Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tires in Three Parts - Part Two

I don't know how you've all been sleeping waiting for this but, finally, here's...

Commuter tires

I started out with the factory tires on my commuter and have changed both the bike and the tires over the last four years. I started on on a Trek 'Police Bike' that was the first bike I put studded tires on which is the only reason I mention this bike. Those tires were Nokian Mount & Ground and I liked them a lot. They had a nice ride and were very stable over everything a Minnesota winter could throw at them but when I retired this bike, I sent them on their way.
The new commuter is a Surley Karate Monkey and is a very nearly bomb-proof bike that wears the jewelry from the Trek but has new wheels since this frame is a 29er. I had some custom wheels built that could accommodate either rim or disc brakes and started out with rim brakes. I put on Schwalbe Big Apples, 29er big and 60mm fat. These tires are so big that it borders on looking like a clown bike. However, it rides like a Cadillac with these super cushy tires and the rolling resistance isn't nearly as bad as you might think.
When the temp drops below freezing it's time for the studded tires and I have tried two flavors on the the Monkey. A couple years back I picked up some Schwalbe Snow Studs and they were OK but were a bit narrow for deep snow and have pretty big tread blocks so they are pretty squirmy on pavement.
They didn't ride as well as the Nokians I had on the Ice Bike but Nokian didn't seem to have anything comparable in a 29er tire. The Nokians are also notoriously hard to get your hands on as they become available late, for a MN rider, and sell out quickly. I rode the Snow Studs for a season but decided that I needed something else for the next season. That's when I picked up the Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires which is a studded version of their excellent touring tire.
I love these tires and you can see with them side by side how different the tread and stud patterns are.
This tire turns out to be as close to perfect as a studded tire can get. They roll very smoothly, in fact the first few rides I kept stopping to see if I had flatted as the ride was disconcertingly smooth but in fact they really do ride that smoothly and I have yet to flat them. As commuters they roll well on pavement and are just enough wider than the Snow Studs to do pretty well in several inches of snow. I took them on some pretty deep single track and with lowered pressure they did pretty darn well though I did develop a healthy lust for a Pugsley and their ability to just float across the snow in a way that a 'normal' bike never could. The only improvement I could imagine would be if Schwalbe added a studded version of their Big Apple tires as they would have sufficient float to attack some pretty serious snow and still be prepared for underlying ice.


  1. Hey, Thanks for the great report on the tires and I sure like the Monkey.


  2. electric11:56 PM

    I also ran marathon winters all winter. They were great on most everything but new-snow that was soft-packed by cars. I did take them off-road but mostly the snow was far too deep, you'd definiatly need a large pugsley type tire for that.

    Also never lost a stud and the wear the studs themselves seemed fair given all the asphalt riding I did.

  3. Bluenoser - Glad you liked the report and the Monkey.

    electric - I agree that new snow soft packed by cars was the worst. I don't think I've lost a stud either.