City & Commuting

Winter commuting: Which studded winter tires?

10 Comments 16 November 2010

Adding screws to your tires might not be the best idea | Photo by Anthony DeLorenzo

Since I managed to mangle my wheels yesteday, I’ll have to take them to be trued and while I’m at it, I’m going to put studded tires on them. We all rode bikes to school and everywhere when we were kids, even during the winter and it was awesome. Sliding and throwing your tail as much as you could, polishing the ice to be even more slippery. But then we weren’t in a hurry and we didn’t fear death.

In this post I’ll paraphrase an excellent, almost Sheldon Brown quality post from Peter White cycles.

When deciding on your winter tires, it’s all about the environment you ride in:

  1. Riding in the bush, singletracks, forests and harder environment
  2. Riding on dirt or gravel roads and paths that may or may not be plowed, and
  3. Plowed roads

If you want to go deeper into the details, read the post linked above. But there are three main types of tires for those three environments:

Schwalbe's Marathon Winter's are good all-rounders

  1. Lots (closer to 300) of large studs or spikes all around, big knobs, massive blocks and all in all, very aggressive profiling to carry you through. Go with models like Nokian Extreme 294, 700c Extreme 294, Schwalbe Ice Spiker or Ice Spiker Pro.
  2. Less studs, something around 200 and a less aggressive profile. These tires have elements from both ends, smaller rolling resistance, studs on the sides to allow you to climb from a hole and elements to keep you up in most commuting circumstances. Go with models like Nokian W240, Nokian Mount & Ground (M&G), and Schwalbe Marathon Winter.
  3. If you’re a urban commuter who wants to ride all-around the year and ride mostly on plowed roads, you’ll want more safety than ultimate performance. A smaller number of studs (like a 100ish) which are more on the center of the tire instead of the sides, they keep you running but don’t expect any miracles during your performance of Disney on Ice. Go with models such as Nokian W106 or Nokian A10.

There you go! Winter tires in general cost quite a bit (50 to 100 euros PER TIRE), but they do last quite a long time as well. Modern winter tires have carbide studs, so you don’t have to worry about wearing them out, the tire itself will break before that. You can keep them on during the whole winter, because that’s what safety is all about.

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Markus is a bike commuter gadget freak who is learning the ropes of the bike world, you can find him all around the web - but you can start with his twitter at @banton.

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  • Put my Marathon Winters on just over a week ago – just before the snow and ice all melted away again… doh. They are very good for gripping snow and ice, and seem hard wearing as well – this will be my third winter using them, but you do really notice the drag and lower speed when you first put them on. I reckon they add about 5 minutes to my normally just under an hour journey. Obviously this can go up once there is any amount of uncleared snow on the the route.

  • Anonymous

    This will be my third season running the Schwalbe Snow Studs (700c) on my cyclocross bike and they’re pretty much bombproof… There are times I wish I had a wider tire like on a mountain bike, but overall these have been great and show almost no signs of wear.

    The tire is considerably heavier than a regular tire, but I’ve ridden a rear tire flat all the way home with no rim damage, so I’ll take the extra weight ;-)

  • Hugo

    I’ve got a pair of Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 tyres:

    Last winter was my first Finnish cycling winter and they do make you feel a bit slower (of course, like Toby said, fresh uncleared snow can easily double the time as you plough through!), but they seemed to do the job very well. I spent a bit of time on an empty ice rink testing them out and was very impressed with the handling.

    Looks like snow is coming:

    By the way, do you know about the Helsinki Testbed site? It’s perfect for cycle commuters when combined with flexitime, you can wait a bit or hurry up to avoid incoming bad weather. It’s saved me from a soaking many a time!

  • The Testbed site is brilliant, and there’s another service for people of Helsinki – an SMS service that sends you a (scheduled) text when it’s slippery outside during the night!

    You can find it here:

    I’m going for the Nokian W106 as well.

  • No rim damage? You must weigh like a jockey or something ;)

  • Anonymous

    Hahaha… It was *snowy* and I did pull of the pace a bit as well ;-)

  • If I would ride with flats, I would end up with an elliptical :)

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  • Adding screws to your tires might not be the best idea but i think it will really help. Just be more responsible and alert.


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Coming Thru (or Coming Through - as that URL was taken) is a daily updated bike magazine - a collection of writings and links that relate to biking in its every form. The idea started from when Maarten met Markus decided to finally start collecting the things we like about bikes and talk about our everyday adventures in dodging moving objects at high speeds.The site is run by a collage of cyclists, most notably by Canadian Johanna MacDonald, Belgian Maarten Patteeuw and Finnish Markus Sandelin.

It all started in the spring of 2010, after a record breaking snowy winter when Markus bought a house 25 kilometers from the office and decided to handle the commuting with a bicycle. It turned out the bike wasn’t up to standards for that kind of stress and the first weeks were more tragicomic than glorious. Thus the idea began to brew to actually document this journey.

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