Twenty Inch Studded Tires

23 11 2010

It’s cold out there, so cold that it feels like riding straight into a slurpee headache, so cold that a slurpee would actually be 20 degrees warmer than it is outside, so cold that my camera refuses to work. Yesterday’s high was -24C, with a windchill of -34C. When you’re riding into the wind the windchill increases, so I took Porta-Bike on the LRT today to avoid the headwind, turning my usual 80 block commute into a 20 block commute (luckily, I was able to avoid rush hour, when bikes are banned from trains). With a tailwind on the way home, though, I rode the whole way and broke quite a sweat.

It was pretty simple to  make a studded tire for the Porta Bike using wood screws and a semi-nubby tire (anything too fat wouldn’t clear the fender). The first step is to figure out where you want to place the studs so that they’ll be engaged when you need them, but mostly out of the way when you’re rolling straight on smooth pavement. Then, take a drill with a narrow bit and drill pilot holes in the tire and insert the wood screws from the inside. Next, take an old tube the same size or larger than the tire, and cut out the valve stem and cut along the inside edge of the tube to make a a liner to prevent the screw heads from damaging the inner tube.

Once you position the liner & the tube, put the tire back on the wheel and pump it up, you will have a rather scary weapon with the sharp screw heads poking out in all directions. Because you, your other bike’s tires, and your favorite sweater are the ones that’ll most likely be hurt, I recommend grinding the ends down. This will also help with fork & fender clearance issues.

Grinding the sharp screw heads off the studded tire.

Porta-Bike has outperformed my expectations in both packed and loose snow,  it actually seems more stable than my other winter bikes. The coaster brake is also a win for winter, as there’s less to freeze or break, it doesn’t lose power when wet and because front brakes are less useful in treacherous conditions anyway. The only drawback is that the smaller wheels that fit so nicely in the door wells of our new LRT cars  don’t take the bigger bumps of hardened snow & ice as well as larger wheels.

Porta-Bike's new tire bling, making studded tires look cute.

I can see myself riding this bike much more this season, so I’m going to do some research about additional steps I can take to protect this old steel bike from the road salt and sand of an E-Ville winter.