Introduction: Pop Rivet Ice Tires for Your Road Bike

With the recent storms hitting the northwest there are a lot of bikers piling on the bus or even driving! Though you can order expensive European-made studded ice tires, you can also modify your own cross tires into effective ice tires with just a few dollars' worth of rivets. These tires will keep you upright on hard packed snow and glare ice.

There are other methods for DIY ice tires (like sheet metal screws in mountain bike tires), but these ones made with pop rivets are elegant and suited to narrower tires used on hybrid/cross/touring bikes.

Step 1: What You Need

A rivet tool.

An awl, or sharp poking thing (not a drill or blade).

A knife if you want to slice off tread blocks (not pictured)

Some steel pop rivets, long enough to reach through the washer and tread. The ones I used were 1/8" capacity, for a pretty ordinary cross tire. If you have very deep tread or puncture resistance layers in your tire you might need longer ones. I wound up using 33 rivets in my rear tire and 90 in the front.

Washers just big enough to fit over the rivet body--some are usually sold alongside the rivets.

Some cyclocross tires (not pictured) -- I got some off the used rack at my local bike shop. You want tires with some good tread to propel you in snow -- the rivets will help with ice and strong hardpack..

Step 2: Pick a Pattern

Look at the tread on your tire; it probably has a block pattern which repeats, and you should place the rivets in a pattern that divides evenly around the tire. On this tire the tread pattern repeats 90 times around the tire, and I cut off a knob on alternating sides of the tire every third repeat to put 30 studs in. Some tires are trickier -- my other tire had a tread pattern that repeated 67 times, which is prime. The pattern for that tire had to be adjusted a bit when it came back around to meet itself.

The studs should be placed a little off center, so that they contact a hard surface when rolling, but you mostly roll on rubber. That way you keep traction on paved surfaces, but the rivets can bite in when you are on ice.

With a cyclocross tire with little knobs, it can work well to slice of some of the knobs in the pattern to be replaced with rivets.

Step 3: Set the Rivets

Use the awl to start each hole. Work the awl around in the hole to enlarge it -- you are trying to push the cords in the tire aside, instead of tearing or cutting them like a drill would.

Then load up a rivet in the rivet tool and wriggle it through the hole from the inside of the tire -- again, you're trying to get it between the tire cords and not tear them. If this is too hard, try finding a bigger awl.

Finally, load a washer on the rivet body outside the tire and set the rivet. It leave a sharp-edged nub sticking up from the washer that is good at biting into ice.

Step 4: Enjoy!

Mount your tires (rivets sit flush in the inside, no need for a tube protector,) then get out and ride! The hard packed, icy bits of road are now the most secure to ride on. Be prepared for a lot of questions from the pedestrian set!

On riding in frozen conditions: Obviously studded tires are only a help and will not work miracles. It will still be quite easy to wipe out if one turns or brakes too aggressively. Riding on snow, whether on roads or not, should be considered a form of off-road riding, and carries all the risks that entails. Techniques you may have learned for off road riding will transfer well to snow as well. In general a 'smooth' riding technique pays off. Pick lines to avoid soft slush and do not cross ruts diagonally; on bumpy snow it helps to raise off the seat a bit and weight the pedals, so as to keep steady weight on both wheels. Watch that rim brakes will be much less effective when wet.
Craftsman Workshop of the Future Contest

Participated in the
Craftsman Workshop of the Future Contest