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  1. #1
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    Thinking of Home-Brew Chains

    Hey all, I am thinking of home made tire chains for this winter's commute. I used studded tires in the past and my current pair is really worn. I fell once last year due to worn studs. I am a poor pharmacy school student so $150 on new tires is hard to swing.

    I'm riding a 26" hardtail with BB7s. I switched from slicks to some 2.2 knobby tires in late fall. I was thinking of something similar to this for the chain set up.

    MtnBikeRiders.com Blog Archive DIY Tire Chains

    Any additional ideas? Anyone tried this with success?

    I would probably leave the chains on all winter like I did with my studded tires previously, unless they are awful on pavement. My commute is pretty short 2-2.5ish miles one way depending on the route so I can deal with crappy rolling resistance/extra weight.

  2. #2
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    Worn out the studs? What brand. Chains seems like a horrible idea for any kind of pavement. Try for some used studded tires, would be your best way. Look for nokian or schwalbe only.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    Worn out the studs? What brand. Chains seems like a horrible idea for any kind of pavement. Try for some used studded tires, would be your best way. Look for nokian or schwalbe only.
    I rode on these for 5 winters, I don't think they were carbide tipped.

    Innova Studded Tire > Components > Tires and Tubes > Tires | Jenson USA

    I figured I could homebrew the chains for under $30.

  4. #4
    CB of the East
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    - Changing the tire would be impossible
    - Rolling over that lightweight chain would probably damage it, possibly self puncturing a tire. (see above)
    - I don't see how the smooth chain is going to dig into hard ice much more than the tire itself would.
    - I assume you have disk brakes
    - The fact that there are no commercially produced bike tire chains indicates that they might not work.

    No, never tried them, just being pessimistic.

    45 North also has carbide studs but they are spendy. The Nokian Mount & Ground are pretty reasonable.

  5. #5
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    I looked at the Mount and Grounds, the issue I had with them (and I could be wrong) was that the tread pattern looks similar to the Innova's tread pattern on my old tires and I hated them for the tread pattern in snow any deeper than an inch, and car snot crappy snow forget it, might as well walk.

    This idea came to me while shopping for new studded tires, I saw these and thought I could make a pair for a whole lot less.

    https://www.biketiresdirect.com/prod...raction-chains

    Edited for grammer issues
    Last edited by spazzy; 12-12-2014 at 09:43 PM.

  6. #6
    CB of the East
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    Oh, I guess somebody does make commercial bike chains.

    I have the M&G on one of my bikes. They are great on pavement, great on ice, OK on light snow over a hard surface, piss poor on deeper snow or melted semi packed snow (some of my ride in this morning) because they are too narrow. For mostly pavement with the chance of icy patches I run them at full pressure. If you know you are going to be on mostly ice I run them at lower pressure for more contact patch. I'm going on my 3rd or 4th year with them and they still look like new. Maybe 1200 miles on them? (ish)

    I'm going to go ride home on them right now

    I'll stop being pessimistic. What's the worst thing that can happen, you'll spend $15 on supplies and it won't work. (I can think of worse things but I promised not to be pessimistic.)

  7. #7
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    I have run cable chains on my pickups with great success, and old- school chains on the log truck and tractors, they make for a lousy ride and loose handling on pavement. Off road, or on unimproved roads they beat studded tires hands down. Tire tread pattern can make a difference though. Aggressive off- road tires can swallow the chain and really smooth tread can slip inside the chain.

    I admit I have my doubts, but I am fascinated. A $30 experiment is sometimes worth a try just to learn what doesn't work. The automotive "z" chains use a rubber band type tensioner on one side and a clip on the other which works well for quick removal and replacement. How do you figure you'll tension yours?

    It might be worth looking at the home-brew studded and tubeless post here as well, David C had some interesting thoughts on using set screws tapped into the lugs on an mtb tire.

  8. #8
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    I was thinking of zip ties around the rim similar to this set up to tension the chains.

    Name:  389794980_3e32b6959c.jpg
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    It would suck to change the tire, but I haven't flatted on the commuter in close to 1500 miles. In the off chance murphy's law kicks in I can lock it up and catch a bus/walk and pick up my bike later and change the tire at home.

  9. #9
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    Re: Thinking of Home-Brew Chains

    Get a bunch of 5-6mm carbide-tipped panhead sheet metal screws, screw them through whatever lugs you want, and trim down to 1mm or less showing if necessary. Take an old tube, cut it into a strip that will fit inside the tire over the screw heads, and rubber cement/vulcanizing fluid it in.

    Crude, but much more effective from a traction standpoint.

  10. #10
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    Thinking of Home-Brew Chains

    You could always make your own studded tired. Way back in the day (20 years ago) we made our own studded tires with screws and it worked great.

    Heck my buddy screwed and studded a pair of fat tires last year the exact same way we did in the past and only this time filled the tires with Stans and it worked flawlessly all winter.


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  11. #11
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by spazzy View Post
    Any additional ideas? Anyone tried this with success?
    Partial success. I made a set about 3 or 4 years ago and had mixed results. Can`t find the thread, but from memory, they did fairly well in snow, never tried them on ice. The biggest win was that they rolled way smoother than expected on naked pavement, with none of the "thun-thunk-thunk" that you get with tire chains on a car or truck. What killed the project was chain life. The cheapo chain I used wore out and let one of the crosses start flapping within two days. I bought better chain and was going to try again, but ran into a killer deal on a pair of studded Schwalbes before I got around to it, and never revisited that idea.

    In my case, the major PITA involved in mounting and unmounting would have probably put a stop to it also, but since you mean to leave them on all season, not a big deal. If you have any kind of hub brakes (including discs), you`ll be able to wrap all the way around, so won`t have to be so careful about where the sidewalls end, but even with regular cantis, there`s room. If you try it, I suggest tightening them with very little presure in the tire, then pump `em up to full presure after wrapping the chains- that was how I did it and it worked well. I also suggest using substantial chain from the start, of course
    Recalculating....

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by spazzy View Post
    I rode on these for 5 winters, I don't think they were carbide tipped.

    Innova Studded Tire > Components > Tires and Tubes > Tires | Jenson USA

    I figured I could homebrew the chains for under $30.
    The innnova tires are crap steel studs. Get some nokian or schwalbe with the carbide. They will last for years. Going on 5 and 6 years on 2 different sets of commuters. The nokian mount and grounds are like $ 50-60 dollars. Cheap. Over at least 5-8 years. Maybe try used?

  14. #14
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    Late January or early February, I plan to replace my cheap mtb. Not sure whether I will go 650b, or 29, or fat at the moment, but pretty sure it won't be 26".

    If this happens, I will have a pair of Schwalbe studded 26x 1.75 tires on the market with less than 400 miles on them.

    If you have convincing video of home- made chains in snow and ice, and on dry pavement, you might also have a pair of Schwalbe studdeds in the mail. Seems the least I can do to support innovation.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustedthrough View Post
    Late January or early February, I plan to replace my cheap mtb. Not sure whether I will go 650b, or 29, or fat at the moment, but pretty sure it won't be 26".

    If this happens, I will have a pair of Schwalbe studded 26x 1.75 tires on the market with less than 400 miles on them.

    If you have convincing video of home- made chains in snow and ice, and on dry pavement, you might also have a pair of Schwalbe studdeds in the mail. Seems the least I can do to support innovation.
    Right on!

    I am currently in the middle of pharmacy school finals hell, but I'm thinking next week I could tinker for a bit and have a set up and running.

    Its been 50F here in Wisconsin for about a week so there is no snow/ice left for testing but I'm betting mother nature will change that before too long.

  16. #16
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    Best of luck with finals. I just finished mine last week so I know how that feels.

    If I had any idea of how well studded tires and a working snowblower would keep the snow and ice away here in MI, I would have bought them much sooner.

  17. #17
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    Any progress? I'm still curious, and now my nephew wants my Schwalbes.

  18. #18
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    buy a cheap wire bead knobby and install Grip Studs (or the cheaper Chinese equivalent), or go even cheaper and use screws as mentioned above. With this method being as inexpensive and effective as it is, tire chains are just ridiculous considering how difficult they make it to change a flat.

  19. #19
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    Hey all, its time for a thread update.

    I've been doing some experimenting and I couldnt come up with a good way to tension the side cables. At this point I am deciding to forgo them. I zip tied the chains around the rim as pictured above.

    On the front tire I have 32 chains and the rear has about 20.

    I used #16 single jack chain, Menards had 10 feet for $3.12, I used about 18 feet total.

    Mother nature still isn't cooperating, its been warm and when it has snowed the snow hasn't stuck around to get packed down to ice.

    On pavement they are similar to studded tires, they handle pretty much the same as the knobbies only a bit heavier. They do make the nice clank-ity/buzz noise similar to studded tires. I haven't had any issues with the tires washing out on dry pavement.

    I have ridden them in fresh snow and they grip a bit better than the knobbies but no huge difference.

    I will post updates when I get a chance to ride on hardpack/ice or car snot and let you know how they wear on the pavement.

    At this point I am happy with their performance. I spent about $10 total on the project.

  20. #20
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    Any idea how they will hold up on the dry pavement?

  21. #21
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    Ive seen diy done just using zipties, rotate the clip around for a stud pattern, nothing to puncture, not easy to break and cheap.
    I just run medium pressure in the biggest chunkiest tyres i have to hand and generally stay upright but we don't get winters like the states.

    Give it death

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustedthrough View Post
    Any idea how they will hold up on the dry pavement?
    I have high hopes, but still not a lot of miles on them at this point (about 12 to be exact). None have broken yet and the chains don't show much wear.

    I am back in classes and my commute is 4 miles round trip a day, I will keep updating if I run into any problems.

  23. #23
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    Every time I see this thread I think someone is out in their garage making a hand-forged drivetrain chain, possibly out of bamboo!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    Every time I see this thread I think someone is out in their garage making a hand-forged drivetrain chain, possibly out of bamboo!
    I clicked on this thread for the first time ever just now. I thought they were making drivetrain chains as well... This is probably safer and less frustrating than trying that would be though.
    dang

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by NDD View Post
    I clicked on this thread for the first time ever just now. I thought they were making drivetrain chains as well... This is probably safer and less frustrating than trying that would be though.
    Hmm, a home-brew drive chain would be foolish given the cost of a good manufactured one. Are you and mtbexplorer making assumptions about Spazzy based on my frequent posting?

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustedthrough View Post
    Hmm, a home-brew drive chain would be foolish given the cost of a good manufactured one. Are you and mtbexplorer making assumptions about Spazzy based on my frequent posting?
    Nope. I just kept seeing it and think "What in the heck? That sounds like a disaster". Finally clicked on it, and I was surprised it was about tire chains, maybe partially because of how popular studs are. I think if it snowed here more I'd try some stuff from one of the DIY tire studs threads.

    Maybe if I just do it, then it'll snow... but right now it's January and it's been in the upper 40's or lower 50's for about a week now, and will be in the 40's for a bit (supposedly), so I'm just not getting too much motivation to be studdly right now.
    dang

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustedthrough View Post
    Hmm, a home-brew drive chain would be foolish given the cost of a good manufactured one. Are you and mtbexplorer making assumptions about Spazzy based on my frequent posting?
    So I should leave the garage now?

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rustedthrough View Post
    Hmm, a home-brew drive chain would be foolish given the cost of a good manufactured one.
    Aw, c`mon! Where`s your sense of adventure?

    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    So I should leave the garage now?
    Absolutely. Leave, pick up more beer, and come right back. Don`t be all day, now!
    Recalculating....

  29. #29
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    Sorry for the confusing title everyone.

    I think any attempt at a home made drive train would leave me weeping in the fetal position, no matter how much beer was available.

    As to the tire chains, I had them out on hardpack today in a plowed/packed down parking lot. They gripped really well and were pretty predictable when they did break loose. If they have the same performance on ice I would be very satisfied. Granted I was still cautious, even in the past on my commute with studded tires I was going much slowly and more careful navigating the turns.

    The only downfall I can see is if they prove to be not durable. If they could last November-March I would definitely run them every winter and forgo the $2.00 in zip ties to attach them every year.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtbxplorer View Post
    So I should leave the garage now?
    No, every project needs a voice of reason. Please stay, advise, and keep your cell phone handy in case an ambulance is needed.

    Spazzy, can we get a photo?

  31. #31
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    Hey all, its time for a thread update.

    I have about 250 miles on the chains (4-5 miles a day round trip depending on route) and some longer road rides. Here is my review of how the chains have been performing.

    On hardpack they are the bomb, traction galore. In fresh snow they are definitely better than just tire tread but they are only 2.1 inch tires so I dont get a ton of flotation.

    On ice they do suffer some downfalls, If I am leaning over to use the shoulder knobs I do tend to slip and I had one slow speed fall that may have been avoided. I've never been on a set of good studded tires so I can't comment if they would have kept me upright in that situation. Starting and stopping with the chains offer lots of traction but turns can be kinda sketchy, I slow down and take my time.

    On snow that has been driven on (greasy car snot) they aren't all that great, no noticeable differences from bare tread alone. This is where a fat bike would really help.

    On dry pavement they feel no different than regular knobbies. I have lost 3 or 4 chain cross members on the rear wheel only. They tend to fling right off, I noticed the first one today and then double checked my wheel and found I was missing a couple. To me this isnt a big deal, I can replace as needed and the cost is so low.

    I will probably run them another month or so, until all our snow is gone or it isnt consistently below freezing at night.

    Overall I am very happy with their performance so far this season, definitely worth the $10 I have in them

  32. #32
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    Have you had to fix a flat with them on?

    Sounds like they might be really sweet over a set of studded tires with wimpy treads.

  33. #33
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    I have not had a flat yet (knock on wood) the last flat I had on a commuter was in 2013. They would take about 5 minutes to remove and a good 20 minutes to put back on by cutting the zip ties that are attaching/tensioning them

  34. #34
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    Awesome, Spazzy! That`s the most successful of the few attempts I know of for home made chains. Yeah, surprising how little thump they giveon dry road. Any you`ve gotten a lot more miles out of yorus than I did. Must have used much better chain. For whatever its worth, I couldn`t find my original report here on mtbr, but I did dig up my short report with pics in the "home made studs" sticky on BFnet`s Winter Riding subforum. It`s post #53 here:
    Making Your Own Studded Tyres - Page 3

    Wow, over 5 years back already!
    Recalculating....

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