Monday, November 8, 2010

What a bunch of studs.

The question I get asked most often when I say I ride my bike all winter, no matter the weather, is surprisingly not, "Wow, how do you stay warm?"

No, people are more interested about whether or not I make my own studded tires.

This will be my something'th winter with bicycles as my primary mode of transit, and my third with studded tires on my commuter bike, Bi. The last two years I ran a pair of Innova studded tires. Nothing fancy, I needed studded tires, and they were affordable, as well as the only thing Absolute had on the shelf for a 29'er. But, with regular steel studs, not carbide, the studs wore down after two seasons, leaving me with two perfectly good tire casings, with worn down nubs of metal embedded in the tread.

They still work... a little.

Well, this year, I considered my options for the winter riding season. I could shell out some money for longer lasting carbide studded tires, (Starting at ~$60 per tire.) or, I could buy carbide studs to replace the worn down ones in the existing tires. (Also about $60 per tire.)

Studs be expensive, yo.

I ultimately decided on neither of these, and spent $15 dollars on three hundred #6 x 3/8" sheetmetal screws. Yes, this may be a little overkill, since each tire needs 114 studs.

The plan was to rip all the old studs out of the little tread pocket they are embedded in, and jam the heads of the screws in their place. Easy enough. So, I set to work, using a quick clamp (To squish the tire and make the tread release the studs easier) and the can opener on my Leathermans. (to get under the stud and pry it out.)

I should warn you at this point, should you decide to try this, WEAR EYE PROTECTION! Sometimes the studs will fly away, with great speed, and like most small rapidly moving objects, they aim for eyes and fine china.

220 studs later... (Some went missing...)
It was time to start installing the screws. I used a pair of needle nose pliers to grip the sharp end of the screw. I squeezed the tire to open the tread pocket, and just sort of twisted and forced the head of the screw in.

Once again, USE EYE PROTECTION! There's more force behind the screws than the studs, and they will fly far and hit hard. A few screws flew away, and I'm sure I won't find them again unless we move out.

If all goes well, and you haven't shot your eyes out, you'll have tires that look like this:

Now. Having just finished both tires, I have yet to ride them at all. I can tell you now, traction on pavement will be horrible, what with 1/4" of screw sticking out of the tires, and will likely result in several of the studs being ripped out. Even on ice, this is a bit impractical. For this reason, I'm thinking of trimming them down shorter with a pair of heavy wire cutters. Also, my fingers and thumbs hurt from removing and installing 228 studs total.

These screws are steel, just like the studs I replaced them with, and therefore won't last more than a season or two. However, they're cheap to replace, (If a bit labor intensive) and I can keep replacing them as long as the tire casing is still good. I'll be sure to post an update if anything significant (Good or bad) happens.

So, in answer to the question, do I make my own studded tires?

Not really, but I replace the studs with screws when they get too worn down.

Mileage: 5.3

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