After you get all those little screws in the tire you are not quite done. If you try and use it “as is” you will get a flat very quickly. The last step you need to perform in order to get these to work well is to make a liner to protect the tube and support the spikes. I have heard stories from people who tried different things as liners with some success. Some say to use layers of duct tape or additional layers tubes but I personally believe that the best spiked tire liner is another tire. You wouldn’t want to use another knobby tire but instead choose something fairly slick. It should also be slightly smaller than the tire you spiked so it can fit nicely inside it. If your spike tire is a 2.1″ use a1.75″ tire as a liner. If you are spiking a 29er tire find some old hybrid 40mm wide thing. It can have a little bit of tread but smoother is better in this case. Once you have chosen your liner you will need to cut both of the beads off.
Make a starter slit in the sidewall of the tire near the bead and then use scissors to carefully cut all the way around. Again I say use scissors and be careful to cut a neat straight line. Don’t do this part with a blade. For some reason it is easy to go off line and cut up into the rubber part of the tire. Try to avoid doing this as you want a smooth edge so it does not cause a punctured tube later on. Once both beads have been removed you can put the liner in the spiked tire and add a tube. You can usually use a slightly smaller diameter tube than you would if you had no spikes and no extra tire in there because those thing take up some extra room. Mount the whole conflagration on your wheel and you are ready to go. I usually run a fairly high air pressure in mine (45 psi or more). The reason is that spikes are better supported with more air pressure and less likely to flop over. They stay straighter and dig in better.
With these tires you will be surprised how much grip you have on ice even if it is wet or off-camber. They are also effective if the snow is very packed and approaching ice in consistency. They hook up on wood pretty well too whether it’s wet or dry and you can roll over wet diagonal roots without fear. Skinny logs that you might try in summer time are now much easier with these tires. Go Ride!
Now theoretically all our holes are drilled in our tire and now we need some spikes to be inserted into each hole. These are the screws that work best in my experience:
They are #7 x 7/16″ Metal Framing Screws. They have a drill point so they can be used without a pre-drilled hole in sheet metal. They have a pan head and take a phillips screw bit. I bought mine at my local “big box” hardware/lumber store. Before you start trying to stick these little guys into your tire you should turn the tire inside out.
Then stick a bunch of screws into the holes you drilled and then screw them in the rest of the way with a drill or screw gun that has a phillips head tip on it. Repeat endlessly until your arm is tired from holding the drill. Eventually you will get all the screws snug in their proper holes. I highly recommend using a drill or screw gun to thread the screws in as it would take a very long time to twist them all in by hand.
When you have the screws in place they should look something like this:
Turn the tire right side out. The challenge here is to do it without drawing blood. Then the tire should look like this:
You are almost done. Only one final crucial step remains. Don’t try and mount these on your bike just yet.
Continue to Step 4 – The Last Step
Now that you have selected your tire you will have to determine your pattern and frequency of spikes. On most tires you will want to put in one spike per knob but you do not have to spike every knob if you don’t want to. Obviously the more spikes you have the more traction you will get on ice. You can see in this photo that I skipped some of the center knobs in an alternating pattern of three knobs spiked and then two left empty. Leaving some knobs unspiked does save some weight and of course sometimes you don’t have enough screws to finish the job otherwise.
When you have your pattern all laid out and you know how you want it to be then it’s time to start drilling some knobs. It is nice to have something to drill into other than your hand or knee because that gets a bit messy after a few holes. I cut a pair of 2×4′s into a curved and slightly radiused shape that the tire sits on while I drill. See Photos.
You can use a regular drill with a 1/8″ drill bit but if you have a Dremel Tool that works even better. The slow speed of the drill tends to cut through the rubber which can lead to tears. The high speed of the Dremel Tool actually burns a perfectly cylindrical hole through and leaves no ragged edges. And as bonus you get to breathe in the burning rubber smoke. Whichever tool you have, drill all the necessary holes all the way around the whole tire. Try and hit the centers of the knobs as you drill them. A new and/or sharp drill bit makes a world of difference in starting each hole. It takes a little practice and you will probably find that you get better at it as you progress. I did.
Continue to Step 3
The first thing you need is a tire with an appropriate tread pattern. There are many tires out there that will not work well because the knobs are too small/thin or in a pattern not conducive to spiking. I have found that the tires that are best for spikes have chunky knobs in a two/three pattern. That means there are two knobs across in one row and then three knobs across in the next. This two/three pattern gives you five columns of spikes which covers various lean angles well. The tire in the first picture has these desirable qualities.
Having said that we will come back to reality where these perfect tires aren’t always easy to procure. The tire above is a Panaracer Fire Fre Ride (FR) 2.4″ and costs around $50. Who wants to drill holes in a nice tire like that? The next best tire has 4 columns of spikes and that is what I will be using for this demonstration. The tire in the photo has two rows and then two more rows offset to either side. Now you may look at this photo and think “He is wrong. I see three rows and then three rows offset to either side.” You are of course correct BUT there are only two use-able rows. The knobs along the edges are too far over and will never contact the ice so there is no point in adding the time, effort, weight etcetera to put spikes in them. The tire in the photo below is also dirt cheap. It is a Cheng Shin C-1027 and we sell them for around $15.
Tires that look like they have a good pattern for spiking:
Panaracer Fire (XC or FR)
Continental Vertical (not sure – some knobs may be too small)
Schwalbe Marathon Plus 2.1″
Kenda Blue Groove
Continue to Step 2
Here is a link to my former step by step photos detailing how to stud your very own MTB ties for severe winter ice riding. Apple stopped hosting the pictures so I will gradually re-post them here. The whole spiking process takes awhile but it is really worth it. Plus you will have the tires for years. The traction on ice is really amazing far surpassing anything in any other season. Store bought studded tires don’t even begin to compare to these puppies. No joke.