Should you get studded snow tires if you plan to bicycle this winter? If you're riding in icy conditions, you probably should. Researchers in Sweden tried to answer the question of whether studded snow tires actually help cyclists riding in icy conditions. It compared regular vs. studded bicycle tires indoors on a special smooth flat ice track that it usually uses to test automobile tires but modified for this study.
The Swedish National Road & Transport Institute (VTI), an independent research outlet, found that studded bike tires improve braking and steering on ice but the four different tires it tried performed at different levels. Braking was up to 2.5 times better with studs. But VTI also found that you don't need a lot of studs to make a difference. The type of rubber in the tire and location of the studs proved more important factors than the number of studs.
“Based on the results so far, cyclists should be recommended to use studded tyres when cycling during winter conditions,” VTI recommends.
VTI performed the tests at temperatures around freezing. Its results were ambiguous as to the optimal tire pressure for riding in icy conditions. It says more research is needed into that factor, on different types of studded and non-studded snow tires, type of rubber used and the age of tires. VTI's research also did not include grade of road, off-road riding or varying snow and ice contidions.
The report, Can Studded Tyres Reduce the Number of Single Bicycle Accidents?
Friction Measurements of Bicycle Tyres in the VTI Tyre Test Facility appears in Swedish but parts are translated into English. You can find it at http://www.vti.se/en/publications/pdf/can-studded-tyres-reduce-the-number-of-single-bicycle-accidents-friction-measurements-of-bicycle-tyres-in-the-vti-tyre-test-facility.pdf.