even if it is only 10-12 mph! Don't be afraid to dismount and walk through the worst sections if necessary.

My current commute is all-roads and has several sections I think are unrideable in snow conditions, not because studs won't work (they would) but because lane widths, lack of shoulders, and traffic volume & speed combined with snow/ice/darkness/visbility would make them more dangerous than I'll willingly risk. While most of those sections of the route has parallel sidewalks/paths, they are poorly maintained - cracked pavement/asphalt in places, not plowed, enough walker traffic to rut up, and significant accumulations of sand and debris at the curb cuts. You'll have to judge conditions on your own route vs. your risk tolerance. Maybe there's a bus route you can use on the really bad days. The friend with the MTB would ride the shoulder (plowed) of a major artery - rush hour traffic was typically almost stopped, so the normal high speed traffic wasn't an issue. He wore a vest and had a serious reflector & light setup to ensure he was as visible as humanly possible.
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Old 11-08-12, 09:19 AM   #10
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Go have a look at the winter cycling forum. there's a lot of good infos and advices on how to make your own studded tires.
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Old 11-08-12, 09:25 PM   #11
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A bunch of us just put on studded tires in late Fall and leave them on until early Spring. Figure at least $100 for a pair of studded tires, and don't expect to swap tires frequently -- handling studded tires is literally painful.

They're slow, they're heavy, they're noisy, you have to treat them more gently (I've lost a couple studs riding to lateral stresses as from riding off/down a sloped sidewalk shoulder to the roadway). I find myself riding slower in part so I'm less likely to need a panic stop (which I trust, but on clean pavement that could mean losing a stud or two). But it's nice not having to pay any attention to the weather, knowing that the studs are there if the roadways get bad overnight or while I'm working.

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Old 11-08-12, 11:23 PM   #12
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Here is a great link with a lot of info. I bought from Peter and am very happy with his tires.

http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/studdedtires.asp
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Old 11-09-12, 12:57 AM   #13
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Why not DIY?

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Old 11-09-12, 07:07 AM   #14
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Why not DIY?

DIY is fine for off-road. My brother uses screws (and a tire liner) for his MTB knobbies, which is ridden strictly off-road and on the ponds. Works just fine. But…

First, as you can see in your photo, the screws stick out too far. On pavement, the screw points would be the only part of the tire in contact with the pavement. Studs, even when brand new, stick out my only a mm or two, not a quarter-inch. They dimple the rubber a bit, but the rubber is in contact with the road.

Second, the screws aren't carbide. So yes, they'll wear down in a couple of weeks until the rubber meets the road, which eliminates my previous objection. But then they'll be worthless as studs, and you'll have take the tire off, and re-screw them. Which, I guess is fine for a weekend off-road bike, but this is the commuting forum. We need our bikes to be road-ready every single morning.

My brother won't even ride MTB his up and down the street in front of his house because the screws wear too quickly. But according to my nephew, the sparks are cool.

EDIT: For the sake of completeness, I suppose screws would be fine in areas where hardpack on the roads sticks around all winter. In most of the US, the freeze/thaw cycle means you'll be riding the screws on asphalt much of the time.

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Old 11-09-12, 08:14 AM   #15
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studded marathon winter, they are nice on the road
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Old 11-09-12, 08:23 AM   #16
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studded marathon winter, they are nice on the road
No studded tire is nice on dry roads...some just are more tolerable than others. There are times I am tempted to turn up the volume on my MP3 so I don't have to listen to them!
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Old 11-09-12, 09:24 AM   #17
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they are nice on the road compared to the wicked knobby sort. re: the sound, I remember missing the sizzling bacon when spring came around ... :-)
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Old 11-09-12, 10:58 AM   #18
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My 160 stud Nokian Mount and Ground W tires are 20 seasons old.
still have all the studs.. Long wearing Rubber (26")

I'm where black ice is occasional , not quarter annually.
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Old 11-09-12, 11:57 AM   #19
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I'll second the Marathon Winter recommendation!

I've got the slightly cheaper/less studded Schwalbes (the Snow Studs), and while they're not as grippy as some, they're much better on those dry days. If I add a bit of extra air in the tires I can roll without touching the studs to the pavement, so they're only as bad as your average knobby MTB tire. Then, on the crazy days, I can drop the PSI and stay mostly upright.
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Old 11-09-12, 12:21 PM   #20
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For light snow, fat tires with low pressure work best (though some swear by skinnier ones). The same holds true with ice, but in that case the addition of studs makes your day go just a little less eventful. But of course most days your roads will be fine and you probably won't want to use your snow/ice tires all the time...but it can be a pain swapping tires based on the weather forecast. It's a little easier if you have a spare set of wheels with your snow/ice tires mounted on them, but personally I have a cheap MTB with rack, fenders and Nokian w240 studded tires that I use just for those snowy/icy days.
I decided to go with the new Clement X'Plor MSO in 700x40. At a 100 miles a week on pavement, they may be worn out by the time spring comes, I'll go back to the Bontragers or new road tires. If I go down on black ice conditions I'll address the stud idea then.

Thanks for all the great advice.
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Old 11-09-12, 12:53 PM   #21
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It depends on how concerned you are with the ice.

The primary purpose of studs in studded tires is to keep you from falling. On ice, your tires will slide out sideways from under you. If it's the back, most times you can recover. Since we use the front to maintain balance, when the front slides out, you go down fast and hard. And probably in front of a bus. (This is why it's recommended that if you use only one, that you put it on the front.) The "traction", steering, and braking benefits of studded tires are happy side-effects. The studs are really there to keep you upright.

Snowy slush isn't a problem, even for road slicks. I've misjudged the forecast have ridden both 25s and 28s in up to several inches of slush. It gushes out from under the tires, so it's really no problem. Same with up to an inch of light snow. You just use some extra care. On packed snow, or once it begins to clump rather than gush, you'll need some tread. On ice, no amount of tread will help.

Like Juha, I run 700x35 Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106s. I have six winters on them and it looks like they have at least six more left. When buying studded tires for commuting purposes, avoid plain steel studs. You'll likely get only a month or two out of them before you'll need to re-stud. Go with carbide. Nokian and Schwalbe are carbide. Perhaps others too, but I can confirm only those brands.

EDIT: As for cyclocross tires, remember that they're intended for off-road use. I've never seen any with puncture resistance (although some may have it) and their compound is generally soft, meaning they wear quickly on pavement. I have a set of CX tires I use on vacation when I'm 50/50 paved and dirt roads. The rear is nearly worn out at just under 1,000 miles.
+1 Absolutely spot on as usual tsl.
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Old 11-09-12, 12:53 PM   #22
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I decided to go with the new Clement X'Plor MSO in 700x40. At a 100 miles a week on pavement, they may be worn out by the time spring comes, I'll go back to the Bontragers or new road tires. If I go down on black ice conditions I'll address the stud idea then.

Thanks for all the great advice.

Having been through Fredericksburg a few times, I'm sure that black ice isn't nearly as much of a risk as the freakin drivers!
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Old 11-09-12, 01:33 PM   #23
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Why aren't non-studded winter tires being considered such as Continental Top Contact Winter II Premium?
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Old 11-09-12, 02:17 PM   #24
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I have a set of Schwalbe land cruisers which I throw on if I expect there to be snow. They grip fairly well in the snowy conditions we typically see, and thanks to the smoother central part of the tread aren't too slow on a dry road.
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Old 11-09-12, 03:00 PM   #25
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Why aren't non-studded winter tires being considered such as Continental Top Contact Winter II Premium?
Beat me to it, though I was thinking about the non Premium (though I couldn't recall the name anyway...).

Edit: Found a thread about the non Premiums from a couple of years ago- http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...tact-Winter-II. Looks like might be a good hedge bet for glare/black ice, but not so much for hard packed ruts.

Last edited by no1mad; 11-09-12 at 03:09 PM.
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