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Nokian W106
ICE Tires for your Road Bike

I picked up a couple of Nokians for my road bike (700c x 35) from Peter White's sale last week (thanks, Peter). I figured I'd hang them in the garage till next winter as things were getting pretty Springish here in Boston. We got a bit of a Nor'easter this weekend which gave us a couple of inches of snow to play with so I took the tires out for a spin or 2.

On Sat morning, we had a club ride scheduled, & although the web weather maps looked like the front wouldn't hit until just after the ride ended, the storm was supposed to start with sleet & freezing rain, not what you'd want to get caught in 15 mi from home. I couldn't decide whether to mount the new tires or not, but since I had put one on the front the night before to check fit, I decided I'd just leave it on, and leave my 700 x 23 on the back.

It was a rather strange looking combination, but ran OK. I wound up doing the 30 mi ride on just wet roads. It was sleeting a bit, but nothing was sticking, although at by the end the bikes were pretty well iced up. The tire felt fine, heavy, but stable. I didn't sweat 30+ mph downhills. This would probably be a reasonable setup (stud front, plain rear) for dealing with black ice and the occasional snow mound.

This morning, I went out to do the Charles River bikepath with both studded tires. I was disappointed to find the path mostly plowed. It turned out that there were some long stretches that weren't, so I got to evaluate the tires in a variety of conditions ranging from slushy to crunchy crust (frozen granular) and ice, including some under a couple of inches of water. All in all, the tires worked very well. I think I impressed a few riders picking their way along the icy sections on MTB's as I blasted by on my road bike with probably a 5-6 mph speed differential.

The tires seem to have enough tread & studs to grab icy surfaces well. In the soft stuff they started to fishtail, almost sending me into the drink along one stretch of snow covered wooden pier. Expecting any tire to work on wooden planks with 2-3" of slushy granular is probably asking a bit much, & 15-16 mph was probably too fast for the conditions :-)

My conclusions? I think these tires definitely have a place in my rotation. There have been several club rides this winter where the conditions have been marginal. At those times I usually rode my MTB, w or w/o studs. On the streets, I vastly prefer my road bike, but the thought of hitting icy patches at high speed always worried me. I think I'd be much more confident with these. A word of caution though, these tires have tall treads and might not fit some frames.

Review by Peter Cole