Got Studs?

Regular guest on Over the Bars, d’Andre Willis does, and she was kind enough to share her experience with these winter cycling confidence builders.  Thanks d’Andre!

After being sidelined for two weeks by travel and a bad cold, I’m back on the bike this week.    Days off the bike always remind me of why I ride….I miss the fresh air, the feeling of freedom, the time to think and reflect, and how good it feels to have a little bit of low-exertion exercise twice each day.   This last benefit I particularly miss in the season when all kinds of high-calorie/fat/sugar treats seem to appear everywhere….oof.

A few basic tools are all you need to swap tires on a commuter bike.

Since snow and ice are now the norm outside, getting back on the bike meant that this weekend’s project was changing out my regular tires for my studded tires.  Dottie over at Let’s Go Ride a Bike made the change this week as well and used her local bike shop.   I did it myself this year – I enjoy doing basic bike maintenance and it helps make me more aware of what’s going on with the bike overall.  It’s a chance to tighten all the rack and fender bolts, wipe the frame down and offers more immediate gratification than running the bike back and forth to the shop.   Although most bike shop folks would be very happy to see you this time of year and would get your project in right away.  

Baby got a new pair of shoes.

These tires are the Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 in the 700cx35 size.   Yes, that’s a mouthful.  They are made in Finland and are awesome.   The studs are like little nail heads that protrude about a sixteenth of an inch from the surface of the tire. They are not “spikes” as I imagined before seeing them…I was picturing those scary tires on the bad guys’ motorbikes in For Your Eyes Only when James Bond and the girl escape from an ambush on an Alpine ski run.  These babies can’t hurt you but they still grip on most anything – slick ice sheets, icy ruts and bumps, slush, deep snow.   They are a little slower on bare pavement, but I’m not moving too fast out there anyway.   You can find these tires in a lot of places both locally and online.   Cost will likely be $80-90 for the pair, or equivalent to around 3 tanks of gas.  They should last many winters – this is the third for mine – and the piece of mind they bring is worth every penny.  With studs on your tires, you don’t need to be a stud to ride in the winter

d'Andre out for a Sunday test ride.

Dave has Nokian A10s on his Schwinn/Dutch conversion. Are you running studs this winter?

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

18 thoughts on “Got Studs?

  1. My friends at Johnson’s Cycle got me started on studded tires. I’m on my fourth year. They’re a necessity (along with fenders) for Wisc. winter cycle commuting. I too have Nokian. You’ll like em!

  2. Like Dave I’ve got the 700x32c Nokian A10’s – I need to pick up a pair for the MTB as well. Ben’s Cycles on Lincoln has a very large selection of studded tires in stock at the moment.

  3. Today was my first day with studded tires. Thank goodness it snowed; I was really looking forward to the ride.
    I put 26″ Schwalbe Marathon studded tires on a mountain bike that was converted to a single speed that I am dedicating to snowy days, while giving my commuter a rest. The drivetrain still needs a little tweaking / aligning, but the tires worked well.
    Pricey — about $65 each, but a great investment. Happy riding.

  4. I roll with 26″ Nokian Mount and Grounds on a Giant MTB that I’ve designated my winter commuter. I love studded tires, and I wouldn’t ride in winter without them.

    My first winter commuting on the bike, I went for the cheapest variety of studded tires, Inova. I only rode them about 50% of the time that winter because we had numerous dry stretches over the course of that winter. They still wore down to their nubs by March.

    For the next winter I scaled up and plunked down the $130 bucks or so for a pair of Nokians. They are worth every penny. After one season of use there’s hardly any wear on the studs. I’m now going into my second winter on them and they’re like new.

    A small note of caution. Studded tires are like condoms: they work 99% of the time, but it’s the 1% chance they fail you that you need to be concerned about. You can -and will – still fall if you’re not careful. Turn wide, don’t lean into turns and avoid icy ruts in the street and the studs will do you just fine.

  5. I ride a old Fuji Thrill mountain bike and have been riding studs for three winters now. I found that to save money that only one studded tire on the front is enough for me to catch my traction on most riding and I usually can fishtail and catch my back tire. Being a college student then and now a recent grad, money is often tight. So far no falls this year or last!

    Also I love the racks on d’Andre’s bike. I just put on a back rack this year and I love riding my panniers this winter.

  6. I ride on my studded tires from December through March. In deep snow they’re a must. Having that bite on frosted pavement or that unexpected patch of ice is important to me on drier winter days. I under-inflate and lower the saddle so I can get my feet on the deck with ease. Still ride’n an hav’n fun. Winter cycling is a blast!

  7. I’ve been riding 26 x 1.9 Nokian Mount and Grouds (160) for 3-4 years. I only get the snow bike (a funky early 90’s Trek 830 modified MTN bike) out when the paths in Madison get snow packed (my ride is, thankfully, about 80% on the path). They sloooooooooow on dry pavement, but peace of mind on ice/snow pack. I’m thinking of working up an old Hybrid bike and using Nokian 106 instead to try to make the pedaling a little easier. Anyone gone from an MTN 26″ tire snow bike to a thinner (700C studded tire)? Make a difference? thanks!
    (check out my crazy video commuter blog!)

  8. I don’t. my primary riding is on snow covered road and the beach of Lake Michigan, I run a set of CST Cheyenne at 2.4″ with about 30psi in them, i see very little ice on my winter ride and can’t justify them. the best thing I did for winter riding was to build a old steel Trek 820 into a 1×8 with those fatties…..the bike and tires get me through just about anything (except ice)

    • Always felt the same way, Alex. We ride the beach (west side of the Lake) when we can, but the ice so far this winter has claimed the beach and we’re stuck on icy roads. Studs rule!

  9. I also have Nokian Mount & Grounds on my winter MTB commuter setup, though I will only use them when it’s almost total ice or hard snow coverage. They are absolutely amazing on frozen lakes and pure ice. Though, they really drag on the asphalt, and I have to believe they are just getting obliterated from seeing all the sparks they throw. I much prefer ‘traditional’ big knobbies in loose or packed snow, or on partial-coverage conditions – like in this early season.

  10. Not riding much lately cause I’m lazy, but when I do decide to jump on it will be on the Trek 830 that permanently has a Nokian (low density studs) just on the front (normal knobby mtn bike tire on back).

    Don’t think you HAVE to have studs…but it makes everything more pleasant and secure feeling. Well worth the investment.

  11. Agreed that you don’t *have* to have studs, but Dave’s wording at the top of the post is right on about studs being a winter cycling confidence builder. A few years ago when I pushed my commute into the winter for the first time, I remember my first outing on icy ruts on the lakefront path. I was riding my mid-80s Schwinn with 27 x 1 1/4 wheels and felt as if I was wearing high heels on the ice…..and not in a good way. But Dave Steele is right, also; studs won’t make you 100% fall-proof, but they will make you much more stable on ice. Don’t forget that if you have to stop the bike on the ice and put your foot on the ground, your boots don’t have studs 😉

    The flip side of studded tires is the strong following for running skinny tires in the snow; several people here at the office swear by them and all claim to have heard it first at Ben’s. Similar thinking to skinny snow tires on a small car; the skinny tires cut through the snow to drop your tire down to the pavement as easily as possible. Not my personal preference, but a lot of people like to roll that way.

  12. Just loaded some Nokian Gazza’s on my 29er, never thought I’d need studs, but the ice layer on the roads this year is to much for regular tires. I love, love. love the studs!

  13. I do not use studded tires, just knobby mountain bike tires, which really do just fine. I tried the Schwalbe Winter Marathon studded tires, which by the way look way cool, and couldn’t stand all that noise.

    One thing I do find myself doing is taking the bike in the basement and hosing it down just about every night. Between the sand, salt and grime it just gets filthy out there, but a quick hose down and its all good.

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