Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Innova 700x35C Studded Tires

Back in November, I published a "first look" article on my newly mounted Innova snow tires. After having ridden them for only a few kilometer they seemed like reasonably nice tires: cheap, not too heavy, not too much rolling resistance. Since then I have ridden the tires for approximately 1500 km and my verdict is very different now. The Innovas turned out to be a bad investment for me.
...and after

The main reason for this are the steel studs. In the initial review I pointed out that steel studs have a reputation for not lasting long, and now I can say for sure: yes, they really don't. I admittedly rode more than usual this winter and a lot of it was not on snow or ice but just bare pavement. But the degree of wear just isn't acceptable. On the pictures you can see that a lot of studs have completely sunken into the tire. In addition, I have lost two studs in the front tire, despite following the manufacturer's advice to break in the tires by careful asphalt riding for the first 50 km1.

The studs on the rear tire have completely sunken into the tread

The problem is exacerbated by the overall low number of studs. 110 studs make for light weight and low rolling resistance, but on a 622mm tire they limit the performance on ice. I got a taste of that when -- somewhat foolishly -- I endeavored to ride over a bike path covered in snow that had been turned into ice by freezing rain. I quickly realized that this probably was not a very good idea but once you're on the ice there is not much you can do. So I kept going at a very slow pace, but after maybe ten meters it was over. Wham! The front wheel slipped and down I went. I landed on my behind and aside from a painful bruise no physical damage was done. The mental damage, a loss of trust in my tire, however, was quite severe. In my post-accident analysis I've come to the conclusion that 110 studs is not enough for riding on uneven ice on a 622mm tire. A 35-622 tire has a circumference of 2168mm, meaning that the studs are about 40mm apart on each side. On uneven ice that's definitely enough to take you down.

Do I have anything good to say about the tires? Well, they have a nice tread which works well in snow. And as long as the studs were still reasonably new they worked well enough for Montreal conditions. Because of the wear issues I can definitely not recommend this tire; however, if Innova would produce the same tire with carbide studs, like the very similar Suomi Tyres W106, it would make a pretty good commuting tire for urban conditions with infrequent ice. For next season, I will probably switch to something like the Schwalbe Marathon Winter with 294 studs. 

Product details:

Innova TR5263 Snow tire
110 steel studs
700x35C (37-622), also available in 700x45C
Price 40-75 USD

1 This is fairly common, however, even with more expensive tires from Schwalbe or Continental.

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