To Stud Or Not To Stud

While viewing the weather forecast today I came to a realization. If I were currently a daily bicycle commuter here in Duluth, like I’ve been in the past, tomorrow would be the day. The day I put off as long as possible. The day the studded tires would get put on the winter commuter bike.

Why tomorrow? The first snow with temperatures below freezing will be happening. Followed by consistent low temps in the teens. That’s a recipe for slick, icy roads. I don’t like to fall off my bike. I have a plate and screws in my right arm to prove why I feel that way. The accident happened 14 years ago this month, November 8th to be exact. That was the day I learned I don’t bounce, I break things when I fall hard. Rather, I “munch” bones, to quote the Emergency Department doctor who treated me at the local hospital.

So tomorrow would be the day. I try to hold off as long as I can. Once the studded tires go on I would keep them on until April most years. Winters are long here in northeastern Minnesota next to Lake Superior.

I had a similar way to determine when the studded tires get taken off. Again the extended weather forecast would help me decide. If the forecast called for no below freezing, 32F/0C degrees or lower, low temperatures for the entire extended future forecast period, this would be my green flag for summer tires. Since the city of Duluth is situated on a hillside overlooking Lake Superior, all water from snow melt runs downhill towards the lake. It continues to trickle long after any visible snow is no longer left on the ground. It runs across roads and will freeze at night if the temps drop. It only takes one patch of ice on an 8 mile commute to cause a wipeout and munch a bone. I never took a chance.

And to all those bicyclists who say you only need one studded tire on the front…. I say good luck. When the non-studded back tire hits a patch of ice and slides out from under you, there is no front studded tire that is going to save you from going down hard. I recall Russ from Path Less Pedaled YouTube channel having this happen to him after employing some winter riding advice. If I remember correctly he was fairly banged up and required time off the bike to heal.

Despite my lack of risk taking when it comes to winter weather and studded tires I pedaled through every imaginable winter weather condition Duluth could throw at me for 15 years. I loved every minute of it.

3 thoughts on “To Stud Or Not To Stud

  1. Leon Webster November 9, 2022 / 10:38 pm

    I am retired now but used to commute year around. One spring I took the studded tires off too early. Went around a corner that had the thinnest bit of glare ice. but it was enough to slam me down hard. I remember thinking how happy I was to be wearing a helmet as my head hit the pavement. No serious injuries, but my arm was badly bruised. Sore and on pain killers for a couple of days.

    Since then I mount the studded tires early and leave them on until I am sure there won’t be any early morning ice on the roads


  2. anniebikes November 10, 2022 / 12:03 pm

    Yes, both studded tires are definitely required. With upcoming snow in our forecast here in Vermont, I’ve been thinking about installing my studs. Fortunately, my bike mechanic son rode my winter bike into his shop today and plans to install a simpler klick shifter in place of a thumbshifter, which should help me better navigate winter path conditions.


  3. adventurepdx November 10, 2022 / 11:25 pm

    I’ve only ever done the “studs in front”, but I live in an area with infrequent icy conditions, so I have not had any incidents. (Knock on wood!) I haven’t put on studded tires in a number of years, though I do still have a set in the garage if I ever feel the desire.

    But since I stopped having a bike commute (for the most part) almost four years ago, the need for me to ride in ice has dropped to basically zero. If I do need to get around the neighborhood I’ll take out the ice spikes for the shoes and my set of hiking sticks.


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