Improved Traction Options for Winter Biking: Mountain Bikes

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 mountain bikes to help make your ride a little safer and provide better traction this winter.

For mountain bikers that like to ride all winter long there are two ways to go, studs and chains.  Studs have been around for quite a while for 26" tires but until recently they were not available for the larger 29" tires.  Now 29'ers have a studded tire, the Nokian Suomi Gazza Extreme 294.  This 29x2.1 tire features 294 carbide steel pins for excellent traction on ice and snow.  

It is normal to lose 5 to 10 studs during riding due to friction.  There is a tire stud tool and replacement pack of studs available to keep your Suomi Gazza Extremes performing at their best.

One other more expensive choice for 29" wheels is the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro.  This tubeless ready folding tire boasts 402 tungsten carbide tip aluminum studs.

For the mountain biker with 26" wheels there is a lot of options for studded tires.

45NRTH has the Arcwelder which is a 26x2.1 tire with 268 replaceable steel studs.

Continental has the Spike Claw, a 26x2.1 tire with 240 hardened steel studs.

Kenda has the Klondike K1013, a 26x2.1 tire with 252 polymer-body carbide tip studs for use in light snow.

Nokian Suomi has the Hakka WXC 300, a 26x2.2 folding tire with 300 sharp steel studs with carbide pins and 61 ShA carbon silica tread compound for an excellent grip on ice and snow.

Manufacturers of studded tires recommend that the tires have a break in period to ensure they are optimized for ice and snow.  This is done by riding about 30 miles on road or paved trail surfaces to help set the studs.  This break in period will prepare them for off road use and prevent excessive loss of studs.

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 mountain bikes they are available for both 26" and 29" wheels in a variety of different tire widths.  Installation 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 future posts I will list options for commuters and fatbike riders.

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