It’s that time of year again: legions of bike commuters are gearing up for winter and considering whether to buy studded tires. Well, okay, maybe just five or six of you.
So should you get studded tires?
I asked myself that question for weeks last year. My dithering abruptly ended on the morning my bike slipped from under me and I landed on my butt.
Many winter cyclists in Chicago seem to go without studs, sticking to the major routes that are well-plowed, but I prefer side street and the Lakefront Trail, which are often icy. Also, I appreciate having one less worry for winter cycling. Freedom from paranoia is a good reason to get studded tires.
I bought Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires. I have nothing to compare them to, but I am completely satisfied. They make ice feel like normal dry pavement; the traction is superb. They are supposed to maintain traction even when turning sharply or braking suddenly, but I try to avoid those maneuvers. The only time I have to be careful is on rutted ice because then the studs don’t have a lot of surface to grab.
The Marathon Winters are not snow tires. Although they provide traction on packed and icy snow, they do not help when going through deep snow. If I’m ever confronted with more than three inches of snow, I walk Oma (she – as a city bike – doesn’t handle well in snow generally).
A major reservation I had about studded tires is that I often ride on regular pavement due to well-plowed roads and breaks in wintry weather. This has not been a problem. The studs are loud, like riding over glass or pebbles, but there is not much rolling resistance. The Schwalbe tires can be inflated to the max to reduce rolling resistance even more because there are no studs in the center.
This week Mr. Dottie put on my studded tires for the season, the same set I used last winter. They are still in great shape. Only a couple studs are missing and some are a bit rusted, but that does not affect performance. His set is not missing any studs. I have never gotten a flat (actually, not on any of my Schwalbe tires, knock on wood). The tires were an investment, but should last me a long time.
The best resource I found while researching studded tires last year was an article by Peter White Cycles. For lots of straight-forward information on many different brands, check it out. I purchased my tires locally from Dutch Bike Chicago. I’m sure there are many local bike shops and online sellers out there.
Any thoughts on studded tires or questions – please share!