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.
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.
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).
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.
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 www.GearJunkie.com. GearJunkie covered winter bike footwear from 45Nrth in a post last month, No More Cold Feet: Wölvhammer Boot Takes on Winter Biking.