riding on ice

If your trail looks like this:

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Then you want your tires to look like this:

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The past two weeks have been mild and wet and the snow is mostly gone.  The temperatures dropped the past couple of days leaving lots of ice.  Riding is no longer about floatation – it is about traction.  This is when studded tires come into play.

When it comes to studded tires you have two routes to go; buy ’em or make ’em.  Studded tires for fatbikes, like the Dillinger, sell for $225 each!  That’s a lot of moolah for a set of tires  Thankfully, there are thriftier options, and Slow:biker is nothing if not thrifty (Mrs.Slow:biker says I’m cheap, but that’s another story).

As I stated above, when conditions get icy it’s all about traction, not float, so an alternative is to use your mountain bike.  Studded mountain bike tires, like the Scwalbe Ice Spiker sell for $120, so you can buy two of these for the price of a single Dillinger.  But remember what I said about Slow:biker being cheap thrifty?  How would you like to have a set of studded tires for your mountain bike for less than 10 bucks?  Home-brewed tires are the way to acheive this.

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When the conditions are hard and icy you don’t need the float of a fat tire.

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Buy two boxes of these; one box of 1/2-inch and another box of 3/8-inch. The 1/2-inch ones will be used on the outside edge of your tire while the 3/8-inch ones will be inserted down the middle.

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This is what the screws look like. You want a head that is round and smooth so it doesn’t wear holes in your tube.

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Use an old, worn out tire for this project like this 20 year old Specialized I had lying around or the equally old Fisher below.

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Drive the screws from the inside out, making sure you go through the lug. Use the longer screws on the outside edge, remember, and the shorter ones down the middle. A power screwdriver can really speed this up.

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Now, take an old tube, cut off the valve then split the tube along the inside using scissors.

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Put a little air into the tube you are going to use then wrap the split tube around it. This extra layer of rubber prevents the screw heads from wearing holes in your tube. Cram all this into your tire and inflate.

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The bead on the Fisher was too compromised and wouldn’t stay on the rim so I mounted up this Nokian 288 (that stands for 288 carbide studs) I had lying around. This, too, is about 20 years old, has seen some use, and is still fine.

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If/when you fall on ice it is your elbows and hips that take the hit. If you have armour for those areas, wear it.

I bought some Kahtoola Microspikes a few years ago for trail running and I cannot say enough about them. I use them when running, on lunchtime walks, on our icy driveway and I always carry them with me when hiking in the winter.  They are 59 bucks and will last a lifetime.  I also like to use them when riding on ice.  They work just fine with flat pedals and clipless pedals.

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If you are riding uphill and you stall out what do you do? You put your foot down. Putting your foot down on ice = slip sliding away. Microspikes overcome this. Some people will instead insert a few studs into the sole of their cycling shoe.

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The Microspikes stretch on and off in seconds AND make quite a fashion statement.

So – now you have no excuses.  Get out there and ride.


5 thoughts on “riding on ice

  1. Have you seen this dude in Edmonton’s DIY studding tutorial?

    As for winter, yeah, it’s been weird all around. Here in Portland we’ve had the coldest cold snap in the 13 years I’ve lived here, when it got down to 15F/-9C. yeah, not that cold by a lot of standards, but arctic for this temperate region.

    But overall it’s been very dry here. Last rain was at least two weeks ago, which is very long for January in the NW. So dry that’s there’s been a few forest fires. On the coast.

    I do like the spiky shoe things. When it does get icy here, they come in handy.

    • My Grandmother Simpson always blamed the Russians for bad weather. She believed that once the Russians went into space the weather was never the same. So, let’s blame it on the Russians.

      Thanks for the link – clearly, commuters have different studded tire needs. No center studs while offroad riding here = certain death.

  2. Nicely done. One thing worth mentioning for those who haven’t studded tires, helps to pick which knobs to stud (usually every second or third) and drill down through the knobs, first, from the outside of the tire. I miss winter riding Malcolm.

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