After reading all these threads, I've decided that studs might be a good idea for me here since we tend to have a lot of freeze/thaw that could lead to black-ice conditions. So, assuming I can find a pair of studded tires to fit my ride, do I need to get them front and back, or just in front. Does it really help to have it in the back too or is it just wasted money? I tend to think it would be good to prevent fishtailing and to maintain traction on inclines. Anyone with experience in this care to comment?
Peter White does some pondering on this issue at http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/studdedtires.asp. He strongly recommends two studded tyres. I think previous discussions here established that one tyre CAN be enough, depending on climate and your needs, but if you have only one, it should be in the front.
Personally, I run two. Haven't even tried just one studded tyre.
To err is human. To moo is bovine.
Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?
One studded tire in front is sufficient to maintain control and keep from falling. Who cares whether you fishtail? As long as you are upright and moving you are fine. Because most of my bike's weight is on the rear wheels, front studs alone produce no discernable added drag.
However, there is more to riding than just staying upright. You may have problems on hills without rear studs. Starting out up even a slight grade from a stop can be difficult. When descending a hill, overuse of the front brake can drop you, and rear braking action is limited by the lack of studs. Furthermore, if things are really slick, you may have trouble even walking the bike. I would say that the answer depends strongly on how hilly your area is. Personally, I use them on both front and back.
You might consider mounting just the front early in the season when ice is rare and mount the rear later when it is common. I find it less hassle just to put them both on in December and leave them until March.