Improved Traction Options for Winter Biking: Fatbikes

Winter is fast approaching and those of us who don't want to pack away the bike for the winter have a few options to choose from to help improve traction on ice and snow.  Studded tires are the obvious choice for most and chains are still yet another option.  Studded tires are available for all types of cyclists, from the daily commuter, all season mountain biker or the winter fatbike rider.  Chains are used primarily by mountain bikers and fatbike riders.  In this post I will go over some of the products available for fatbikes to help make your ride a little safer and provide better traction this winter.

Fatbike tires allow for low pressure inflation which in turn gives the rider better traction and floatation through snow and icy conditions.  There are quite a few tire choices out there and I will touch on a few regular and studded options that will provide improved traction for winter riding. 

The 45NRTH Husker Du is a 26x4.0 tire that provides excellent traction on snow and ice with its additional molded sipes in the tread.  Low pressure and the fat profile will give the grab and floatation necessary for snowy and icy conditions.

 The Surly Endomorph is a 26x3.7 tire with a high volume casing that allows you to run it with very low pressure to provide a larger footprint.  This will give you better traction and floatation through deeper snow and soft terrain.  Increase the tire pressure for hard, rough or packed snow surfaces.

For the ultimate floatation in snowy conditions, there is the Surly Big Fat Larry.  This tire measures a whopping 26x4.7 and needs to be mounted on the 100mm Surly Clown Shoe.  High volume equals very low pressure for maximum floatation in deep snow giving you a very large footprint as you move along.  Play around with tire pressure to see what is best for the varying conditions experienced in winter.

45NRTH has come out with the first ever studded fatbike tire, the Dillinger.  This 26x4.0 tire has 240 lightweight aluminum carbide studs that bite into ice providing excellent traction in slick conditions.  Climb icy hills and roll through snowpacked singletrack with ease and control.  With studs scattered throughout the tread surface, feel confident when cornering and braking at varying speeds.

Penn Cycle now has the Dillinger in stock at its Eagan and Minnetonka locations.

Credit: Gripstuds.com
Grip Studs are another option for increased traction on ice and snow.  These are screw-in bicycle tire studs with a solid tungsten carbide shaft that have a wide-auger design.  Installation is easy using a power install tool on a cordless drill.  Their shallow auger depth will work with most off road bicycle tires and can be removed after winter is over and they are no longer needed.  However, they are not cheap, but then studded tires ready to go aren't either.  They will set you back $99.95 for a pack of 100 and $149.93 for a pack of 150 and the manufacturer recommends 100-150 per tire.

Image Credit:  Slipnottraction.com
Chains are an alternative to the studded tire.  SlipNot Traction Systems of  Bayfield, Colorado makes chain sets for both mountain bikes and fatbikes.  For fatbike tires they are available in several sizes, 3.7"-3.8" on 65mm rims, 3.7"-3.8" on 85mm rims, and 4.7" on 100mm rimsInstallation is easy and only takes about five minutes for both tires.  They come with a mesh bag to place them in to easily clean by rinsing and hanging to dry.  These will work with both disc and caliper brakes, as well as fenders that have at least a 1/4" clearance around the tire.

Don't let another Minnesota winter keep you from getting out there on your bike.  Implement one of the above choices to add plenty of traction and increased safety for snow and ice on your rides this winter.  

In a future post I will list options for commuter bikes.

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