I refurbished an old mountain bike for myself in the spring, and I’ve switched my main mode of transportation from walking to biking. I like biking much better. Faster, plus I find I get more of a workout. Just a couple questions, though:
The bike (a garage sale buy) came with new tires that the seller says are called “skids” (they are bald-looking in the middle, with treads only on the outer edges of the tire). What is the benefit/purpose of these tires over general mountain bike tires? Is there any terrains or surfaces that I shouldn’t cross with these tires (I usually only bike on pavement and dirt paths)?
I’d love to ride my bike year-round, if possible, but that means riding it through Canadian winters. Is it possible to safely ride my bike in ice and snow, and if so, are there certain tires/other gear I would need to winterize it?
Those tires are pretty commonly called slicks or semi-slicks south of the border. They are good for pavement or hardish packed surface. They really arn’t much for slick mud of soft surfaces were you need tread to dig in.
If it were me I would use completely slick tires.
I can’t help with the winter question. Were I live it might freeze once or twice a winter. When it threatens to snow everything closes, so I don’t have to go to work anyway.
Slicks or semi-slicks have lower rolling resistance, which means it takes less effort to ride with them on paved and good dirt roads. The deep treads which offer traction in mud and loose dirt require extra effort to push on paved streets. The semi-slicks give you extra traction on turns when you lean your bike but act like slicks when you are upright.
So, if you spend the vast majority of your time on streets, go with slicks or semi-slicks to make your ride easier. Many slicks also allow you to pump up the tire pressure higher, which also gives an easier ride.
As for riding in the winter, I have extensive experience with that here in Chicago. I made my own studded tires but there are some commercially available.
Here’s what I did: Get some basic knobby tires that have good sized knobs. Hammer carpet tacks through each knob from inside the tire. Carpet tacks are hard cut tacks about 3/4"-1" long .
Cut the tack off with side cutters about 1/16"-1/8" showing on the outside of the tire. Then apply a couple layers of electrical tape on the inner surface of the tire followed by a tack strip. You NEED to make sure that the tape and tack strip are very smooth and even otherwise it will bind on the inner tube and pop it. mount wheel and off you go. I had little problem riding on ice with this setup.
Or you can go to Mountain Equipment Co-op and just buy a pair of studded tires…
Having biked through the wet, the muck, and the snow, I recommend you get a pair of fenders to make wet weather riding much more enjoyable. You may hear about booties (for your derailleur) but they don’t really do much except trap dirt in a place where it can wear and do damage. If you’re going to ride through the winter, you’ll need to wash and do maintenance-- like oiling your chain-- often.
Riding through ice and snow is possible-- I started out doing it on my 10-speed. It’s not quite as safe, if only because drivers aren’t expecting to see cyclists-- and you’ll need multiple lights since it gets dark so early. And you do need to get used to riding in ice, slush, and snow.
As long as you’re on smooth, dry pavement, slicks provide better traction while upright or leaned over. It’s just that much more contact.
I’ve never had semi-slicks but it seems like the reasoning for them would be this:
If you’re mostly riding on roads, and the road is wet or dirty, the only time you really need the type of traction knobbies provide would be while cornering so they’re placed out to the sides. Most of the time, you can enjoy the benefits of the slicks, though.
I thought the idea of a semi-slick is that on a loose surface (dirt, mud or gravel), the tire sinks far enough into the surface that the treads come in contact with the surface. I don’t like them because the handling suddenly changes while leaning, i.e. while turning.
I suspect there’s also a poseur factor: semi-slicks look like rugged mountain bike tires from the side, but are actually road tires.
I bike to work at least once a week in the winter (Southern Ontario). Not that far of a ride, but fun enough. Barbarian is right, you’ll need to do regular maintaince, and probably replace the chain and some wires in the spring. Whenever I ride in the winter, I spray my bike off once I get to work and once again when I get home to get rid of any salt and prevent rusting as much as possible. Once you get use to biking in snow, its easy and rather fun. cheers
Someone else in the thread said that skids is the Canadian term for what we down here call “slicks.” If this is really true, then you might not want to use your tires for real off-road riding. Slicks are designed for road riding. They’re a somewhat bigger version of a road bicycle tire, with a small, dense tread and low profile. They weigh much less than an off-road tire, and take a higher pressure. These features combine to give a comfortable ride on the road, especially over long distances.
In my youth, I really did ride an ordinary road bike in the rain and snow, without much problem. The worst traction problems come on glare ice. I once taco’ed a front wheel while riding in the winter. I hit a patch of ice going at about 15 mph. The wheel spun to the left, while the rest of the bike (and me) kept going straight. I had a wheel that Mobieus would have been proud of! So be careful on the ice.
Regular maintenance improves the ride of any bicycle. In the winter, you should clean your bike more often, because snow, ice, and water will tend to carry dirt further into the recesses of your drivetrain, hubs, etc. I clean my mountain bike first with dish detergent, then follow up with Simple Green or other balanced-Ph degreaser. I wash with water, but not a hard jet spray. Use a sprayer that puts out a somewhat gentle wash, like what you would use to water your lawn. You’ll avoid forcing water into the sealed bearings.
I don’t know this for sure, but I would guess that you should use a chain lubricant that remains liquid at cold temps. I think that White Lightning and other “wax” lubricants would turn solid and may have issues. I don’t know that for sure. Tri-Flow or other liquid oils might be better.
I think the biggest hassle you’ll get is from the cold. You will want to have full gloves and something to waterproof your feet.
Street slicks are very smooth. Semi-treadless have sort of a diamond pattern in the center and are for hard-packed trails or slick rock. The knobs on the edges of the tread are supposed to help you corner. Street slicks might hold up a little better on the street than semi-treadless tires. I don’t think it would hurt to use them until they need replacing and then replace with street slicks.
I’ve never heard the term ‘skids’ used here to mean slicks, but I suppose it might be a regional variation.
Semi-slicks of the variety described aren’t intended to have more traction in corners, as many are saying, but to have more traction in soft patches where the centre slick portion will sink in a bit. When riding on paved surfaces they’re very squirmy if you corner hard. For on-road riding, my vote is for real slicks, not the halfass version, but unless you corner really hard with some frequency there’s no real need to replace semi-slicks.
In my experience as a bicycle courier in Winnipeg through one winter, and commuting from central Winnipeg to the University of Manitoba (round trip 24km) through a couple more winters, it’s perfectly possible to ride in ice and snow. Others have already touched on the key points - be careful on ice (hardpack snow isn’t too bad with good knobbies), and wash & lube the bike frequently. Fenders are essential. “Lobster mitts” are a great way to keep fingers warm while still being able to manipulate brakes and shifters. I never bothered with metal studded tires, but if I had I probably would have avoided a few spills.
Some good suggestions, thanks! My skids/slicks/whatever sound like they are probably the best bet for my current terrain - I bike usually only on pavement and smooth dirt paths. I’m going to do a bit more research before I try biking for the winter.