The weather dudes are predicting our first snow of the season tonight, so I just came up from the garage after installing the wheelset with studded tires. After I sat down with the ol’ laptop, I found one of the signs of early winter on Craiglist—homemade studs for sale on Craigslist. They’re typically made with screws from a hardware store, and almost always have only a tiny fraction of the number of studs they’d need to have any chance of working decently.
I understand the desire to attempt this hopeless stunt. I studded my own tires my first winter in Alaska. I spent most of a weekend sitting on a stool, twisting dozens of screws through a perfectly good set of knobby tires. I even did it by hand, because I didn’t have a power drill. I guess it’s just a stage that winter bikers have to go through in their early years. Doing it yourself seems frugal and self-reliant.
It’s goddamned stupid, is what it is.
Those tires sucked. I’m lucky I got through that first winter without sliding under the wheels of a car. And all the other homemade studded tires I’ve seen? They sucked, too. After a few years in Alaska, I “upgraded” to a pair of inexpensive—but manufactured—studded tires. In a way, they sucked even more, because I was fooled into thinking I could trust them. And I could, until about the fourth week, when sections of dry pavement had filed the soft studs into useless nubs that sent me slamming into the ground every time I hit glare ice. I'd had more than enough when I spent eight weeks with what was likely a broken elbow.
I finally broke down and invested in a pair of Nokian Extremes, thinking they’d be a bargain if they kept me out of the emergency room. Soon, I realized that riding on ice was fun instead of terrifying. Quality, long-lasting studs ... and a shit ton of ’em. Those suckers have nearly 300 knobs per tire, and every stinkin’ one has a stud in it. They make for a heavy tire that’s worth every gram.
Now I wince when I look at the homemade studded tires for sale on Craigslist, and feel bad for the people about to buy and try them.
I hope they survive their experiments, and later discover the wonders of Nokians and Schwalbes, instead of deciding that riding on ice is as maniacal as it looks.