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  1. #1
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Are studded tires really necessary?

    I've been cycling through the winters for a few years now, and have yet to purchase a set of studded tires. I just flatten the knobbies on my mtn bike a bit, and off I go.

    Having said that, I will add that I don't ride when the roads are covered in a thick sheet of ice. I ride when the road crews have cleared the road down to the pavement, or I ride on snow-covered trails.

    If you use studded tires, under what conditions have you found that they are necessary?

    Also, when you ride with studded tires on bare pavement, like when the road crews have cleared the road, doesn't the pavement wear the studs down? I would also think the studs would make the tires more slippy in situations when the road is slippery with frost (not ice). In those situations, the studs have nothing to grip into, and I wouldn't think there'd be much tread from the tires making contact with the road.

    I'm curious.

  2. #2
    Senior Member royalflash's Avatar
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    I have Nokian Extreme 296's and MOST of the time I would say that a decent unstudded knobbly would be just as good. The studs don't make any difference in snow and slush which tends to occur much more often than sheet ice.

    Having said that though it only takes one unexpected patch of sheet ice where a fall is avoided to make their purchase worthwhile.

    They also sometimes give you the confidence to cycle when others (more sensible maybe) are on the bus.

    The only time I have noticed a slight increase in slippiness from the studs is on smooth concrete or pavement but it is nothing to worry about.

    I have only had the tyres on for a month so I can't say anything about wear but I did notice the other day that a stud had come off. So I only have 295 left on that tyre .

    Bottom line: If you really want to save money you could probably manage without them.
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  3. #3
    bici accumulatori pinerider's Avatar
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    If you want to ride all the time, you need studs. I got by last winter with some Innovas, just picked up some Nokian Mount and Grounds for this winter (I'll be leaving them on the bike - I had spare wheels for the Innovas, just used them when there was snow on the road). The studs aren't a big issue on dry pavement, other than worrying about the Innovas wearing out quickly.
    My commuting is mostly on 4 lane urban roads. I find that studded tires are essential for the icey areas that are covered with slush and snow. It's hard to tell if they're slush to the pavement or slush over ice. The studs make this a non-issue - you just ride through without worrying about slippage. When you're ridiing in traffic you can't always avoid riding on the snowy parts of the road.
    Some of the nicest riding can be found during snow storms. Traffic is usally very light and moving slowly and there's a certain magic about being out in one. Around here with the amount of road salt they use, there can be a fair amount of ice under the snow during snow storms. Studded tires make the icey ruts at least semi-navigable

    A couple of amazingly quick transformations from the vertical to the horizontal during my first winter commuting convinced me that studs are an essential item for winter riding.
    Last edited by pinerider; 02-04-05 at 03:56 PM.
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  4. #4
    PCS
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    Like the guys before said, they only benefit on ice. I like using them on frozen ponds and lakes at the local mtb trails. But when it's just snow/slush/pavement they aren't that much help. Mine where homemade so not as good as the nokians, but better than nothing and fun to make!

    Live in Hamilton eh Pinerider? I grew up there (18 or so years). How is old steel town doing?

  5. #5
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Depends on your winter. But there has even been lively debate in Finnish bike forums about whether you really need studs or not. There are people who quite happily ride throughout our winter with just knobbies. I have accidentally tried it a couple of times, as I have either been late with putting on studded tyres or early taking them off, and I would not like to do it on regular basis.

    As described above, they are best in conditions where a knobby tyre will not grip (all kinds of ice and really hard packed snow (=icy surface)). Quality studs will not wear considerably on bare pavement, and the sound they make is kind of cool too. Peds will notice you approaching well in advance!

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  6. #6
    Member coldcanuck's Avatar
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    I tried riding with studded tires all season this year. I bought a pair of Innovas. I put them on in late November and have been riding them ever since.

    My overall impression is disappointment. I'm not into changing tires every morning, so I've been riding on them all the time since I put them on. This changed my wheels from having traction-inducing protruding studs to having little metal hard points on the knobs. So, I get precious little additional traction on ice.

    That being said, though my tires are now essentially knobbies, I've found that they're fine for pretty much anything, provided you're riding on roads. The only time I really needed studs was on one day biking on one of the bike paths in Ottawa. It was glare ice and I fell four times. This sounds worse than it actually was...(After the first fall, you learn "how to fall", and aim for the snow bank).

    So, the point: If you don't want to change your tires everyday, but want the security of having a studded tire, don't buy Innovas (it sounds like the Nokians are a helluva lot better). However, you'll probably find that your standard knobby will do you just fine 90% of the time if you're commuting.

  7. #7
    coitus non circum. Mars's Avatar
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    They are not NECCESSARY but they are NICE to have under certain circumstances. I have two front wheels, one with a slick the other with a studded Nokian. When it is snowy (packed snow from cars) or icy, I put the Nokian wheel on and notice that I ride with much more confidence and speed than my commuting friends do. They create a lot of rolling resistance, though, so I don't like them when the pavement is clear.

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    Having said that, I will add that I don't ride when the roads are covered in a thick sheet of ice. I ride when the road crews have cleared the road down to the pavement, or I ride on snow-covered trails.
    If you don't ride when the roads are covered in ice than you don't need them. Having said that, they are necessary for ice. Why would anyone ride on ice without studs? Some things you can save $$$ on but this isn't one of them. If you slip and fall and brake your leg, your hospital bills will make the $50 i spent on studs, seem pretty small.

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    I was skeptical about the need for studded tires, especially here in the mid-atlantic US. However, this year, I have not been able to ride for nearly a month due to ice. We have more ice than snow, especially on the bike trails that do not get treated and on the side streets that I ride on. I've crashed on ice more than I would like to admit, and this year I said no.

    Next year I will build up my old Bridgestone MB-2 mountain bike to be my ice bike with studded tires. That way, I can ride in January. It's sometimes nice to have old bikes lying around.

  10. #10
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    o man i live in boston and this morning around 8 the roads where freaking icy, i got about 100 yards and my single speed dumbed me like it was it's job. I sure could have used a nice pair of studded tyres. But so far this winter i have been able to get around better then most cars with my knobbies.

  11. #11
    Senior Member royalflash's Avatar
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    I have to say the studs were worth their weight in gold today- cycling back from the office it was suddenly REALLY icy. I really would not have liked to be without them today.
    only the dead have seen the end of mass motorized stupidity

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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by velogirl
    I was skeptical about the need for studded tires, especially here in the mid-atlantic US. However, this year, I have not been able to ride for nearly a month due to ice. We have more ice than snow, especially on the bike trails that do not get treated and on the side streets that I ride on. I've crashed on ice more than I would like to admit, and this year I said no.

    Next year I will build up my old Bridgestone MB-2 mountain bike to be my ice bike with studded tires. That way, I can ride in January. It's sometimes nice to have old bikes lying around.
    Velogirl has it exactly right -- the Washington DC area has lots of ice, but very little snow. Other areas (parts of Canada, for example) have much snow and little ice. Studs (by themselves) would not help at all there. However, those of us that commute usually use semislick tires. The only knobbies that I own are my studded Nokians. Going from smooth tires to treaded tires makes a real difference in the snow. The way I look at, it is better have knobbies in the winter, and if you get knobby tires, they might as well have studs.

    My Nokian W106 tires show zero stud wear in over a year. They are also among the most flat-resistant tires out there -- clearly a virtue in cold weather. They are very helpful on frost-slick roads. I ride in the same area as velogirl but have not had a single slightly-difficult commute all winter, and have ridden every day except weekends and vacation.

    I did commute without Nokians for six years. There were times when it was very difficult, and I would fall at least once every year. So no -- they are not necessary -- but they can make your day a lot easier and more fun. I kind of miss the challenge, but I will take "easy and fun" over "difficult and hairy" any day.

    Also, on a snowy, icy DC evening, the only two things that will get you home on time are the Metro and a bike with studded tires. Peace of mind is worth a lot to me, especially as the nearest Metro stop is a mile from my house and has no parking.

    Paul

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    Velogirl has it exactly right -- the Washington DC area has lots of ice, but very little snow. Other areas (parts of Canada, for example) have much snow and little ice. Studs (by themselves) would not help at all there.
    Paul

    Ah, I see ... both of the places I've lived in Canada, where I've done winter cycling, haven't been icy.

    When I was in Winnipeg, I cycled through the winter for a few years and the roads were always bare and dry - although it was freezing cold, we didn't get much snow those years. Last winter we got dumped on, but even so, the roads were only bad for about a month and then the city crews cleared them and I was out cycling on bare, dry roads again. Now that I'm in Alberta, it's the same thing - for the first couple weeks after I got here, the roads were terrible, but then they cleared them and (until today - it's snowing heavily today) they were bare and dry again. The most slippery conditions I've encountered are frost and freezing rain, and I don't think studs would help in either case.

    That's why I wondered about the necessity of studded tires - I could see myself rolling along on bare, dry roads, just wearing the studs down, 95% of the time.

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    I can tell you, from personal experience, that studs are good to have in frost and freezing rain. The studs wear at the same rate as the rubber. If those are rare conditions, and you already have knobby tires, I don't think studs would make a difference on most days. Winter really does mean different things in diferent parts of North America.

    Paul

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    I can tell you, from personal experience, that studs are good to have in frost and freezing rain.
    Paul
    I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I can't see how studs would work in frost and freezing rain - there's nothing for the studs to dig into.

  16. #16
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    On pavement the studs are not as good as without them. They are slow and noisy. Many types of ice can be ridden on without studs. Every once in a while there is ice that is not possible without studs. The weather varies so much it's hard to know what is going to happen. No way really to find out how much you will use them. The studs do wear on pavement. Tungsten carbide studs will last 4 or 5 times longer than steel on pavement. Some riders will wear out a set of steel studs in one year. Some tires have easily replaceable studs. In snow and slush unless there is hard pack snow or ice underneath for the studs to grab they don't make much difference.

    I gotta tell ya I can go straight over 2" deep footprints frozen in ice as fast as I want with studded mtb tires. I have almost as much traction on the ice rink as pavement. It is a lot of fun! Are there any lakes nearby?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    I'm not trying to be difficult here, but I can't see how studs would work in frost and freezing rain - there's nothing for the studs to dig into.
    Freezing rain coats the road with black ice. A clear frost layer on the road also provides pruchase for the studs. Freezing rain that freezes on you but not the road will not be helped by studs, nor will a rime ice coating on the road (opaque frost).

    Maybe your definitions of freezing rain and frost are different from mine. But you are right -- if the studs can't dig in to something, even a thin layer, they provide little benefit.

    There is another instance where the studs won't help. Suppose the snow on top of the ice is dense enough and sticky enough to keep the studs from digging into the ice.

    I basically think of my Nokians as winter tires. The combination of a knobby tread and studs will provide benefit in nearly all slippery winter conditions, even though the studs themselves do not always give a benefit. There seem to be other knobby winter tires with a hydrophyllic tread compund that lack studs but do well in snow.

    It really does not sound as if the studs would give nearly the benefit where you are as they do where I am.

    Where they really shine is black ice. Black ice becomes a smooth, dreamlike, delightful riding surface. We get a lot of black ice, whereas it may be rare up there.

    Paul

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    Freezing rain coats the road with black ice. A clear frost layer on the road also provides pruchase for the studs. Freezing rain that freezes on you but not the road will not be helped by studs, nor will a rime ice coating on the road (opaque frost).

    Maybe your definitions of freezing rain and frost are different from mine. But you are right -- if the studs can't dig in to something, even a thin layer, they provide little benefit.
    Paul
    We get black ice here too, but it isn't all that common.

    When I'm talking about freezing rain, I mean rain that freezes on me - you should see me coming in from some of my rides, when I bend my arms, all the ice cracks off!

    And the frost layer on the road is usually VERY thin (you'd need special tools to be able to measure the thickness). (Well, hoarfrost is thick, but it doesn't collect on the road)

    On my century last Saturday, I had both freezing rain AND frost -- hoarfrost. The hoarfrost developed because of a thick fog which shrouded the area for the first few hours. My bicycle and I were covered in ice from the freezing rain, and then the hoarfrost formed on top of that ... I looked like a snowman!! A couple times I stopped to check the road - once because it looked slippery to me, and once because the sound my tires were making changed and I wanted to know what the road conditions felt like ... both times it was fine.

  19. #19
    Senior Member jerrryhazard's Avatar
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    My take: I commuted the last 3 years without studs. I live in Ohio, and we run the gamut on changing conditions. One day will be nice fluffy snow, the next will be freezing rain (where the rain freezed on the ground). Some days we'll get all conditions throughout the course of the day. My commutes and rides take me across all kinds of surfaces; asphalt, white concrete, bike paths, frozen trails, cobblestone alleys, etc. So, it's hard to predict what I'll run into on a given day. I've yet to dump my bike due to ice, but I've been lucky. This year I purchased Nashbars brand of studded tires (Kenda), and ridden on them over a month now, mostly just on concrete and asphalt. Yes, the studs do cause some resistance when pedaling, but nothing you can't deal with. Any lack of traction on concrete/asphalt from the studs is minimal, and I've noticed very little wear (if any, hard to tell) over 300 miles. With just one tire on the front, I deliberately tried to fishtail my bike while riding over a sheet of ice. The back wheel slid out with no effort, but the front tire tracked fine, and I could not force it to break loose. In fact the back end slides out at will sometimes, without any direct input from the rider - mostly on off camber turns/corners. If I was going to be in a winter climate next year, I'd get one for the back also.

    Before I had the studded tire, I was always very apprehensive when approaching a patch of ice somewhere, and had to concentrate intensely for balance while riding over it, being careful not to tip or lean too much one way or another. Now, I can ride across most icy patches without flinching. They track as good as dry tires on pavement. The only exception being bumpy roads/alleys, where you have to be careful of pits and undulations from worn roads underneath the ice, or frozen channels from tire tracks through the snow.

    I'd say, if you rarely encounter ice, and it's never been a problem for you - keep on as you have been. If ice presents a confidence or traction problem for you, then try a cheap version and make your decision from there. I'm glad I tried them, and recommend them for anyone that rides in similar conditions. They are confidence builders, and make rides closer to worry free.
    "You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe." Its only after the "believers" have their faith shaken sufficiently that progress can start again..."
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  20. #20
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    I can see using studs if you get a lot of freezing rain maybe. I never used them in Alaska. A pair of snowcat rims and low pressure with a tire that doesn't have aggressive tread works fine. Geax Sedona 2.25 is my personal favorite. Scandanavian countries (some I think) have outlawed studded automotive tires. There are some really good tires now meant for winter that don't need studs. Nokia Hakkapelitta for example. Or however it's spelled. I gave up on studded auto tires years ago. They just made me a more dangerous driver.

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    Machka,

    A few weeks ago, I was up skiing at Mont Tremblant, which is about 60 km north of Montreal. Temperatures were -33 C, and there was never a trace of ice on any of the roads. Everything was snow, in a range from fine powder to very compact. I didn't ride a bike there, but it was very easy surface to drive on. On a bike, I suspect that even slicks would be fine if you took care.

    Here in DC, it usually rises above freezing during the day, causing melting. It also usually drops below freezing at night. Therefore, there is almost always ice all winter. We get a lot of dew because of the humidity; this freezes on the road as an ice layer. Finally, the warm ground insures that all snow will have an ice layer beneath.

    Paul

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    Here in DC, it usually rises above freezing during the day, causing melting. It also usually drops below freezing at night. Therefore, there is almost always ice all winter. We get a lot of dew because of the humidity; this freezes on the road as an ice layer. Finally, the warm ground insures that all snow will have an ice layer beneath.

    Paul
    Yup Paul, it's the same where I live in PA. I'm to the point where I run my studded front all the time, and supplement with a studded rear when it's really icy. That front tire has saved me from some potentially ugly get-offs on black ice. I’m really impressed with how well the tire grips dry pavement. You don’t lose much with the studs.

  23. #23
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    There is a lot of good information sharing here in this thread. As with anything, studded tires are a compromise. Good at some things, not so good at others.

    I would be the first one to agree that most of the ice on the road during a lot of commuting can be handled without studs. And studs don't do much in snow without ice. But on the worst ice they rock!

    I found these pictures today, so I though I would share them as an example of what you can ride on for miles with studded tires. The mtb studded tire guys already know this. If this is something you are not familiar with this may be eye opening. This is not an argument that studded tires are needed for everything. This is an excuse for me to show some old pictures of ice riding. Some of the people I talk to don't understand until they see the pictures. You can ride on this stuff all day long without any problems.
    Sorry about the picture quality, old camera...

  24. #24
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    See, if my roads around here were like that, I'd definitely want studs!!


    My roads are usually either something like this: http://www.acclaimimages.com/_galler...3008-4911.html with a lot of deep, loose snow ...

    Or clear.

  25. #25
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    In those loose snow conditions it really doesn't matter. Except, when it's hard packed snow and pretty hard. You can ride on it just fine without studs, but the studs do dig in and you can ride almost like on the road, fast corners included.

    Not needed at all but, It's sooooooo much fun.

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