tire advice for snowmobile trails
I've got an old Trek 930 mountain bike as my commuter. In the winter I use Nokian Hakkawhatever studded tires, 26" x 2.0" (though they are on the slim side of 2"). I've recently discovered the joy of riding on snowmobile trails, and found that it isn't very difficult if it's cold (below 15-20F) and there has been recent traffic on them. If it's warm or there's any fresh snow, forget about it (gotta save up for a Pugsley).
I've never ridden tires larger than 2.1" (in snow or otherwise), so I'm curious if a few extra tenths of an inch is worth the investment. I think I can fit 2.3" or maybe 2.4" tires on this bike. Would there be any significant difference from my current 2" tires on the snowmobile trails? I'm looking at the 2.3 Hutchinson Pythons on sale at Pricepoint, anybody ride these or similar tires on snow trails?
Ask in the Winter Cycling forum. Lots of experienced folks there. I did some research and it appears the Nokian tires are recommended. I bought the Extreme 294s and they're awsome. One thing you want according to the experts is carbide studs as others wear down quickly. IIRC the Hutchinsons are not carbide (could be wrong).
I suspect tread width isn't as big a deal on snow, stud count is probably more important. A wide tread will give slightly more float but if you need float then you probably are in for a rough ride and the extra width probably won't ammount to much (really tire makers aren't too consistant about tread width measurement anyways. I've seen 2.1s that are wider than some 2.3s). For packed snow (snowmobile trails) you shouldn't need the float.
How many studs on your Nokians? Are they the off-road style with nearly 300 studs or the road style with more like 100 studs?
Mine have 106 studs per tire. To clarify, the tires I'm looking at are NOT studded, they are just wider. I was thinking the opposite, that floatation is more important than studs on snowmobile trails. They are packed, but still soft and not icy like hard pack on roads. They generally have some texture and you're not riding at high speeds, so low pressure fat tires should provide enough grip. I'm basing these thoughts on Surly's Endomorph 3.7" tires, no studs and designed for float in snow.
Granted, 2.3" is a lot less tire than 3.7", but I'm wondering if the principle still applies.
I think it would all depend on how packed the snow is and how much you weigh. I'd say get the widest, most advanced tires your frame can handle and run low pressure.