Sunday, 17 January 2016

Studded Tyre Miles Count Double

Did I mention snow in yesterday's post? Well, somebody must have heard me, because we awoke this morning to this: 

Barely Dawn.

Since I needed to go into Harpenden today and the forecast suggests temperatures are going to drop below freezing the next several nights, meaning potentially icy conditions for the morning commute, it was obviously the right time to put the studded tyres on the Cross Check. 

Somewhat to my amusement (because this is nothing unusual), it transpired that my ready-to-go spare winter wheelset had, erm, been cannabalised in various ways for other projects. There was in fact no "winter wheelset" but there were two studded Marathon tyres available. So Adam paid penance by wrestling the everyday Marathon Plus tyres off, and wrangling the new studded tyres into their place. 

Soon we were on the road. The streets in our village were largely free of snow by 11am but all the surfaces were wet and the temperature wasn't much above freezing, so it was very nice to not have that "will I slip or won't I?" question in my mind as I went around each curve and corner. 

Studded tyres make surprisingly little difference to the feel of the road or to your speed or perceived effort. The bicycle rolls along quite nicely.

The only downside was the noise! The crackle of studs on asphalt is only to be expected.

But there was more:

...the rumbling vibratory noice of metal striking one side of the front mudguard put me in mind of an old two-stroke engine

...and a disc brake caliper that hasn't been adjusted quite right when the wheel was re-seated can sound like wine glass 'singing'

Thirty minutes of noise and vibration like that was not exactly pleasant for someone who is suffers from tinnitus (without any extra help, thank you) and a heightened sensitivity to vibrations!

While I studied for my exam, Adam sorted the brake caliper and, once we got home, the mudguard too.

Forecast is for more snow tonight. We're ready!


  1. I can identify with wrestling with the Marathon Pluses. They are wonderful tires, but a bear to mount! Your observations about the studded tires not affecting ride quality or speed is interesting to me. I would have thought they would affect both. I live far enough south in the US that I'll never need studded tires, but it is interesting to hear about the experience.

    1. Kendra, I assumed and expected the same as you, that they'd slow me down and make the ride feel sluggish. But the road feel is fine -- it gives the impression that the road surface has fine debris all over it but that sensation seems to come from the road, not the bike itself. As for speed, my Garmin says I'm no slower, not even half a kilometre an hour slower. It's surprising all round. Still, I'm looking forward to taking them off next weekend when the weather goes back to 'normal' (i.e. wet and windy but relatively mild).

  2. So they really do work? Interesting! I reluctantly took the train to work today as I was worried by the ice on the roads. In my part of greater London it doesn't really snow enough to justify special studded tires, but if the cold snap ever lasts longer than a week I will look into it!

    1. They do really work! :) To be honest, with our typical southern English climate, I wouldn't bother, if you're happy to take a few days off from cycling during a cold snap. I had decided I didn't want to be caught out and end up at the last minute not cycling on ANY day, hence the spare wheelset plan. Having put this plan into action now (first time), my view is, if you're got a wheelset to swap over in a few minutes, great. Otherwise, not worth the time and bother of wrestling tyres on and off, or the uncertainty of watching the weather and wondering "should I make time tonight for a tyre swap or will it all be back to normal tomorrow". That's my take anyway. If I'd known the tyres weren't already on wheels that were ready to swap out (or if that happens again), I may not bother and just take the bus for a few days. But having them ready to go at a moment's notice? Totally worth it!

  3. I use them in icy conditions,there are a couple of places on my commute where rain water washes over the road from the nearby fields for most of the winter and often freezes. I find I can ride these sections as normal including being able to brake effectively when it is too slippery to even walk on them. We get very little snow here and I don't think the Schwalbe Winter tyres have a great snow tread. I'd rather use my mountain bike in fresh snow

    1. It's surprising how much water -- hence, ice -- there is around, out here in the countryside, even when it hasn't really rained for days and the roads "look" dry. Agree about tread, or more precisely, grip: non-studded Schwalbe tyres are rubbish. My Marathon Pluses are surprisingly slippy, even with what looks like decent tread. Tyres with 4 rows of metal studs though... total security. Very impressive.


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