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I have a hybrid commuter bike that is more at the mountain bike end of the spectrum

Currently I have slick road tyres on it.

Is it a good idea to get mountain bike tyres on it to deal with the wet and icey winter conditions?

I've heard conflicting stories about if they help or not

EDIT: To clarify - this is for commuting to work on the road. Not for off-road stuff.

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I think the one important thing to know is that you can't expect to ride on ice at all without metal-studded tires. You can often managed packed snow with regular wide, treaded tires, but as soon as it gets to be ice then you're in great danger without studs. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 7 '11 at 20:53
    
I would definetly not have slicks on a bike during the winter. if you're in a warm place where it almost never gets below freezing, then standard MTB/dirt tires will work (better traction in wet conditions) but if you're in a cold place (like me :) then metal studs are a necessity if you want to avoid sliding through red lights –  Nate Koppenhaver Oct 19 '11 at 3:45

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

It depends on your anticipated conditions. If you're planning on off-roading in snow you need tires with fairly heavy lugs (though too heavy will just collect snow). For ice you definitely need metal-studded tires -- riding a bike on ice otherwise is like riding on grease.

If you ride mostly on roads that are fairly heavily traveled by autos the best choice is fairly smooth studded tires where the studs are on the sides but the middle is smooth. This way the studs engage when you lean at all, but don't seriously impede you when riding straight.

icebike.org has kind of fallen into disuse (the latest "news" is from 2006), but still has some good links.

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this is for commuting to work on the road. Not for off-road stuff. –  Roonooir Oct 8 '11 at 8:08
    
The key to not carrying snow is not having your lugs too closely packed. You want lots of space between them. –  sixtyfootersdude Jan 17 '13 at 22:52

I go to work by bike making 6.000 km/year. Conditions are: countryside environment, German snowy/icy winter (approx. 1..3 months).

Two years ago, my bicycle dealer pointed me to the "Schwalbe Marathon Winter" tire, which wears more than 200 carbide spikes on its surface (manufacturer's product page: http://tinyurl.com/5tcbvs3)

I tried it (if you buy only one, put it on the front wheel, as this is important for steering and all the little compensating steering movements to keep your balance - additionally, you can use your front brake to stop safely) and am now totally convinced: if you face snow and ice in winter, this is your choice.

Don't worry about melting days: when streets are clear, it runs with little friction loss. My daily ride is approx. 32 minutes, and I found no significant increase in time with the spiked tire on clear streets (although there is a noticable rolling noise).

This year, I was very lazy and left the Marathon winter mounted on the front wheel all summer long, and after thousands of km, there is still little wear-out of the hard metal carbide spikes (however, three of >200 have completely fallen out, which is still a good rate and acceptable for next winter).

The tire is not cheap (40..50 EUR per piece in Germany for the 28" / 622mm size), but if you cycle on snowy/icy winter on a regular basis, it's worth every penny!

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As other posters have noted, knobby tires will definitely help in snow and other winter-type road messiness. I doubt this would work on hard water ice (and I haven't tried it myself) but there is some information out there about using zip ties as makeshift tire studs. For hard packed snow and crusty ice, it seems like this would add quite a bit of traction.

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I would be skeptical of the ability of the zip ties to do what's needed most, which is to provide sideways "friction" so that the bike doesn't slide out from under you. They would work to provide motive traction, but that's not the critical issue. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 11 '11 at 1:25
    
@DanielRHicks like I mention, I haven't tried it so I can't say for sure but I think the placement of the "zipper clip" part makes a kind of stud that aids in the lateral traction. That is my understanding at least. –  KennyPeanuts Oct 11 '11 at 10:07

Knobby tires will definitely help when there is snow or wet leafs on the road. They won't help with ice, though, only spiked tires are useful for icey roads.

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Well, in the US "studded" means that metal studs are installed. These definitely help on ice. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 7 '11 at 11:36
    
Ok, english is not my native language. What I meant was knobby tires. –  sarnu Oct 10 '11 at 13:25
    
No problem -- I figured it was a simple terminology thing. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 10 '11 at 18:22

One lesson I have learned about ice biking is that a some point you must put your feet down.I would suggest if you are planning on riding on icy slippery surfaces wear some sort of traction device on your shoes.They don't need to be overly aggresive,but enough to keep you from slipping while stopped.

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Why not?

Tires are for bikes what shoes are to people.

You don't go to every kind of activity always with the same pair of shoes, so with bikes it shouldn't be different.

I think everyone should have enough tire sets to cover all the spectrum of terrains one regularly rides on.

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-1 the OP indicates that they have heard conflicting reports as to whether knobby tires help in winter conditions. They seem to understand that different tires may be needed in different terrain but are looking for advice as to whether knobby tires help in winter conditions. –  KennyPeanuts Oct 11 '11 at 0:39

There are a number of factors that you will have to weigh up.

Knobbly tires will help with traction if the surface is covered with a loose/shifting covering i.e. leaves, mud, snow etc.

If you are planning on just riding in wet conditions, there are a number of slicker MTB tires that will help displace water, offer some off road affordance but still offer a good speed on the road, i.e. traction without increased rolling resistance. Try looking at the Panaracer Pasela or Ribmo.

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