I live in Vermont, with conditions that vary from hard-pack ice-covered
dirt roads to well-plowed paved roads. I have a steep driveway that is occasionally solid ice, and the dirt road that leads to my house is
generally icy with some dirt/salt cover with drifts along the edges. This road can be covered in a few inches of snow, rutted by large
trucks with chains on their tires, or smooth and clear. The paved roads quickly lose their shoulders in this weather, and black ice is
generally a regular occurrence (although I haven't been able to find much this winter), as are drifts and ruts. While the roads are
different than, say, the average city commuter, if they can make it here, they can make it there.
The first thing I noticed about the Nashbar studded tires when they arrived is the difference between the Nashbar tread and what I would
assume are its closest competitors, the Nokian Mount and Ground and the Innova 104s. While all sport angled, wide tread, the studs on the
Nashbar were set further out to the edge of the tires, and the edge tread seemed a bit more aggressive than the Nokian. The comparable
Innova studded tires has its 104 studs on the center treads. The Nashbar tires keep the center treads clear, and put its studs on the
side tread. They weigh nearly 300 grams less and cost more than the
Innovas, and weigh a touch more and cost less than the Mount and Grounds.
I expected them to be difficult to mount on my rims (I use Weinman ZAC19 rims for winter riding), but it had to be the easiest tire
putting-on experience I've ever had. They are wire bead, and stiff - and of course the studs make them heavy, but even me, who generally has
to struggle and swear a lot to seat a tire, had no problem getting them on and seated properly. I decided that I'd run them closer to the
bottom of their suggested air pressure, and pumped them to 45psi to start. Since my winter bike is a older, non-suspension mountain bike,
there was plenty of tire clearance. I have Planet Bike Freddy Fenders, and didn't have to adjust them for fit/clearance, since I'd been
running fairly high treads before.
I had been riding Geax Blades and had good luck with them in snow (but
not on anything icy), so to compare I first went out in the 4-6 inches of fresh snow that had just fallen. At first, I couldn't get anywhere
with the Nashbar tires. I spun out and they quickly packed full of snow. Then it hit me, I'd had them in 60+ indoor temperatures, and I
took them outdoors in below-zero temps and the snow just melted into the nice warm tread. Not their fault. When the temperature balanced
out, they shed snow well, but still weren't as grippy as the Blades in the soft stuff. But, when they started to slide a bit, they easily
gripped the hard-pack below and got the bike back on track. Still, even though they can make it
fine through an inch or so of fresh
snow, I quickly found that - as expected - these are not meant for heavy snow travel, and even at low pressure I'd rather have a wider,
non-studded tire on a snowmobile trail or comparable surface. Since these are marketed to the everyday rider, I concentrated on roads I
would commute on.
They were a joy on the hard-packed ice/dirt roads, and even down the icy driveway I felt at ease. On hard surfaces, rolling resistance was
better the harder they were pumped up, and at 60 psi, it was like riding regular knobbies on a paved road - not as easy as slicks, but
not noisy or with any extraordinary drag. My theory is that the higher position of the studs up off to the side contributes to keeping the
noise and the drag minimal.
Because my road terrain is often riddled with chucks of ice, rocks, salt chunks and dirt, I tend to keep the psi toward 40, and found that
the tread was more than competent to handle frozen tire ruts and road debris.
I tried to unseat studs by pulling hard stops on dry pavement, both with softer and harder psi, but I couldn't pull it off. Maybe a more
daring rider who stopped regularly by skidding sideways Dukes of Hazard style could do it,
but try as I might, the studs stayed in and the tires stayed
seated. I'll keep trying and report back.
There are still a few months to the snow-tire riding season here in Vermont, and the -20 to -30 temperatures have kept me off the bike more
than I'd like, but so far my impressions of the Nashbar tires are quite favorable, especially at sale price.