Good Tires is the Answer January 5, 2013

We begin to get the question in November when the days get shorter and the mercury has ventured below the frost belt once or twice.  “What tires are best in the winter?”


This is not an easy question in November because not all Rhode Island winters are created equally.  We have had recent winters with frigid temperatures for weeks in a row and 100 inches of snow between December and April.  Last year, by contrast was dry and sunny with consistent daytime temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s.

2 weeks later

By the same token, not all Rhode Island cyclists are created equally either.  Many of our customers are regular riders who use their bikes as transportation regardless of the weather and rely on the best equipment to keep them rolling along trouble-free.  We have just as many customers who only ride in the warm months and put their bikes away during the winter.  I usually look at the condition of their existing tires and make a recommendation based on the type of cyclist asking the question.

So my standard answer to that question in November is the same answer I offer in April.  “For urban riding, get the most puncture-resistant tires that your budget allows and keep them properly inflated.  In the case of snow and ice, the only tire that makes any meaningful difference are studded tires.”   More than ice and snow, a typical winter in Providence offers hazards that can cause flats such as extra debris and potholes.   Good tires with a puncture resistant belt under the tread can help resist small metal and glass bits that hold up in the salt and sand that builds up in the shoulder over the course of a winter and can work their way through to the inner tube inside your tire.  Keeping tires properly inflated, any time of year, can help prevent pinch flats  caused from hitting sharp edges such as potholes.

So here we are in the first week of January, and the cold tempertures have maintained the 8 inches of snow that fell 2 weeks ago to a respectable level.  The main routes around town were cleared by plows immediately after the storm and the sun has shrunk most of the snow and ice so that regular tires work fine so long as one is wary of the lurking hazards such as ice on less-travelled, shady roads and “black ice” from melting snowbanks and freezing temperatures. 
Nokian A10
I mounted Nokian A10 studded tires the day the storm hit and have been out on the roads every day since.  These are the most minimal volume (700X32) studded tires out there and have only 72 carbide studs along the outer treads.  I run them at maximum pressure when the roads are dry and drop the pressure if there is fresh snow to push through.  This allows the studs to provide traction in sloppy conditions and stay out of the way on dry roads when I’m just looking for some peace of mind while cornering. 

Although the heavy tread and lower pressure of studded winter tires makes any bike feel more sluggish, it beats being slammed to the pavement by an unexpected patch of glare ice, or walking instead of riding.  Like all good tires, the Nokian A10 is not cheap ($60 each), but considering this is my third winter on the same set and the snow hasn’t put me on the bus, I’d say it is money well spent.

Note from Legend Bicycle:
From Dec. 1, 2012 until March 1, 2013 purchase a set of tires at $35 each and above and you will receive new tubes and installation at no extra charge (a $22 value).