Studding Motorcycle tires

Studding motorcycle tires is a BAD IDEA. Do not install studded tires on a motorcycle unless you are prepared to crash. Prepare or update your last will and testament and tape or otherwise securely fasten a waterproof copy of your emergency contact information to your bike AND your helmet before rolling an inch on studded tires. This is no joke.

Tire Selection
The most important part of this process is the tire. The knobbier a tire is, the better it will do in fresh snow and slush. On the other hand, dirt specific tires have less of a contact patch and will not stop as well as a more street oriented tire on dry pavement and will also have less traction than a tire with more studs and surface area on compact snow. I decided to go with a 90/10 Kenda Trakmaster II DOT knobby. Mainly I got those tires because they were cheap and they were one of the few sets of matched knobbies I could buy. I also tried a 50/50 tire, but the casing was too hard to accept the stud. Some tires just wonít take studs.

In nearly 1000 miles, my tires show minimal rolling wear and the edges of the front tire are slightly rounded on one side from braking. This is due to the metal spikes sticking out of the tire- they relieve the individual knobs of a significant amount of pressure but also decrease the size of your contact patch and reduce traction on bare pavement. Keep in mind that reduced contact patch=extended braking distances and less overall traction, especially when cornering.

The studs I used for my tires are 13mm automobile studs. They are inserted using a stud gun attached to an air compressor. This is expensive equipment and I was able to get my tires done at the local tire shop instead for $10/tire. You may have to search for a tire shop willing to work with you. This is a generally easy project but it can be difficult to find the right dimensions for the studs to seat right. I took each tire in 3 different times for test studs before drilling all of the holes. My shop also used some kind of lubricant to help seat the studs that reduced the amount of knobs that had cracks around the edges of the holes. Using glue is not necessary.

I decided to stud about half of the knobs on my front tire to make it perform better on dry/wet pavement. I havenít noticed any problems with this setup but my minimum braking distance still increased about 30 percent from the original Bridgestone Trailwings. I studded every knob on the rear tire except for the outside edges. I figured if I ever got that far over on snow I was going down anyway and I might as well have the extra traction for emergency maneuvers on dry/wet pavement. So far the outside knobs still look new.

The diameter of the stud is just under 3/16Ē. I used a 3/16Ē all-purpose drill bit with a locking collar for the front tire and I wrapped the bit in duct tape for the rear tire after losing the set screw for the collar. I preferred the duct tape, but itís harder to set up. When drilling the front tire, the collar slipped once and the bit went straight through the tire. I repaired the hole with a string patch and trimmed it flush with a knife on both sides. If you drill a hole completely through the tire, do not try to stud it. It could rip the casing and ruin your tire.

I found that the perfect depth was exactly the length of the stud- from base to tip. This may differ from tire to tire but itís a good place to start. The rear tire was a harder compound than the front and required a little more time per hole and I had to stop the drill and roll the bit around to loosen up the rubber. To date I still have every stud; none have fallen out. The only way to remove a stud once itís in your tire is with a good pair of pliers. I decided that itís better to drill a little deeper and then do a couple hundred miles of pavement to seat all of the studs and wear the rubber down to the proper depth- just poking the tip out of the rubber.

These tire have worked out much better than Iíd hoped. The handling is definitely different due to the shape of the new tires and the studs track badly in rain grooves, but I can straight-line accelerate in the snow nearly as fast as I can on dry pavement in snow up to 2" deep. I have ridden in snow up to 10Ē deep with no problems at all. I actually prefer deeper snow to well-traveled snow. Traction is still shaky on compact snow but on ice, fresh snow, slush, and bare pavement the tires have performed beautifully.