The Stud

The Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded snow tire of course.

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Last winter I had a blast riding in the snow and ice.  It just felt so crazy to be out pedaling in the frozen expanses of the Illinois countryside while being warm, comfortable and protected inside my velomobile.  It was great.  But there were times when it could have been better.  For instance, our wonderfully scenic bike paths are often heavily forested which makes them… wonderfully scenic, but also keeps the sun from thawing them out for days or even weeks.  No bike path snow removal here!  This can make riding the paths a practice in patience, skill and sometimes… stupidity.  It can also render them inaccessible for long periods of time which puts a definite hamper on my natural inclination toward stupidity.

Well, this year I want to be more adaptable, with the ability to quickly choose a safe tire for the particular roads and conditions.  The first thing I did was invest in another set of front wheels so I can have studded snow tires on one set and normal tires on the other.  I’ll have bike path access when it’s icy but won’t be grinding my studded tires down when the pavement is dry.  And somehow, I know that there is no way that I’ll really spend time changing and pumping up tires in my frozen garage before I take my pre-dawn rides.  If it’s sub-zero in the garage, then whatever is already on the bike will be just fine with me.  If however, I only have to unscrew  a couple of bolts to change out the wheels, that’s something I will do!

The installation of the Marathon Winters was just like any other tire.  Just make sure the rotation arrow on the sidewall is pointed in the right direction…

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Left in this case

I don’t know but I suspect that the direction of rotation may be even more important for the longevity of studded tires.

And as for their appearance…

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Well, just looking at these babies makes me feel like a leather-clad ice pirate from some frozen dystopian future.

MMDICPI EC005

Oh yeah!  Beware you post-zombie-apocalyptic bike-path-walking undead.  These spikes are made for rolling and…

…well, you get the idea…

Unlike other tires I’ve used, this studded version requires something called “running in.”  According to Schwalbe – “In order to ensure that spikes are permanently fixed, tires should be run in for about 25 miles (40km) on asphalt, while avoiding any fast acceleration or heavy braking.”  Well, I’m not in any shape to ‘run in a marathon’ so I decided to sit and pedal instead.

The first thing I notice is that it’s a bit harder to get these things spinning.  Well, I guess that’s normal because these tires aren’t exactly smooth anymore.  But once up to speed, they seem to roll nicely enough, although there is a noticeable difference in speed and effort.  Not terribly great, just noticeable.

The next thing you notice is a crackling, popping sound as the tires roll over the asphalt.  They sound like the electrical sparks and pops from some old Frankenstein movie…

Frankenstein

Then when you get up to speed, there is a definite low hum resonating throughout the velomobile.  If people thought that there might be a motor in your velomobile before, this will be proof enough for them.

But the most surprising part is when you decelerate to a stop.  There’s a sound just like the Death Star when it powers up to destroy a planet.  You know, the part where the guy in the funky helmet pulls the lever…

DeathStarGunner

… just before the laser starts up… ?

DeathStarLaser

Yeah, just like that!

So, all in all, the strange sounds and spiky good looks of the new tires, combined with the Flash Gordon body style of the velomobile, tend to give off a real science fiction/mad scientist sort of vibe…

I like it!

But as far as their actual performance on snowy, slushy, ice rutted bike paths – that remains to be seen.  And that’s about all that I can test for now until either the first snowstorm or the zombie apocalypse –  whichever comes first.  So until then, I’ll have my leathers at the ready and my nose pressed to the front window in breathless antici…

…pation!

4 thoughts on “The Stud

  1. Hi Stuart,

    Your just ahead of me, I was thinking to get my “studs” on the bike either this week or the next, depending on wheater forecasts. For now its above zero the whole time, even at nights. The first below zero temps seems to be coming next week, in the nights.
    Once the studs are on the velo, I use them all the time, I don’t change wheels. Last winter I rode with the studs from the last week in oktober until they were worn out totally in the thirth week in march. I rode about 3500 km in that period, of course on snow and ice, but also a lot of km’s on asphalt.
    They have a great performance on icy and snowcovered roads, although it’s heavy cycling in new snow.
    Great training! Good luck with your studs this winter, drive save!

    Greetings, Adri.

    • Well hello Adri!

      Yes, I know it’s a bit unusual to have two sets of wheels and I’m pretty sure that Kevin goes all winter on his studs as well. I guess I was a little traumatized by all of the spoke issues I had when I first got my Strada. It made me really, really…, really want spares so that I’d never have to lose my biking-ability over wheel issues again. That and I love to ride like a crazed lunatic over curvy dry roads – something I probably wouldn’t/shouldn’t do with studs on. All the best to you Adri!

      P.S. I’ve really enjoyed all of the pictures you’ve posted this fall. Just beautiful!

  2. There is only one appropriate reply to this beautiful story: May the Force be with you Stuart!

    Luckily we don’t really need studded tires in Holland. Regular Schwalbe Marathon+ tires will do just fine although some Velonauts ride Kojak’s all year round.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks Robert-Jan!

      I’m glad you found it entertaining. Hopefully the follow-up will include some, well… actual helpful information about the tire’s performance. Too bad your climate is so mild. There’s nothing like spiky tires to bring out your inner Mad Max. Of course I may change my mind about that later when I’m sloshing around at 5 mph and you’re still coasting along as usual. A very pleasant winter to you Robert-Jan!

      Stuart

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