Does anyone have thoughts on whether there are “winter-specific” tires for commuting? I have been looking for options, but haven’t found anything useful yet.
on my old tank of a bike with 26″x2.whatever” tires, I switched them out every winter for ones with a knobby tread pattern. They weren’t winter specific. I think they were more dirt bike-y. IT made a ton of different in the snow. Not so much on the ice. aFter commuting to oakland for about 10-15 years by bike, I realized that there was a lot more ice out there than I expected.
I don’t think you need anything too extreme. Just something with some bite.
Several vendors make studded tires including Nokian/Suomi, Kenda, and Schwalbe, but they tend to be pricey, inconvenient, and overkill for Pittsburgh’s mild winters. You might find some stocked at the LBSes, perhaps. What works for you will be highly dependent on your bike, routes and riding, and the weather conditions you expect to encounter.
My winter commutes always underscored the need for fenders, serious attention given to lights, lots of time cleaning the bike, and solid cold-weather kit (thermal jacket & tights, balaclava, shoe covers, lobster mitts, etc). For me, it took years of trial and error (and expense) before I figured out what actually worked well out on the road, tho now I’m really happy with my setup.
+1 on the shoe covers. They seem so simple a lightweight but can make a TON of difference. THose are typically not expensive at all.
I also had moose mitts. I loved them. I could often ride without gloves and just the moose mitts.
I think the use of snow/studded tires depends highly on where you commute. If you commute in primary or secondary roads, they will be plowed and treated relatively quickly. The river trails often take at least a day to be plowed; I remember a day last winter where it was very difficult to ride the jail trail, and impossible to ride up the ramp to the hot metal bridge (unless you had a fat bike). If taking public transit is an option, you can always take that on snowfall days.
I’m seriously considering getting studded tires soon (specifically, these ones), since my commute now involves a 2.5 mile stretch by bike, and there’s a portion of it where there are “bike lanes” (a road shoulder with bike markings on it) that I know won’t be plowed. Overkill? Probably. But I want to get to work in a reasonable amount of time, and in one piece; the studded tires will hopefully help with that.
The Schwable winter plus tires are what I run in the winter for commuting. I recommend. They roll okay and give me a lot more confidence, especially on icy patches. The worst ice is the ice you don’t see, and it’s everywhere.
I just wait till the first icy conditions to put them on, because honestly, it sucks riding on studded tires when you don’t need them. But really, I have enough bike maintenance to keep up with, so I’m only going to swap tires once near the start and once near the end of winter.
FWIW, the jail trail is really one of the only trails that gets plowed. Most lie dormant all winter and thaw only when the sun lets them thaw. I could be mistaken on this point. At least the southside trail has on-road options.
the north shore trail is never cleaned in Millvale, and will be cleaned 2-3 days after a heavy snow in the city (past the bridge across from Washington’s landing). typically more on the 2 day side than the 3.
I agree with benzo about ice. I have tires that look pretty much like the Schwalbe Winter tires, but without the studs. The tread by itself is good with snow but NO BUENO with ice. Gotta have the studs for the ice, and unfortunately small patches of ice left over when they have cleaned the roads may be fine for cars but are awful for bikes. ON my commute to oakland, for some reason highland park seemed to be the worst place for ice, esp mellon terrace and negley.
I would be most aware of spots that get traffic but no sun, such as north-facing slopes. I broke a shovel trying to clear an ice pack on the Hot Metal Bridge ramp from Second Ave, which is always in shade.
I primarily ride two bikes in the winter. Once things get hairy I set up my 29er mountain bike with 45Nrth Nicotine Studded tires. This will handle trails and secondary roads in even the worst conditions, and I’ll go out on days when I’d be very reluctant to drive. For most other days I ride a single speed cross with semi-knobby tires, which is fine for probably 80% of winter days. Bar mits and foot covers are the key to happy winter commuting.
I was glad that I have studded tires on more than one day last winter, on the Eliza Furnace Trail and the Hot Metal Bridge. That said, there were some days when the tires were not good enough, once the ice got good and rutted. I think I successfully advocated for better snow control on that bridge by advocating at Bruce Kraus’s office (it’s in his district). More voices would help. His chief of staff is Brosha Tkacheva.
For those that run studded tires in the winter —
what’s it like riding on bare dry pavement with them? I assume you hear the steady noise of the studs hitting the pavement, but is handling worse on dry pavement?
Also, how fast do the studs wear down?
It’s noisy and slow on dry pavement.
The studs wear down, but so does the tire, and the studs are harder. So they stay effective in my experience.
Don’t want to start a new thread so I’ve hijaaked the topic .
I currently carry a pump . Whenever I get a flat I can get my 700cc tires probably 80 percent the way full but the little pump I have craps out with too much pressure even though it is rated for higher pressure .
What do I need to carry co2 around? Looks like cartridges plus an imflator mechanism?
Anyone have good recs for brands or are they all the same? A critical failure in the middle of nowhere is bad so I want to avoid that.
I don’t use CO2, but for commuting I use a topeak road morph pump and can get my tires up to 100PSI without any major issues. I also have good luck with my smaller lezyne pressure drive which I use when I want to travel super light.
What pump do you have?
Something I think that’s too cheap for what I need it for. I don’t know the brand off the top of my head. I’ll check out those pumps too. When I blew out my tire this summer I was only able to get the tire up to about 60 psi when the tire is rated for 80-100. I am afraid I can make it back to wherever I need to be at 60 psi but also increases the chance for a snakebite.
Loudly seconding the Road Morph suggestion (especially version G for the built-in gauge). Great pump, even if it takes up one of my water bottle mounts.
Never used/liked CO2. Finicky single-use cartridges, still no promises getting to full PSI, frozen fingers, and lower-density air means more leakage over time. YMMV, but I’ll stick with my pump.
I always carry a presta-to-schrader adapter in my tool kit so I can top off the air at gas stations.
You have to be careful not to blow the tube with the compressed air, but most stations have those compressors that let you limit the psi.
I got about 5 of those in a bag (converters) and I have them all over my garage and bike bag.
I think k I’ll look into a better pump!
I actually like having an old-school, aluminum Zefal frame pump. Partly because it’s functional, partly because my bikes all have those little nubs that beg for a pump under the top tube, and well, just because I think frame pumps are cool.
That said, I usually have a couple CO2’s and a tiny nozzle in my tool kit, too. Last spring, when it was about 50F and raining, and I flatted in the middle of nowhere, it was just super to hit the tire with the CO2 and not fart around pumping. For me, the pump is what happens if I exhaust the CO2, or need to top a tire off…and I never obsess over having or not having some CO2.
OMG, I still have my zefal x 4 for my 900 year old Miyata 512. I love it. Works like a champ after all of these years.
I took the plunge and bought the Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus I mentioned earlier; I put one on my front wheel yesterday and rode it this morning. Totally unnecessary for today’s conditions, but I wanted to at least try one of them out to see if they fit on properly. Given some previous experience with Schwalbe Marathon Plusses (non winter 25Cs), I was expecting a very difficult mounting experience, but I’m glad to report that while it was a little harder than usual to mount, it was went on pretty well.
The tire, as noted by others, is noisy but not terribly so. I had it at 40 psi (minimum is 30 psi) and it seemed to work well on my ~3 mile commute. It put a huge smile on my face this morning!
One thing I didn’t anticipate was that I will likely have to carry my bike in and out of my apartment while the studs are on; I have wooded floors…
You mentioned getting the Schwalbe’s on. I can’t get the n0n-winter Marathon Pluses on myself. I feel like I need to be a gorilla. So I take them to the bike shop and make the poor guy there do it. Any tips on getting the Marathon Pluses on?
For the non winter Schwalbe Marathons, what finally did the trick was this:
Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001AYML7K/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_UnX.Bb3WMXK3N
It was still hard, but it got the job done. I’m pretty sure I broke a tire lever or two before I got that tire jack. I also remember that I had to replace a tube (non-replaceable valve core broke) later on, and was expecting to fight the tire again, but luckily that wasn’t the case.
I did use the jack for mounting the winter tire, as it has a wire bead and had been deformed a bit for shipping, and it helped to get it on with relative ease.
This is amazing! Thank you . And great video showing how to use it .
I bought the jack too, tho I don’t have infinitely tight tires. It helps avoid pinching the tube between the bead and rim, which I’ve done using traditional levers.
Well, that was a fun commute this morning! Finally got to properly test my studded tires, after being away from Pittsburgh during seemingly all other snow events this winter.
The verdict is… I think they helped! The extra “grip” was more noticeable going up and down ramps. The ride didn’t feel squirrely, though every so often I had to be mindful of the front going a little sideways, though I imagine that’s more of a function of tire width (I use 40Cs) than whether I have studs or not. Rear tire felt grippy at all times.
A fellow bike rider had an interesting analogy: having studded tires on your bike is like having 4WD on your car. It’s not a license to ride/drive carefree; it simply helps reduce the risk of losing control of your vehicle.
And, to me, that might make them priceless.
Studded tires, bar mitts, and fenders are my bike’s winter cycling MVP candidates. However, I think the MVP winner is definitely the studded tires.
I’m also running 40mm tires, and have a similar experience.
I’ve noticed that when I have no winter tires on and I go through snow/ice I have to be more cautious about the back tire slipping out from underneath me when I pedal than anything with the front tire. Something with the chain/hears neinn off to the left side so that the pulling force of trying to turn the back wheel pulls the back tire that direction slightly. Wonder if this is bike dependent?
Ride all year long and never changed out tires for winter. Rode a fixed gear track bike with Continental 4 season 23’s and a front brake only. I don’t think it is needed. I do ride a 29’er for winter with Knards now and it is nice, but I do miss my fixed sometimes. You do need to keep an eye out for ice and such of course and take your time in winter. Good luck.
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