I have about a dozen pairs of Nokian studded tires. A couple sets of Extreme 296s (2.1"), a set of Extreme 294 29ers (2.1"), a couple sets of Hakka 300s (2.0"), a couple sets of Freddies Revenz (2.3"), and a set of Hakka W240s (1.9"). I mostly commuted on the old 296s and on the Hakka 300s. This past fall I picked up a set of Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires (2.0") for commuting and now that I have about a good 3 months of riding on them I thought it was time to post a few thoughts.
First off, they roll very well. They also weigh a ton. Getting them up to speed requires some effort due to the weight, but once humming along, they offer little resistance. Acceleration is similar to the 296s, but once rolling they are more efficient than any of my Nokains on the road. They are smooth and quiet too. Studded tires are always slapping a lot of metal on the road and they are loud and the vibration is noticeable. This is greatly diminished with the Marathons. Part of the reason is that with 240 studs, they have fewer studs than any of my Nokians (other than the W240s, obviously). The other reason is that the tread is less "aggressive" and better designed for road rolling.
They use a flat faced tungsten carbide pin in a steel mushroom-headed sleeve for the studs. Very durable, but not as light as the alu sleeved Freddies or Hakkas. The studs are about the same as the W240 tires, and pretty similar to those on the 294 and 296s. Stud wear is basically not an issue, ever. I have studded tires with literally thousands of road miles on them and with only the most superficial wear to the tungsten pin. The rubber usually cracks and the chords break down long before the studs are done. The Marathons have thick rubber side walls. This can be good or bad, depending. Some thick sidewalls get brittle and crack, while thinner side walls stay pliable. No way to tell yet. I have not lost any studs, but then again I never do on the road, even despite skidding a few times or going up or down curbs regularly (straight on- not diagonally).
Because they have fewer studs and less aggressive knobs, the Marathons do not grip quite as well as their more knobby and studly brothers. On sheet ice, the going is fine though stopping distances are slightly increased and cornering is a slightly more delicate operation. I have yet to crash or have my control compromised in any way due to this, but it took a few weeks to feel the tires out on ice and learn how they would behave. They are totally up to the challenge of any road work on ice, climbing or descending, provided there are not significant frozen vehicle tire ruts. What they give up in pure traction they more than make up in superior rolling ease.
One area that does suffer more is on snow that does not pack into a consolidated mass. Once snow is over about half an inch deep and does not want to stick together (kitty litter, etc), the lack of real knobs means you start to spin and slip on climbs, and steering suffers too. Even knobbier tires are in trouble in these conditions when the snow hits about an inch deep.
Overall I like them a lot for town riding in coastal Alaska. I commute all winter, in all weather. I will be keeping these and may buy more in the future. They bear a striking resemblance to Tioga's Farmer John's Cousins, but don't hold that against them.
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