Returning to “skinny” tires after riding fat.

Today’s post comes to us from Rob, Store Manager at Erik’s Highland Park location in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Rob is a year round rider and Minneapolis Resident and enjoys all types of riding. On the road this time of year its easy to spot Rob by his beard of ice.

I have been winter riding for many years. It started years ago on a beater mountain bike with extra knobby tires and most of my riding back then was for fun. When the snow would start to fall I would head out and hit the city trails in Minneapolis to adventure. It was exhilarating to be the only one out in that weather, just floating along with no cares in the world in a winter wonderland!

In 2006 I started commuting to work year round. The main bike in my winter stable was a cyclocross bike with knobby tires. They were skinny enough to cut through the muck but amply wide to track well enough. This setup lasted me a bunch of years with a few crashes each year, as is the norm for winter riding. In 2011 my world was changed when I started riding my Surly Pugsley. At that point I could ride in any conditions and I’ve only crashed once since then but that was during an ice storm. I found that rolling over uneven ice levels and “brown sugar” snow conditions on the streets were no match for the Pugsley! From the day that I brought that bike home it became my go to bicycle. Winter riding, summer singletrack, city riding, everything! Sure, I was slower than before but it is just so much fun!

Every once in a while I would take out my cyclocross bike and ride it in the winter to change things up but after riding the fat tires of the Surly the cross tires just felt too squirrely. I couldn’t get comfortable enough in bad conditions to enjoy the ride. I would always go back to the Pugsley for everyday use.


Fast forward to this winter. I started the winter still riding the Pugsley whenever a ride was necessary. Enter 45Nrth. 45Nrth is a company out of Bloomington, MN and they specialize in winter riding gear, producing boots, handlebar gloves (pogies), hats, facemasks, and tires. More specifically they make studded winter tires. They offer them in sizes from 700×30 for bikes with tighter clearances in the frame and fork and up to 26×4″ tires for fat bikes. I bought the 700×38 Gravdal tires named after a small village in Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. They come in 120 and 27 tpi versions. The higher the tpi (threads per inch), the softer and more supple the ride will be. Mine are mounted on a 29er hardtail mountain bike and holy cow, what a difference! I now have all the traction that I need, I can chug along at a faster pace than before and travel longer distances since the tires are nearly 3 inches narrower! Nothing will replace the Pugsley for off road snow riding and when the snow is coming down but for everyday commuting and running errands I have a new favorite bike!

Studded tires are great for winter riding, especially when you don't KNOW what the surface is under the snow.

Studded tires are great for winter riding, especially when you don’t KNOW what the surface is under the snow.

If you have thought of studded tires in the past, do yourself a favor and give them a shot! They will increase your stability and confidence as you hit the streets in the winter!

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