As I wrote in my Ice Trail Bikers post last Thursday, the recent ice storm in Milwaukee left most trails rivers of ice. While that post was about the paved trails I use to get to work, mother nature gave the mountain bike trails along the Menomonee River near my house the same treatment. It was so nice out on Friday, I took a ride on the trails Friday afternoon after work.
Even though it was warm enough to melt the snow in the woods, the mountain bike trails were still packed down ice. I figured the trails would still be icy, so I opted for my Courtney Custom Cycles single-speed outfitted with Nokian Hakkapeliitta Mount and Ground W160 studded tires. My winter commuter bike has Nokian 700c x 32 A10s, with a mild road tread and 70 studs. Nokian also makes a full-on mtb studded tire, the Extreme, with a very knobby tread pattern and 294 studs.
The Mount and Grounds have knobs, but a much less aggressive tread pattern than the Extremes. Even so these tires have always proven up to any icy winter trail I have tried them on.
Not only do these 26 x 1.9 inch tires have 160 ice biting studs, the silica rubber compound is designed to hold its grip in cold weather, and they do. I have to say the Finns certainly know how to make winter tires for bikes and, I am told, cars.
I know, Nokian merged with Suomen Rengastehdas Oy (Finnish Rubber Works Ltd), and I think Bridgestone owns a big share of them too, but I’m glad they kept the Nokian name. While Hakkapeliitta is a bit hard to spell, Suomen Rengastehdas Oy hardly rolls of my American tongue. I’d hate to have to try to remember and pronounce that every time I recommended their tires to someone. And they still make them in the original factory in town of Lieksa in Finland, where they have the only permanent winter tire testing facility in the world. They also offer a winter driving school. I guess if you are going to live in Finland, you need to embrace winter.
My trail ride in the unseasonably warm weather on Friday was awesome, and thanks to my studded tires, I never lost control on the very icy trails. The conditions for my Sunday ride were significantly more wintry – 11 degrees a bit before noon when I left to meet Russell and crew in the Hoyt Park parking lot. While the trails had dried up with less ice, there were still enough patches to force my riding pals to slow down a bit.
This was the first time in a long time that I was able to hang with every other rider on the trails. While our neighborhood trail rides are never races, I tend to be a bit timid since I separated my shoulder a couple of times pushing the envelope on these trails. Most of my friends are still race and are better bike handlers than I am. Yesterday we were joined by Paul Warloski, a plenty fast racer who rips these mtb trails on his cross bike, and Tosa Trail regular Bubba, who has a section of trail named after him. Typically I would have no business holding his wheel, but thanks to my studs on Sunday, I ended up putting a little gap on him and Bubba when conditions got more slippery.
The Finnish sponsors are hardly pounding down my door for this testimony, but I think you get the picture. These tires do what they were designed to do extremely well.