Winter Tire Options Recap

By : Kat · December 7, 2009

Everyone has preferences for the equipment they use.  Simply ride what you feel comfortable with.  During the winter, each of the tire categories have their strengths and weaknesses.  Give them a try and see what works for you and your bike.

New tiresVia: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Skinny Slicks:  22-28mm, smooth tires.

Some people like these because they can cut through slush and snow with little resistance.  However, because they are so thin, they need a higher air pressure in the tire, which results in a smaller contact surface with the pavement.  Slicks also have very little traction and are not good for riding over ice.

Knobby Tires:  32-48mm, knobby tires.

Tires with a thick tread are ideal for plowing through snow.  The shape of the tread is designed to deflect snow away from the tire, thus giving a smoother ride.  Wider tires give you more contact with the road, and the lower air pressure makes them less slick on ice.  Go with tires as wide as your bike frame will allow for.  Make sure to check the rotation direction on the tire before mounting them to the wheel.

Ready and willing...Via: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Studded Tires:  32-48mm, with metal studs.

While these tires are often very expensive compared to normal tires, they are worth the investment because they perform brilliantly in the snow and on ice.  The metal studs grab the ice which gives superior traction and control in a variety of conditions.  These tires also have thick tread like a normal knobby tire does, so they also work well at diverting the snow.  One drawback is they are much heavier than regular tires, and can slow down and tire you out.  But, I say it’s worth it to have better control on the icy streets.

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I would like to comment about the knobby advice section. Beware the snow-packed, knobby tire. It is a death trap. If you feel like wider tires with more traction are necessary, make sure you pay attention not only to the direction of the tread, but the type of tread. Deep square tread is, in my experience, a tread that likes to pack with snow and become extra slick. Get a shallower, less square tread and you will be less likely to have that problem.

My preference for the winter is definitely on the slimmer tires- riding style matters a lot when it's icy and snowy and slushy (refer to my post on riding in groups for the basics). Make sure you don't panic, put your weight back on the rear tire for traction, and don't make any sudden moves. It is better to ride straight over ice that anything else you can do.

Have fun in snowy MN, suckhaaaas!

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