Studded 'Xerxes' bike tire Grips on snow and Ice

Rubber tread rolling on ice and snow often slips. But bikers who brave the cold months have an option with studs.

Many bike brands offer tires with metal or carbide studs implanted in the rubber. The tiny points grip the ground, including ice patches or snow on a road.

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Xerxes tire from 45Nrth

For almost a decade, I’ve commuted on a bike 12 months of the year. Along with extra-warm mittens, studs have been an important part of the cold-weather equation.

This year, my tires are faster and more toothy than ever before. A new brand, 45Nrth is a niche seller of cycling products made for winter.

The company’s Xerxes tires have a fast-rolling rubber tread flanked with 140 aluminum-carbide studs. That’s enough grip to handle starts, stops, and speedy cornering when the asphalt turns white.

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Studs are made for days like these

Like any studded tire, the Xerxes are not a panacea for winter riding — you can slip and skid. But the studs engage when you lean into a turn, adding significant grip.

I have yet to spinout or crash this year, despite more than 100 miles of “snow riding” under the pedals so far.

For the added grip you do pay a price. The Xerxes tires run $105 apiece. They are high-quality products with a folding Kevlar bead and a relatively light weight (about 425 grams per tire).

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Xerxes is a 700c tire made for road bikes

Studded tires come in most all sizes. But the Xerxes are available only in the 700c x 30 size, meaning they are made for road or cyclocross wheels, not mountain bikes.

In addition to the Xerxes’ bite, they are fast during snow-free sections of a ride. A raised center tread line rolls smoothly on pavement, letting me spin easily to 25mph when it’s safe.

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Close-up: Studs for Xerxes before they’re implanted in the rubber

You can adjust the air pressure to change the nature of the tire. At around 75 psi, the tire rolls fast and the studs do not touch down. Let out some air, to about 35 psi, and the rubber can smoosh in more, adding traction and allowing the studs to consistently engage on the ground.

When you brake and turn you can hear the studs grip, the metal points clacking on icy asphalt as they dig in for purchase. For me, it’s an audible reassurance that my bike is doing its best to keep me in control, no matter the conditions of the road.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of GearJunkie covered winter bike footwear from 45Nrth in a post last month, No More Cold Feet: Wölvhammer Boot Takes on Winter Biking.

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Studs and tread pattern on Xerxes tire up close

Posted by Warren Long - 01/07/2013 10:03 AM

I have been winter biking in Saskatchewan for many years. Haven’t tried these tires, but they seem to be lacking studs that are in contact with the ice when the bike is vertical. The ones I use have this feature, probably make the bike slower, but I feel it is critical.

Posted by 45North - 01/08/2013 01:50 PM

Hello Warren, the recommended pressure range for the Xerxes tires is 35-75PSI. If you run the tire at a higher pressure fewer of the studs will make contact with the surface. If you are finding you need more acceleration and braking traction then you can lower the pressure so more studs come into contact with the ice. The design was based on the concept of a high-end cyclocross tire, where modulating the air pressure gives you different acceleration, braking and cornering characteristics.

Posted by Daniel - 01/17/2013 03:00 AM

I would love to have those Xerxes on my

but 100 bucks for a tire …to expensive

Posted by James - 01/25/2013 09:45 AM

I commute all year round and I like the way these tire look, but like most studded tires they’re a little out of my price range. My solution a few years ago was to simply make my own. I took an old, worn out set of knobbies and a couple boxes of sheet metal screws and put them together (screws go from the inside out) and WALLA! spiked tires! You do have to pre-drill each hole so it does take time. But they do hook up on ice when nothing else will.

Posted by Mike - 01/29/2013 09:45 PM

I have a pair of xerxes on my cross bike. The xerxes are fast, but they leave me terrified on ice. I think the lack of studs in the middle of the tire is critical. I have tried adjusting the air pressure with very limited success. In comparison, I have a pair of nokian extremes on my mountain bike and I can ride icey, rutted, bumpy single track with confidence. I think the ideal commuter might be somewhere in between. I would like to try a 30-34mm tire with a shallow tread and 200+ studs. .

Posted by Rick - 03/05/2013 10:53 PM

I ran a Xerxes on the front of my commuter for the majority of this winter and finally put my old Schwable Marathon Winter back on. On the plus side they are way lighter than any of the other major brands, roll a lot faster, work adequately on fresh snow and slushy snow and slice through better than the Schwable’s or Nokians. On the minus side they are basically like a non-studded tire on the ice. I have tried running tire pressures ranging from 60 PSI to 30 PSI with the same results. You can turn on the ice but it requires a very wide turn and is a leap of faith. If you catch the side of a icy rut you better yank up on the bars really fast or the front will wash out. You cannot stop on the ice because anything more than a light dragging of the brakes and the front end will wash out, and not slowly, you go down very fast. I never had that problem with the Schwables.

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