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Wide slick tires in winter

Old 02-16-21, 11:29 AM
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sdimattia
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Wide slick tires in winter

There's plenty of information and discussion on the benefits of wide knobbies and studded tires with icy, snowy winter conditions and thin slick tires for light snow and otherwise nice weather in urban environments.

But, what about wide slick tires in winter such as the Panaracer GravelKing Slick in 38mm width? Is the contact patch of the width (which would be fine for clear conditions) negated by the layers of ice and snow between the tire and the road? There's lots of information for wide slick / semi slick tires for hard packed gravel and trail but can't seem to find much for winter riding.

I'm currently running the GK slicks on my single speed 650b rain/winter commuter (fenders and all) but I'm thinking about possibly swapping the front for something with a little knob to it. This is in NYC where 85% of roads I ride get plowed but are left with big icy ruts and snow piles. I'm not interested in or asking about studded tires, just wondering if there's any benefit (or not) to wide slick tires in winter.
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Old 02-16-21, 01:10 PM
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I can't think of how wide slicks would help. You'd just have less contact pressure, more likely to float on a thin layer of snow / ice.

Skinny tires working on light snow, where the tire cuts through to the pavement, is a pretty rare circumstance. You certainly can't count on it, especially for the duration of a ride over any distance.

I see a lot of cyclists on the bike paths during the winter, and a few ride without studs for whatever reason. They appear to be making "advanced" use of their bike handling skills, and also, willing to put a foot down or even walk the bike across the worst ice patches. That's certainly a reasonable strategy if it works for them, but it's just mentally easier for me to switch to studs on a dedicated winter bike when road salt season begins.

I've also known cyclists who put the studded tire just in the front. The rolling resistance is a lot less on the front wheel, they get some control, but still have to ride with caution. Any kind of winter cycling involves some strategy and tradeoffs.
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Old 02-16-21, 01:25 PM
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No.
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Old 02-16-21, 01:45 PM
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Absolutely no. Period. No.
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Old 02-16-21, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by sdimattia View Post
There's plenty of information and discussion on the benefits of wide knobbies and studded tires with icy, snowy winter conditions and thin slick tires for light snow and otherwise nice weather in urban environments.
You baited me in and your first sentence said good show to me. Your second sentence threw me under the bus. WTF, I was expecting a Vee Rubber Apache in tire width of 127mm and doughnuts in the parking lot .
I agree with the previous posters. That skinny 35mm tire is no good and will put you to the ground hard.
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Old 02-16-21, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
No.
Originally Posted by grizzly59 View Post
Absolutely no. Period. No.
Originally Posted by KPREN View Post
You baited me in and your first sentence said good show to me. Your second sentence threw me under the bus. WTF, I was expecting a Vee Rubber Apache in tire width of 127mm and doughnuts in the parking lot .
I agree with the previous posters. That skinny 35mm tire is no good and will put you to the ground hard.
I threw those on back in June for the rain, lol. Not specifically for snow.

But that clarifies wide slicks for winter use

As far as a knobby tire in the front and my a** dumping GK slick in the rear, would that do me any good or throw knobbies on both? I was recommended to look at Teravail Cannonball 650b x 40. Would love to throw wider tires or the knobby GK but frame only takes 42mm or less.

The slick GK seems to be ok for rainy days in the city (correct me if Iím wrong), I was just more curious about it for winter. I appreciate all of your precise answers.
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Old 02-16-21, 02:57 PM
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I've got 38mm semi-slicks on my hybrid, and I can make it the 800 feet to my mailbox in light snow and ice; but it ain't exactly confidence-inspiring. I have to pick my way carefully. Better to have some heavier tread or knobs - at low pressures.

(note: the semi-slicks weren't installed for snow. If I rode the bike more I'd change out the tires pronto!)
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Old 02-16-21, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
I can't think of how wide slicks would help. You'd just have less contact pressure, more likely to float on a thin layer of snow / ice.

Skinny tires working on light snow, where the tire cuts through to the pavement, is a pretty rare circumstance. You certainly can't count on it, especially for the duration of a ride over any distance.

I see a lot of cyclists on the bike paths during the winter, and a few ride without studs for whatever reason. They appear to be making "advanced" use of their bike handling skills, and also, willing to put a foot down or even walk the bike across the worst ice patches. That's certainly a reasonable strategy if it works for them, but it's just mentally easier for me to switch to studs on a dedicated winter bike when road salt season begins.

I've also known cyclists who put the studded tire just in the front. The rolling resistance is a lot less on the front wheel, they get some control, but still have to ride with caution. Any kind of winter cycling involves some strategy and tradeoffs.
So wide or skinny, slicks in winter are still slicks is what Iím hearing. Iím thinking a knobby in the front but maybe Iíll do a studded in the front, knobby in the rear for winter and then put the knobby on both for the rest of the year . . .
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Old 02-16-21, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by sdimattia View Post
As far as a knobby tire in the front and my a** dumping GK slick in the rear, would that do me any good or throw knobbies on both? I was recommended to look at Teravail Cannonball 650b x 40. Would love to throw wider tires or the knobby GK but frame only takes 42mm or less.
fully studded tires are loads cheaper than the medical insurance deductible.
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Old 02-16-21, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by KPREN View Post
fully studded tires are loads cheaper than the medical insurance deductible.
This is certainly true . . .

I'm just hesitant to go full studded since I don't want to change tires a lot. I'd be happy if I was only changing tires before winter season and then when the season was over. However, this is also my rain bike and unfortunately it rains more than snows in winter and I'd rather not be rolling on studs in the rain. I will definitely change out those GK slicks for the winter. The other big limiting factor is that I can only put 42mm / 1.6in or skinnier tires on the bike which effectively excludes most studded tires and many of the more popular knobby tires. I found one studded by 45NRTH that comes in 650b x 38 but not much else.

Last edited by sdimattia; 02-16-21 at 03:21 PM.
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Old 02-16-21, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by KPREN View Post
fully studded tires are loads cheaper than the medical insurance deductible.
No tire - except maaaaybee a soft fat tire - will keep you upright if you hit unexpected ice or hard packed snow. Except studs. I would never ride in snow without studs. Even on fat bikes, most experienced winter riders invest in studs. And by winter I don't mean chilly temps and occasional fresh snow and slush. I mean real winter with long lasting snow with hard packed patches and ice, both visible and covered.
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Old 02-16-21, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by sdimattia View Post
TI'm just hesitant to go full studded since I don't want to change tires a lot. I'd be happy if I was only changing tires before winter season and then when the season was over. However, this is also my rain bike and unfortunately it rains more than snows in winter and I'd rather not be rolling on studs in the rain. I will definitely change out those GK slicks for the winter. The other big limiting factor is that I can only put 42mm / 1.6in or skinnier tires on the bike which effectively excludes most studded tires and many of the more popular knobby tires. I found one studded by 45NRTH that comes in 650b x 38 but not much else.
Two set of wheels and tires are still cheaper than the deductible. You get very little warning when your about to get dumped on the ground. You go down very quick and hard. The type of falls that can easily result in injury and you can count on being dumped. You WILL be dumped even with knobby studded tires if you run the wrong tire pressures or deep mushy snow.
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Old 02-16-21, 03:36 PM
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Here is the tires on my winter bike. They have 244 studs each and I run them rock hard at 3psi front and 4psi rear. A fat tire has a lot of grip. None the less I went for the big slide two days ago going from hard to deep slush.
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Old 02-16-21, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by KPREN View Post
Two set of wheels and tires are still cheaper than the deductible. You get very little warning when your about to get dumped on the ground. You go down very quick and hard. The type of falls that can easily result in injury and you can count on being dumped. You WILL be dumped even with knobby studded tires if you run the wrong tire pressures or deep mushy snow.
Between cars and just fooling around, i've been left on my butt quite a number of times. I'd expect nothing less from ice and slush.

To summarize; wide slicks in winter is a big no-no.

I'll buy the Teravail Cannonball and at least one studded 45NRTH for winter. If it's so icy that I'm ice skating to work, A. I wouldn't be biking to work anyway and B. I'll probably call out of work . . .

I'll save th GK slicks for rainy days the rest of the year. Thank you everybody for your insight, especially KPREN.

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Old 02-16-21, 04:36 PM
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Teravail Cannonball 650b x 40

From the description- Its center tread is tightly-knit, meaning that you have less rolling resistance, while the diamond pattern takes on gravel to give you the most grip possible, shredding and shedding dirty terrain.

This may not be a real good tire on snow. My opinion- you need something with an open spaced out knobbie pattern, all the way accross the width of the tire. If the center gets filled in to make it roll better on hardpack or such, it's not going to ride like a real knobbie tire. I understand your constraint with 42mm limits your choices, and I have never ridden a Teravail Cannonball or a 650B bike. I commuted for years in the winter with 26" hard tail / fork mtn bike and 1.95 or 2.2 soft compound knobbie tires at reduced pressure in NoDak.
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Old 02-16-21, 05:05 PM
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Tl;dr to answer the q at the bottom of the OP: yes- comfort.

I could see modern ďsuppleĒ 42mm knobbies being marginally easier than 42mm supple slicks for navigating icy car ruts when itís too cold for salt to do its thing.

~~~~~

I think of 38mm as only on the wide-ish side of medium width, even for slicks.

Iím upstate but deal with nearly the same stuff as you.

Iíve tried 50mm semi-slicks a few times and they just suck in the various densities of un/re/un/re-frozen slush we get on the shoulder, but theyíre fine if youíre bold/energized enough to be taking the lane all of the time. Theyíre amazing when itís below 0F and thereís no traffic.

Iíve tried 32-38mm tires with and without knobs, with and without studs. Big nope every time.

Iím relegated by traffic to taking the shoulder too often so, for my 170lbs body, Iím stuck going no wider than 28mm so I can cut down through the slop on the side.

Even a 32mm too often does the float-then-fall-through between each pedal stroke.

If youíre sticking to not riding when itís between 15F-35F, any slick tire you like should be fine.

I tend to favor the softest rubber compound I can get. Iím curious to try the Herseís, but GP5Ks have been working great the last two winters for me. Iíve got GK 32mm and I really donít love them on ice unless Iíve got them at 35f/40r (just barely above pinch-prone pressure).

I imagine the GK slickís rubber compound would be fine -for me- on those icy ruts under 10F (when the salt stops working) in a 45-50mm width pumped to 30-35lbs. I donít know how wide they go.

~~~~~

just read the other responses, those folks must fall on their way to their own bathroom a lot. (Joking, guys)

Iím not an amazing cyclist. I do dump it once or twice in December while I develop my winter-legs (like sea-legs ;P ), though itís usually in smashing through a turn that has 4-6Ē of heavy lake effect snow at ~ 12mph, almost always after saying to myself ďpsht, I got thisĒ.

This is my 14th winter. I ride Mon-Sat. Snow, sleet, whatever. When thereís ice, thereís usually about a half mile of it in total over my 14 mile commute and about a third of it is the black sort.

This is my Ship of Theseus, the only big change up in the last decade was ditching drop bars to keep my eyes further up the road.



The only real difference from it in winter mode to the other eight months is I pump the tires way higher and the saddle is about an inch lower to facilitate leaning/pulling back a lot to dig the rear wheel in and let the front tap around like a bugís antennae when needed and sometimes counter-leaning the bike through icy and/or off-camber turns.

Inertia Management is the name of the game.

I play for style points even though nobody is looking.

Through the winter, every two weeks I pump these 28mm tires up to 90f/100r. They feel kinda like theyíre around 70-80 after ten minutes or so when itís below 10F outside.

óóó

Certainly a Syracuse NY winter is not the same as a Lincoln Nebraska winter or a Portland Oregon winter.

My only trip to the hospital in the last 15 years happened when it was 73F on a sunny day and some dingleberry was texting and ran his red light into me.

I hadnít yet learned to think of traffic lights as merely being suggestions.

óóó

(the pressures mentioned are inside-the-heated-garage-pressures. I donít check the pressure after being out in the cold)

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Old 02-16-21, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by sdimattia View Post
So wide or skinny, slicks in winter are still slicks is what I’m hearing. I’m thinking a knobby in the front but maybe I’ll do a studded in the front, knobby in the rear for winter and then put the knobby on both for the rest of the year . . .
After a few years, I finally decided to build a dedicated winter bike. Not only for the convenience, but also to keep road salt off my nice bikes. I don't do recreational riding during the winter, just commuting and shopping. So the winter bike is pretty utilitarian.
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Old 02-16-21, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by grizzly59 View Post
Teravail Cannonball 650b x 40

From the description- Its center tread is tightly-knit, meaning that you have less rolling resistance, while the diamond pattern takes on gravel to give you the most grip possible, shredding and shedding dirty terrain.

This may not be a real good tire on snow. My opinion- you need something with an open spaced out knobbie pattern, all the way accross the width of the tire. If the center gets filled in to make it roll better on hardpack or such, it's not going to ride like a real knobbie tire. I understand your constraint with 42mm limits your choices, and I have never ridden a Teravail Cannonball or a 650B bike. I commuted for years in the winter with 26" hard tail / fork mtn bike and 1.95 or 2.2 soft compound knobbie tires at reduced pressure in NoDak.
That's the tire my LBS recommended when given the tire constraints, hence that's why I mentioned it. In my other research, I've also looked at the Surly Knard which seems to fit your evenly spaced bumps suggestion and at the Schwalbe G One or Marathons and the Conti Terra Trail / Speed. However, in all of these, the biggest concerns people have from internet reviews or other forums is that because they're small knobs, they don't do a whole lot for snow.

Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
After a few years, I finally decided to build a dedicated winter bike. Not only for the convenience, but also to keep road salt off my nice bikes. I don't do recreational riding during the winter, just commuting and shopping. So the winter bike is pretty utilitarian.
This 650b is my winter/rain dedicated bike since it can take fenders and has disc brakes but more importantly, is my size (I'm 5'1"). Like you, I use it for commuting in downpours and icy conditions, much less for rec rides. I'll use my main bike, a 42cm Wabi Classic 95% of the time for recreational and commuting.
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Old 02-16-21, 09:27 PM
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I wiped out on the greenway bridge near the GWB on 38mm Gravelking slicks earlier in the season when there was some unexpected slickness. So yeah, not a great idea for snow/ice.

I've been running Continental Top Contact IIs since then and they've been working really well, even on a bit of snow/ice that was left over from the recent storms. They're not studded so they definitely couldn't handle the fresh 20"+ that we got, but a few inches is definitely manageable. The tire compound feels better in the cold, too, which may just be motivated reasoning on my part, but they feel more suitable to winder riding in that way too.
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Old 02-16-21, 09:32 PM
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Sdimattia: That's the tire my LBS recommended when given the tire constraints, hence that's why I mentioned it.

If they recommended it then that counts for a lot. I thought you just picked one out. I don't have any experience with 40mm tires, just 1.95's and 2.2's. I tried some 45's with a filled in center made to roll nicer on pavement, and they were really bad on snow. Don't take what I said as anything other than my limited experience.
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Old 02-16-21, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Lava View Post
I wiped out on the greenway bridge near the GWB on 38mm Gravelking slicks earlier in the season when there was some unexpected slickness. So yeah, not a great idea for snow/ice.

I've been running Continental Top Contact IIs since then and they've been working really well, even on a bit of snow/ice that was left over from the recent storms. They're not studded so they definitely couldn't handle the fresh 20"+ that we got, but a few inches is definitely manageable. The tire compound feels better in the cold, too, which may just be motivated reasoning on my part, but they feel more suitable to winder riding in that way too.
Dang, too bad they are 50mm wide. Havenít biked the GWB yet but I frequent the east side bridges quite a bit. Iím sure blasting down the Williamsburg over snow with slicks will not end well . . .

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Old 02-16-21, 09:37 PM
  #22  
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grizzly59 All good, I appreciate your input. Your limited experience is better my absolute lack thereof, I wouldnít be asking otherwise.

Top contender so far is the Teravail, maybe a model of Continentals. And I will definitely keep the 45NRTH studded if it gets icy again.

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