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Winter Cycling Don't let snow and ice discourage you this winter. The key element to year-round cycling is proper attire! Check out this winter cycling forum to chat with other ice bike fanatics.

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Old 10-28-11, 08:25 PM   #1
Mithrandir
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When to go studded?

So today was my very first sub-freezing commute to work. Not by much; it was 31 out during the majority of the ride. When I was riding I noticed the shoulders of the road had frost on them. It didn't look like ice, but I'm wary of black ice. It didn't seem to affect my traction on the ride this morning so I made it to work just fine, no slipping or anything.

But this got me thinking. At what point will riding on my current tires become dangerous? I've got Schwalbe Marathon Plus's, which Schwalbe rates as "Below average" for winter grip.

I've been thinking of going for studded tires lately, but I have no idea if it's an investment I want to make. I am probably going to end up retiring the bicycle as soon as there's enough snow on the ground to go skiing on regularly (won't be able to commute to work after December 1st anyhow, office is shutting down, so my commuting career is ending). I think my body has decided it doesn't want to lose any weight from cycling anymore, so it will be nice to switch things up with a new activity.

Regardless, I plan to keep on cycling until December 1st, and I have no idea how to tell whether riding will be dangerous or not. Any advice would be purely awesome.

Thanks!
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Old 10-28-11, 08:34 PM   #2
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For the past five years, I've just waited until snow flies. As I recall this has ranged from around Thanksgiving to mid-December. Changing tires doesn't take any more time than fixing a flat, so I don't worry about it until the weather dictates.

I was out this morning too, (28F here) and saw only a patch or two of ice, always in places where there are typically puddles. I know the roads on my commute well, so until there's snow and ice everywhere, I can usually anticipate and avoid little patches like we had this morning.
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Old 10-28-11, 08:48 PM   #3
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I rode my first winter as a part-time commuter without studded tires. Granted, I live a bit further south.

I did plenty of weekend rides in 1" to 2" deep snow on a recumbent without studs. Ride carefully, switch to studs when it starts getting bad.
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Old 10-28-11, 08:50 PM   #4
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Ultimately, you have to make a choice on what you think will happen in the current season, but a good starting point is to check a frost chart or a frost map and decide the threshold (just freezing, a medium freeze, or hard freeze). I tend to use medium freeze because we don't get that much precipitation as a rule, but it depends on where you live.

Even then I tend to wait a little longer to put them on, because once they're on, it's a long time until they come off. For me, midwest, it tends to mean they go on end of November and come off mid-March, but I often try to cheat until mid-December.
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Old 10-28-11, 10:07 PM   #5
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Old 10-28-11, 10:21 PM   #6
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I only put the studded tires on when the snow is on the ground. If the roads may be slick I lower the tire pressure to get a better grip and I lower the seat post so as I can bail out easier.
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Old 10-28-11, 10:31 PM   #7
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studs come on when

It gets icy. Any good mtb bike tire works for snow until the snow is too deep. Studs are for ice. Period. Icy ice or snow on ice if the stud can bite the ice. Once it's icy the studs are the only safe way to ride. I have a Pugsley for snow trails and a bike with Nokia 294's for icy roads. A few inches of snow on slippery ice is something that neither tire works for. The studs won't bite into the ice and the snow can slip over the ice. You can still ride on it but stopping and turning has to be very, very careful. Bottom line is studs for any ice.
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Old 10-28-11, 10:44 PM   #8
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Get a tyre with off camber studs for the front so that there is no engagement while you are riding straight... the Marthon Winter is designed in this fashion so that the studs only bite when you are off camber / turning.

You could mount them now as they need some riding in.

I build my own studded tyres in the same fashion and run centre studs in the rear for some purposes.
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Old 10-29-11, 12:10 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithrandir View Post
I've been thinking of going for studded tires lately, but I have no idea if it's an investment I want to make. I am probably going to end up retiring the bicycle as soon as there's enough snow on the ground to go skiing on regularly (won't be able to commute to work after December 1st anyhow, office is shutting down, so my commuting career is ending). I think my body has decided it doesn't want to lose any weight from cycling anymore, so it will be nice to switch things up with a new activity.
I am not sure these can help you, but generally good choice for transitional periods are nonstudded Continental Top Contact Winter tires.
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Old 10-29-11, 12:35 AM   #10
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You do have to break in studs with light road riding, so now would be the time, but hardly worth it if you are going to stop riding in a month. I just ordered a pair of used Schwalbe studs on ebay, gonna put them on my mtb and commute on that when it snows or ices.
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Old 11-01-11, 10:33 AM   #11
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I probably won't be riding studded until the mornings are regularly in the low-to-mid 30s. I recently set up my MTB with Nokians for my first winter of commuting, although I still need to wear them in. Lost 1 stud on the rear tire already (don't know when/how), it's now a W159
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