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Category Archives: Bicycle Tires

Mud, Snow, Rain, Road and MTB tires for bicycles.

A Visit From The Puncture Fairy

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

Last week a friend of mine told me that he had two flats on his bike within the past few weeks—and like a total idiot I told him that I hadn’t had a flat in over nearly 6,000 miles. Experienced cyclists already know what happened next—my careless words summoned the Puncture Fairy and I got a flat on my next ride! For the uninformed, the Puncture Fairy is an evil little creature that shows up when you least expect it and wreaks havoc in your life (I know, she has the same job description as a mother-in-law). The quickest way to summon the Puncture Fairy is to mention that you’ve not had a flat in a while.

This past Saturday I went out for a 70-mile ride and about halfway through I heard a small explosion and then the front tire popped off the rim of my bike. Fortunately, I was climbing a step hill and was not going very fast at the time. If the problem had occurred just a few minutes before it could have been fatal since I had been riding on a busy highway at just under 40 MPH (yes, I was going downhill and had a strong tailwind). While the Puncture Fairy decided to pay me a visit, at least she showed me a bit of mercy concerning the timing. I’ve repaired a lot of flat tires over the years and can easily swap out an inner tube and be on my way in under five minutes. However, this was the very first time I’ve had a flat as a result of inner tube failure instead of a puncture. This time my inner tube split vertically along the seam (about 1.5″ long), and when the seam burst it knocked my tire off of the rim (which made it even faster to change the tire since I didn’t have to use a lever to get it off the rim).

The reason I told you this story is because it is finally spring and many folks are just getting their bikes out of the garage for the first time since last fall (which also means they missed a lot of good winter biking weather). Before you take your bike out for a ride you really need to make sure that you have a patch kit, spare inner tube, and a tire lever or two with you. If you don’t know how to change a tire I strongly suggest that you practice in your garage using the same tire levers that you carry with you when you ride.

Road debris sliced right through this tire

Road debris sliced right through this tire

You also need to have a back-up plan for when the Puncture Fairy really decides to ruin your day by slicing your tire in addition to puncturing your inner tube. Last summer I went out for a long ride with a young woman and on our way home she hit a piece of road debris and it sliced through her front tire like a hot knife going through warm butter. I took her tire off the rim, but it was a lost cause—not even a Park Tool Emergency Tire Boot could cover the damage.

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

The woman told me to just ride back to my house and she’d walk back (her car was at my house). However, this was not going to work for two reasons. First, I am a gentleman and the thought of leaving a lady by the side of the ride with a flat tire just wasn’t an option. Second, my wife would have shot me when I got home if she found out I left a woman by the side of the road home with a broken bike. So, I called my dear wife and she picked up the woman and her bike and then I rode home (and as slow as my wife drives I nearly beat them there).

When was the last time the Puncture Fairy paid you a visit?

 

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Winter Cycling: Studded Bike Tires

Note: This is the eleventh installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by late November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

Even if you own the best cycling clothing that money can buy, your bike ride is going to be miserable if you attempt to ride in the snow or ice with the wrong tires. It’s not just about having tires with a good grip—they also need to be pliable in extremely cold temperatures and be able to shed snow. I haven’t tried every winter cycling tire that is on the market, but I have used enough different brands to offer a few suggestions for those who might be new to winter cycling.

Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires

Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires (Pattern: IA-2901)

If you are new to winter cycling and not sure how much you are going to ride this winter, I would suggest you get a pair of Innova 26 x 2.1 snow tires—these mountain bike tires are definitely an “entry-level” grade. Unlike the more expensive tires that use carbide studs, the Innova tires use steel studs, so yes, they are going to rust (see the photo above). However, the Innova tires are at least half the price of Nokian or Schwalbe tires. Innova snow tires have 268 replaceable steel studs and an aggressive tread. While it is very common to lose a few studs during normal use every winter due to friction, the best I can tell I didn’t lose a single stud in over 500 miles of use during the first winter I had them.

While the side of the tire says the maximum air pressure is 60psi, I would recommend you never go above 50psi—and if you are riding on a lot of ice I’d drop the pressure down to near 40psi (the minimum recommended pressure). At 60psi the studs don’t grip the snow and ice as well. These tires are made with a standard rubber compound which means they are not very flexible in cold weather. These tires retail for around $72 each. If your local bike shop does not carry Innova tires, you can usually find them on Amazon.com.

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

If you are looking for a top-of-the-line tire winter mountain biking tire I would suggest the Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires. These tires are made with a special winter rubber (durometer 58A) and are intended for extreme winter riding. This tire has large knobs for a great grip in mud and snow, along with 304 studs to keep you steady on the ice. The studs are made of aluminum and have sharp carbide pins—these pins should last for the life of the tire. Each tire weighs 750g (25.45 ounces). I bought a pair of 26″x2.2″ tires, but similar tires are available in other sizes. The recommended tire pressure is 29 to 65psi. I keep mine at around 40psi for winter riding and they are great in snow up to about two inches (5 cm) deep.

These tires are easy to install, but before you take them out in the snow for the first time you need to break them in by riding on hard pavement for at least 30 miles. The pavement helps seat the studs properly into the tires and roughens up the tips a bit for a better grip on the ice. The large tread pattern (knobs) on this tire provide wonderful traction in mud and snow, but they do require some extra effort on pavement because of their high rolling resistance. One thing that all studded bicycle tires have in common is that they are loud. How loud are they? Let me put it this way: You better hope that when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs that it happens in the summer, because if these tires are on your bike when it hits you are going to attract the attention of every walker and biter within 30 miles (it is a well-known fact that Zombies are attracted to loud noises).

Now for the confusing part: Nokian Tyres PCL is headquartered in Finland and is known throughout the world for their fine car and truck tires—they operate the world’s only permanent winter tire testing facility. At one time Nokian Tyres PCL manufactured bicycle tires, but not anymore. Today they license the Nokian name to Suomi Tyres LTD (another Finnish company). The Nokian Hakka WXC 300 tires are actually manufactured in Taiwan and are distributed in North America through Quality Bike Products (QPB). Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires retail for $120 each at your local bike shop. They are also available from the REI Website and in some of their retail stores.

Anytime the snow is over 2″ deep I’ll be riding my Surly Necromancer Pugsley with 4″ wide tires. Like many of the early Fat Bikes, my Pugs came equipped with 3.8″ Surly Larry tires on the front and 3.7″ Surly Endomorph tires on the back (often called the Larry/Endo combo). These tires are great for folks who are lucky enough to ride on groomed snowmobile trails and hard packed (consolidated) snow. Those of us who ride on loose and unconsolidated snow usually find this tire combination somewhat lacking—the Larry in the front is prone to washouts (especially if the path is off-camber) and the Endomorph in the rear often loses its grip in loose snow. Fortunately, Fat Bike riders now have a couple of great choices for winter cycling tires.

Surly Nate Bicycle Tires

Surly Nate Fat Bike Tires

The Surly Nate tire is 3.8″ wide and fits 50–100mm wide rims. The Nate has a large and aggressive knobby tread pattern that offers unbelievable traction in unconsolidated snow. While these massive tires have more rolling resistance than other fat tires, I’ve still been able to get my Pugs up to over 20 MPH on the pavement. I’ve also been able to cut a trail through five inches of fresh snow without any trouble—even on off-camber sections of the trail. In addition, I’ve been able to climb snow-covered hills while standing up out of the saddle—something I could never do with the Larry/Endo combo. The Surly Nate is available with either 27tpi or 120tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive. Lower tpi tires are generally heavier, more durable and offer better flat-resistance. The 120tpi Nate has a Kevlar bead and weighs around 1350 grams, while the 27tpi wire bead version weighs a bit over 1700 grams.

The first time I rode with the Nates was on a 35 degree day on an off-road trail that had snow and ice in the shady areas and several inches of mud and standing water in the areas exposed to direct sunlight. When I started my ride I could see the tracks left by a mountain biker who had started out on the trail before me that day—the tracks turned around after about 30 feet! However, I was able to ride for over 30 miles on this muddy trail and my Nates didn’t slip a single time (but they did throw a lot of mud).

The 27tpi Surly Nate tire retails for around $80, and the 120tpi version is around $120. You should be able to find these tires in the Men’s Department of your local bike shop. Once you get your hands on the Surly Nate tire, make sure you look for the Easter Egg (hidden message) just above the bead of the tire. In case you can’t find it, it says, “Deep Fried Meat Fueled Natepocalypse” (I am not sure of the best way to translate this into English).

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

If you are looking for the ultimate Fat Bike tire for winter cycling, look no further than the Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires from 45NRTH. The Dillinger tires are 4″ wide and weight only 1375 grams (a major improvement over my heavy Surly Nates). This lightweight snow tire has 240 aluminum-carbide studs that grips the ice and a tread pattern that gives the most amazing traction in snow you will ever find in a bike tire. This 26×4″ tire is available with a Kevlar bead with 120tpi (threads per inch), and a wire bead version with 27tpi. The intended tire pressure range for this tire goes from 5 to 30psi, but if you are riding on snow you probably don’t want to inflate them to over 10psi, and on the ice I would drop them down to 5 or 6psi.

The first time I rode on these tires was at Illinois Beach State Park so I could try them out on the snow, ride across a frozen pond and play along the shores of Lake Michigan. I rode my bike on surface streets from my house to the beach and while on the pavement these wide tires are a bit of work (they grip the road too well). However, the moment I left the pavement and got on a snowy off-road trail it felt like I was riding downhill with a tailwind—these tires ride so smooth and grip so well on the snow that I don’t even have the words to describe it! On the way to the beach I followed a very sandy trail that has a couple of small bumps I hate—they are only a few feet tall but most of the time my mountain bike sinks in the sand and I almost come to a standstill. However, with the Dillinger tires I just increased my speed and rolled right over the bumps.

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

At the north end of Illinois Beach State Park there is a small pond that was frozen over and it had several guys out ice fishing near the middle of the pond (always a good sign). I rode across this frozen pond and was blown away by two things: how much traction I had and how little rolling resistance I experienced!

When I entered the park I noticed that there were tracks in the snow from two other cyclists on a trail in front of me—both tracks were from mountain bike tires and it appeared that one of them was studded. I caught up with a guy riding the non-studded tires first—he was a nice guy but was having trouble hold a straight line so. A little later I caught up with the guy on a mountain bike with steel studded tires—he was riding faster than the other guy so I pulled up next to him and chatted for a while. When I conversation was over I hit the gas and quickly dropped him. Both of these guys were younger than me and in decent shape, so I am certain that on road bikes in the summer they would have dropped me, but a standard mountain bike snow tire is no match for a studded Fat Bike tire in the snow! The Dillinger tires sells for around $250 with the folding bead (Kevlar), but the wire bead version is a bit cheaper.

Warning: If you ride in the winter eventually you are going to come home covered from head to toe in mud, slush and snow. You will then find yourself standing out in your snow-covered backyard with a water hose and scrub brush trying to clean your bike. Your neighbors will never understand the smile on your face. In fact, I am not certain of the source myself. Does the smile come as a result of the fun you had on the ride, or from thinking about those poor guys riding their trainers in the basement because the weather is “too bad to ride in”?

 

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Bontrager LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

A few months ago I bought a new Felt F65X Cyclocross bike and it came stock with Vittoria Cross XG Pro 700×32 tires (150tpi). Those tires looked like they would shed mud extremely well, but I was concerned about how well they would handle glass and road debris (I live in the Chicago area and broken glass is everywhere). After looking at several cyclocross tires I finally settled on a new set of Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires.

Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

Bontrager LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

The Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tire is lightweight and has “triple flat protection.” Since I live in an area with a lot of broken glass on the roads I used to get a lot of flat tires, but that problem has almost entirely ceased since I put Bontrager Hardcase tires on several of my bikes. This tire is intended for use on paved streets and packed light trails. While not a true cyclocross tire, it does shed mud fairly well. Bontrager claims that the tread on this tire will last 50% longer than standard tire treads—I have put over 1,000 miles on this tires and they still look like brand new!

Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

Bontrager LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tires

The recommended tire pressure for the 700x35c tire is between 60 and 80psi. I am a larger rider so I keep the tires at 80psi when I’m on the road and 75psi when I’m on the trails. I am sure there are other tires on the market that would work just as well as these, but I have to tell you that I love these tires! One of my favorite off-road rides is a 60-mile route on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois. The trail follows the Des Plaines River and is mainly crushed limestone—but when it rains it gets pretty muddy. In the past few months I’ve set several new personal time records on this trail and I think the Bontrager tires are part of the reason (the new Felt F65X didn’t hurt either).

The Bontrager  LT2 700C Hardcase Plus Tire retails for around $45 and is covered by Bontrager’s unconditional 30-day performance guarantee (you’ll be satisfied, or they’ll take it back).

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Bicycle Tires, Product Reviews

 

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Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tire

Since I live in an area where the streets often have a lot of broken glass on the road I used to get a lot of flat tires, so a few years ago I started using Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires on my main road bike. The Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires offer triple flat protection: a Kevlar belt provides puncture resistance, anti-pinch ribs stop pinch flats, and bead to bead woven construction dramatically reduce your chances of cutting your sidewalls. However, they offer more rolling resistance than I would like and they don’t handle well in the rain. Several of my friends use the Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tire (formerly known as Ultra GatorSkin) and they rave about how well it performs, so I decided to give them a chance and am certainly glad I did.

Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tire

Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tire

After riding over 1,000 miles on my first pair of Continental GatorSkin tires I have to say I dearly love them! They seem to have a lot less rolling resistance than the Bontrager Hard Case tires, and they handle much better in the rain as well. This tire has a smooth center tread and “grips” on the shoulders that allow you handle corners even when there is a lot of debris on the road. As for glass, I ridden through a lot of recently and the tires still look line new.

Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tire

Shoulder Grips On The Continental GatorSkin Tire

My biggest test with these tires came last week on hot asphalt. You might have heard the old joke that those of us in the far north only have two seasons: Winter and Construction. The truth is that we have four seasons (almost winter, winter, still winter, and summer). Anyway, last week it seemed like every major road with 30 miles of my house was getting a new layer of asphalt—and one day I got forced into riding over fresh, piping hot, asphalt. The moment I hit it I could feel the temperature rise—the soles of my feet were really hot and I was scared to stop or even slow down! However, I made it through without any problems.

I asked my friend Eric, a Navy commander on the East coast, for his opinion about these tires and he said, “I weigh 220 pounds without any gear or water bottles and put the GatorSkins through the paces. I’ve ridden hard on milled roads, over gravel, off the road onto crud, across Indiana, on lousy Park Service roads at 100 F and have had two flats in 3 years. One was from a stem failure and the other from a puncture (sharp rock, I guess). I buy one new tire every 2000 miles and put it on the back and rotate the old one to the front. While the front tire has a flatter profile, the ‘corners’ are generally pristine and ready to service some pretty staggering turns at speed. They are great tires. I even put the wider ones (28 mm) on my commuting bike and get those with the hard bead. They are bullet proof, which is probably suitable for the neighborhood near the base.”

Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Folding Tires come in several sizes, including: 26×1 1/8, 650 x 23C, 700 x 23C, 700 x 25C, 700 x 28C, 700 x 32C, and 27 x 1 1/4. Some of these sizes are available in both foldable and wire-bead. I use the 700x25C and it has a maximum inflation of 120psi, but Continental recommends you run them at 95psi. However, since I am not a lightweight rider I keep mine inflated to 120psi.

These tires retail for around $65 (depending on size), and should be available from just about any bike shop. By the way, these tires are handmade in Germany.

 
 

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45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I live near North Point Marina on Lake Michigan and have often heard yacht owners say that a boat is a “hole in the water into which you pour money.” Sometimes I feel that way about my Fat Bike, a Surly Necromancer Pugs. In the first two years I’ve owned that bike I’ve spent more money on tires than most people pay for a new road bike. I’ve gone through four sets of very expensive tires—the old tires didn’t wear out, I just kept looking for a better sets. Fortunately, 45NRTH came out with what I believe to be the finest tire ever made for a Fat Bike—the Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike!

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

By Fat Bike standards, the Hüsker Dü is a lightweight tire (under 1,250 grams each). While this tire would be the equivalent of a lead weight on a standard mountain bike, it is much lighter than the other choices you will find in a 26×4″ Fat Bike tire. In addition, this tire rolls like a dream! I have used it on mud, sand, dirt and pavement and it has a superb ride. I did not use this tire in the dead of winter since I have a set of 45NRTH Dillinger studded tires for snow and ice.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

Hüsker Dü tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive. Thanks to the Kevlar bead the Hüsker Dü is the easiest tire to change that I’ve ever had—which is pretty good since the first time I took the tires out I got a puncture just six miles into the ride! I am not going to blame the tire for this one—I was riding in an area that no sane person would take their bike in the first place.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

My Surly Necromancer Pugs came stock with 3.8″ Surly Larry tires on the front and 3.7″ Surly Endomorph tires on the back (often called the Larry/Endo combo). These tires are great for folks who are lucky enough to ride on groomed snowmobile trails and hard packed (consolidated) snow. The Larry/Endo combo is also good on packed sand (the sand near the waterline around a lake). However, on mud or loose snow I always had trouble getting decent traction with these tires. The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails.

One interesting observation: A few weeks ago I wrote an article about my new Felt F65X cyclocross bike. I use the Felt F65X on routes where I have to travel over both pavement and off-road trails. The Felt F65X is faster than my Pugs on off-road trails when I am riding in a straight line, but I always have to slow my cyclocross bike down in the turns because if I overbake a corner I will wind up in the Des Plaines River. On the other hand, the Hüsker Dü tires on my Pugs have such an amazing grip that I don’t even have to hit the brakes in the turns! If you own a Fat Bike don’t limit yourself to just riding in the winter! Fat Bikes make great off-road trail bikes and beach cruisers as well.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü tires retail for $150 each. I know—that is more than most people pay for the tires on their car (and the tires on their car will last at least ten times longer). However, you need to remember that the Fat Bike market is still relatively small and the laws of “supply and demand” are in full effect.

In case you are wondering how this tire got its name, Hüsker Dü was the name of hardcore punk rock band from St. Paul, Minnesota (the group existed from 1979 to 1987). 45NRTH is headquartered down the road in Bloomington, Minnesota.

 

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45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

Our long national nightmare is over—the Chicago area finally got some snow! A couple of months ago the local bike shop was able to score me pair of Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley and this past week was the first time I was able to use them on snow (but they have seen a lot of miles on off-road trails).

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

The Dillinger tires are 4″ wide and weight only 1375 grams (a major improvement over my heavy Surly Nates). This lightweight snow tire has 240 aluminum-carbide studs that grips the ice and a tread pattern that gives the most amazing traction in snow you will ever find in a bike tire. This 26 x 4.0″ tire is available with a Kevlar bead with 120 tpi (threads per inch), and a wire bead version with 27 tpi.

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

The intended tire pressure range for this tire goes from 5 to 30 psi, but if you are riding on snow you probably don’t want to inflate them to over 10 psi, and on the ice I would drop them down to 5 or 6 psi. When riding on dirt and gravel off-road trails I keep my fat bike tires inflated to between 12 and 15 psi.

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Dillinger Studded Fat Bike Tires

After our first snowfall I took my Pugsley out to Illinois Beach State Park (the “crown jewel” of the Illinois park system) so I could try them out on the snow, ride across a frozen pond and play along the shores of Lake Michigan. I rode my bike on surface streets from my house to the beach and on the pavement these wide tires are a bit of work (they grip the road too well). However, the moment I left the pavement and got on a snowy off-road trail it felt like I was riding downhill with a strong tailwind—these tires ride so smooth and grip so well on the snow that I don’t even have the words to describe it! On the way to the beach I followed a very sandy trail that has a couple of small bumps I hate—they are only a few feet tall but most of the time my mountain bike sinks in the sand and I almost come to a standstill. However, with the Dillinger tires I just increased my speed and rolled right over the bumps. I rode for several miles along the shores of Lake Michigan and in some places there was very little snow and in other places it was three or four inches deep (I’ve been in a lot worse before). For the record, riding on the beach with a couple of inches of snow cover was a lot easier than in the places that didn’t have much snow. In some places the sand underneath the snow was on a fairly steep angle, but even when riding off-camber the tires never slipped.

A Rare Photo Of The All Seasons Cyclist In His Native Habitat

A Rare Photo Of The Elusive All Seasons Cyclist In His Native Habitat

At the north end of Illinois Beach State Park there is a small pond that was frozen over and it had several guys out ice fishing near the middle of the pond (always a good sign). I rode across this frozen pond and was blown away by two things: how much traction I had and how little rolling resistance I experienced!

When I entered the park I noticed that there were tracks in the snow from two other cyclists on a trail in front of me—both tracks were from mountain bike tires and it appeared that one of them was studded. I caught up with a guy riding the non-studded tires first—he was a nice guy but was having trouble hold a straight line so I passed him. A little later I caught up with the guy on a mountain bike with steel studded tires—he was riding faster than the other guy so I pulled up next to him and chatted for a while. When I conversation was over I hit the gas and quickly dropped him. Both of these guys were younger than me and in decent shape so I am certain that on road bikes in the summer they would have dropped me, but a standard mountain bike snow tire is no match for a studded fat bike tire in the snow!

The Dillinger tires sells for around $250 with the folding bead (Kevlar), but the wire bead version is a bit cheaper. Unfortunately, since this tire is sold by 45NRTH (my least favorite cycling company in America) it means you probably won’t be able to get a pair of Dillinger winter tires till next summer. 45NRTH received a very small shipment of these tires from their suppliers in China and they sold out immediately—I only got mine thanks to the persistence of the folks at the local bike shop (they spent many hours on the phone tracking down a pair of these tires for me). 45NRTH wants to be a company the specializes in winter cycling gear, but so far their track record shows that they specialize in advertising products on their Website that they don’t have. A few years ago one of the political campaigns promised “hope and change” but the slogan at 45NRTH ought to be “hype and out of stock.”

 

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Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

I bought my first pair of steel studded bicycle tires about nine years ago and used them until they dry-rotted. Two years ago I bought a pair of Innova steel studded tires and was happy with them (even though they are very heavy), but decided that this year I wanted to experiment with a different brand for one of my other bikes (I have studded tires on three of my bikes). I ordered a pair of the “new” 45NRTH Arcwelder tires, but returned them to the bike shop right after I got home when I saw that these “new” tires were the same as my old Innova tires (but with a 45NRTH logo). I finally decided to go with a top-of-the-line tire, the Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires—and I am now one happy winter cyclist.

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Snow Tires

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires are made with a special winter rubber (durometer 58A) and are intended for extreme winter riding. This tire has large knobs for great grip in mud and snow, along with 304 studs to keep you steady on the ice. The studs are made of aluminum and have sharp carbide pins—these pins should last for the life of the tire (or longer). Each tire weighs 750g (25.45 ounces). I bought a pair of 26″x2.2″ tires, but similar tires are available in other sizes. The recommended tire pressure is 29 to 65 psi. I keep mine at around 40 psi for winter riding.

These tires are extremely easy to install, but before you take them out in the snow for the first time you need to break them in by riding on hard pavement for at least 30 miles. The pavement helps seat the studs properly into the tires and roughens up the tips a bit for a better grip on the ice. The large tread pattern (knobs) on this tire provide wonderful traction in mud and snow, but they do require some extra effort on pavement because of their high rolling resistance.

304 Sharp Carbide Pins On Each Tire

304 Sharp Carbide Pins On Each Tire

One thing that all studded bicycle tires have in common is that they are loud. While I don’t carry a sound level meter with on bike rides, these tires did seem to be much louder than the other snow tires I’ve used in the past. How loud? Let me put it this way: You better hope that when the Zombie Apocalypse occurs that it happens in the summer, because if these tires are on your bike when it hits you are going to attract the attention of every walker and biter within 30 miles (it is a well-known fact that Zombies are attracted to loud noises).

Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires retail for $120 each at your local bike shop. They are also available from the REI Website and in some of their retail stores. I will only be using these tires when the snow just an inch or two deep—anything more than that and I’ll be riding my Surly Necromancer Pugsley (with 4″ wide steel studded snow tires).

Now for the confusing part: Nokian Tyres PCL is headquartered in Finland and is known throughout the world for their fine car and truck tires—they operate the world’s only permanent winter tire testing facility. At one time Nokian Tyres PCL manufactured bicycle tires, but not anymore. Today they license the Nokian name to Suomi Tyres LTD (another Finnish company). The Nokian Hakka WXC 300 tires are actually manufactured in Taiwan and are distributed in North America through Quality Bike Products (QPB).

One warning: When I installed these tires I noticed that the front tire wobbled a lot—it had at least 1″ of lateral movement. I took the tire (and rim) off the bike and but it on my Park Tool Truing Stand and found that the rim was in perfect shape—the tire itself was the problem. I then deflated, removed and then reinstalled the tire, but that only made the problem worse. I took the mounted tire to the local bike shop to have the professionals tell me what I did wrong. Turns out it was just a defective tire, so they got a new one for me. I have never been impressed by any tire made in Taiwan because of quality control issues. However, if you can get a good snow tire you are going to have a blast playing in the snow!

 

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