Top 5 Winter Commuting Tires (Non Stud)

It is that time of year, you take off your slicks and add a tire to your bike that will grip in the rainy or icy conditions. There are a good amount of tires out there that I highly recommend but for now. I’ll look at you all to give me feedback for studded tires as I’ve only used them a handful of times when I lived in Boston, MA.

Top 5 Winter Commuting Tire


Continental Contact

Continental Contact $25-55

I feel in love with this tire when it came stock on my Salsa Casseroll. Good rolling, comfortable and so far pretty bullet proof. I’ve done a decent amount of skidding, off roading and general mishap and haven’t had any mishap from the tire. The groves running into the tires along the center ridge allow good traction when the ground is wet or you are turning, but the solid center ridge gives you low rolling resistance. I plan on getting a new pair soon for the Casseroll. After 3k miles of use in the past year the tires are about done plus they also come with reflective sides, which is exciting all I seem to ride in is the dark these days.


Continental 4 Season

Continental 4-Season $50-67

If you like to ride the skinny tires and possibly get in a decent amount of base training along side your winter commuting, then I will recommend the Continental 4-Season to you.. A great high end road tire, with a thicker sidewalls and a strong rubber section, these tires will get in the miles for you. Plus they handle excellent for your weekend group rides.


Schwalbe Marathon

Schwalbe Marathon Plus $50-55

Great in durability, inverted tread and a following on many touring sites as the touring tire. Personally I think the Continental Contact has less rolling resistance as the center ridge on the Marathon breaks up every inch or so.

There are many tires in the Schwalbe Marathon line up, some will be more durable with better mileage than others. I picked the Plus as it is the model that is the most available in various sizes.

SpecializedSpecialized All Condition Armadillo Elite Tire $60

The Armadillo line from Specialized is known for its durability. They’ve been branching out in the past couple years to add ride-ability to the Armadillo tires as well. Their Elite tire is light, and durable so this tire is popping up on commuter bikes. I’ve used Armadillo tires in the past, they were very durable and also a very large pain to install.

Kenda Tomac Small Block 8 $35-45

Kenda Small Block
Kenda Small Block

This really isn’t a commuter specific tire, but it is my go to tire this time of year for my cyclocross bike. I like to take greenways, beaten paths and gravel roads as much as possible. These tires allow me to do all terrain well and feel confident going into that sandy turn. Plus it was very handy to have these installed during cyclocross series while I was commuting daily and racing cyclocross at night.

Your turn, what’s your suggestions and daily tire now that the winter has gotten wet and cold?

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0 thoughts on “Top 5 Winter Commuting Tires (Non Stud)”

  1. Casey Anderson says:

    Continental and Schwalbe make very good tires. I also like Panaracer T-Servs and just bought a pair of the new Panaracer Ribmos — I haven’t put them on yet so I can’t say whether they are any good.

    Those Kenda Tomac Small Blocks look good for maximizing traction. I like to put knobby tires on my Surly LHT when the weather gets bad, or I just commute on my mountain bike, which has WTB Velociraptors on it — the big knobs noticeably slow you down compared to slick tires, but the traction is really good.

  2. Kirby says:

    The Schwalbe Marathon Plus is a good tire but it’s too heavy. The new Schwalbe Marathon Extreme is a better tire and it’s much lighter.

  3. Bill says:

    I suspect we have different definitions of winter tires, because we have different experiences of winter. I just replaced my “regular” commuter tires, Marathon Supremes (very nice), with my winter Nokian W106’s. They are both really good, but when you live on a hill that is often ice-covered there’s really no contest.

  4. Mat says:

    I feel like these are more all-around wet weather tires than actual winter tires. I wouldn’t feel very safe riding a tire with a smooth rolling band that doesn’t break up on icy/snowy roads. Personally, the Schwalbe Marathon Winters have been working a charm for the most extreme conditions. When there is no ice, a good cross tire, such as the CX Pro, or the Vredestein Premiato (very low profile, about 26mm wide – great clearance on those tight bikes) does the trick. Put anything without studs on ice, and you better get your feet on the ground.

  5. Sean says:

    I started with my Cross Check with Maxxis Cross tires (35c) and then switched to some Vittoria Randonneurs (33c) for the roads – smooth tread and the casing offers some puncture protection. I just switched over to some Schwalbe Marathon studded tires – slow and heavy but I’d rather stay upright on the icey roads. Moved to flat pedals too just in case I need to eject off the bike.

  6. Chris says:

    Peter White Cycles up in NH gives a great review of the studded tires he carries.

    I’m in Boston where we’re doomed to have black ice for 3 months so I picked up a pair of the 700c Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 35mm (that’s 106 carbide studes). Nokian makes fantastic winter tires for cars so I figured they have to make great bike tires too! This is my first year running a studded tire so we’ll see but I’m excited.

    Also the Nokians are much cheaper than the studded Kenda’s I’ve seen at my LBS.

  7. Perhaps we all have different ideas of a winter tire. As a mostly road commuter with either a cyclocross or touring bike I switch my skinny slicks to something with more bite for wet leaves and occasional snow dustings. If there is going to be ice I use a set of studded tires I’ve had for years and used maybe 4 times, or I pull out my mountain bike and take the off-road option, to work.

  8. Kevin Love says:

    Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres came as standard equipment on my Pashley. So far they have been good in Toronto winters. Big bonus: I’ve never, ever had a puncture. Never. Ever.

  9. Geo says:

    Another frosty northerner here. Those tires look good for areas that get more wetness than anything. If it’s going to freeze, I’m on the boat with others – Nokian W106s rock for a 700c. The Mount&Ground are good as a non-aggressive 26″ studded tire.

    2nd year running my Nokians, I love getting better traction than cars at intersections this time of year.

  10. Sean says:

    Ya, winter here in Ottawa, Canada generally means studded tires, on touring or cross bikes as well as on mountain bikes. Fenders are de rigeur and single speed (fixed or free) is generally a good way to go as shifters tend to get frozen in the colder temps.

  11. I appreciate the advice on what I would call “October Tires”. For winter I move from the roadies to a 29er. The choice of a 29er is really just anything that will fit my Nokian Hakkapelittas (the 45mm version)… Wrote about that on my parallel thread:

    I would love to debate the merits of various 30-35mm tires in the wet – but I need them to run on ice as well.

    Bike Shop Girl = let’s do the same thing but with studded tires. I’ll start:

    My name is John. I have 3 sets of studded tires (Nokian Extremes, Hakkas, and Innova Mushy-Wolf or something like that) the Hakkas are the 45mm which I don’t think will fit on your shiny new LHT (with thumbies – yeah)(bar-ends = thumbies)… The Hakkas carried my Karate Monkey through the snow with the greatest of ease all winter + if you deflate under 20 psi you can even get some mild float effect out of them in deep snow.

    Sooo – has anyone out there experience with the 35mm Hakkas (or comparable) something which we could run on the LHT or Cross-Check? On icy roads? Snowy trails? (my commute has an all trail option which I know is rare – but interesting)

    BTW – Chris good call with the Peter White link. That guy knows what he is talking about.

  12. John – I’ll do just that.

    Folks – Keep talking about studs and I’ll post up a new article just for you guys!

  13. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    I love the Continental Contact 37c. I put about 7-9 thousand miles front and 3-4 thousand rear and may get one flat before the tire get thin. I have them on my heavy touring and my hybird commuter/utitily bikes.

    The Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 35c are on my Euro bike for the winter. Up here they are really nice, infact a must. This is my second winter using the same tires and they are still going strong allowing me to ride upto 100 miles a week. Although they do have a noticable rolling resistance, but not falling every half mile is wroth it.

    My lite touring has the old Continental top 2000 28c.

    With well over 20,000 mile in the last few years I have become very picky on my tires….

    To promote cyciling, I help everyone I can fix flats. At the time I recomened the contact. That was a bad idea.. When I need a new tire, it was hard finding one in town… : / The flat fixing helped me as now I can fix a flat like nothing…

  14. BluesCat says:

    This is a very timely article. The Kenda Kwest tires on my recumbent are great and really roll nicely on open, dry pavement. With the panniers and rack pack fully loaded, I average between 14 and 17 mph on my commute.

    However, they are the 100 psi model and they feel kind of “skatey” when you hit gravel or wet pavement or attempt to climb up a roll curb at an oblique angle.

    The Serfas Drifters on my MTB stick to the road VERY well, and I have become a fan of “inverted tread” tires. Unfortunately, they don’t make the Drifter in a 20″.

    I had just about settled on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires … looks like you agree with me, BSG.

  15. lonefrontranger says:

    I live in Boulder, Colorado and commute year-round. You need studs out here for sure, especially with our usual 6-8 week long stretch of sunny days above 3°F that dip below 1° after sunset. Couple that with regular snowstorms every 5 to 7 days, and it’s a perfect recipe for continual black ice. I know a lot of people swear by the Nokians, but frankly I find them far too expensive and the local stores quit stocking them in favor of Innovas awhile back for just that reason. Not only are the Innovas a LOT cheaper, they have more studs, and have been working just fine for me for the past 9 years I’ve lived here.

    My go-to choice for black ice days is my San Jose singlespeed CX bike, which I’ve converted to fixed and shod with 700×35 Innovas that I got for $40 apiece at Excel Sports. FYI, I run a full set of regular rim brakes on both my fixed gears, in addition to using the backpedal method.

    The nice thing about riding fixed in winter conditions is that properly done, fixed with studs = traction control + antilock braking. You just have to run a moderate gear (42×18 seems about right for me). As far as brakes… rim brakes are a non-starter in wet or cold, and especially in ice, and even as an MTB racer and disc brake lover, I have to say, I don’t care how nice your hydro system is, when the rotors get coated with wet mag chloride slush at °F, they flat out won’t stop you, or at least without that long moment of “ohmygodpleasehookup” heart failure, followed by squealing and drama. However, so long as your fixie has a chain on it, you’ve got infinitely modulated braking and traction that you can “feel” with your feet.

    For deep snow, which you need super small gears and fattish tires to ride in, I ride my old Homegrown hardtail with Innova 26″ x 2.1 studs.

    I find the Innovas have a great combination of aggressive, open treads that shed slush, along with multiple rows of studs (4 rows on the 26″ tires, 2 on the 700c). It is indeed a great thing to have better traction on black ice or frozen slush with a bicycle than anyone in their 4×4. There are times I’ve resorted to trackstanding in situations where I knew if I stepped off the bike, I’d probably faceplant on the ice, yet the studs held firm.

  16. Dolan in PDX says:

    I have yet to find anything better in the wet than my Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. Their traction is just spooky.

    When it gets icy or snowy I have another bike with Nokian W106s.

    I commute year round in Portland, OR, where we see a whole lotta rain, but not much snow (well, except for last winter).

  17. John Boland says:

    I occasionally run Bontrager Jones XR 1.8″ 29er tires on my 700c Long Haul Trucker. The tread measures 46mm fat on the calipers and they fit the LHT, well, fine. So if the Hakawhachamacallem studded tires are 45mm, they will work fine on an LHT. Well, you have to use MTB fenders if you want fender coverage. But that’s it. The 26″ wheeled LHT have even better clearance; I believe they will take up a 2.1″ tire.

  18. Micah McKinley says:

    Bontrager hardcases in Los Angeles does the trick all year around for me…700c 35….nice and soft on the beat up winter roads…and being it doesnt rain much here, there’s no need to go knobby for ice. I’ve been riding on these tires a month shy of a year (surly cross check), no flats whatsoever, good traction, and bullet proof. Even put a skinnier pair on my 80’s italian single speed. Thick tires.Never flat! Hard to put on but worth it. Cost you about $40 a pair. Money well spent

  19. John Smith says:

    I am intruiged to hear that the LHT will fit a 45mm (that means the cross-check as well likely) add that to my X-Mas list… I am going to get a pair of the innova 35x700s and test the skinnier version – but since I have bikes at either end of my train ride I get to compare two tires every day (Nokian Hakka W106 on the north end bike / Innova Tundra (Smushy) Wolf on the south end) the Hakkas cost double but they last double and in the process of wearing them out you keep a sharper cleaner looking stud for more of the useful life of the tire (thus more secure). The stud tips on my Innovas look like each one was hammered into a semi-formed flat-headed mush. Granted, they do still grab the slippery stuff – but not as well (or as efficiently as the Hakkas)…

    Oh – and the point about inverted tread tires. Love them – for all you 27 inch rollers with your old school Raleigh Olympians and Libertas (the original LHTs 🙂 check out the Cross Terra from Club Roost – they are cheap and they are the only capable CX tire which I could find to fit the old 27 inch roadies. If you buy them and don’t like them – send them to me and I will ride them for free! (with disclosure to the FTC of course)

  20. Joe says:

    I use studs in the snowy months, but for the rest of winter I have been using WTB all terrainasaurus. They work well for my mixed trail/paved city commute. Plus they are cheap.


  21. Tim K says:

    I love my Nokian, 35mm 106’s. This is my second hard Wisconsin winter commuting full time and they have never let me down. I fallen twice this year and both times my feet were on the ground, not the pedals! 16 inches of snow and 35mph winds and the Nokian tires got me to work.

    I have ridden Specialized All Condition tires and found them great for my road bike during the damper fall and spring. I have never had any problem getting Specialized Armadillos on my bike. I am running the 23/25 Armadillos as my regular road tire. My commuter is going to be running Panaracer Urban Maxes this coming year after the Nokians come off.

  22. Johnny says:

    No mention of the Conti Gatorskins? They set the standard for commuter tires IMO, I’m surprised you left them out.

  23. I’d second Johny’s question regarding the Gatorskins- awesome puncture protection for road only use.

    I’d like to throw another road tyre into the mix as a roadie- Schwalbe Durano’s. You can ride over glass without a worry and i’ve even road raced on them in the driving rain. They’re my personal choice for winter, commuting and training in a cold damp wet British winter

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