How to Decide if You Need Studded Fat Bike Tires

How to Decide if You Need Studded Fat Bike Tires

studded fat bike tires
$250-$300 for a single tire. Worth it?

Studded fat bike tires will run you $250-$300 A TIRE whether you buy them studded or stud them yourself. Some people will tell you they’re absolutely necessary. Others, like myself, say they’re not necessary.

If you’re a strong rider you can definitely go without them. However, if you do ride in constantly icy conditions or want extra piece of mind, studded fat bike tires give you an extra level of security.

In this article we’ll discuss what studded fat bike tires are, important considerations, what it’s like riding with and without them, and guidance on if you really need them.

How to Decide if You Need Studded Fat Bike Tires

What are Studded Fat Bike Tires?

Studded fat bike tires are similar to normal studded tires for your vehicle (only smaller and probably more expensive).

You can buy fat tires pre-studded. Or you can buy studdable tires (they are manufactured with stud holes in the lugs), buy your own studs, then stud them yourself with a special tool.

There is another option–drilling sheet metal screws through your tire. This is only for the most extreme DIY-er who isn’t concerned about effective performance and beyond the scope of this article.

Unfortunately, whether you buy studded tires or do it yourself, it costs the same.

More fat bike tires are coming out in “studdable” options. If you’re not willing to pay for the cost of studded tires upfront, these give you the option to add them later. When I was shopping for a new fat bike this year (ending up with the timeless 2021 Trek Farley 5) virtually all the bikes I looked at had studdable tires.

Aside from the cost, studded fat bike tires add significant weight. Maybe not such an issue with winter biking, but if you are a gram counter it’s something to consider.

Losing Studs in Dry Conditions and Pavement

One important fact to keep in mind is that studs can get pulled out in dry conditions if they are raked over roots and rocks. They can also be lost on pavement. Remember this if your bike trails experience dry conditions through winter or if you plan on commuting with your fat bike.

This winter here in Calgary we experienced an unseasonably warm stretch that melted all the snow, returning trails to summer conditions in early December. I know of a few people that rode their studded fat bike tires and lost 50 (or more) studs in a single ride!

That’s $50 down the drain, not including the time spent putting new ones in.

That being said, some people didn’t lose any, or very few.

If you do plan on riding dry conditions, really consider if studded tires are worth it. If you want the best of both worlds and don’t mind changing tires, you could run two sets of fat bike tires: one studded and one normal.

On pavement, you have less traction with studded tires because less rubber contacts the ground (the studs act as high points).

So, if you’re zipping down that fun downhill on your favourite dry street with shiny new studded fat bike tires, give yourself some extra braking distance.

Riding With Studded Tires

As a reader, it is important for you to know that I have not ridden with studded fat bike tires. I have ridden with studded cyclocross tires on my old commuter, and that experience is what guides this discussion. Stud performance is comparable across different tire sizes.

Studs do make a big difference on glare ice. Even on skinny studded cyclocross tires, I pedaled across smooth sheets of ice using clipless pedals with full confidence. Had I done the same on none studded tires I would have wiped out the second my front tire contacted ice.

But this doesn’t necessarily translate well to fat biking where patches of ice are often intermittent (unless you’re deliberately pedalling across a frozen lake). Even when patches of ice are continuous on a trail, it’s easy to walk your bike around them.

But studs do make a noticeable difference and will almost certainly prevent crashes if you aren’t paying attention, haven’t adjusted to less traction in winter, or are a beginner mountain/ fat biker.

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Riding Without Studded Fat Bike Tires

bontrager gnarwhal tire
Studdable tires have holes to put studs in, should you choose to do so.

In four seasons of fat biking I’ve never used studs or felt the need to. It hasn’t caused me any issues that would motivate me to drop $600 on a pair of studded tires. Where it has caused issues, like icy embankments, my friends with studded tires often experienced the same problems. Studs do provide extra traction, but not all the time.

Simply being cautious and monitoring freeze/ thaw cycles helps prevent many ice-related problems and surprise crashes.

The overwhelming majority of my fat bike crashes (and there have been several!) were because of fluffy powder, where studs wouldn’t have made a difference anyways.

I’m 220 lbs. and run around 3 PSI in my fat bike tires. I typically run tubeless as well, to cut weight and prevent pinch flats.

At that low of a pressure, 27.5 4.5” tires (Bontrager’s Gnarwhals) have a massive footprint and provide plenty of traction. Proper balance, weight, and paying attention go a long way to keeping your tires rooted. Studs are not a panacea. You will not magically power up steep icy sheets or send corners at summer speed. In some ways, they can make you a complacent fat biker because you don’t pay as much attention to your environment.

The area I spend most of my riding, the eastern slopes of the Rockies, experiences drastic changes in temperature and snow conditions throughout winter. Sometimes we get a big dump, other times the trails dry out and return to summer conditions. Sometimes it’s freeze thaw, especially in spring.

With normal tires I never have to worry about babying my studs in dry conditions. When the conditions are sketchier I know to look out for bad sections. Often times, on icy stretches, merely dropping my seat and getting a foot on the ground provides more than enough stability. And it’s much cheaper than a $600 set of tires.

How to Decide if You Need Studded Fat Bike Tires

Studded fat bike tires might be worth it if:

  • You want an extra safety factor
  • Ride in conditions with persistent sheets of ice
  • Don’t want to follow snow conditions
  • Have a history of upper body injuries from falling
  • Are just getting into biking

If you want the security of studs but are on a tight budget, you can get away with just studding your front tire. The majority of surprise wipeouts occur when your front end washes out. When your rear tire washes out the results aren’t nearly as catastrophic, so you can get away with having a normal rear tire.

Studded fat bike tires are optional if:

  • You’re a confident rider
  • Know your local trails
  • Follow snow conditions
  • Don’t mind paying closer attention to the trail

Plus, there’s something pure in having normal tires and coping with what you get.


The idea that you can’t fat bike without studded tires is a common one. But spending more on two bike tires than many people spend on a complete set of vehicle tires is a daunting prospect.

Take this information and make your own decision. If you bought a fat bike that is studdable, take it for a couple spins at low PSI and see if you really need to drop that $600.

Maybe studded fat bike tires will come down in price in the future. For now, you need to balance your personal benefits against their high cost.


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Marcie Leier
Marcie Leier
3 years ago

I rode my Fatbike for 2 winters and was firmly in the camp of studs would be nice but aren’t necessary… until this year. This year my husband and I got new bikes with studdable tires and decided to fill them up. GAME CHANGER. The last 2 seasons we felt like we really only missed having studs early and late season when there were lot us of freeze/thaw cycles. After riding with studs this season and looking back, I realize that we missed out on a lot more by not having them all season. First, we didn’t ride as much and waited for good conditions. That meant we only rode about 600 km of snowy single track each season. Second, it meant that we rode more cautiously, avoided the steep and technical trails, and spent a lot more time walking both up and down hills. All things that riding with studded tires have changed! So far this year, we have ridden over 800 km and we aren’t even half way through the season! Studded tires allow me to ride my fat bike in the winter on the same trails and in the same way that I would ride my summer trail bike. I’m able to ride with full confidence at full speed all of the same trails that I would ride in the summer and also know that I am going to stick the landings on drops and jumps. And that is really saying something considering that the trails here in Edmonton have been sheets of ice most of this winter. Too slippery to walk on but perfect to ride with studded tires! So, while I agree with your basic statement that studded tires aren’t necessarily a necessity, they absolutely elevate the winter fat biking experience and enjoyment and are 100% worth every penny (or dollar?). Fatbike Canada makes studs that are fantastic and much more economical than the big names. Also wanted to add that we have travelled to places like Jasper where the trails were rock and frozen dirt and rode many km’s, here in Edmonton we ride lots of rooty trails and wooden and cement stairs, and paved double track to get to trails, and I have not lost a single stud in over 800 km on my Gnarwhals. On the other hand, my husband lost over 40 studs in 3 rides in Jasper from his Cake Eaters. Since switching to Gnarwhals, he hasn’t lost a single stud either, so it could totally be the tire/stud combo if people find they are losing more than a couple per season. I’d be interested to hear if your opinion on having studded tires for your Fatbike would change if you had a chance to ride them over a month’s worth of conditions. Or maybe your location and the trails that you ride are what makes the biggest difference?

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