Bike Winter Chicago – Studded Bike Tires on Dutch Bikes?

schwalbe studded bike tire

A week or so ago I was talking with some bike people here in Chicago who ride Omafiets year-round and the topic of winter riding and snow tires came up.  I have to say that I hadn’t really thought about it. I’ve been riding year-round for a few years, but until this year I’ve been riding on a mountain bike with 26 x 1.95 multi-terrain Armadillo tires which have been sufficient riding here in a city of fairly well-plowed and heavily salted streets. This year though, I’ll be riding my Omafiets with tires that are a little narrower and less knobby than those on my old Trek mountain bike.

Dottie from Lets Go Ride A Bike put studded snow tires on her Dutch bike and wrote about it last winter on her blog. Another Chicago couple I know that ride Dutch Omafiets are also fans of studded snow tires and directed me to Peter White’s excellent site that runs through a description of some of the best studded bike tires (Nokian and of course, Schwalbe). I should mention that these folks ride along the lakefront during the winter and it does get very icy along the lakefront path.  Some of the readers on Dottie’s blog who live in Minnesota and Michigan also spoke up in favor of studded tires but they didn’t mention if they rode Dutch bikes or not.

Jason Tinkey via his@jtinks account on Twitter replied that he had planned on getting studded snow tires for his Batavus but he never did. Instead he believes in the power of good brakes to keep you safe during the winter. I also chatted with the owners of Bear Bicycles. They are a couple of expats from the Netherlands who import their own version of Azor Dutch bikes to Dublin and sell them under the Bear Bikes name. Via a discussion we were having on Facebook they said:

Winters in Chicago can be fierce, I hear. To be honest: you’re testing new boundaries with Dutch bikes (way to go!), because studded tyres aren’t readily available in the Netherlands. Maybe that’s because Dutch city services seem to have infinite amounts of rock salt, which they spray on streets the way Santa hands out presents. When you’re streets get slippery, maybe you could try out your original tyres first? If you lower the saddle, wear boots with profile, and take care in turning; then you should be fine. Keep us posted on how it goes though. We’re very keen to learn more on your pioneering. Thanks!

I find it hard to believe that studded tires are not available, but perhaps they just don’t get enough snow to make it worth while.  A lot of people recommend keeping your tires under-inflated for better traction on snow and ice, as well as taking care to ride a little more slowly and carefully. All good advice, but I live on a residential side street that is not plowed as frequently as the main streets, and I ride secondary streets that while plowed and salted tend to ice over.  And any bike lane in Chicago almost always becomes the snow lane.  So I’m considering getting some studded Schwalbe Marathon Winter Tires.  I’ll probably head over to The Dutch Bike Company this week and talk to them about ordering a set.  I hear they are pricey, but I’ve spent good money on Armadillo and Schwalbe tires in the past and got more than my money’s worth in terms of zero flats and longevity, so it will probably be worth it.

Do you switch out your tires for winter riding? Do you ride a Dutch or other city style bike with studded snow tires? Let me know your thoughts!

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