Author Topic: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.  (Read 10275 times)

Guses

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Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« on: December 03, 2014, 03:33:07 PM »
I decided to take my bike this morning to commute to the office (Ottawa). Although it was not too cold, there was a fresh layer of 3-4 inches of wetish snow. It was my first time riding in the snow and, if I can't improve my bike's handling, it will be my last. I almost wiped out a few time as my bike was constantly fishtailing and threathening to kilt over.

My bike has 26 inch regular knobbies. I have different thread at the front than the back but I can't say that either had much traction. My back wheel was spinning freely alot and my front wheel could not steer much.

I can't say that it was hard, but I did not particularly like the feeling of constantly treading the fine line between maintaining my balance and a total wipeout.

My commute consists of 1-2 miles of plowed roads, 5-6 miles of unplowed bike paths and 1-2 miles of plowed bike paths. The hardest part was the unplowed bike paths.

I need help!

 




hyla

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2014, 05:54:00 PM »
I bought studded tires for the first time this winter (after a few winters on regular knobbies) and they are awesome on hardpack snow and ice, but still not so great on deep snow or wet slushy stuff.  The thing that's been working best for me on slushy/snowy days is to ride my bike on busier roads than I would in summer, since they are more likely to be clear, since they get plowed and and all the cars melt the snow off.  Also, I've found that while I can bike most of the winter, I don't bother on the really bad days.  If it snows 6", or if it's -10, I'll just take the bus, walk, or drive.  Just not worth it when cars are sliding all over the place, I don't want one of them sliding into my bike!

Lkxe

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2014, 09:19:45 PM »
Maybe try these ziptie studs? http://lifehacker.com/5719594/zip-tie-snow-tires-the-cheapest-way-to-blizzard-proof-your-bike Can say whether they work or not,  inches means I'm not going, because I don't have to.

Griff

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2014, 09:29:45 PM »
If you are going to try zip ties, make sure you have disc brakes ;)

Lkxe

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2014, 10:07:51 PM »
ah yes brakes- Just didn't think about that bit- guess that would be a little hard on those poor rubber pads- This is why I stay in and drink cocoa. :)
If you are going to try zip ties, make sure you have disc brakes ;)

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2014, 05:25:27 AM »
If you are going to try zip ties, make sure you have disc brakes ;)

OMG, thanks for pointing that out. I wanted to try this but I had totally overlooked the brake pads....

In all thruth, going back home yesterday was much better than going into work just after the storm. I think the snow was packed a bit more and I did not wobble as much.


GuitarStv

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2014, 06:27:30 AM »
Biking on loose snow and ice requires a different approach than regular biking.  (The snow part is kinda like mountain biking through sand.)

- Unlike 99% of the rest of the time, you want to use your rear brake more often than your front.  You can lock the front easily and it means you're going to wipeout if you do (bike sliding out).  You want to brake much earlier than you normally would, and much more lightly (because hard braking leads to loss of traction which can quickly turn into a fall).
- You want to turn very very delicately.  A quick turn tends to make the front wheel dig in on snow (launching you over the bars) and on ice it tends to make the front wheel slide out to a side very quickly.
- Do your damnedest to keep perpendicular to the ground.  Leaning on ice is really really bad.  The bike will shoot out from under you.
- Lowering your seat a little bit more than you normally would helps, as you can put a foot down more easily to steady the bike when you start to fall.
- Know your route.  This part is vitally important.  If you know your route you're not going to be surprised by that steep downhill section, you can plan for it and slow yourself down early . . . rather than hurtling and praying.
- It's worth going out on a snowy weekend and just dicking around to get a feel for how your bike will behave.  I learned to control slides and how to best apply the brakes by doing this.  You don't want to be learning this in the middle of traffic at 6 am.


While tread on your tires doesn't normally make any difference to traction on the road, in snow this is not the case.  You want some semi-deep tread on your tire, or you don't get any traction.  I prefer a pretty skinny tire in the winter, as I find it punches through the snow and slush to hit pavement . . . wider tires tend to float more and get less traction.  Other people feel safer on a very wide tire.  Around here the roads get cleared quickly enough that studded tires aren't really a necessity, but you get colder temps and more snow in Ottawa, so maybe that would be something worth looking in to.

When we get a very heavy snowfall the safest place to bike is in the car ruts that form on the road.  It has the hardest packed snow, or the barest patch of pavement.  The busiest roads get cleared first, so tend to be the safest to ride on when it snows.  Side streets can be treacherous.

I run full length fenders through the winter, and love them.  You need to set them up so that the fender is closer to the wheel towards the back of the bike, and further away from the wheel towards the front of the bike though . . . if you don't do this they will get jammed up with snow and will make your biking shockingly difficult.


:P


My 2 cents.

Ottawa

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2014, 06:40:11 AM »
Hey Guses, I'm also in Ottawa and bike year round.  The first winter season I biked I had a setup like yours.  I fell twice when I lost my front tire traction at low speed turning. 

Since then I have made my own studded tires.  I haven't fallen since.  You could buy the bastards but you'd be close to $200 for a set.  I make them for around $5 per tire.  It is pretty easy to do if you are that way inclined. 

I'm going to be slightly contrarian to GuitarStv.  However, I appreciate that Toronto is very different to Ottawa.  To be safe, you need to choose a route that doesn't take you on any of the major roads.  The less cars near you the safer it gets.  Also, if you can adjust the times that you are on your bike you can avoid serious rush hour traffic.  I leave home around 6:30am and (on my carefully selected route) encounter 1-2 cars going in the same direction as myself. 

This, of course, depends on the routing potential between home and work. 


Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2014, 08:56:43 AM »
Thanks for the helpful suggestions and tips.

I biked in this morning and it was much nicer than yesterday, enjoyable even. The snow was hard packed and I had plenty of traction. I did fall/slide once when I turned a bit too much and hit a patch of ice but that is my own fault.

I need to steer with a butterfly's touch. 

@CDBDIs

Can you show me how you did your studded tires? My original goal is to make it till Xmas on my bike and I don't want to drop 200$ in order to get only few more days. Of course, if it gets alot easier as I get better, I might do it year round.

I have a set of knobbies and a set of slicks that I use for the rest of the year.

I am lucky to almost always have a designated lane for the few miles I do with traffic. On top of that, the traffic is more like a traffic jam and I am not really concerned about being hit since the cars are basically going 5-20 km/h max.

The worst part of my commute is a 1 km stretch on a bridge with a bike path that is not plowed. The lane is maybe 1 meter wide for two directions (0.5 each direction) and is elevated a little bit relative to
the road sitting right next to it. I can practically touch INCOMING cars with my streched hands. There is moderate elevation and also a wide radius turn and strong winds (most of the time). The cars throw extra sludge and snow on the unplowed path and come pretty fast. I go really slow here.


 

Ottawa

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2014, 09:29:38 AM »

@CDBDIs

Can you show me how you did your studded tires? My original goal is to make it till Xmas on my bike and I don't want to drop 200$ in order to get only few more days. Of course, if it gets alot easier as I get better, I might do it year round.

I have a set of knobbies and a set of slicks that I use for the rest of the year.

I am lucky to almost always have a designated lane for the few miles I do with traffic. On top of that, the traffic is more like a traffic jam and I am not really concerned about being hit since the cars are basically going 5-20 km/h max.

The worst part of my commute is a 1 km stretch on a bridge with a bike path that is not plowed. The lane is maybe 1 meter wide for two directions (0.5 each direction) and is elevated a little bit relative to
the road sitting right next to it. I can practically touch INCOMING cars with my streched hands. There is moderate elevation and also a wide radius turn and strong winds (most of the time). The cars throw extra sludge and snow on the unplowed path and come pretty fast. I go really slow here.

No problem!  I've had to make several iterations to iron the bugs out (i.e. flats).  Basically, I follow Method 2 here: http://www.wikihow.com/Convert-Bicycle-Tires-Into-Studded-Snow-Tires.  To keep prices down - use an unwanted pair of knobby tires.  If you don't have a pair - you can pick up used tires at cycle salvation/recycles on Gladstone/Preston.  They are $2 each.  Ideally, use knobby tires 1.95 in width because...otherwise This Tuffy tape at MEC may not comfortably cover the screw heads - which you don't want exposed to your inner tube.  The Tuffy tape is a one-off purchase and comes as a set.  I use it all year round whatever tire I have on. 

I use 3/8" Drill-X screws purchased at Home Depot for the studs.  Only the non-threaded tip pokes through the knobby.  Sorry, can't find an HD link for you.  But, they look like this:


Any questions...let me know!

jamal utah

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2014, 11:14:01 AM »
Using a fatter tire at a lower air pressure will also help.

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2014, 03:39:53 PM »

I use 3/8" Drill-X screws purchased at Home Depot for the studs.  Only the non-threaded tip pokes through the knobby.  Sorry, can't find an HD link for you.  But, they look like this:

Any questions...let me know!

Thanks for the link! I will be trying this. I just happen to have a huge box of those screws at home from another project I did a while back. I am glad I can find them some use!

How would you rate riding on asphalt with studs? Is it much harder than just knobbies?

Ottawa

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2014, 04:34:22 PM »

How would you rate riding on asphalt with studs? Is it much harder than just knobbies?

I've been running these 3weeks now, only a couple days they've been handy.  Overall they slow you down a bit (harder workout!). The screws generally last a season but very easy to replace ones that wear:unlike the store bought version.  Braking on asphalt is really not bad at all.  I stud very few knobs actually, there are probably only a few studs in contact at any time..thus lots of rubber on the road still.  You can play with air pressure a bit also. Lower (30-40) will give more grip and better contact on hard asphalt (as the studs sort of 'retract' at lower pressure).  I run (50-60 psi) in winter and find this totally fine in all conditions. 

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2014, 07:17:54 AM »
Could I do only the back wheel as a compromise or would that be a bad idea?

 

Ottawa

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2014, 07:24:55 AM »
Could I do only the back wheel as a compromise or would that be a bad idea?

If you only do one - do the front one. 

Goldielocks

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2014, 07:35:01 AM »
Also, don't ride over icy railway tracks that are not 90 degrees to your travel path!

Maybe not on your commute, but this is a winter death trap of unusual subtlety.


GuitarStv

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2014, 07:38:54 AM »
Could I do only the back wheel as a compromise or would that be a bad idea?

If you only do one - do the front one.

+1!

Rear wheel slipping out, you can control it.  Front wheel slipping out unexpectedly you're in for a world of hurt.

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2014, 09:47:33 AM »
The reason I wanted to do the back wheel only is that there is a couple relatively steep hills that I have trouble climbing because my back wheel starts spinning freely.

I will probably end up doing both but I was thinking of a compromise in terms of faster ride on asphalt vs grip on ice.

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2014, 03:06:02 PM »
I did both my tires this weekend.

It rode really well for the short while it lasted. I caught a flat half way and had to walk home in -20C weather... I guess two strips of duck tape are not puncture proof.

I will purchase some proper liners (tuffy) and try again.

TerriM

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2014, 03:11:35 PM »
Well, at least you're still alive. :)  Congrats.

GuitarStv

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #20 on: December 08, 2014, 03:54:16 PM »
At least you could walk home.  At 11 miles each way, I've got to look for the nearest bus shelter to hide behind to change the tube out of the wind.  :P

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #21 on: December 08, 2014, 05:34:31 PM »
Those are called self-tapping screws. They are the type for screwing into metal without drilling a hole first. You can also use regular sheet metal screws (it doesn't matter that they are threaded all the way to the end.)

A quick search shows many ways to do it, heads on the inside, heads on the outside, stud kits, and I'm wondering if pop rivets might even work?

This is the first time I've heard of someone running tubes with a home-made studded tire by using a Mr. Tuffy. That's a good idea. The way I've heard it done is converting to tubeless by taping your rim (you'll need a valve stem...or just buy the Stan's kit.) By running the Stan's or similar sealant it totally seals up all of the air holes made by the screws.

I haven't tried it but I was always struck by how ingenious it was....and inexpensive (though possibly a lot heavier than store bought.) Sadly (not really) it almost never freezes where I live, or snows for that matter.

If you make one, please post pictures.

Ottawa

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #22 on: December 09, 2014, 06:17:04 AM »
I did both my tires this weekend.

It rode really well for the short while it lasted. I caught a flat half way and had to walk home in -20C weather... I guess two strips of duck tape are not puncture proof.

I will purchase some proper liners (tuffy) and try again.

Hah!  Yes, I tried that early on in my studded-tire-making-days and also experienced failure.  Get the Tuffy Tape!  The widest one combined with a  tire below 2.0 width should work no problem.  To be extra safe, I also slit open an old sacrificial tube to 'cup' the precious inflated inner tube.  You can combo it two ways:

Tire/Tuffy/sacrificial/precious
OR
Tire/sacrificial/Tuffy/precious

You will not have problems once you do one of the above combos! 


Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #23 on: December 10, 2014, 10:03:50 AM »
I did your second scenario and was able to commute 12 KM this morning without incident (well... a minor wipeout but that is unrelated).

Hopefully it will stay like this.

Hurrah!

SMC

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2014, 01:24:58 PM »
I'm running these tires.  $140 for a set.  http://www.mec.ca/product/5035-585/schwalbe-winter-26-x-1.75-wire-tire/?h=10+50002+50012&f=10+50002+50182

They are fantastic, great grip on hard-pack / ice, and actually a surprisingly minimal increase in rolling resistance on asphalt.  Never tried home made studded tires so can't compare, but I feel as though the $140 was well spent.  These tires will be super reliable and should last several winters.

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #25 on: December 10, 2014, 03:15:40 PM »

Quote
I'm running these tires.  $140 for a set.

In all fairness, that's 140$+tax.

Mine cost a box of screws*(5$), a bit of elbow grease and a bruised ego ;)

I did spend 17$ for a Mr tuffy liner and then 4$ on a precious precious tube.

*had to purchase, those on hand were too long.

From what I can tell so far the handling is MUCH better with the studs. I can't really compare against store bought, but I think it would probably compare.

I did make a design choice to put a lesser number of studs (about 40 per tire) in order to reduce the rolling resistance on asphalt. This probably cost me a few points in handling on ice.

I will post pictures later.


Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #26 on: December 11, 2014, 05:44:15 AM »
Question for Ottawa winter bikers:

How did you handle yesterday's and today's (Dec-10 and 11th 2014) snow storm?

I was able to get back home yesterday, barely, but I could no longer take the cycling paths as the loose snow made it way too hard.

The semi-packed snow in the street caused me to wobble a bit, which is not very comforting with cars zooming close by.

So how did handle it?

GuitarStv

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #27 on: December 11, 2014, 06:30:17 AM »
When you bike on the road, take the lane (use the ruts from the cars right tire).  Don't bike on the sidewalks, bike lanes, or bike paths if they're not plowed properly.  This is very important in the winter.  You don't want cars buzzing by you a few inches away.  Also, you get a feel for how to handle the bike in the slippery conditions after a few rides.

Biking was much faster than driving today in TO.

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #28 on: December 11, 2014, 07:53:22 AM »
@GuitarStv

I was actually riding in the ruts from the car tires but was sliding all over the place. It was much easier to roll in the unplowed section since my tires could actually reach the asphalt given that the snow was not packed.

I imagine that roads in Toronto see more traffic and you can actually touch the ground in the ruts. To get home, I need to take roads that are not plowed and traffic is light so the ruts are just 2 inches of semi-compressed snow instead of 4 inches of light snow.

I had no trouble with the first part of my journey that had me rolling in downtown Ottawa. The street had been plowed and the snow was almost melting as it hit the ground. The next 2/3 of the ride was quite something else.

FrugalFisherman10

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #29 on: December 11, 2014, 08:30:09 AM »
You guys are all badasses. I think this thread should be moved over to the "Share your Badassity" category

bye-bye Ms. FancyPants

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #30 on: December 11, 2014, 08:37:21 AM »
You guys are all badasses. I think this thread should be moved over to the "Share your Badassity" category

Yep, you all pretty much rock.

I got stopped at the 5-8 miles of bike trails on the way to work thing. How awesome!! All city's should have such.

GuitarStv

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #31 on: December 11, 2014, 09:13:29 AM »
@GuitarStv

I was actually riding in the ruts from the car tires but was sliding all over the place. It was much easier to roll in the unplowed section since my tires could actually reach the asphalt given that the snow was not packed.

I imagine that roads in Toronto see more traffic and you can actually touch the ground in the ruts. To get home, I need to take roads that are not plowed and traffic is light so the ruts are just 2 inches of semi-compressed snow instead of 4 inches of light snow.

I had no trouble with the first part of my journey that had me rolling in downtown Ottawa. The street had been plowed and the snow was almost melting as it hit the ground. The next 2/3 of the ride was quite something else.

Hmm . . . how wide are the tires you're running?  I find that 700x30mm ones work well in the snow because they're narrow enough to punch through to the road underneath.  When I was using wider ones it would float more on the snow.  There's always going to be a little slipping in snowy conditions of course, but skinny tires help a lot for me.

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #32 on: December 11, 2014, 01:47:39 PM »
I believe I am running 2.1 inch wide 26 inch MTB tires. I don't know that there are that many options for very narrow MTB tires. Probably 1.8-1.9 inches but that won't make a significant difference.

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #33 on: December 11, 2014, 01:57:06 PM »
A fixed gear bike works really well in the snow/ice.

SMC

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #34 on: December 17, 2014, 04:45:47 PM »

Quote
I'm running these tires.  $140 for a set.

In all fairness, that's 140$+tax.

Mine cost a box of screws*(5$), a bit of elbow grease and a bruised ego ;)

I did spend 17$ for a Mr tuffy liner and then 4$ on a precious precious tube.

*had to purchase, those on hand were too long.

From what I can tell so far the handling is MUCH better with the studs. I can't really compare against store bought, but I think it would probably compare.

I did make a design choice to put a lesser number of studs (about 40 per tire) in order to reduce the rolling resistance on asphalt. This probably cost me a few points in handling on ice.

I will post pictures later.

$144.90 to be exact.  And if we're being fair, your costs don't include the cost of the tires.  Although it sounds like you just studded the tires that were on your bike, you need to keep in mind that you'll need to buy some summer tires come spring (unless you plan to run the studders year round?).  Not trying to take away from your accomplishment of successfully home-studding your tires as I actually think that's pretty awesome, but the real cost savings are probably only about $60-$80.  $80 is $80, but is there a trade-off in terms of traction, reliability, rolling resistance, and durability?  I don't know, I guess it's just something to consider. 

Guses

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Re: Help me ride my bike in the snow... and not die.
« Reply #35 on: December 18, 2014, 05:33:36 PM »
$144.90 to be exact.  And if we're being fair, your costs don't include the cost of the tires.  Although it sounds like you just studded the tires that were on your bike, you need to keep in mind that you'll need to buy some summer tires come spring (unless you plan to run the studders year round?).  Not trying to take away from your accomplishment of successfully home-studding your tires as I actually think that's pretty awesome, but the real cost savings are probably only about $60-$80.  $80 is $80, but is there a trade-off in terms of traction, reliability, rolling resistance, and durability?  I don't know, I guess it's just something to consider.

I already have a set of slicks for commuting in the non winter wonderland time. I actually had these knobbies in my garage from when I replaced my original tires circa 1998.

Whomever goes and purchase a set of new tires in order to stud them has some money burning a hole in their pocket.

A previous poster also talked about getting the tires at a "bike junk yard". I would have done this if I had not already had some old ones on hand.