Product Review: SlipNot Traction Systems

To achieve better traction for winter biking there are many different options to choose from including tires, studs, studded tires and chains.  Each of these has their pros and cons and the riding conditions determine what will work best.

SlipNot Traction Systems of Bayfield, CO has designed bicycle tire chains that are supposed to provide better traction on snow, ice and mud.  After seeing them at Interbike 2013 and talking with the owners of the company, I wanted to test them out in a variety of Minnesota winter conditions to see how well they would perform.  Testing would take place on a 2014 9:Zero:7 equipped with 65mm Surly Marge Lite rims and 45NRTH Hüsker Dü 4" tires.  Since SlipNot does not make a chain set for 4" tires (only 3.7"-3.8" tires) they sent me a pair of their 85mm rim chains to accommodate the extra width of the Hüsker Dü's.

Installation of the SlipNot Traction Systems Bicycle Chains was pretty easy and took about ten minutes requiring some repositioning to get the proper alignment of the chains and cables on the tires.  This became quicker after having done it several times and removal was even faster.  The included extension pieces were needed to connect the turnbuckles and secure the chains in place.  They come with a mesh bag for storage that also works great for cleaning them, simply rinse them off while in the bag and hang to dry.  For those concerned about adding extra weight to the bike, this particular set weighs in at 3.6 lbs.  Once installed I would test them out with different temperatures, tire pressures and a wide variety of trail conditions including fresh powder, ice, packed singletrack and snowmobile trails (loose and packed). 

The first ride with SlipNot Traction System chains would be on singletrack at the Minnesota River Bottoms.  There had been a recent snowfall on the trails and not too many riders had fully repacked them yet.  This gave me a good opportunity to see how they would perform after a fresh snowfall.  They gripped the trail excellently providing extra traction to keep me rolling fast.  The most significant areas where this was noticed was on hills, I was able to climb right up them without any rear tire slip.  For fresh snow on trails, they definitely passed the first test. 

My second ride would be a couple days later after a warm front had
passed through making the MN River Bottoms trails rutted, cupped and icy.   This is where the SlipNot chains failed.  I thought the additional traction they provided in powder would bite into the ice but they actually caused more slipping, especially laterally.  Rolling fast along the icy surface of the trails caused the SlipNot chains to slide in the winding sections and turns causing me to put a foot down several times.  Cupped and rutted sections were tough to ride because my tires would slide towards the center from the raised edges due to the cross pattern of the chains resulting in loss of balance.

On glare ice, they did not give me the piece of mind and traction I was used to with studded tires.  When braking, I slowed down but the chains would allow the tire to slide forward across the ice biting in only slightly and sometimes slipping laterally outward.  This same slipping also occurred when accelerating.  For surface ice they did not do the job like I expected and I would stick to studs or decreased tire pressure (with or without the chains) for these conditions.

Out on the snowmobile trails, SlipNot Traction System chains really excelled.  I tried them out on several trails of varying conditions including packed, loose pack and fresh powder where they definitely gave me increased traction for forward momentum.

They worked great on terrain with rolling hills.  On the downhills they grabbed the trail giving me the confidence to ride fast and on climbs, the traction to zip up hills without rear tire slip to slow me down.

Blowing and drifting snow covering portions of the snowmobile trail is very common out in open terrain and SlipNot chains helped me plow through the deep spots cutting down on hike-a-bike time.

I have been asked by a few fatbikers if these chains tear up the trail or cause trail damage and I would say no, they lay down a track no deeper than a tire without them installed would.

As displayed by the imprint in the picture above, you can see the extra traction that chains give in addition to the tire tread without rutting up the trail.

In fresh powder, whether it be riding singletrack, snowmobile trails, bike trails or on the street, SlipNot Tractions Systems bicycle chains seemed to work the best.  For deeper snow, I did ride with lower tire pressure to give me a larger footprint with more floatation.  Riding in these conditions with SlipNot chains did help keep me rolling through areas I might have had difficulty with had I not had them installed.  They also worked worked very good on packed trails as long as they were not iced over.  For iced surfaces, I would probably go without them installed or run a lower tire pressure to get a better hold onto the trail.

SlipNot Traction System Bicycle Chains come in a variety of sizes for fat and skinny tires.  Fat tire models are available in sizes to fit 3.7"-3.8" tires on 65mm and 85mm rims but as demonstrated in this review, 4" tires on 65mm rims can be accommodated by installing the 85mm rim set.  For those rolling the big tires, there is a set that will fit 4.7" tires on 100mm rims.  Fatbike sets retail for $104.99 and are available directly from SlipNot Traction Systems.

Disclosure:  SlipNot Traction Systems provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

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