What Studded Tires to Buy for Cyclocross?

Now that I have a nice cyclocross bike for my winter riding, the question comes up of studded tires. It didn’t take much research to decide that I needed studded tires. From what I’ve read, there are no tires that will keep you upright without studs on them, if you do any riding over ice. I’ve actually ridden over a few patches of ice on my road bike in the spring of 2013, and did everything I could to keep the wheels straight and stayed off the brakes. It was still hair-raising riding down a hill next to cars and ride over ice.

Fast forward to October 2013 and I look back on a great year of riding to work very consistently, even in torrential rains we had in late summer. I also don’t let cold stop me. I just need something to help out staying upright on ice.

I started reading everything I could find online about winter riding and studded tires. There are some great forums and websites, like Peter King cycles which looks like it might be a little out of date but the same tires he talks about there are still being sold.


The question is what tires to buy. Winter bike tires in general are made from a softer rubber compound, so you would not want to run with them all year as they will be liable to wear quickly. However in cold temperatures they will last fine. But softer rubber compounds are a given on all the quality brands. Second there are steel studs and carbide studs. Unless you will only use the tires once in a while, carbide studs are much more durable than steel. I’ve read people using steel studs that they will wear quicker than the rubber the tires are made of. So I didn’t even consider tires with steel studs. There may be a lot of brand names but the two that consistently come up for quality of construction and materials, are Nokian and Schwalbe. So I really didn’t even consider other brands for very long.

When it comes to studs, there seem to be like 3 different classes of winter bike studded tires:

1. Heavily studded tires:

These have 300 or more studs in them that are in the center and all the way over to the side of the tire contact area. These tires are good for the heavy snow, ice, frozen slush. They are for people who either ride very roughly plowed areas or off-road.

Tires that fit this category are the Nokian Extremes and Schwalbe Ice Spiker.

2. Moderately studded tires:

These have around 200 studs or thereabouts, and the studs normally extend to the side of the tire contact area. These are lighter tires for better rolling, and can be ridden on plowed streets and trails, and occasional frozen ruts are fine too. They are sort of do-everything studded tires.

In this category are the Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires and some of the moderate Nokian tires like Nokian W160.

3. Lightly studded tires:

These only have studs in the center area of the tire, and 100 studs or less. These should only be ridden on plowed streets and paved trails. If you get stuck in a rut, you won’t be riding out of it since there are no studs on the sides to help you out.

Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 and A10 are in this category. I didn’t really see anything from Schwalbe that fits this category. I didn’t consider anything else since I wanted carbide studs which are longer lasting than steel.

Getting What I Need

After a lot of consideration and honesty about where I’m actually going to be riding, I settled on needing the #2, moderately studded tires. I ride almost exclusively on a concrete trail, and some on the side of a road. The trail might occasionally have thick ice in places, and I might encounter some slush and frozen slush on the roads. Based on this, I wanted a tire that will do it all.

I went with the Schwalbe Marathon Winter Studded HS396, 700x35c. I found them on Ebay for $140 for a set of brand new ones. Once they arrive I’ll start riding and report back on how well they work!

Schwalbe Marathon Winter HS 396 Studded tires


  1. Alden Dale

    Not to resurrect a totally dead post… but any feedback on the performance? I’ve been looking at getting a cyclocross bike for winter snow/ice commutes into work (in the past I’ve been forced to drive 10-15 days a year in the dead of winter). How did these perform last winter?

    You mentioned that they lasted you one season- Was that with your 100-125 m/week all winter? Roughly what kind of mileage did you see?

    I think I ride in similar conditions, partial plowed, partial ice, partial snow during the winter, and trying to get a good setup going.

    • Alden, I’m happy to share my experience with it!

      They performed great. It’s a little shocking the first time you ride them when the roads are caked with ice. They really hold on well to keep you upright. I also rode them in blizzards a couple times, though for me, I have to ride some roads and I don’t like riding on the side when cars are out there, and it’s all snowy. Just feels dangerous. So I learned not to ride until the road was cleared, usually a day after the storm, maybe two.

      I rode on more dry pavement then I probably should have. I was cautious and rode the studded tires basically whenever there was a chance for patches of ice. I ride the Cherry creek trail which is concrete and it’s probably hard on the studs. You might make them last longer. And yes my mileage was roughly 100 miles/wk. Sometimes 125. Avg about 400-500 miles each month. I ended up riding too long into the spring on the studs. I think I could have done a lot more on my other wheels with Kenda Small block 8s on them. Those are super sticky and work well in a little slush or snow, but they don’t stick to ice of course.

      For me, I love to keep my commute going when the weather turns, so I really enjoyed the extra riding that the studs allowed me to do. I’m sold on the practice for myself and I’m grabbing another set. Though I will say I am shopping around and thinking about tires with maybe a little more aggressive tread, so that I can ride more aggressively in the snow, but I’m not decided on what I’m getting. I’ll post when I decide.

      One thing I will recommend is that if you are looking at bikes, I have been thinking my next cross bike will have disc brakes instead of cantis. If you ride cantis through a snowy field and then hit the trail, your braking is gone for a bit until the snow and ice gets cleared out of the brakes and rim. Turns out an icy rim does not work too well for stopping. So, consider disc brakes in your search if that applies to you.

      Good luck finding a bike, I’d love to hear what you decide on! And I’ll be posting about gear too, I found some great cold weather gear that keeps me toasty but not sweaty, which is key.

      • Alden Dale

        Tim, thanks for the info. I just ended up ordering the new bike last night (2015 Felt F5x) so looking to order the tires today, that way they both show up at the same time. Took your advice and got a bike with disc brakes too for the snowny days.

        The last week I’ve been riding on 2-4″ of packed ice for around 2 of my 10 mile commute, and I’m really excited to try studs. Laying down the bike 2-3 times per commute just isn’t fun.

        The weather here has been getting down to around 5-10 degrees in the morning when I ride, so have been in full-on winter mode. Looking forward to seeing some posts from you on your winter gear; its always great comparing notes.

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