I'm in the Pacific Northwest, Washington State, and I bike commute year round 5 miles each way. At my previous gig and rental, I had the fairly easy option of walking the 1.4 miles to work. I'm less sanguine about a 5 mile walk. Local bus service isn't ideal at my new gig and rental.

I have a 2008 Kona Dew with fenders and 32mm tires. Without fenders, I could run 38s easily, maybe something larger.

Been reading about studded tires on Peter White Cycles for a couple of years, and now I'm weighing the options. Some indications this is going to be a rough winter.

I'm torn between a couple of choices.

  1. Putting "mild" studded tires on my Kona, like Nokian A10 32mm, and keep the fenders on
  2. Getting a Craigslist or Pawn Shop MTB and putting aggressive studded tires on it as a snow bike
  3. Getting a Craigslist or Pawn Shop MTB and putting aggressive winter tires on it as a snow bike

We don't get nearly the snow in Washington that they get in New Hampshire, but it does hit now and again.


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    As Batman says, studs are for ice, not snow. For snow you need an aggressive tread. And though I've never done much riding in snow, I also question the wisdom of having fenders on a dedicated snow bike. (I've done plenty of DRIVING in snow, and have seen wheel wells fill up with snow.) Nov 12, 2014 at 1:29
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    (I've dealt With Peter White Cycles several times and have found them to be quite reliable.) Nov 12, 2014 at 1:33
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    WA does not get enough ice to worry about studded tires. When I lived there and skied Mt Baker I did not put studded tires on my car.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 12, 2014 at 2:06
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    Never ride studs on anything but ice, you will actually loose traction. Steel on Pavement = not good, and unless you have a solid snow pack you will be riding on pavement. Mud tires work good in snow, because the tread doesn't get clogged up.
    – ShemSeger
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:35
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    More expensive studded tires are usually worth it. Many companies making cheaper studded models use softer metals in the studs that wear out quickly. A quality bicycle tire manufacturer will use auto grade studs that will never see the weight or wear on them they were intended for. I have seen many people run Nokians year round commuting and still have a set be serviceable four or five years later. I haven't ever heard anyone complain about running studs on pavement. Some manufacturers recommend running them gently on pavement for the first several miles to facilitate "seating". Nov 12, 2014 at 23:52

2 Answers 2


Studded tires don't help on snow any more than knobbies do - they're for ice. The canonical website on winter biking is probably IceBike.

It really depends on how far you want to go - a wide MTB tire at low pressure is nice in the snow. The aggressive studded tires are designed for riding in snow, not mostly cleared roads with possible bits of ice. If you're riding on plowed roads, a beater bike (since road salt does wonders for ruining your drivetrain) with some mild studded tires designed for commuters (e.g. Schwalbe Marathon Winter) are a good way to go (though many people get by without studs for winter as well - they're additional safety when you hit ice; I've done several mid-west winters without studded tires). If you're not going on plowed roads, get something aggressive (but note that if the roads are clear, you'll wear down the studs excessively and have excess resistance).

As for keeping the fenders on, you might not want to do that since they help pack and accumulate snow. I like to use a downtube board and a clip on tail fender (SKS X-board and X-tra dry) since they don't make snow accumulate.

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    BATMAN Y U SOO FST!? If you don't want to swap wheelsets, I'd recommend 1 AND 3. Get some studded tires for your Dew and save them for ice rain and the like. Get a beater mountain bike with some wider tires (for flotation) and use that for snow. Nov 12, 2014 at 0:23
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    My bike computer is a macbook pro.
    – Batman
    Nov 12, 2014 at 0:25
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    Of course, IceBike is still advertising a ride in 2006, so it's not that up to date. Still, it does have some good info in its reference pages. Nov 12, 2014 at 1:25
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    I have to disagree with you about not helping on snow. On many trails and paths the snow can get compacted and a layer of ice can form on top (especially at night in milder climates). In this situation the spikes are much better than mountain bike knobs.
    – Rider_X
    Nov 12, 2014 at 21:28
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    Except this is about commuting, not trail riding.
    – Batman
    Nov 12, 2014 at 22:32

I live fairly close to you (just north of the boarder ), and I own studded Schwalbe winter marathons (700x40c). I only use them maybe one to two weeks out of the year. While a bit of a luxury they are incredibly useful under the appropriate conditions (e.g., compacted snow and ice).

Where I found they worked well

Here I disagree with Batman about not studded snow tires not being useful in snow. In the Pacific North West (PNW; or there about) the climate can be mild. When we do get snow, and the snow stays, many paths and trails can become compacted from foot traffic. The top layer can melt in the day and freeze at night. This can put a nasty layer of ice on the top of the snow. Here studded tires excel.

Another area I have found them useful is when we get a dump of snow, which melts and becomes slushy, followed by a precipitous drop in temperature which causes the ponds of slush to turn to ponds of ice. Here again studded tires excel. In 2012 when we got a big chill after slushy snow, the spikes were a godsend for about a couple weeks as I was able to ride across parking lot completely covered in ice without crashing. I could not turn sharply or lean into a turn, but if I was careful I could ride the ice lakes!

Now for the caveat

Depending on where you are in the PNW these conditions are rare. Riding studded tires outside of these conditions is not advisable as the tires do not grip bare pavement as well as non-studded tires.

As I said these tires are a luxury item in our climate. If you are dedicated to never miss a day commuting then they could be useful, or you could simply drive or take the bus on those rare occasions they are needed.

I suspect my tires will die of old age before I actually wear them out. This is probably especially true now as my riding now occurs in an even milder microclimate (Saanich Peninsula). I may never see the required conditions except on an even rarer occasion.

Hmm... Lightly used Schwalbe winter marathons for sale!

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