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I'm an averagely built rider weighing ~85kg living in a middle-sized town in west Germany. Up until recently the only bike I had was a 46/16 single speed on 28mm tyres. It was used for both commute and leisure totaling ~60km a week.

Back in March I bought a Croozer trailer to carry my 3yo to kindergarten and back which amounted to extra ~35kg of total towed weight. It was hard at first but I eventually got used to the grind through the almost flat city terrain.

Now with the winter in sight I bought the Scott Aspect 950 EQ MTB to carry me and my child through possible ice and snow. The bike comes with the 61-622 Kenda Booster tyres weighing ~0.7kg each.

My assumption is that for the maximum stability on ice I need some studded (spiked) tyres. The only suitable ones I found so far are Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro that come in 57mm and 65mm widths weighing each 1.0kg and 1.2kg respectively.

I don't care much about the extra weight but I wouldn't mind the setup being lighter either. There's also a slight chance that the wider ones aren't going to fit under the mudguards.

My questions are:

  • Do I even need studded tyres at all?
  • Would the 65mm tyres give me measurably better traction on ice and light snow compared to the 57mm ones?
  • If so, would the extra traction be worth the increase in weight and rolling resistance?
  • Are there any other brands/models that beat the Schwalbe in this category?
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    Welcome to Bicycles SE. There are many questions on this site relating to studded tires. Just searching "studded tires" here results in a long list of them, where your question has probably been asked and answered - see if they answer your questions: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/2281/… bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/57256/… bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/57256/…
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 14:36
  • You really need to figure out if you need them at all. Doesn't just depend on climate but also on the quality of winter service on the roads you have to use. Unserviced steep roads im South Germany: would use studded tires if using with a child in tow. Flat road in a city with good winter service much further north: probably unnecessary if you ride responsibly
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 20:38
  • @Nobody, good point since in case it gets too snowy/icy I'm gonna be using public transport anyway as at this point other, potentially less prepared, road users become a greater danger than me slipping. My main use case is some black ice and/or light snow early in the morning. Plus as the rubber generally hardens in the cold and becomes slippery even on dry surfaces I want a wider contact patch. It may well be that the upcoming winter is going to be just as warm as the last year's but I'm not taking any chances.
    – ayorgo
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 21:04
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    @Nobody people sometimes say that, and it may occasionally be true, but in the many cases it's badly wrong. I run Schwalbe Winter 35s (not "marathon") for winter commuting with occasional surprise ice. They have considerably better grip on the dirty wet roads that are typical for winters round here than the Marathon Plus I use in summer. (Strictly speaking this should be past tense, as that commuter hybrid died; it's more complicated now)
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 14:50
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    @Nobody " Specifically, studs have worse grip on clean, dry asphalt at the very least." Might be true, for identical tires with/without studs, but looking at the test I referenced you can see that slightly wider studded tires all have better lateral grip than the one summer tire on bare pavement. Studded also have slightly higher rolling resistance. So increased width and winter rubber compound saves the day for non-ice where as studs save you on ice. Studs is a safety measure for when you hit ice where the summer tire performs horribly.
    – WornChain
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 18:02

3 Answers 3

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  1. Yes. If you ride on icy roads I would strongly recommend studded tires. In winter you can suddenly come across unexpected patches of ice even when roads are salted. Studs is what you want on ice. Pulling your type of cargo I'd feel obliged to have studs if the roads/climate suggest it. Road conditions is ultimately what determines the need. Have a look at the test results below(*) if you want to see measurements of grip in different conditions with studded vs non-studded(rightmost column) tires.

  2. Everything else (number of studs, rubber compound etc) being equal I doubt that size difference will have much of an impact. At a given load, the contact patch area is determined by what pressure you use. If you want a greater contact patch you need to run lower pressures which is easier on bigger tires. I don't think it will matter much when the tires are as wide as 57/65.

  3. You can lower pressure on both tire widths to increase the contact patch to increase grip. Other considerations (puncture resistance, rim adherence) limit how low you can go.

  4. I have only tried Schwalbe Marathon Winter plus smartguard (622-42, 240 studs) and Schwalbe Marathon winter K-guard (622-42, 120 studs). The first is a great tire, the latter had the studs poking into the inner tube after one season of riding for a 80 kg rider. Both tires are great as long as they last. Having 240 studs is great if you do some more aggressive riding since they have two additional lateral rows of studs. Similar Schwalbe tires won a Swedish test(*) in 2014. I'll probably repeat my previous year set up with the 120 in the rear and 240 in front. I had no accidents. If your rims allow it you might consider trying these tires. With a fatter wallet I'd go 240 studs front and back.

*)enter image description here

EDIT: Translation of test results

Price, Producer, Studs, Size (ERTO), Weight (grams)

Test results

Breaking distance ice(m), Breaking distance snow and ice(m), Rolling resistance bare road (W), Lateral force before slipping on ice (N), Lateral force before slipping on bare road (N)

Test result - grading 1-5, weight of importance in parentheses

Grip on bare road (10), Grip on winter road (30), Rolling resistance (20), Durability(studs staying where they should) (40), Total score

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    Side question - would the trailer benefit from studded tyres? Its only being towed, not steered or propelled so all the forces are coming through the draw-bar. However you wouldn't want the trailer sliding sideways down a slope. Thoughts on that?
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 19:29
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    I would intuitively want studs on the trailer wheels as well, but I have no real experience with them or how they behave.
    – WornChain
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 19:45
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    @NikKharlamov Just my experience. Perhaps I ride harder or just got unlucky with my set. It's my rear tire so I won't blame the curb edges. Maybe it's my preferential rear breaking? Either way, they are half the price of the smartguard, so I'll probably give them a second chance.
    – WornChain
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 21:23
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    @WornChain Rear wheel braking is best when on ice - if the front wheel slides and wipes out you're going down fast. Also, rear wheel braking is best when towing a trailer. Otherwise it can jack-knife... BTDT.
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 22:37
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    @NikKharlamov I use tyre liners with mine after the spikes started puncturing tubes. I'm just under 90kg, but with heavy bikes and a heavy pannier
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 14:55
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If they fit, it doesn't matter which size you pick. In your case I'd get the narrower ones to be sure of fitting under the mudguards with room to pick up any snow.

I use 35mm studded tyres in winter (Schwalbe Winter). I bought them to use with a hybrid that couldn't take much bigger, but that died a year ago and I swapped to using them on my hardtail. That bike shipped with 2.1" (~53mm) tyres, and fairly narrow rims in MTB terms.

I also suggest, at some point, test riding them in worse conditions than you'd expect to take your child, without and with the trailer. Not riding aggressively by any means, but a bit less cautiously than if you had a small precious person with you. And try the brakes, especially the back, on various surfaces including ice and wet roads.

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    Thanks for the sound advice. I did test the trailer with some water bottles inside when I bought it to get the feel of how it rolls. I'm certainly going to test it again the same way when the weather gets bad enough.
    – ayorgo
    Commented Oct 23, 2023 at 15:34
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Do I even need studded tyres at all?

This is an easy question. If you need studded tyres, you'll know it (after your first fall).

Would the 65mm tyres give me measurably better traction on ice and light snow compared to the 57mm ones?

Wider studded tyres help on uneven icy surfaces. Probably West Germany is not getting much of these. For just some (more or less even) ice patches, I had not seen much advantage of going wider.

As noted in another answer, you need enough clearance between the tyre and the fenders to avoid packing of the snow. Studded tyre can be higher than a regular one due to high rubber knobs where the spikes are mounted (look at Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro) which correspondingly requires even more clearance.

Are there any other brands/models that beat the Schwalbe in this category?

Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro is my favorite studded tyre for "serious winter MTB", and (Marathon) Winter - for winter city commuting. There are smaller vendors around and sometimes some of their models are really good too. I used at least a few different models from Suomi Tyres, one very aggressive 2" from Innova, two models from Continental; some of them I liked, others not, and that depended on a particular model, not on the vendor. But Schwalbe kind of sets the bar, and I'm not aware of "unsuccessful attempts to build a studded tyre" from them (apart from mentioned spikes punching the inside in Schwalbe Winter, which happened to me as well).

Ice Spiker Pro is not optimized for long service, it's optimized for weight - it's the lightest studded tyre of given size which I know, and it loses the studs relatively fast, especially on the central track. I'd say it's an overkill and an "overprice" for most commuting scenarios, even here in Finland at the 60th parallel; but it definitely works very well.

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