When the snow starts falling, the streets become icy and dangerous for cyclists. Studded bike tires give you enough traction to ride safely and confidently during the winter months. Whether or not you need studded tires depends on the climate and weather conditions you ride in. This guide lists the pros and cons of installing studded bicycle tires. I’ll also outline a few things to look for when buying a set of studded tires as well as share a few tire recommendations.
What are Studded Bike Tires?
Studded bike tries have dozens or even hundreds of small metal studs embedded into the knobs of the tires. These studs stick up around 1 mm from the tire’s surface. They are designed to dig into the snow and ice as you ride. This gives you extra traction to prevent slips when cornering, braking, and accelerating on slippery snow and ice. Studded bike tires work just like studded car tires.
To further increase traction, some studded bike tires use a specially designed tread pattern that pushes slush and snow out of the way so the studs can dig into the ice below. Some ties use a softer rubber compound than standard bike tires. This is designed to provide grip in cold weather. Studded tires are also often designed to run at lower air pressure than non-studded tires. This allows the tires to deform at the contact patch so more studs and tread contacts the ground, further improving traction.
How Effective are Studded Bike Tires?
The best way to describe the efficacy of studded bike tires is with an analogy. Imagine walking on dry pavement, a glare of ice, and ice that has been sprinkled with gravel. On the dry pavement, you can run and turn and stop quickly without worrying about slipping and falling. On a glare of ice, you need to walk very carefully. You can’t change speed or direction quickly or you risk slipping and falling. When the ice has been sprinkled with gravel, you can easily walk without worrying too much about falling. At the same time, you can’t run or turn or stop quickly because you know that the gravel could slip out from under you if you push it.
Riding a bicycle with studded tires is like walking on ice that has been sprinkled with gravel. It’s fairly stable and safe. You can ride normally, turning and stopping without constantly worrying about falling. If you ride too hard, you may slip. Studded bike tires do not offer the same amount of grip as riding on dry pavement.
This means that you still have to be careful when riding slippery surfaces with studded tires. Particularly when cornering quickly or braking hard. To stay safe, you should take corners slowly and give yourself extra braking distance when the road is snowy or icy. If you lock up your studded tires, you’ll slide further on ice than you would on asphalt.
Tip: Be extra careful when stopping and getting off your bike while riding on slippery ice. Your studded tires offer plenty of traction but your shoes can easily slip out from under you.
When to Use Studded Bike Tires
Studded bike tires are ideal for cyclists who live in a climate with long, cold winters with lots of snow and ice. You can install them after the first snow in the fall then remove them in the spring after the snow melts.
Studded tires provide grip on hard-packed snow and ice. You can safely ride on a glare of ice as well as black ice. On these surfaces, the studs dig in and give you plenty of grip. Studded tires inspire confidence and improve safety. Non studded tires just can’t provide enough grip on ice, even if they’re knobby.
When Not to Use Studded Tires
Studded tires don’t offer any benefit over regular bike tires on powder snow or in deep snow. The tires just sink in. There is nothing for the studs to grip. If you live in a climate where fresh snow keeps piling up or you want the ability to ride in deep snow, you might be better off with a fat bike.
You should also avoid using studded tires if you plan to ride on pavement often. The reason is that the pavement can cause some wear to the studs. Once the studs wear down, they become ineffective and you have to replace your tires.
Studded Bike Tire Longevity
If you ride regularly throughout the winter, you should get 3-6 years or around 2000-3000 miles out of a good set of studded bike tires if you treat them properly.
Studded tires tend to last longer than standard tires for a few reasons. First, you’ll probably put fewer miles on them. The main reason is that you only need studded tires for the winter months. Next, you’ll probably ride less distance during the winter because you have to ride slower. Third, the tread wears down much slower on studded tires because you’re riding on snow and ice, which is much softer and less abrasive than pavement. The tread on studded tires very rarely wears out.
To maximize the lifespan of your studded tires, you should avoid spending too much time riding on pavement. It wears the studs down over time. Once the studs wear down to a point where they can’t dig into the snow and ice, you’ll need to replace the tires. If the snow melts, consider switching back to your regular tires to increase the lifespan of your studs.
Also, avoid riding aggressively with studded tires on pavement and gravel. Hard stopping, cornering, and acceleration can rip the studs out of the tires. If you lose a few studs here and there, it’s no big deal. If you lose too many, your traction will suffer. Riding hard also wears the studs down faster.
As the studs age, they may begin to rust. This is common in areas that salt the roads. A bit of rust is normal and is nothing to worry about.
After 5-6 years of use, the fabric tire casing inside of your studded tires can begin to wear out. This wear is caused by the studs wiggling around inside of their holes and rubbing on the casing. Eventually, the flat heads of the studs cut through the tire casing. This is the most common way for studded tires to wear out.
Before installing your tires in the fall, inspect the inside for cuts or cracks. If you notice any major damage, you should replace your tires for safety reasons. They could fail unexpectedly. Small marks are normal and are nothing to worry about. Again, this damage usually takes 5-6+ years to develop.
Don’t worry about the studs causing damage to your tubes. The tires are specially designed so the studs don’t cause punctures. The side of the stud that is embedded in the tire is flat. After enough use, the stud may wear through the inside of the tire. This is nothing to worry about. You can use regular old inner tubes with your studded tires.
A Note About Breaking In Studded Bike Tires
After installing a new set of studded tires on your bike, many manufactures recommend that you ride around 25-30 miles (40-50 km) on the pavement before you ride on icy or snowy surfaces. During this break-in period, you should try to ride gently without cornering, braking, or accelerating too hard.
The goal of this step is to ensure that the studs are all properly seated in the tire so they stay permanently fixed in place. Riding easy on pavement is supposed to push any lose studs into their holes. If you skip this step, studs that were not properly seated may pop out.
This step is necessary because many manufacturers tend to install the studs sloppily. They don’t inspect the tires before shipping so some studs aren’t properly installed. If you prefer, you can inspect each stud yourself. If you spot any lose or crooked ones, press them into place.
After the break in period, you can ride your studded tires just like any other tires. Having said that, you should try to ride easy on pavement as studs can get ripped out. On snow and ice, you can ride as aggressively as you like.
Pros and Cons of Studded Bike tires
Studded bike tires are an optional piece of gear. In this section, I’ll outline a few pros and cons to help you decide whether or not you want to install studded tires on your bike this winter.
Studded Bike Tire Pros
- Excellent traction on slippery ice and hard-packed snow- The studs dig into the snow and ice and prevent your tires from slipping around. This allows you to ride in conditions that you otherwise couldn’t.
- Safer- Studded tires reduce your braking distance on snow and ice. This comes in handy in an emergency situation where you need to stop fast. They also allow you to corner harder and navigate icy obstacles without your tires slipping out from under you. For example, with studded tires, you can climb out of deep icy ruts that regular tires would get stuck in. This allows you to ride safely and confidently during the winter. Of course, you should still ride slowly and carefully on ice and snow, even if you’re using studs.
- Durable and long-lasting- Because studded tires are primarily used on snow and ice, the rubber wears very slowly. After all, ice is much softer than pavement. The studs are generally made from tungsten carbide. This material is very hard so they don’t wear down quickly, even when rubbing against the pavement. In fact, the tread may wear out before the studs. Additionally, most riders only need to use their studded tires for the 3-5 months per year that there is snow on the ground. For the average rider, a pair of studded tires will last many years.
- You can run studded tires at low air pressure– Studded bike tires are designed to be run at lower air pressure than non-studded tires. 20-25 psi is common for off-road tires. 40-65 psi is common for road tires. There are a couple of benefits to this. First, traction is better because the softer tire deforms at the contact patch so more of the studs and tread touch the ground. Ride quality also improves because the softer tire absorbs some of the shocks and vibrations from the rough ice on the road.
- Fun– Studded tires allow you to go out and explore your city during the winter. Your favorite places look completely different when covered in snow. The atmosphere is beautiful. Another benefit to riding in the winter is that you’ll have the trails to yourself.
- Exercise- Many of us let ourselves go during the winter months. With studded tires on your bike, you can go for a ride and burn off your heavy holiday meals.
Studded Bike Tire Cons
- Studded tires are inefficient because they create more rolling resistance- Studded tires create rolling resistance in three ways. First, because studded tires run at lower air pressure, they deform at the contact patch and make more contact with the ground. This creates friction additional which slows you down. Second, studded tires are heavier. It takes more energy to spin them up and maintain speed. Third, studded tires are generally wider than standard tires so they create more wind resistance, which takes more energy to overcome. You’ll burn more energy and tire out faster while riding with studded tires. Your commute will also take a bit longer because you can’t ride as fast. You’ll want to give yourself some extra time for your commute when using studded tires.
- Expensive- A quality set of studded bike tires costs 50%-100% more than comparable non studded tires. On average, expect to spend around $100 per studded tire. If you’re on a tight budget, you can make your own studded tires. More on that later.
- Heavy- The metal studs add a considerable amount of weight. On average, studded bike tires weigh 1.5-3 lbs (.75-1.5 kg) each. Adding extra weight to your wheels significantly reduces efficiency and acceleration because it takes more energy to bring the heavy tires up to speed.
- Studded tires are not effective in fresh snow- They only really help when riding on compact snow and ice, where they can dig in. On fresh, deep snow or powder, wide tires are more helpful than studs.
- Noisy- While riding on pavement, studded tires are surprisingly loud. Just like studded car tires, you can hear the metal studs hitting the pavement as the wheel rolls. When riding on snow and ice, studded tires aren’t any louder than regular tires.
- They are a hassle to install and remove every year- Changing bike tires is an annoying and time consuming little job. Particularly if you’re running tubeless tires. You’ll probably want to leave the studded tires on for the whole winter season after you install them. If you prefer to swap between studded and regular tires throughout the season, you can buy a second set of wheels. Keep your studded tires mounted to one set and your regular tires mounted to the other set. When it snows, simply swap in your studded tires. When the snow melts, swap back to your non studded tires. This way, you can easily switch between studs and no studs in just a couple of minutes with very little hassle.
- You have to store them- Studded tires are a seasonal component that you only use for a few months out of the year. When you’re not using them, you have to store them somewhere in your home.
- Studs could do some damage– If you were to bump into a car or a person, the studs might scratch them up. You also have to be careful about bringing your bike indoors. The studs could scratch some surfaces like hardwood, linoleum, or painted floors.
Types of Studded Bike Tires
Different types of studded bike tries exist for different types of winter weather and road conditions. The main types of studded tires include:
- Knobby studded tires- These work well for riding off-road and mountain biking. The knobs give you traction on dirt, gravel, wet leaves, etc. and the studs allow you to ride on snow and ice. Knobbies usually have 200-400 studs spaced across the entire surface of the tread. They are available in a range of widths from 1.9” to 4-5” fat bike sizes. Knobby studded tires work great for mountain biking on single track during the winter.
- Slick studded tires- These are intended for more mild conditions, like riding on regularly plowed roads that may have some snow and ice. They have the fewest studs. The studs are positioned on the contact patch in the center of the tire. These work well for light winter riding. You can also mount them on road bikes. The most narrow studded slick tires measure 32mm.
- Mixed-use studded tires- These are the most common studded bike tires. They are designed to handle both on-road riding as well as gravel and some light off-road use. They can also handle poorly maintained roads with ruts and some deep snow. Most have studs on the sides of the tread as well as the center. These tires fall somewhere in between knobby and slick tires in terms of tread design and the number of studs. They are available in a range of widths from around 35 mm to 55mm and wider.
How to Choose Studded Bike Tires
When choosing studded tires, you’ll want to consider the climate and conditions you’ll be using them in. For example, one tire might perform better on wet snow and slush. Another tire might perform better in extremely cold conditions. Yet another might work better on compact snow and frozen ruts. The type and consistency of snow and ice also change throughout the season.
The type of terrain you plan to ride in also matters. Some tires are designed for off-road riding while others are designed for riding on the road. Some can handle deep snow and frozen ruts while others work best on well-maintained roads that are frequently plowed.
The number of studs, stud placement, and tread pattern, all determine what types of conditions the tires can handle. Of course, you’ll also need to consider your budget and choose the proper sized tires for your bike. This section outlines everything you need to consider when shopping around for a set of studded bike tires.
The type of metal that the studs are made of determines their durability. Harder metals last longer. Steel and tungsten carbide are the two most common stud materials. Aluminum is also used. Steel studs tend to wear out quickly when riding on pavement or rock surfaces. Tungsten carbide studs tend to last much longer and can handle the most pavement riding without wearing out. In fact, carbide studs are so hard that they can outlast the tire’s tread.
Most bike tire manufactures use tungsten carbide studs these days. Lower end tires might use steel. You should check the stud material before buying. If you can, choose studded tires with carbide studs. They’ll last much longer.
Number of Studs
Most studded bike tires have between 70-400 studs. The more studs the tires have, the better traction they offer. If you plan to ride roads that are covered in ice with deep ruts and hard-packed snow or riding off-road, you’ll want lots of studs. For riding frequently plowed roads with occasional icy spots, fewer studs are needed.
More studs also increase the weight of the tire, which creates more rolling resistance. This makes the bike harder to pedal, reducing efficiency. There is a compromise to make.
Most studded tires have studs both in the center and on the sides of the tread. Other models only have studs in te center of the tread. The ideal stud placement depends on the surfaces you plan to ride.
If you’re planning on riding poorly maintained roads with icy ruts or riding off-road, you’ll want to choose tires that have studs on the sides of the tread, near the sidewalls. When you fall into an icy rut, it can be difficult to get out. Studs on the sides of the tread dig into the frozen ruts and help you climb out so you don’t slip back in. Studs on the sides of the tread also allow you to lean further without your wheels sliding out from under you.
If you’re planning to ride well-maintained roads that are plowed frequently, you can get away with tires that only have studs on the center of the tread because you won’t have to deal with ruts or other obstacles. You don’t need side studs. These tires are lighter because they have fewer studs.
Studded Bike Tire Cost
Studded tires cost more than regular tires. Expect to spend $50-$180 per tire for a decent quality set. The reason studded tires cost more is that they require more materials and are slightly more difficult to manufacture. Additionally, there is lower demand so manufacturers can’t take as much advantage of economies of scale.
Studded Bike Tire Sizes
Studded tires are available in pretty much every bike wheel size including 16”, 18”, 20”, 24”, 26”, 27”, 27.5” (650b), 700c, 28”, and 29”. Chances are, you can find a pair that will fit your bike, even if you ride a bike with an uncommon wheel size like a folding bike or a recumbent bike.
Width wise, studded tires are available in sizes ranging from 32mm-65mm (around 1.25”-2.6”). Most models come in a range of widths so they can fit different bike frames. Fat bike studded tires are also available. They typically measure 4” to 5” wide.
Personally, I like to run the widest studded tires that my frame will fit. Wider tires offer better traction and shock absorption. With studded tires, efficiency doesn’t matter quite as much. I value safety and comfort more when riding in the winter.
Studded Bike Tire Width and Frame Clearance
When buying studded tires, it’s crucial to take frame clearance into consideration. If the tires are too wide, they will rub on the frame. If this happens, the wheels wont’ roll.
To be safe, you should allow 10mm of clearance on all sides. Some cyclists are comfortable with as little as 3mm of clearance. A larger clearance is preferable because it allows you to still ride if your tire goes slightly out of true. It also leaves space for the tire to clear if it accumulates some snow. If something gets jammed between your tire and frame, you could crash.
It is particularly important to check the clearance before buying tires if you ride a bike that is designed to run narrow tires. The most narrow studded tires available measure 32mm wide. If your bike can’t accommodate a 32mm tire, you won’t be able to install studded tires.
Many road bikes and racing bikes are not compatible with studded tires because they don’t have enough clearance on the seat stays and chain stays or fork to fit 32mm ties. They are typically designed to run 23mm tires. Mountain bikes, city bikes, hybrid bikes, cyclocross bikes, and gravel bikes all have plenty of frame clearance.
If you plan to install studded tires that are wider than your current tires, you should make some measurements first to make sure you don’t buy tires that are too wide for your frame. To measure the maximum tire width that will fit your frame, you’ll need a pair of calipers.
Start by measuring the width of your existing tires. Next, you’ll want to measure the distance between your tires and the closest points to your frame where larger tires they could potentially rub. You should measure the distance between your tires and the:
- Fork crown
- Fork blades
- Seat stays
- Stay bridge
- Brake calipers- If you’re using rim brakes. You don’t have to worry about this if you’re using disc brakes
- Fenders- If you’re using fenders
Take the smallest clearance between your tire and frame. From that number, subtract the your smallest acceptable clearance. 10 mm is a good number but you could go as small as 3mm if you wish. Multiply your result by 2 because you should have the same amount of space on both sides of your tire. Add that number to your current tire width. This is the widest studded tire you can install.
If this wasn’t clear, check out this great guide to calculating max tire width guide from renehersecycles.com.
You’ll also need to consider the height of your tires. Many manufactures list the height in the specifications. Ideally, you want 10mm of clearance between the top of the tire and fork crown, stay bridge, fenders, and brake calipers.
One more thing to take into consideration is that the indicated width isn’t always accurate. The actual width can vary by as much as 4 mm +/-. The diameter can also vary by a millimeter or so. Different manufactures have different acceptable tolerances for error. For example, a 700cx35mm tire could actually measure anywhere from 31mm-39mm wide. For this reason, you should give yourself plenty of wiggle room. Particularly if you’re buying your tires online. Check out this article for more info.
Studded Tire Air Pressure
Studded tires are often designed to run at lower air pressures than regular tires. Running your tires at lower pressure allows them to deform at the contact patch so more of the tread and studs touch the ground. This increases traction.
As an added bonus, softer tires are able to absorb shocks and vibrations from the road because they can deform around obstacles instead of bouncing off. This improves the ride quality when you’re riding over rough ice, ruts, and uneven frozen slush. You won’t bounce around quite so much.
When buying studded ties, look at the recommended pressure on the side of the tire. For studded tires, the lower you can go the better. Usually studded tires that are designed for road use should be run between 35 and 60 psi. Wide studded tires that are designed for off road use can usually be run as low as 20-25 psi. You can usually run wider, higher volume tires at lower pressures without worrying about pinch flats.
A few frequently asked questions about studded tires include:
Q: Can you Run a Single Studded Bike Tire?
A: Yes, but it’s not ideal. If you’re on a tight budget and you can only afford one studded tire, it’s better to place it on the front.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, a front studded tire improve your steering. You can corner and climb out of ruts without losing traction. A front studded tire also prevents hard falls. When your front tire slides out, you go down fast and hard. It’s easy to injure yourself. If your rear wheel slides out, you can still fall. Just not as fast or hard. You usually have time to put a foot down and slow your fall, reducing the likelihood of injury.
There are some major drawbacks to running only one studded tire. Without studs on the rear, you may have trouble climbing slippery hills and accelerating because your wheel will spin out. Your braking distance also increases. You can also spin out during hard braking. This can be dangerous if you’re riding on the road. It can also be difficult to climb out of an icy rut.
For maximum grip and safety, you really need studded tires on both the front and rear. To save some money, you can install an aggressive tire with lots of studs on the front and a cheaper tire with fewer studs on the rear.
Q: Do Studded Tires Lose Traction and Skid on Pavement?
A: No. The studs only protrude out of the tire about 1mm. Studded bike tires are made from fairly soft rubber. While riding on paved roads, the weight of the bike and rider pushes the stud back into the tires so the tread contacts the ground, instead of the stud. The studs have very little effect on the size of the tires’ contact patch or the ground pressure of the tires. This is by design. You’ll have plenty of traction while riding on dry pavement with studded tires. While riding on ice, the studs protrude out and dig into the ice rather than pushing into the tire.
Q: Should I swap out my studded tires for regular tires on days when there won’t be any ice to avoid stud wear?
A: If you’re using tires with carbide studs, you don’t have to worry about wear. The studs are hard enough that they will last as long as the tread. You can leave the studded tires on your bike for the entire winter season without worrying about wearing them out. Install them after the first snow in the fall then take them off in the spring when the snow melts.
Steel studs can wear out if you ride them on pavement too much. If there is no snow in the forecast and you’re planning a long ride, you may want to swap them out. Even then, it may not be worth the hassle. It’s up to you.
Leaving the studded tires on at all times during the winter is worthwhile for safety reasons, even though they are inefficient and noisy on pavement. Snow can melt off during the day then re-freeze at night. You could also unexpectedly run into a patch of black ice.
Q: Can I Run Studded Tires Tubeless
A: It depends on the tire. There are some studded tires that are designed to run tubeless. For example, the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro, uses Schwalbe’s Tubeless Easy technology. Most studded tires require tubes.
For more info, check out my tube vs tubeless guide.
Q: Can You Replace Lost or Worn Studs?
A: Yes, you can replace lost studs on most studded bike tires.
As the tires wear, studs tend to pop out. After you lose enough, the tires become less effective and you could begin slipping around. Additionally, the studs can wear down from riding on pavement. When they wear down to nubs, they can’t dig into the ice anymore. In many cases, the studs wear out or fall out but the tire tread is still in great condition.
Luckily, most studded tire manufacturers sell tools and extra studs so you can replace the lost or worn ones. This greatly extends the life of your studded tires and brings down the cost. It’s much cheaper to replace the studs than to buy a new tire. For example, this kit from Schwalbe (#ad) includes the stud replacement tool and 50 replacement studs.
Studded Bike Tire Recommendations
Most of the top bike tire manufactures, including Schwalbe, Suomi (Nokian), Continental, and Kenda, offer studded bike tires. In this section, I’ll outline a few of the most popular options.
This is one of the best all-around tires for riding on snow and ice. They can handle a wide range of road conditions and have reasonably low rolling resistance. The Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus studded tires are made from a special compound designed for winter use. They feature studs in the center and near the sides of the tread. They handle icy ruts well. The 26” version has about 200 studs per tire. They also feature maybe the best puncture protection of any studded tire. When riding on ice, you can also air them down for extra grip. When you fill them to the maximum air pressure, they roll smoothly with very little road noise.
The Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus comes in a wide range of sizes including 20”, 24”, 26”, 700c, and 28”. Most sizes are offered in a couple of widths. For example, the 700c version comes in 35mm and 40mm versions. The 26” version comes in 1.75”, 2”, and 2.15” versions.
These aggressive studded mountain bike tires offer phenomenal grip on all surfaces, including pure ice. They work great for riding single track in extreme conditions. The Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tires have studs placed in the center and sides of the tread. They include a Kevlar belt for puncture protection. Folding and wire bead versions are available. They are tubeless compatible, incredibly durable, and surprisingly light at 1170 grams.
The 29”x2.25” version includes 402 studs. They are rated to be run at 26-54psi. The only drawback is that these tires are very expensive. The Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tires come in 26”, 27.5”, and 29” sizes in widths ranging from 2.1” to 2.6”.
These studded tires work great for commuting, cyclocross, mountain biking, and general use in light snow. They features carbide studs. The tread pattern is specially designed to shed snow as you ride.
Suomi is a Finnish company that has been making studded bike tires since 1974. They offer some of the highest quality and most reliable studded tires available. The WXC’R 312 model is designed for mountain biking in extreme conditions. They can handle deep rutted icy trails, single track, and whatever else you can throw at them.
These tires feature 312 studs spaced across the entire surface of the tread. The rubber compound is specially designed to provide excellent traction in cold weather. The drawback is that they are pretty expensive. They are also heavy and create a lot of rolling resistance while riding on the road.
DIY Studded Bike Tires
If you’re on a tight budget, you can make your own studded bike tires for much less than it costs to buy a new pair. This process involves installing screws into some knobby mountain bike tires so they stick out like studs. Basically, you just screw them in from the inside of the tire out, through the knobs.
#6 3/8” or 1/2” sheet metal screws work well for most knobby tires. If the screws are too long, they’ll bend over or try to push back through the tire. You might need to play around with a couple of different sizes to find out which works best. Some people like to install shorter screws in the center of the tread and longer screws on the sides of the tread.
When installing the screws, you should drill pilot holes from the outside in first. Next, screw in the screws form the inside out, so the heads are inside the tire. After installing the screws, consider coating the heads with some kind of silicon or caulking so they don’t cut the tube when you inflate the tire. You could also use duct tape. Also, be careful when installing the screws and when installing the tires on your wheels so you don’t cut your hands. Wear thick gloves.
The Zip Tie Method
If you’re in a pinch, another way to give yourself some extra grip is to tie zip ties around the tire and rim. This is a cheap and easy solution if you find yourself sliding around on snow and ice. The only drawback is that the zip ties eventually break off and leave plastic waste on the ground. It’s important to note that you can only do this if your bike has disc brakes.
For step by step instructions, check out this detailed guide.
Alternatives To Studded Bike Tires: All-Weather Tires or Winter Tires
In some regions studded tires are overkill. For example, maybe where you live there is only snow on the ground for a few weeks per year but it rains frequently during the winter. In this case, you may be better off with all-weather tires instead of studded tires. All-weather tires are also a great choice for road bikes that don’t have enough clearance to fit studded tires. A quality set of all-weather tires can provide plenty of grip to handle slippery wet roads and the occasional snowy or icy patch.
Winter tires are another option. These are non-studded tires that are specially designed to provide grip on snow and ice. They usually achieve this with a special rubber compound and tread design. These work great for those who need to ride in the snow but don’t want studs for whatever reason. They’re also generally cheaper than studded tires.
Non Studded Tire Recommendations
These road bike tires offer excellent grip on slippery wet surfaces as well as dry pavement. The Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tires feature puncture protection and sidewall protection for excellent durability. They are available in three widths including 23mm, 25mm, and 28mm, making them a great choice for road bikes with small frame clearance. They are also fairly lightweight so your speed and efficiency won’t suffer too much.
These studless winter bike tires offer excellent grip on snow, slush, ice, and slippery wet metal and asphalt surfaces as well as dry surfaces. They also have puncture protection so you get fewer flats. These are a great choice for winter commuters who don’t want studded tires.
A Note About Fat Bikes
If you want a bike that can handle any winter conditions and take you places that no other bike can go, a fat bike is worth considering. After all, they were invented for riding in the snow.
Fat bikes differ from mountain bikes in that they use extra-wide tires that measure 3.8”-5.2” wide (96-132mm). These high volume tires can run at incredibly low air pressures between 5 and 14 psi. The wide, soft tires form a large contact patch with the ground.
The main benefit fat bikes offer over other types of bikes is the ability to ride in deep snow. This is possible because the fat tires distribute the weight of you and the bike over a greater surface area, reducing ground pressure. This allows you to float on top of the snow instead of sinking in. For this reason, fat bikes work great in climates where it snows frequently and deep snow accumulates over the course of the winter. They are also great for riding off-road and even off trail. For more info, check out my fat bikes guide.
On slippery compact snow and ice, fat bikes don’t provide much more grip than any other bike. You’ll still want studded tires for riding in slippery conditions. Studded fat bike tires are available. For example, these Vee Rubber 26×4.8 Snow Shoe XL Studded Fat Bike Tires would be a good option. They feature carbide studs and are tubeless-ready.
Final Thoughts About Studded Bike Tires
If you live in a snowy climate, studded tires extend your riding season to 12 months from 7 or 8. After installing a quality set with plenty of studs, you can safely ride on a glare of black ice without slipping around or falling off. Studded tires are a game changer for winter cycling. They are a lot of fun too.
Of course, studded tires aren’t necessary for everyone. If you live in a region that has mild winters without much snow or you simply don’t like riding in cold weather, studded tires are unnecessary. If you plan to ride in fresh snow, tire width is much more important than studs.
Do you use studded bike tires during the winter? Share your experience with them in the comments below!
For more info on winter cycling, check out my 30 tips for riding in the snow.
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