It didn’t take long: I installed studded tires on my bike on Tuesday, a mere two days after wondering about their value. My regular route was quite icy thanks to Tuesday’s freezing rain and I decided that I’d accept any drawbacks to studded tires in order to get the extra margin of safety.
After quickly considering a couple of options, I ended up getting a pair of Schwalbe Snow Studs from the MEC. They seem to be a good compromise for commuting in a Toronto winter because they ride almost like regular tires on dry pavement, and you can just lower the tire pressure a bit to get more spike->road contact on those messy days. They came in very handy on Thursday’s sloppy ride home, when I could definitely feel the extra grip as I turned onto a couple of side streets for the last leg of my ride. As an additional benefit, they have reflective stripes on the sidewalls, contributing to my goal of being as noticeable to motorists as possible. The only real trick is not to get overconfident; in any kind of marginal conditions, it’s pretty easy to get into trouble quickly.
There’s just one problem with this: my quest for safety has turned me into a law-breaker. According to my reading of the regulations, it’s just as illegal to use studded tires on a bicycle in Ontario as it is to use them on a car. There’s some question about the reasoning behind Ontario’s ban on studded tires, and the rule makes even less sense when applied to bikes. Surely a bike, even one with studded tires, causes less road damage than does a car weighing a hundred times as much. I’ve been thinking of writing a letter to my MPP—who happens to be the NDP’s Environment Critic—asking him to push for an exemption for bikes.