Wondering what ice fighting technology is available to keep you upright and stable this winter. Well ponder no longer as Fatbike Republic explores the options . . . from off the shelf plug-n-play to complete do-it-yourself solutions. There is sure to be one to fit your riding prowess and budget.
The quickest and easiest way to secure your ice traction for the winter is to purchase pre-studded fatbike tires. There are several manufacturers that offer 4" and 5" studded tires . . . check out Fatbike Tire Guide to see who does.
Being quick and easy means that it is the most expensive way as well. If getting pre-studded tires the best (cheapest) time to get them is in the off season, or when purchasing your new fat steed as your LBS may cut you a deal on a second set of tires. If you wait until the snow flies be prepared to pay premium dollar.
|Vee Snowshoe XL PSC Studded|
Another option would be to purchase studdable tires and stud them yourself. The same manufacturers who sell the pre-studded tires normally sell the tires without the studs . . . but with the holes all ready for studding. All you need to do is purchase the studs (about 250 per tire), a stud installation tool and spend a couple of evenings flexing your wrist muscles. This way is cheaper than buying the pre-studded, however it takes a little time to get the tires ready for ice.
There are three types of studs on the market (pointed, flat and concave) and either will fit studdable tires . . . however some are better than others.
Last season Fatbike Republic tested the pointed and flat and found a distinct difference between the two with the flat coming out on top. Details on installation and the full review can be found HERE.
Be cautious when buying used studdable tires or using the studdable tires in dirt prior to studding. You will have to remove ALL dirt and rocks from the stud pockets to ensure a good seat with the studs. Its not impossible . . . but its a real pain.
The beauty with Grip Studs is that they will allow you practically turn any fatbike tire into ice shredding donuts. The GS1000 is sold in boxes of 100, 150 and 1000. The studs can be installed manually with a screwdriver type tool or using a drill, and they can be removed for the off season.
Screwing the stud into the tire lug will in most cases give you the minimum 5mm rubber depth required. The 2.0 mm prominence of the carbide tip will provide traction over and above any of the pre-studded fatbike tires. There is very little tear our. 150 per tire is generally sufficient.
They are a little on the pricey side at $1 each, but the traction is beyond question.
Bottom line . . . this is probably the cheapest route to get yourself some ice traction. Taking screws and installing them into the tire or out through the tire will pretty much ruin the tire for anything but riding on ice. That is why it's recommended that you source a used/cheap set of tires.
The "inside-out" method has screws installed from the inside of the tire. Some sort of tire lining (like duct tape) is needed to protect the tube and to help prevent (or slow down) the screws from pushing back in as you roll down the trail. Some trimming of the screw tips may be required depending on how much they protrude. Tires studded with this method look downright scary and provide a scary amount of traction.
|Source: Just Yakkin'|
The "screw-in" method is a little more tame with the screw installed from the outside into the tire lugs. 3/8 sheet metal screws are popular, with some folks modifying the heads slightly by drilling them out and cutting additional gripping edges.
Puncturing the tube is quite possible using this approach unless you have a very heavy lugged tire or run tubeless. Tear out is common as the treads on the screws are meant to hold metal.
It is a very inexpensive traction option.
If you want to avoid modifying sheet metal screws you may want to take a look at Kold Cutters. For years these hardened v-groove metal screw in studs have been used in the motorbike ice racing circuit and have now crossed over to the world of fatbiking. Their AMA #8 3/8" are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Some folks place a dab of cold hardy flexible glue on each stud to minimize tear out. Tube puncture is still something to be aware of so running tubeless may be the preferred option.
|Source: Just Yakkin'|
Tire chains have been used as traction aids for as long as tires have been made out of rubber. In modern times you normally see them on transport trucks or pickup trucks. A company by the name of Slipnot offer tire chains for fatbikes in several sizes. For less tha $120 you can be outfitted with a set of chains.
According to their website they look relatively straight forward to install and they are claimed to increase traction in mud, snow and ice. There is no doubt that you will get better traction, however I wonder how much extra weight they would add to your fattie.
If you are more of a DIYer, over on WV Cycling they walk through the process of making a set of tire chains for a skinny tire. Scale it up and the chains would be fat compliant. They even have a couple of videos showing them in use.
All too often we get caught up in the rubber on the bike and forget about the rubber on our feet. We can have the most elaborate ice traction system on our fattie, but putting a bare boot down on a slick ice surface can have us kissing ice pretty quick.
To make touch downs a little safer some folks strap on ice cleats like those offered over on Winter Walking.com. Light and compact you can store them in your backpack and slip them on when needed.
Popping 10-15 Grip Studs into the toe of your favorite boot also works quite well. They are super grippy, super light and you tailor the grip pattern specifically for your needs.
The folks over at IceBug have footwear specifically designed to traverse ice. From sneakers to boots for both women and men the combination of sticky rubber compounds mixed with carbide studs allow you to walk in ice with confidence.
Riding ice can be fast and the sound of studs gripping ice is really cool, but it can also be dangerous. Therefore, no matter which option you choose for your fattie and feet, be sure to include a little caution and common sense when riding ice.