Pop Rivet Ice Tires for Your Road Bike




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.



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    92 Discussions

    I have riveted several bike tires like this. I find rolling the rivet across a bar of soap lubricates it, making it much easier to to push through the tire.


    2 years ago

    Here is a real crazy idea for you. Years ago the trials bike/hill climb motorcycle guys used to hook peices of drive chain aound the tire and rim between the spokes for traction. Yes, it would add weight but, it might work for tractioncontrol for down hill offroad riding. I live.in Southwest Washington state along the Columbia river. We get mostly rain at my elevation so traction is rarely an issue. Just need webbed feet is all.


    2 years ago

    Here is a real crazy idea for you. Years ago the trials bike/hill climb motorcycle guys used to hook peices of drive chain aound the tire and rim between the spokes for traction. Yes, it would add weight but, it might work for tractioncontrol for down hill offroad riding. I live.in Southwest Washington state along the Columbia river. We get mostly rain at my elevation so traction is rarely an issue. Just need webbed feet is all.


    2 years ago

    As an idea towards the longevity of the studs,might i suggest using stainless steel riviets and wasbers? That stuff is incredibly wear resistant. As for the washers don't be to quick to buy the ones that are sold by the rivets. They may fit too loose around the body of the rivet. It may be better to buy the rivets that are found in the nuts and bolts section of the hardware store or a bolt store. Don't let the nit picky nay sayers get to you. They are nust jealous they didn't think of it first.

    I just finished this procedure on a pair of 26x2" MTB tires and they work great.

    Predrilled all the holes with a 7/32" drill from the outside of the tire. I found that if I didn't predrill, pushing the rivet from the inside of the tire could rip the nub on the outside.

    At first I didn't line the inside of the tire with another tube, and instantly got a flat... now both tires are lined with old tubes. Problem solved. These are loud on the road. Took it out on a pond and the grip was surprisingly good.

    Overall the task was quicker and easier than I though, and the result really is quite good... But it'll be amazing if anyone actually reads this post by making it past all the flaming comments about how someone reading a dedicated DIY site should just buy studded tires.

    1 reply

    I'm going for the predrilled route, glad I found someone else who trailblazed it already for me! Good call on the spare tire as a liner, I'll have to do that.

    Oh dear Lord... I went and read all of the comments on this 'ible and practically died of trying to figure out why people have to argue about stuff on this site. It's a site for DIY, not debates and tangents

    Thanks for the instructable. I normally don't ride in the winter, but I couldn't wait to get riding this year. I did this for my SS Cross bike.

    A lot of our city side streets will have mixed pavement, ice, and packed snow for long periods during the winter. Other roads will clear up after a few sunny days, and be bare cold pavement. It is nice to have a tire that can handle the mixed surfaces, without alot of rolling resistance on the dry.

    First off, I only did one tire for my bike, the front. This is a skinny 30c cross tire. I feel the front is the most critical to keep a bike upright when you hit slippery stuff. I can live with the rear slipping once in a while. I cut off the outermost knobs, and placed a rivet every 5th knob, making 20 per side. The knobs are about 4" apart along the circumference of the tire. The opposite side is staggered. When the tire is at or near full pressure, the rivets/washers do not make contact at all going straight on dry roads. If you hit crusty packed snow/ice the rivets make contact. If you are turning, the bike starts to lean, and the rivets make contact. The rivets are at about the same height as the knobs, so they don't really seem to interfere with cornering on dry surfaces. You hear them clicking, but they don't seem to affect the traction (on dry).

    On pure shiny ice, I would want more studs, and on the rear, too. But for the mixed condition roads, this is just right. Today, we had fresh snow. I found that lowering the tire pressure helped for that. This is cool, I just learned that biking in the winter can be fun.

    I have a blog, and I am going to start a series of articles on thrifty bicycle tips. I will feature this instructable in one of my first articles. Check it out at http://millcitycycle.wordpress.com/ .


    Is the cutting of the knobs necessary? because i forgot to do that part

    An idea for you.. Maybe a little bit of that Slime stuff would be a good addition. It would certainly seal any small holes that leak around the rivet up I bet. Just an idea!

    1 reply

    that would only be necessary with a tubeless tire like on cars. Most bike tire still have an inner tube that holds the air.

    Update: Have done a few test rides on pavement, dirt and on an ice (a frozen pond) and here are a few thoughts. 1) These work AWESOME on ice. Rode on a frozen pond for an hour without even slipping once. Great traction, it felt like riding on packed limestone. 2) These are wobbly and weird on pavement when descending at speed, and overall lousy on clear pavement. 3) I lost a few of the washers, but it has made no difference as far as traction. Actually, without the washers the tires look more like store-bought studded tires. 4) No flats (knock on wood)! The main thing is that riding on frozen ponds, lakes and streams is amazingly fun, stable, and just plain rad. I had a sh*t-eatin' grin on my face zipping around that pond. Of course, take your speed at 70% tops, and take her easy on turns, but overall not too different from normal traction. Thanks again for the clever instructable.

    Hi, thanks for the idea. I just finished the rear tire and I'm halfway done with the front. It is time-consuming, but a fun project. I used 43 rivets in the rear, and will have 80 something up front.
    Testing out the rear, I would recommend some strips of duct tape lining on the inside for a few of the uglier rivets. Some rivets leave a tiny sharp end on the inside, but most are flush and are causing no problem.
    I live in Maine and we have a few months of icy roads ahead. I ride on dirt roads often, and ice is particularly bad on those. This project appealed to me because I saved a ton of cash compared to buying new studded tires, plus I had some of these materials laying around, and cross tires I never used much.
    I took a nasty spill on ice last winter while going very slow, so I hope these help. I'll try to remember to post a follow-up after I use them for a while. Great idea. Cheers!

    The way I was tought to do it(by my barber, a life-long cyclist) is to take quarter inch sheet metal screws and screw them into the tread at regular intervals, line the inside of the tire with duct tape just in case the screws rub against the interior, and slightly overinflate the tire before use. I later was inspired by the idea to take an old pair of work boots and screw some quarter inch sheet metal screws into the tread, making them pretty effective for gripping on ice, or any sort of slippery substance that can get spilled on the ground at work. Just don't forget to take them off before walking on any sort of wood floor, or any other material that could be easily damaged.

    i like this idea a lot. i have a beater bike i've been wanting to use, so maybe i can try this on it. i dont have a rivet gun, but i can figure something out. well done.

    4 replies

    A word of advice on cheap pop-riveters, since I've owned dozens over the years -- buy the best you can afford, and ONLY ones with a brand name you know (Bostitch, Arrow, Swingline, Craftsman, Stanley etc). If you decide to go cheap figuring it's a one-time use, then at least buy somewhere locally and MAKE SURE YOU CAN RETURN IT if it doesn't work after ten rivets. I'd never buy one via internet or the mail, since the aggravation and cost of mailing back a bad one is silly for something this cheap. In one of my businesses, we put together portable toilets, with about a hundred pop-rivets in each them. I started with a cheapie riveter that actually worked great until I lost it. The next few cheapies (Chinese or Korean) were awful -- either the rivets got jammed every 3rd or 4th one and took forever to clear out, or the cheap steel inside wouldn't pull hard enough to set the rivet. Eventually I bought an air-riveter, but my drivers usually carry hand-rivet tools for repairs on the road. Sometimes, though, they;ve had to just go buy one because it was faster than cheaper than going back to the yard. Over half the cheapies they bought (sometimes that's all that were available) ended up in the trashcan the same day. One warning, though -- KEEP YOUR RECEIPT! Occasionally, even one of the name-brand ones will give you problems, and you need to make sure you can conveniently return the thing. A good-working riveter is a marvelous thing to own; one that's got quirks and problems will make you insane. You can, though, usually get by with some junky, cheapie rivets themselves, as long as you have a good rivet TOOL. You'll also find that the "backup washers" they sell for most rivets (very handy in plastic materials) are grossly overpriced, and you can just buy the same size washer in bulk for a fraction of the price. Pop-rivets are so neat and handy that it really isn't worth p***ing yourself off at them by starting with a junk riveter when most people, even kids, blow the price of a decent tool in a day goofing around at the mall. A good one will last most people for a lifetime, and you'll be amazed at how many useful fixes you can do with them, especially after you discover all the neat, oddball specialty rivets available -- not usually at your local store, but readily available on the internet. They have brass, steel, aluminum, stainless ... threaded ones, etc. And if you see one at a yard or garage sale ... test it first. Even a good one can eventually wear out, though it takes quite a lot to do that. If you get seriously into Pop-riveting, there is a step up from the usual name brands, one that's made primarily for industrial use, like on aircraft. Most of those are put together with air tools, but apparently they still use hand-tools on occasion. Most are made by one company whose name I forget, but the really upscale tool distributors like SnapOn and MAC carry them with their own name on them. They can run 40-60 bucks, but if you sometimes spend an hour putting in rivets, or use the heavy steel rivets, they're well worth the upgrade. So much for pop-rivets ... As far as whether it is appropriate to urge people, on Instructables, to go buy something rather than build it ... I have no problem with that, and I'm one of the cheapest guys around, and would usually much rather spend a couple of hours making something that satisfies me even if I could buy something similar for twenty bucks. And I'd never lower myself to work for ten bucks an hour ... it's just the satisfaction, along with saving a few cents. Not being a bike rider anymore, I don't know whether it's really safer to buy the factory tire with all those traction rivets, but i think those that point this out ARE making a valid point. There's nothing wrong with fiddling about and trying to put rivets in a regular tire as long as you realize it's a risk, and probably not nearly as good (also read: "SAFE") as something made for the job. I think that's all the "Buy It In A Store" guys were trying to say, and I respect their opinion. I've made my own tire chains for tractors and lawn mowers, by cutting down used car-tire chains, which work fine -- but I'm not risking them at speeds where I could get injured, either, if they failed. Considering the speed some of these bikes go at, this is a very valid point, I believe. Some things you can make for yourself, but a little warning light should be blinking at the back of your brain. I've made explosives to clear stumps, and homemade firearms & fireworks just for fun. But we have to realize our limitations, and act accordingly. The 12-gauge made from gas pipe works -- but i wouldn't depend on it for self-defense against a burglar. And if I made a home-made studded bike tire, I'd first be testing it on some very safe courses at some appropriately LOW speeds, with no dangerous obstacles. Just my two cents.

    I'm old enough that I remember when if you bought something more expensive it meant it was better.  Also when a brand name meant something. 

    Now these things don't seem to matter. Companies lease out their name for products made by someone else or slap their name on something made in China for the lowest possible price.

    I think you're right about buying something local that has a good return policy. That's probably the best way to go.


    I've got one of these riveters and I know it works great, however, I absolutely agree with you about cheap tools. My particular case is that I'm in college and moving every 12 months, so if I were to buy nice tools ($30 versus $6) and lose it when I was moving it would suck. When I graduate, have my own house and know I'm not going anywhere, and then my cheapie breaks I'll probably replace it, but for $6 including rivets. . . I'm not sure you can beat that price when you consider that even the expensive riveter will only last X years before you lose it, break it or loan it to a friend. The other reason for going to the physical Harbor Freight store is that you can look at/try things out and see if they suck or not - ASK the people who work there, they're always helpful at my store and point me towards the stuff that works, they're never afraid to say that some is bad or they they get lots of returns. The other cool thing is that every store carries absolutely everything they have on the web, when you walk around and realize that you can load an entire cart full of tools for $50 that would cost you $500 anywhere else, then take them all home, misuse, destroy, loan, cut in half all of them and not even feel bad at the end of the day :-) Finally, my $0.02 - don't kill yourself on your homemade tires riding down hills at 40 mph, however, if nobody ever tried anything different where would we ever come up with new products? I would put a lot of money down that the first pair of studded tires looked remarkably similar to the these, and if nobody ever built and tested the first pair you wouldn't have carbide impregnated expensive ones to buy today!