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Time to get the studs out, and keep on riding

Posted by on December 17th, 2008 at 11:06 am

“The probability is that you will get your money’s worth over the life of the tire. Probably in less than three seasons. Maybe even less than this season.”
– Portlander Daniel Johnson on whether or not you should buy studded tires

With snow and ice a reality for at least a few more days, and with many Portlanders still choosing to go by bike, it’s time to give studded tires a closer look. They require a bit of investment (about $50 a piece for the good ones, or you can make them yourself), but as we’ll find out, one local bike expert says they’re well worth it over the long haul.

Back in January 2007, we took a look at using zipties around your rim/tire for better traction. It’s cheap and simple, but it only works for fixed-gear bikes doesn’t work if you have rim brakes and plastic zipties don’t evoke the same level of confidence over ice as sharp, spikey things like studs (nor do they sound as good in a Blade Runner sort of way).

So, if you want to keep riding, it seems there are two options: buy studded tires off the shelf, or make them yourself.

One BikePortland reader, “TessPrime” wrote in this morning with her DIY experience:

More helpful DIY tips at IceBike.com.

I spent the time and small amount money on 3/8″ screws and did a DIY studded bike tire. They hook up like velcro on the ice and snow and aren’t terrible on bare pavement. I did about 80 screws or so per tire and it took, maybe, two hours. I lined the inside with a few layers of duct tape, and I can’t WAIT for more snow.

If you don’t feel that industrious, two local online retailers sell a full array of studded tires.BikeTiresDirect.com sells nine different models — four of which are currently sold out. They range in price from $29.95 to an MSRP of $97.95.

Linda Watts, marketing manager at Velotech Inc. (the company that runs BikeTiresDirect.com) says they increased their selected of studded tires this year, “but still we’ve managed to sell out of some of them. Within the past two weeks we definitely have seen an increase of locals looking for either studded tires or Cyclocross tires to put on regular road bikes.”

Northwest Portland based Universal Cycles also has nine models available (including replacement studs sold separately).

Both the above retailers have retail locations where you can find anything that’s on their website (the only trick might be getting there).

If you’re having trouble justifying the cost of studded tires in a place like Portland, where snow and ice only happen for a few days out of the entire year, local rider Daniel Johnson has done some of the thinking for you.

The Schwalbe Marathon Winter Studded Tire.
$61.95 at BikeTiresDirect.com

He wrote an email to the Shift list this morning that detailed his rationale behind deciding to finally invest in a pair. Johnson says if you buy a quality pair for about $50, “It ends up snow tires may be cost effective with only about a month of use.”

Why not just use the tires you’ve got? That’s not a cost-effective option according to Johnson; “A crash could easily cost you more than tires. Both in medical bills, and damaged equipment.”

What about driving? That’s much more expensive if you figure in the cost of chains, parking, as well as costs associated with the risk of sliding out and hitting other cars.

Walking? Unfortunately not everyone lives close enough to the things they need (yet).

Public transit seems like the best choice. Or is it? Johnson reasons that for the $4.75 cost of an all-day TriMet pass (which is what you’d need to equal the mobility of biking), “Even if you got the most expensive tires on the first website ($105/tire) it takes about 45 days to break even over taking the bus.

In the end, Johnson says buying a set of studded tires makes a lot of sense.

“The probability is that you will get your money’s worth over the life of the tire Probably in less than three seasons. Maybe even less than this season.”

— For everything about tires for riding in the ice and snow, check out this page at IceBike.com. For more of BikePortland’s Storm of 2008 coverage, click here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Jeff
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Jeff

Zip ties ought to work if you have hub brakes or disc brakes, too — basically anything but rim brakes. Unless I’m missing something?

Zaphod
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Zaphod

I made a serious pair of ice tires and they sat in my basement for several years. I donated them to the CCC last year. I hope they are getting some mileage because I could use them. I might throw down for the commercial ones. The homemade ones must be made very well to prevent flats. I can think of nothing worse than needing to change a flat touching frozen metal with cold hands. Especially when the problem may be the screw heads and may happen again.

Dana
Guest
Dana

What Daniel guy is forgetting though is that no matter what kind of studded tires you have, it won’t stop the idiot who is driving his two wheel drive from skidding into you when he doesn’t see you because his car is all fogged up/frosted over.

Anyone can ride in this weather. Yeah, you might fall and bruise yourself, but if you are going slow and being careful, you won’t hurt yourself too bad. But when the weather gets bad in Portland, drivers start to sip the Kool-Aid and start driving like idiots.

You can take the bus once and a while. We won’t judge you or think you are not cool.

Liz
Guest
Liz

In less than one use you would cover the cost of missing a day of work.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

Icebike… shouldn’t that that be Icybikepeople? 😉

a.O
Guest
a.O

Since I have disc brakes and a big bucket full of zip ties, I may try that. I’m already sick of the bus.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

I made a front snow stud yesterday, and it worked pretty well last night. I only used 50 screws and its fine. The only thing I would recommend is pushing the studs a little closer to the middle so you get the grip before you turn and start sliding. Headed to the hardware store to make a rear.

Icarus falling
Guest
Icarus falling

Studded tires can truly be more of a pain in the ass than they are worth.

Especially when it comes to changes in the road surface you are riding across.

While they are a fun novelty, they are also truly just that, a novelty.

I spent a few winters as a messenger in Indianapolis, and quickly abandoned the studded tires.

I have been out riding today on 3 different bikes.

I live out in the woods, at about 2000 feet. The roads here on the compound have not been treated, graveled or anything…..

A Fat Chance Mt. bike with Ritchey Intuition Mud tires.
On that one I spent some time pulling the nieces and nephews around on sleds, even up hill.
Veru fun for all. I am not at all excited about Ritchey products anymore, in fact Team Wreck kind of has put a moratorium on Ritchey products.

I rode My other Fat Chance Mt bike with the old school 1.5 Nimbus tires, full slick.

A little slippery, but very fun for skidding. They still held traction well going straight.

And my Lemond Poprad Disc Cyclocross Bike, with Great German made Continental Grand Prix’s. They rode great, though the braking is a little too good on the ice with the disc.

Then I deflated the grand Prix’s a little, and the traction is fabulous, and is really the choice on the road.
They are 700c by 25 by the way.

I have not gone out on a fixed gear yet, but I know that they traction is fabulous on one, with road tires. The fact that you can modulate not only braking, but also the drivetrain, all at the same time makes them very worthy snow or ice machines.

I really do not consider studs a viable option at all.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

@a.O (#6)

+1 here.

Damn things are crowded, late, and noisy… God knows how many people are getting sick from being in such close contact (I never had pink-eye until I started riding the bus).

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I took the zipties off my winterbike for the summer and am debating getting the studded tires too (I went around to some of the shops but no luck – only for sale with the on-line stockists).

The zipties (my tire in the photo) worked well for the investment (time and labour) and ease of installation vs. removing my Dutch bike’s chaincase.

Just try to install them in a warm basement on a stand. When you lay out the zip ties try to position the hasp near the spoke (away from fenders and frame) and loop it near the spoke it will get puished to. You may want to experiment with looping a longer ziptie around the tire twice for more traction/ less ties.

colin
Guest
colin

I agree with Dana, I’m worried about drivers. I wouldn’t mind riding in this weather if there weren’t any vehicles on the road! My biggest concern is having cars plow into me.

Mitch Conner
Guest
Mitch Conner

Zip ties didn’t work for me at all. They all snapped off when I traveled down uneven pavement. Homemade studs are working great for me.

Chris
Guest
Chris

I have 27 x 1-1/4 slicks and I’ve been doing great with a pack of the large zip ties from Radioshack and some clippers to trim off the ends. There is an uphill stretch of Clinton that had been bad Monday evening but since then I’ve had no serious traction problems. The roads are better than the bike lanes so make room cars!!! I’m riding a little more conservatively. You won’t see me racing this week.

Dolan Halbrook
Guest

Today is my first day on cheapo (Innova) studs, mounted on my old Bontrager Race Lite. Until now I was running some deflated XC race tires, which did fairly well until I hit ice in Ladd’s Addition (eastern circle). I was careful, but not careful enough and ended up on my ass several times. So far, so good with the studs, though I’ll probably buy some of the Hakka 106s when they’re back in stock and run ’em on my commuter bike.

BTW, not sure there are viable options on ice other than studs, except maybe chains?

Tony Pereira
Guest

I just brewed up a front tire for my mtb:
http://tinyurl.com/538jdf
All I had were 1.25″ grabber screws, so I cut the extra length off after installing them. I covered the heads with duct tape and used an extra thick thornproof tube that I had laying around. Of course, it’s warmer out now and the roads aren’t really icy anymore. Bring it on!

Mike
Guest
Mike

Wow Tony! You had better have some serious frame clearance!

jv
Guest
jv

Zipties worked for me for about 2 days (on front tire only – as I have a rear v-brake), but I am down to only one zip tie left out of about 16. I feel kind of bad shedding zip ties out on the street just for a couple days worth of traction. I would rather use zipties for more durable uses – or maybe I just need higher quality zip-ties. I could see some of the industrial/thicker ones working better than the pack of 100 that I got from Harbor Freight. I might try making at least one (front) studded tire, but really it has not been too bad just with aired down semi slick 26X 1.75 tires.

We’ll see how conditions hold up though, as I think some metal traction would be nice for when it really does turn into a sheet of ice later in the week.

Pat
Guest
Pat

First off, I don’t live in the Portland area, but I just love this website. I live in Saskatchewan where we have snow and ice for at lest 4 to 5 months a year. I ride year around and could not do so if I didn’t have my studded tires.

At first I tried the “do it yourself” idea, then I moved to a low priced tire and now I run the top tire I can find. I can understand people thinking that they don’t need the tires that I use in a city such as Portland, but at the same time I will put forward the idea of what is a broken leg or arm worth?

Yes, there is the idea that “I would only use ever once in a while” but once the tire is bought and paid for, it really isn’t going to go anywhere when it isn’t in use. I get roughly five years of use per tire. For me the math adds up to about three to four dollars for each month of use.

I say play safe and ride safe
just my 2 cents
🙂

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Yes thicker zipties are a must! And also careful placement of the tie hasps.

beth h
Guest

I made it to work yesterday at Citybikes Annex, without anything special on my 700 x 32 Schwalbe Marathon tires. I fell once on the way, quite badly; and that was enough to convince me to take the bus home after work.

While at work, I watched my co-worker Tim make up some studded tires using pop rivets and used ATB tires.

This morning I woke up VERY stiff and sore from my fall, and stayed home. But I’m pretty sure some of those tires are at Citybikes Annex for the viewing. Tim’s a creative guy and it’s worth chatting with him if you’re in the neighborhood.

Cecil
Guest

Although I would always prefer to be riding my bike, I just have to say how amused and bemused I am by all the anti-bus sentiments that folks have been expressing in the past few winter riding threads. The complaints that have been expressed – too crowded, too smelly, too many sick people, no control over schedule, etc. – are the same reasons many motorists give for driving instead of taking mass transit. Guess cyclists and motorists aren’t always so different after all.

Personally, I feel much safer on the bus in this weather than on my bike. Then again, I don’t mind crowds, have a healthy immune system, don’t mind leaving early to allow a time cushion, and know that a little dab of camphor or lavender oil under my nose cuts the stench . . .

Val
Guest
Val

Having fun in the Seattle area with snow over ice these days, too. Here are some pictures of my weapons of choice: http://tinyurl.com/6n5n24
Keep it upright, folks!

Mike B.
Guest
Mike B.

Nicely put Cecil

Pete
Guest
Pete

“BTW, not sure there are viable options on ice other than studs, except maybe chains?”

Unfortunately that’s what drivers around here seem to think. In reality, as Icarus points out, it’s mainly about rubber and tread. I tried Continental 700x28s last year around 80 psi and it convinced me to race on GPs all summer. Not sure how long they last but grippier than yer granma. Studs are good for black ice at low speeds and not much else, so for bikes they can be relevant.

Haven’t ridden a bike on snow this year yet though. Got Bridgestone Blizzaks on my car with no troubles at all (also found the switch that shuts off skid protection for those empty parking lots.. :).

Have seen several bikers in Beaverton and I laud them, but I’ve also seen drivers paying even less attention to stop distances, reasonable speed, stop lines, turn lanes, etc, so be safe out there!

Joe
Guest
Joe

bus happens!

Keith
Guest
Keith

Studded tyres are most definitely not a novelty item…

I sent Dan (a friend of a friend) the link to icebike.org and their instructions for making DIY studded tyres comes from my local bike co-op here in Edmonton, Canada.

We know winter… intimately.

I work as a messenger here and both my work bikes are fitted with studded tyres… one of them is also a fixed gear which would be good without studs … but is great with them.

I can accelerate faster, handle better, and stop much faster with studded tyres.

I am the only messenger here who uses them although a few of the guys have been asking me how I can still run out at such speed on such crappy roads.

A good number of them have already had their first crashes of the season as they are still running slicks.

If your weather isn’t normally this bad having a spare front wheel with a studded tyre should be sufficient to prevent front wheel skids.

If you don’t drive and would prefer to stay riding when other people are happy to take the bus… studded tyres would be a great investment.

Bill Stites
Guest

I am not speaking from direct experience, but it would seem that zip-ties would help with forward traction. But are NOT going to help with lateral traction at all … maybe even make the chances of slipping sideways during a turn greater??!

Anybody with experience on this?

Zaphod
Guest
Zaphod

Re Cecil’s comment #21 regarding mass transit…

The idea that one needs to apply essential oils such as lavender as that, “cut’s the stench.” I mean, holy crap, that paints a bleak picture of filth and nastiness on the bus. surely that is not an accurate portrayal of what a bus rider endures.

And in another part of the same post Cecil comments that “Guess cyclists and motorists aren’t always so different after all.” because both motorists and cyclists complain about schedule and so on. Without apology, I agree. By taking transit, you are not performing an act of civic duty or helping a cause.

What’s valuable is not being in a car.

I have no problem with buses and I’m happy they exist in the event I need another way home. But I prefer the simplicity and elegance of rolling to my destination under my own power and without delay.

Mitch Conners
Guest
Mitch Conners

Bill, I have experience in that using only zip ties I fell on my butt on some black ice. Studs or nothing for me.

Egropp
Guest
Egropp

I rode with studded tires back for a long time in Alaska. I miss them.

However, I would always ride more and more aggressively with my studs, until I wound up crashing anyways.

Cecil
Guest

In regard my comment comparing the similarity between motorists and cyclists’ opinions on mass transit, Zaphod said, “Without apology, I agree. By taking transit, you are not performing an act of civic duty or helping a cause.”

With all due respect (and perhaps WITH apologies), I have to admit I have no idea what thought that response was supposed to express. I would argue, however, that taking mass transit IS performing a civic duty, and IS helping a cause.

As for my suggestion to use an essential oil to cut the stench of a hot and crowded bus, I was merely offering a solution to the oft-voiced complaint that the bus smells. And you know what? Sometimes the bus DOES smell 🙂

Keith
Guest
Keith
beth h
Guest

During the last great snowstorm in january of ’07, I tried zip-ties on the rear wheel of my city bike, which was then a Peugeot ATB. Couple of things:

1. There was way more snow and far less ice during the first couple days of that storm; and

2. the zip-ties worked surprisingly well in real snow. The key is to go SLOW and use your front brake lightly and judiciously.

I tried riding yesterday when the roads were mostly either clear or fraught with icy patches. No longer having the Peugeot, I did it on my upright road bike with 32mm wide tires and although the going was even slower it mostly went okay. I know from yesterday’s experience that if it’s icy out tomorrow I will take the bus to work. Ice is way different than snow.

BicycleDave
Guest

I bought 2 of the studded tires in the $30 range from Biketiresdirect. Ordered them on Wednesday and they arrived Friday. They work great for me. I’ve been through slush, packed ice and bare pavement. Traction was fine on all 3. Wouldn’t want to ride a long way on bare pavement though.

John Lascurettes
Guest

I did slick on the way in on Monday. Fell once.

Did the zip ties on the way home on Monday. Fell once, but noticed the difference.

Lost half of the zip ties on patches of bare pavement on the way to work on Tuesday. No falling.

Didn’t fall on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, I had studs (and the cheap-o’s from bike tires direct) and boy what a difference on the ice. Totally improved traction.

joel
Guest

the zip tie thing works, but it is a kludge, a jury-rig, not a permanent solution, something to pull you through in a pinch.

bill is right, theyre good for forward traction, not so good for lateral.

and beth is right, theyre far better for conditions where snow > ice.

also not so good for your front tire. rear only.

and frankly, in snowy conditions (like the jan 07 storm), most of the advantages of the zip-tie trick can be had by pushing a slightly bigger gear than normal, so as not to spin your wheel – just sit in, and muscle through it, rather than gearing down.

the thing with studded tires is – for bikes just as for cars – that its just plain wasteful of the $ you spent on them to run them when its *not* icy (or even snowy). riding them on bare pavement wears down, or even tears out, the studs – and while stud replacement is possible, it can be hard to find the replacement studs, and its a bit of work. and not all of us can afford a special studded wheel or tire set for the few days a year in portland theyd be worth having.

Drewid
Guest

After crashing hard on black ice a couple of years ago and almost breaking a hip, I got a pair of studded Schwalbe marathon winter tires.

If there is even a CHANCE of a small patch of ice on my 13 mile commute, I put them on. They add about 5 minutes or so to my one hour commute. So they are a bit slower, but it makes the difference between crashing and not crashing.

After about 300 miles, the tires and studs show no wear really. Most of that on dry pavement.

Don’t listen to anyone who says they are a novelty. They are what you need if you would like to avoid crashing.

It’s really nice riding about here in Portland on icy roads in winter conditions, with much reduced car traffic. Very quiet and pleasant. That’s reason enough to get a quality pair of carbide studded tires.

Stephan Schier
Guest

We’ve averaged a snow storm per week over the last few weeks here in Chicago and I’ve equipped my Bakfiets with a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter studs. Passing astonished motorists slogging through the rush hour traffic on the main boulevards is worth the price of admission.

Evan
Guest
Evan

Panaracer Spike tires. I can lean into corners in the snow with , climb steep hills, and nail the brakes on the way back down. Downsides: virtually uncontrollable on smooth surfaces, and totally ineffective on ice. They may be hard to find.

Charlie
Guest
Charlie

For snow, all you need is a slower pace, judicious braking/turning and perhaps a few less psi in the tyres. For ice, take the bus or use studs. With a good set of studs, after market or custom, you will stick to the road like a slot car (results may vary).

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Commercial (as opposed to DIY) studded tires are not more trouble than they’re worth, nor do they wear quickly on pavement. I’ve commuted regularly on studded tires for 6-7 winters now, and would know.

trackback

[…] your own studded tires link, link, link and […]

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

Snow = Bus Weather.
Ice = Stay in Bed

If bears figured out hibernation works, I figure, humans ought to be able to master the concept.

I was in Portland last night in the aftermath of Tuesday’s snow fall. I helped two cyclists to the hospital. They were biking together with DIY snow tires and had a nasty crash. One of the girls lost a front tooth… Maybe she’ll find it by spring.

Why can’t cyclist get PIP / No-Fault Insurance?

Dolan Halbrook
Guest

Last night was especially bad as it was so unexpected. Despite having two bikes with studded tires I was caught out on my 23c slicks, and quickly found that the key to staying upright on them was riding in the virgin snow. Helped a driver get unstuck on the Hawthorne onramp along with several other cyclists. Didn’t see anyone go down thankfully.

In several places I admit to riding the sidewalks as I was wary of frustrated/panicked/less than wise drivers, and I walked across many intersections. My 30 minute ride home took about an hour.

All this said, I don’t think the previous poster’s equation is valid under normal circumstances, where everyone expects snow and ice on the road. Last night was truly anomolous and I had me thinking bus-thoughts as well.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

“Snow = Bus Weather.
Ice = Stay in Bed”

FUD. I lived in the midwest and can assure you that you are very uninformed.

Snow tires and studded tires make winter commutes relatively safe even on ice and snow. Caution and reduced speed are always a good idea in inclement weather.

Marcus Griffith
Guest
Marcus Griffith

#45; it is not often someone accuses me of engaging in a fallacy, let alone an appeal to fear (i.e. FUDing). However, your conclusion that I am “very uninformed” based on my single post and your unstated expertise is an epitome of a hasty generalization and an appeal to authority; both logical fallacies. I hope the irony of using a logical fallacy in your accusation that I was using a logical fallacy is not lost on you.
Logic and evidence should guide ones actions.