30 December 2010 - 8:21Winter Tires
Tire choices are all over the place. I myself have used several different tires on winter rides over the years and while I can’t say that any one is better than another, I’ve found several tires that have surprised me for various reasons.
“Back in the day” tire choices were limited. I had one set of tires, the WTB Motoraptor 2.1. This was a directional tire loosly based on WTB’s very popular Velociraptor front tire. I used this tire year round, and while I didn’t ride that much in the winter months, I did get on a handful of rides just to say that I rode all year long. These tires were just OK, but what did I have to compare them to?
The next tire that I found myself riding was the WTB WW LT. At this point I was riding more than once or twice a month, and I had made the jump to tubeless. This is where things started to click for me as far as winter tires go. Despite having a low tread pattern, these tires were pretty big. After experimenting with them a fair bit, I found I liked them at around 20 psi. The low tread was open enough to not get clogged up with slushy grit, and the low pressure allowed them to flatten out on the road surface. The rubber compound was hard enough to act like little traction spikes, and I ran these tires almost exclusively as my winter set up.
I have also tried using the Nano, with similar results as the Weirwolf, but would always find myself going back to the bigger tire. Sadly, WTB has decided to no longer produce this tire in the 29″ size, which I feel is a pretty big mistake. This was also my go-to Rockies/AZ/out west tire. The volume was nice, and I found the traction to be very good on the dry surfaces I was riding them on. There was one terrifying ride on the last section of the Colorado Trail during a torrential downpour while we were out in Durango. But hey, I only brought 1 bike, with 1 set of tires on it. And I’ve worn through my only set of them, which means I had to dig through my tire pile and find something else.
And find something I did. These tires couldn’t be any different than my trusty old WW LTs.
The Schwalbe Nobby Nic came out last summer, and I ran them on my RIP9 for a little while. This particular set is the older rubber compound, which I felt was not the best for our type of terrain if there was any type of moisture. They would get very darty and spin out with almost no warning, and despite the very dry summer we had, there were still some damp days. Because my RIP is my “fun” bike, I put some tires on there that I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about, the Panaracer Rampage.
But what the hey, I figured I’d give them another shot, as I wan’t going to be riding them on any roots or rocks. My first couple of winter rides on them has provided me with a couple of interesting surprises. The grip on these tires is pretty remarkable. At the moment, I’m running them around 30 psi. The adverse conditions I have experienced so far have been partially iced pavement, and hard pack snow on gravel, and a little bit of bushwacking in my back yard for fun. The grip is actually quite amazing.
The other thing I learned, is that the grip comes with a price. They don’t roll for beans! But hey, I’d rather keep the speed in check, and not spin out when I’m trying to put the power down. So far, I’m liking these as winter tires. I’ll let you know how it goes. We are getting a break from the cold over the weekend, it would be exceedingly rude not to take advantage of the prime riding weather.