In some areas of the world, cars are allowed to use snow chains (or cables) in order to increase traction on ice and snow. This is slightly complicated on bicycles, but has been done. The main problems seem to be the chain being fixed to the tire while avoiding the rims (for brakes; presumably this can be relaxed for bikes with disc brakes to grab around the rims).

As an alternative to installing tire chains, various manufacturers have been selling snow socks (wraps) for car tires, which are temporary stretchable covers for your tires designed to increase traction in winter driving conditions without having to install chains or specific winter tires. While I haven't used them, they seem to be helpful for occasional cases where all season tires are not comfortably enough. It seems like some of them work on changing texture due to water absorption due to tire heating (which I don't think will happen on a bicycle, but depending on absorption rate, could be pre-treated with warm water before riding), while others start textured.

  • Does anybody offer snow socks for bicycles? (I was not able to find them, but I'm guessing you could stitch together a set for both tires from one car snow sock, possibly with some additional fastenings to prevent the cover from rolling off. I also did not see a similar product for motorcycles.).
  • If they exist: Has anyone tried to use snow socks on bicycles? If so, did they offer a significant advantage over running a smooth road tire or a non-smooth commuter tire such as this (or alternatively, some knobby variety of tire) without the sock?
  • If they do not exist: Does anyone have some theoretical insights to the last problem?

I realize there are two issues here - snow and ice, which are related but somewhat distinct due to the types of snow and ice, so characterizations in both cases would be useful. Snow socks are useful for on-road use, so lets restrict the answers to the case for on-road use.

This question is primarily of theoretical interest, given the installation times for snow chains being longer than a tire swap, but snow socks should be quicker if they can be fastened to the tire around the rim as in the disc brake case.

  • I wouldnt imagine this would be possible for rim brakes, Maybe disc brakes. I tried once with chains, but there was not enough clearance under my fork arch. A sock may be better. I have also tried wrapping loads of cable ties around my tyre & rim. This worked to some effect as a temp solution
    – Mark W
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 11:53
  • I saw a picture of some once, about 20 years ago. Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 12:49
  • Several of your links are now broken links.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 7:44
  • If anything, bike spikes seemed like an option if you don't want normal studded tires. Looks like they never came to market though after a short hype cycle, but it was a cool concept. cesarvanrongen.nl
    – Benzo
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:25

3 Answers 3


It's kind of goofy and requires a bit of time to do, but you can zip tie your wheels to make snow wheels. While they aren't reusable if you remove them, it's a fairly cheap method.

Here's a brief overview/guide.

And then I went and found these too. They are supposed to work with all brake systems.

As far as the socks go, I couldn't find anything smaller than automotive tires. However, I've got an idea that might work: place a larger volume tire over the current tire. You could get one with a lot more tread/studded etc. Another alternative would be sewing some tubes together, but I don't think tube material is going to do anything.

Last resort would be to buy an automotive wheel snow sock and cut it down to bicycle sized dimensions. Probably a lot of work, but until they make a specialized one that's about all you can do.

  • 1
    The Slipnots are just a standard tire chain for the bicycle, which has been around for ages. The zip ties seem to work for some people, but I use v-brakes and I'm more interested in if the socks would work, not necessarily a cheap way of doing this.
    – Batman
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 17:56
  • @Batman, you're correct I kind of jumped into my answer a bit too quick! I've edited to include what I could find about snow socks.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jan 29, 2014 at 19:02
  • 3
    It's probably worth noting that you shouldn't zip tie your tires if you have rim brakes.
    – jimchristie
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 14:15
  • I've heard about these products, but never heard of anyone actually using them. I think they are all likely gimmick items. Why use snow chains when you could just get aggressive tread tires? If you need traction on ice, why not just get studded tires? There are better options.
    – Benzo
    Commented Dec 11, 2015 at 22:03

You can avoid this problem altogether with studded tires

enter image description here

The pattern is deep enough so that it grabs quite well on the snow, and the studs give you a very good grip on ice and hard snow. On uniformly flat ice, the grip is almost as good as asphalt.

If the tires are good, you can wear them for all winter season, even if there is no ice. The studs are not very prominent, so the whole tire is still in contact with the road. This solves the problem of having to adapt to weather conditions. At my local bike store they assured me they would last for at least 5 years.

Source: I have tires like the one in the image in the Swedish winter.

PS: here, I have never seen cars them using chains or socks, they have winter tires instead, pretty much a car version of the image. Not all have studs, though.

  • Buy studded tires, Buy cheap set of wheels, swap as needed with your normal wheels when it's icy.
    – Benzo
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 18:02
  • @Benzo: Agreed, because studded tires are super slow. I find using a stud only on the front wheel is the way to go, studs for both wheels is just too slow. Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 6:01
  • 1
    @whatsisname I don't find studs to slow me down, but loose snow does. But on the other hand, I don't usually go full speed. (And "when icy" is every day December to April).
    – Davidmh
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 7:49
  • 1
    @Benzo Not practical for those of us with advanced hubs such as Rohloff speedhud or SON hub generator...
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 7:46
  • Yeah @gerrit, I feel that as I have a generator hub on my winter commuter. Now I just leave the studded tires on from the first ice till sometime in March when I think the icy stuff is done. My Schwalbe marathon winters roll much better on dry pavement than the older studded MTB tires I was using before.
    – Benzo
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:19

When I lived in Ithaca New York, I used tire chains for my RockHopper mountain bike. It made going down the steep slope of Buffalo Street in the dead of winter a bit less terrifying.

enter image description here

This brand is called SlipNot but there are others on the market as well. The advantage of chains is that they can be taken off in the Spring. The disadvantage is that you have to make sure that your brake/fork clearance is ok.

  • How is the ride quality on the chains?
    – Benzo
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:21
  • 1
    @Benzo crappy but doable on asphalt. A hella better than nothing on ice and snow.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jan 31, 2019 at 16:21

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