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At work, we discussed when to change to winter tires for bicycles (and cars). We assumed that temperature was the key factor and I used a program (Mathematica) to check the mean temperature in Stockholm (see this question Probability of ice in Stockholm).

My question is: besides the risk of ice, what are key factors for deciding when to change from summer tires to winter tires? E.g. is the rubber of summer tires negatively impacted when it gets colder.

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Temperature has very little to do with it. You can have icy spots at 15C, or bare road at -30C. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 15 '12 at 17:51
    
yes, agree when I grew up in the north of Sweden, I biked all year without winter tires. However, 10 years ago when I started biking in Stockholm (higher humidity) in the winter, I learned the hard way that winter tires reduces the probability of falling. –  FredrikD Oct 15 '12 at 18:12
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3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I weigh the advantage of increased control against the cost of snow tires.

Studded tires take quite a bit of wear on dry pavement. Each stud type will have a different life span based on materials tire shape etc. My anecdotal experience shows stud life on dry pavement to be about 500 miles. I have done winters without studs because it never reached a consistently icy state. The handful of icy days could be mitigated by route choice (both to avoid dangerous traffic locations in ice, but also to avoid shady spots where ice is more likely).

I switch over once it starts reaching 3 icy days per week or a commute route which has over a 1/4 mile of constant snow/ice. My winter commuter is a rigid frame/fork mountain bike with relatively fat tires (~1.75 in) at low pressures (25-30 PSI). It is quite stable and a major contributing factor in holding off on studs until it gets very icy. That said I took 2 falls last winter without studs due to ice. No other falls in the past year.

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The first day of Winter (or winter solstice) in the northern hemisphere is usually December 21 or 22 every year. However, depending on the conditions, you may want to change over to Winter tires well before that.

Depending on the year, a slurry of other factors, and your location you may get snow and ice well before then. You should make an earnest attempt to have changed your tires at some point before you begin to see snow and ice material forming in your area.

You may want to have a look here for general tips on winter riding.

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Welcome to Bicycles! You have posted a few very interesting answers, but they haven't been particularly on-topic, or like this, seem a little sarcastic. I've edited your answer substantially, but tried to leave the spirit of your answer since at least one person gave it an upvote. However, it was flagged as "not an answer" by other users. Please review the FAQ at bicycles.stackexchange.com/faq –  Gary.Ray Oct 16 '12 at 13:31
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The first day of winter is not on December 21 every year. The first day of winter falls on the Winter Solstice which changes from one year to the next. For a better understanding of this phenomenon: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice –  jimirings Oct 16 '12 at 13:41
    
@jimirings - good point, I'll edit that for him too. –  Gary.Ray Oct 16 '12 at 13:49
    
Thanks @Gary.Ray - I will read the FAQ sometime tonight. I am new to Bicycles and seem to be having some difficulty understanding the format (it's not like other forums) and etiquette. It is my goal to be helpful and as courteous as I can be. If my answers seem off-topic or sarcastic, please point out specifics so I can learn to solicit better answers, or have a chance to defend myself before someone else edits my answer. –  luntzirmstrang Oct 16 '12 at 16:36
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The cost of burning through studded tires can start to add up. I find it more efficient to keep a pair of studded tires installed and ready to go on an older pair of wheels, and I can just throw them on if it looks like it's going to be an icy day.

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Very true. A pair of tires can easily be swapped out in 30 minutes, and under 5 minutes if you are swapping a wheel set. Even better, just have a bike ready to go with studded tires already installed. Choose the equipment that fit the conditions of the day. I don't bike in the winter, but I recently bought a second bike that I use on wet and rainy days, and that I will continue to use into the fall once they start putting down salt, but before the snow comes, so that I don't do any damage to my good bike. The bike I rode last fall had the drive train ruined from the salt. –  Kibbee Oct 15 '12 at 13:42
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@Kibbee -- Yep, if I were into serious winter biking I'd have a second bike specifically for winter, with fatter tires, studs, and fender clearances that could handle snow. (Thankfully they don't use much salt here most winters.) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 15 '12 at 17:54
    
Good point w second bike, especially when there is a lot of salt (as the city does in Stockholm). Also, the gears & brakes takes a heavy beating. Configuration for a custom winter bike.. see bicycles.stackexchange.com/q/2506/4548 –  FredrikD Oct 16 '12 at 15:43
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