Nokian Studded Tires
Last night while riding home from work, I couldn’t help but wonder how much help my studded tires really were giving. Sure, I wasn’t slipping, but I still took corners pretty slowly, never leaning into them, and rutted up snow still pushed me around a bit. Then I got home, dismounted my bike, and promptly slipped and fell over on the sidewalk. I had my answer. It turns out the rain we had gotten earlier in the day had turned to black ice on the pavement, and with my studded tires, I hadn’t even noticed.
Do I Need Studded Tires?
Do you ride in the winter? Does it snow where you live? If the answer is yes, life will be a heck of lot easier with studded tires. Studded tires on ice still don’t ride the same as a summer tire on a nice dry road, but they provide monumentally more traction than riding on ice with just a rubber tire. You’ll still have to corner and brake with a bit more caution, but climbing, steering, and navigating through ice or snow rutted routes becomes much easier. Many riders with mountain bikes choose to forgo studded tires for wide knobby off road tires. If run at a low tire pressure, these will provide adequate traction on not tightly packed snow, but they offer no help on ice or densely packed and hardened snow. Some believe that studded tires do not provide the same amount of traction on clear roads. This is absolutely false. Carbide studs are surrounded by rubber. At any given time in a tire’s rotation, there is significantly more rubber in contact with the ground than carbide. This provides the grip on pavement. The only difference between a studded tire and a fully rubber tire on pavement is rolling resistance and sound (studded tires sound a bit like ripping velcro on pavement).
What Studded Tires Should I Buy?
At Budget Bicycle Center, we stock Nokian studded tires exclusively. With the exception of Schwalbe, Nokian is the only company using carbide studs. Other “discount” brands use steel studs, which are not nearly as hard or durable as carbide studs. Carbide is much harder than steel. They “bite” into ice more effectively for better traction, and they last a lot longer than steel studs. Because steel studs are likely to wear out before the rest of the tire, you’ll need to buy a new pair sooner, and they really don’t end up saving you any money in the long run. Nokian carbide studded tires offer a harder tire casing that, along with durable carbide studs, will last through several winters of riding. They aren’t always the least expensive cost up front, but they are the best value in terms of dollars per mile of use. Here is a run down of the models we stock:
26” (Mountain Bike) Tires
Nokian Extreme 294
This is the tire of choice for my personal winter bike. The Nokian Extreme 294 is available for 26” and 29” wheels. It’s 2.1” wide and features grippy snow rubber and you guessed it... 294 carbide studs. Nokian recommends this tire for all around winter riding, including mountain biking! With all those studs, big spaced out rubber knobs, and a low tire pressure, they certainly create more rolling resistance than other models, but also a lot more traction. I have a 3.5 mile ride into work. The route is mostly on bike path that is usually plowed, but not always right away. I like to ride the most when snow is falling or fresh. In situations like these, I’m usually dealing with lots of not plowed path, and the Extreme 294 gives the best traction. Also, because my route is slow to be plowed, the trail gets rutted up easily. I find that the huge number of studs helps me get through these ruts better than the other tires. They are more work to pedal, but I want traction, and these give the most! This is the most expensive studded tire we stock: $129 for 26” and $115 for 29”
Nokian Mount and Ground 160
The Mount and Ground is another great all around/city tire. At 1.9”, it is slightly narrower than the Extreme 294 with a less aggressive tread pattern and fewer studs (160). Overall, it is a faster tire than the Extreme 294, but one that still offers a great deal of traction. For riders who do deal with both fresh and rutted snow as well as clean pavement, they are a great choice. If you want to aggressively mountain bike, or ride across Lake Monona this winter, the Extreme is a better choice, but for all other uses, the Nokkian Mount and Ground 160 is probably the best tire on the market. At $59, it is also the least expensive studded tire we carry in stock. Its a great deal!
Nokian Hakkapelita W240
This tire sits between the Mount and Ground and the Extreme in price, tread pattern, and carbide stud count. It is a good all around tire with great traction, widely spaced knobs and width (1.9”). It’s a good lower priced alternative to the Extreme 294, or a more grippy alternative to the Mount and Ground. In stock at Budget Bicycle Center for $90.
Nokian Hakkapelita W106
The Hakka W106 has the fewest number of studs of all the 26” tires we carry, but fear not! The studs are positioned down the center knobs of the tire, in great position to grip when you hit black ice. They are also great at cutting through fresh snow to hit pavement or ice below. Through 1.9” wide, the placement of the studs down the center mean they aren’t as great at getting out of icy ruts. If you ride roads that aren’t plowed often, the Mount and Ground or Hakka W240 are a better choice. The Hakka W106 offers less rolling resistance, however, and is great on plowed roads. For sale and in stock at $65.
700c Studded Tires for Winter Biking
Nokian Hakkapelita W106
The same as above, but in 700 x 35c size to fit hybrids, touring bikes, and cyclocross bikes. Just like the 26” version, these are great on plowed roads and trails, and do fine in fresh powdery snow, but don’t handle great through ruts or in snow that has been packed down by traffic. This tire is the weapon of choice for Budget Bicycle Center’s own “Mr. Peanuts”, who speeds across the isthmus on his wintered out Felt Breed. If you ride on plowed roads, they are all you’ll need and certainly be faster than other studded options. $60.
Nokian Hakkapelita W240
Again, this tire is identical to the 26” version, but in 700 x 40c size for hybrid, touring, ‘cross, and city bikes. You’ll need to be sure your bike has ample tire clearance for these to fit. Assume you’ve got the room, this is a great tire! It offers considerably more grip than the Hakka W106, but being in the 700c diameter, it still rolls quite fast. The tire will handle well through icy ruts and packed down snow, with a small amount more rolling resistance than the Hakka W106. These are in stock at Budget Bicycle Center, on sale for $85.
Nokkian Hakkapelita A10
at 700 x 32, these are the narrowest studded tires we carry. Some older models of road bikes will have enough clearance to fit them, and for many fixies, track bikes, and single speeds, this is the only tire that will fit in the provided tire clearance. At the narrow width and with 72 carbide studs, this is a good tire for good winter road conditions. It’s great for well plowed streets with that inevitably get patches of black ice after a sunny day. Naturally the tire’s profile and stud count mean that this tire will roll the fastest. We know several racers who use this tire to road ride through the winter on their cyclocross bikes. For many, its simply the only tire that will fit on their current bike, and therefore becomes the default choice for winter riding. While it might not be the grippiest tire under the sun, it is still a vast improvement over a tire without studs. $60
Other Brands/Sizes of Studded Tires
While the above list covers everything we stock, there are other options available. We chose to stock the above models, because we feel they are the best quality and value, and they serve the vast majority of our customers excellently. We are, however, always able to special order studded tires in other varieties. Most notably, the Nokkian Hakka A10 is available in the increasingly popular 650B size, and a 26 x 1 ½” balloon tire. Also, recumbent riders finally have a carbide studded option in the 20” Shwalbe Marathon Winter tire.
All of these tires are in stock and available at our parts and service center at 1124 Regent St. in Madison, WI. They are available for purchase through our online store, see Related Products at the top right corner of this post. Otherwise, feel free to contact us with an order request or any questions on the best carbide studded tire for you!