In the winter of 2015 the Boston area set a new record for snow fall. Seemed like every weekend we got another foot and a half. Roads got narrow as snow was piled into parking spaces, road surfaces became a combination of packed snow and ice. My own car was under about 4 feet os snow from late January until the end of March. My fixed gear became my mode of transportation, I needed tires that could handle anything.Nokian A10’s are some of the narrowest studded tires out there, with alternating carbide studs on the sides of the tire and a center ridge. They do print a recommended tire pressure on the sidewall, which is best ignored – I’ll get into that. They’re not light, they’re not supple, they’re winter tires. Forget all of your expectations about how you think a tire should ride and accept that these things will get you where you need to go.
When new they feel a bit waxy and stiff. Putting them on was easy, getting them to bead up took a few tries – be very picky about this part, I’ve sold these tires to a number of people, more than a few have blown the tire off the rim ’cause they didn’t bead up. Tire pressure is one of those things that you’re going to experiment with. Run the tire pressure high enough and you’ll only be on the center ridge while going straight, so they roll much faster. The studs at that point become a second rate fail safe, if you do hit black ice and the wheels start to slide out from under you, the studs will stop this on the late side. In the best case it’ll scare the hell out of you. It’ll probably be a skid and recover sort of thing, I’ve not gone down because of this yet… Let some pressure out and it becomes a different tire. On pavement they sound like a small dog running on a waxed floor, and you can feel the studs gripping the road. I won’t go so far as to say you have to pedal to get down a hill, but they’re not fast. On the other hand, when my town had a driving ban because the roads were covered with ice, I almost didn’t notice.
The problem with performance tires is that the ones I really like wear out in a few weeks. You really can’t say that about the Nokian A10’s, I’m going on my third season and they’re just starting to show wear. I’ll admit, I like wearing out performance tires ’cause I want to try the next thing. That said, the A10’s haven’t left me wanting much in terms of winter tires. 45North has some very interesting looking winter tires, but I’m just not willing to give up my A10’s.
I’ve learned a few things about riding on A10’s. If you need the grip of the studs, you need to lean the bike off to the side to really get the studs in contact. Climbing anything that’s both steep and icy is best done out of the saddle, swinging the bike from side to side. That’s my out-of-the-saddle style anyway, on dry pavement I can feel the studs gripping the road and slowing me down, on ice I can feel the studs grip and propel me up the hill. The one real caution I have is about going down hill. The A10’s have a single row of studs per side, and there aren’t enough of them when you start going faster. The result is a serious case of understeer. When cornering at speed you can feel that there are studs gripping, but between each stud the front wheel pushes a few inches to the outside of the turn. I put myself into a few snow banks this way.
If you live somewhere that has winter, and your bike has clearance for these, and you use your bike to commute or train in the winter, you should have a set of these.