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Is it time for me to switch to studded tires?

  • happyslug (369 posts)
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    Is it time for me to switch to studded tires?

    This is an annual debate for me.  Some years I go without switching, other years I switch.  It depends on the winter weather.   I have used studded tires for about 20 years.  When I use them, I notice increased roll resistance, but when I hit ice I do not loose traction.

    As I pointed out on another thread, it looks like Putin is up to his old tricks of making our winter worse then normal (US winter weather is set, to a degree, by the snow cover in Siberia as of November 1 of each year, by November 1, 2016 Siberia was all snow cover, with coverage reaching into Mongolia , Manchuria and Xinjiang (the last two are regions of China, Mongolia is an independent nation but use to be called “Outer Mongolia”, Inner Mongolia is a region within China Inner Mongolia is NOT snow covered as of 10-31-2016).

    more on Xinjiang:


    Anyway, snow coverage in Siberia leads to harsher winters in North America East of the Rockies (but warmer winter from the Rockies on west, Alaska is affected but not as much as the US East of the Rockies).  Map of a typical Polar Vortex from 2013:


    The Votex follows the Jet Stream:


    Anyway, early snow coverage in Siberia tends to increase the likelihood of  future bad weather in Northern US.   The issue is should I switch to Studded tires, or wait till another snow hits?

    Now, I would have switched a few weeks ago, but I had new fenders installed on my bike over the summer.  The bike shop installed fenders that covered my summer tires, 1 inch high pressure tires.  My studded tires are 1 3/4 inch.  The new Fenders are just 1 1/2 inches wide (you always install fenders at least 1/4 inch wider on each side of the tire, otherwise water from the tires will miss the fender and hit you, thus 1 1/2 inch fenders for 1 inch tires).

    I liked the fenders so I made a comment, but kept the fenders.  The question is should I still put on the Studded tires and run the risk of some water hitting my legs (I wear overpants in the winter when biking so not much a problem) or stay with my 1 inch tires?   I am leaning to just do without the studded tires, unless it really snow and gets cold.  Last week I had a bad ice storm, but most of the ice melted when the warm front that brought the ice warmed up enough to produce rain.

    Come late February I end up removing the studded tires anyway, by then it has warmed up enough that the snow and ice does not last more then a day or two.   In many local winters, that is the norm throughout the winter, snow, then it melts nothing lasts. On the other hand about 50% of the winters, it snows in December and the snow and ice stays on the ground till later February (occasionally early March). When the weather turns good, I take off the Studded tires, for the less roll resistance of conventional tires.

    My fear is this will be a repeat of 2010 and 2014, a long period of snow and ice.   Thus should I do the switch or wait to see how bad the winter is?

    by the way, I obtain my studded tires from Peter White Wheels out of New Hampshire:


    His page with Studded tires:


    Side note: unless you are going off road, stay with the tires with the least number of studs.  The more studs the more roll resistance and the harder it is be pedal.  On the other hand the low end number of studs are sufficient for on road use with ice and snow,.  I use the low end number of studs on my tires, and their are more then sufficient for most purposes.  I do NOT go off road with my bike in winter, but if I did the tires with more studs would provide more traction.

    Please note another way to get more traction is to lower the tire pressure.  I have found studded tires more effective when it comes to bicycle tires, but when I was driving old Army Trucks (The M35 series of 2 1/2 ton trucks), lowering the tire pressure made a huge difference in traction when off road.   I just have NOT notice the same level of increased traction when it comes to bicycle tires but lower tire pressure means more traction.

    Side note: Traction and roll resistance are the same thing, but seen from two different perspectives. Both can be both good and bad:

    a. Traction as how much grip the tire has on the road to make sure you stay on the road and not slide elsewhere,

    b. Roll resistance is how much traction the tire has on the road that you have to overcome to move forward.

    Depending on the situation Traction and Roll Resistance can be good and bad, often at the same time.  Increased traction keeps you on the bike. Increase roll resistance means you have to pedal more and often have to dismount for the bike is to hard to pedal. Decrease roll resistance means you do not have to pedal as much as you slide, do to the decrease in traction, into whatever you did not want to hit in the first place. Roll Resistance and traction  are thus both good and bad, the key is to balance between the two,.

    Herman4747, elias39 like this

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  • frylock (1474 posts)
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    1. I've been experimenting a lot with different psi since I bought my plus bike

    When riding trails on the 29×3, I have psi set to 7f/8r, so I thought that I’d set up all my trail bikes as tubeless and run low pressure. I have two bikes with 29×2.2, and have been running those at 17f/24r.  Running about the same on my 26″ trail bike, and have noticed a definite increase in traction.  I’m hitting corners faster and braking far less.  In any case, I can’t imagine riding with much confidence in the snow or ice by simply decreasing air pressure.

    • happyslug (369 posts)
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      2. That is one advantage of extra wide tires.

      Most bicycle tires do not hydroplane for the simple reason it under two inches, water is dispersed to each side.  Tires over about two inches are to wide for the water to disperse, thus on car and truck tires you have hydroplaning when it comes to trucks and cars.

      With three inch wide tires, you are in the area where the width of the tire is to wide for water to be pushed to the side.  Thus you will hydroplane.  That is one of the disadvantages of extra wide tires.

      But back to studs, last year on a site I was banned from I pointed out the woman who biked to the South Pole.  She used extra wide tires, but ended up having studs installed for traction.  Deflating the tires increases traction, but studs increase traction a lot more for the tracks dig into the ice and snow.

      Please note studs also dig into asphalt and concrete, thus most northern States require studded tires to be removed by April 1st and installed till November.  The studs did into the asphalt and start potholes, thus the ban.

      When driving a motor vehicle in ice, my first choice has always been chains.  Difficult to install, wears out quickly on cleaned streets, but when it comes to traction nothing comes close.  I just have not seen a good set of chains for bike tires, that would be easier to install and remove then changing the tires themselves.  It takes about five minutes to change a bicycle tire, it can take three to four times as long to install chains on the tires on a motor vehicle (I have done it, it is a pain unless you have a commercial garage with a Power jack to lift the entire vehicle off the ground).  Thus I have chains for my car, but studded tires for my bike.

  • Herman4747 (1347 posts)
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    3. I've got Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires on a bike…

    …very small studs, but then, the studs don’t slow one down much.  I believe I got these tires from Peter White Cycles.  I have slipped and fallen while riding on these tires — perhaps the studs are just too small.

    I have more than one bike.  While I use each bike half as much, each bike should last twice as long.  Dilemmas arising from should I put the studded tires on or off don’t come up so much for me.