Monday, January 31, 2011

BYO studded bike tires

OK, so you’ve read the previous blog on tips for winter riding, but you are missing some studded tires.  If you are going to be riding on snow and ice, these are really a necessity.  There are many different types of pre-fabed studded tires out there with a price range of $50-$120/tire…yeah, you read that right.  Quality studded bike tires have carbide tips, near 300 studs per tire and feature different rubber compounds for added traction.  No doubt these tires are great, made by manufactures that know what they are doing and even with a great deal of riding can last 3-4 seasons. 

But enough of that, today we are gonna make our own studded tires.  This is the choice if you either light in the pockets or just feel grumpy paying for something you can do on your own.  This is a totally doable project with a little patience.  So, let’s get to it.

What you need:
  • 2 – knobby tires
  • 1 – drill
  • 1 – roll of duct tape, 2 old tubes or 2 tire liners
  • 1 – Awl
  • 1 – Phillips head bit
  • 1 – 5/32 drill bit
  • 1 – silver Sharpie
  • 100-500 - #8 x ½ lath screws (big heads, prickly heads these work great)
  • ? – beer is optional

As with a lot of things, it is all about the layout.  I like to take a silver Sharpie and mark the knob on the tire I’m gonna put screws in.  How do you decide which studs?  First, for the front tire you want some studs along the outside row of knobs, these will be the ones you depend on while turning.  For the rear tire, the knobs along the center are more important for the studs as they are the one proving traction to your drive wheel.  In addition, you want to put the screws directly through the center of the tire studs so they have extra support.  Lastly, ensure that you pick a pattern on you tire so that studs are in contact with the ground at all time.  This is why I like to mark the knobs I’m gonna do first, so I can get a visual and make changes as necessary.  I usually skip and put a screw in every other knob and that seems sufficient.  However, your pattern and number and studs are totally up to you (that’s the beauty of making your own).

So, all you knobs are marked and you are happy with your pattern.  Take the awl and punch a hole in each marked knob to guide your drill bit.

Next, take you drill and make a hole from the outside-in, making sure you keep your hole centered on each knob. 
this works good if you worry about your little fingers
Now your tire is full of holes through the knobs you want to put studs in.  Put the Phillips head on your drill and start installing your screws from the inside-out.  Again, take your time and ensure that you are guiding the screws through the center of the knobs.  If one comes out around the knob, leave it.  You will do more damage to the tire re-threading it and creating another hole.  Hint: I do the set-a-screw-take- a-drink method as it makes the time go faster.

Whew, that was time consuming.  All the studs are in.  Your tire has become a dangerous weapon, watch all those screws as they are sharp.  All that is left is to get these new tires on your rims.  Before you mount them, cover the screw heads with either a layer of duct tape, an old tube cut length wise (my preference) or a tire liner.  Throw some baby powder in there and mount.  Run your air pressure lower than you normally would (I run mine at 30psi).  Give the wheel a spin before you take off to make sure nothing is rubbing and you are set for winter riding.

another use for an old tube
For this set, I used a different pattern for the front and rear tires.  On the rear, I went every other mid-knob.  Since this is the drive wheel those are the ones I want digging in for traction.  For the front, I also did every other mid-knob and also went every other outside knob.  On the front I want more traction for steering.  80 studs on the rear and 160 front.
rear tire
front tire

Bottom line: $40 for 2 cheap knobby tires and $5 for a box of lath screws, I had a couple old tubes, and all the tools.  $45 is a far cry from pre-fabed studded tires, so that is the big benefit.  Drawbacks are your homemade babies won’t last as long as those from the store, are more prone to flats and take a good deal of time to make.  All that said, it is a fun process and you can make any type of studded tire you want.  Let me know how it goes for you.   


Neil said...

Nice! I've considered doing this, but I'm accident-prone enough that having rotating pointy hurty things on my tires would probably be a bad idea for me. But they do look pretty awesome. How do they handle slush and ruts of snow left by the plows?

Brian's Bike Buzz said...

Yeah, home made studs have more of a dangerous factor...just don't run anyone over. Studs aren't really going to help in slush. But they work great when conditions are hard and/or slick to give you some extra bite.