45NRTH is a Minneapolis based company that makes bike clothing, tires and accessories for winter riding and comfort in extreme cold. Hailing from a city where it’s currently -15 it’s easy to assume that they know what they’re doing.
I live in Boston where it’s warm in comparison. Our winters tend to be more snowy and sloppy than bitterly cold and icy. I’ve spent the last 6 years of winter riding without using studded tires designed to grip ice. For the most part I’ve spent winters riding the rollers or heading out on a bike with fenders after the roads have been plowed. The winter of 2015-2016 broke me, with 110 inches of snowfall it made the roads extremely narrow and riding on the road was precarious at best.
One of the great things about Boston is we have a great network of bike paths throughout many of the major metro areas. While they do plow, they’re rarely salted leaving them to be a sheet of ice which each thaw and re-freeze. Most cities in the Boston metro do a great job of plowing, making studded tires not necessary if you stick to riding in the city. Lately, I’ve grown tired of dealing with escalated drivers and prefer the serenity of an empty icy-bike path.
I did my research on studded tires and the 45NRTH Xerves seemed to fit my needs perfectly. It’s a 700×30 tire that will fit most cyclocross, touring and hybrid bicycles with ease and clear most fenders. The narrow width also makes it great for cutting through fresh snow. It features a fast rolling center with studs on the side to keep you planted when it gets slick. They come in both 120tpi folding and 33tpi wire bead versions. The 120 TPI will set you back quite a bit at $120 per tire. I opted for the 33tpi wire bead as they were considerably less at $75 per tire. It’s still not cheap, but if you’ve ever crashed on ice it’s well worth it. We generally have 2-3 cold months of the year, so you’ll definitely get more than one season out of them. Consider the fact that a Charlie Card (Boston’s Public Transit) is $84.50 a month.
I’m on my second season with the Xerves. Having never used studded tires I was not sure what to expect, but the Xerves have blown away every expectation or misconception I’ve had about riding studded tires. I will admit that the 33 tip wire bead versions are stiff, but I wants expecting anything less and as a tire I spend limited time on I’m fine with that. I figured studded tires would slow and scary to ride on clean pavement, however the Xerves are not. Having studs only on the side knobs means you don’t feel or hear the studs unless you’re cornering. The Xerves have a wide range of recommend pressure 35-70 psi meaning you can fine tune the ride for the conditions. At high pressure these tires only have a bit more resistance than a standard commuting tire. It continues to blow me away how fast these tires are and how well they feel at 60 psi.
You will need to drop the pressure for the studs to dig in on ice. For snowy days and super slick bike paths, I’ll tend to run 40 psi. My first experience riding these tires on ice was a near religious experience. On a cold night coming home from work I decided to hunt out some sheet ice along the charles river. It was so cold that brakes froze and I couldn’t stop, but out on the ice I tried to make the bike slide sideways and while it start to drift the the studs would bolster you and keep the rubber side down. It’s truly ludicrous what you can get away with on these tires.
While these tires aren’t cheap, the satisfaction of knowing that no weather will force you to ride the bus to work is well worth it. You’re never confined to the trainer unless you want to be. You can zone out riding the bike path to work on a Monday without a single fear of slipping on ice. While others will swerve around ice patches you’ll ride straight through them.
My xerves are on their second season and showing little signs of wear even after seeing mainly clean pavement. The tire I was using as a rear showed some tread wear and was missing some studs. Thankfully 45NRTH sells replacement studs and a handy tool that makes installing them a breeze. This is truly a 5 out 5 product and a must buy if you’re more likely to go outside in the winter than to stay cooped up.