Opinion: Is Buying Cheap Winter Wheels Smart?

By Martin Atanasov

Cheaping out often costs you a lot more than you saved. That’s especially true when we talk about winter tyres for your trusted bike. It’s an investment in your safer rides, and neglecting it may cost you dearly.

Why do you need winter tyres?

Summer wheels are made of a softer compound that offers higher speed and better traction when the ground is somewhat warm. When it comes to summer MTB tyres, the treads are smaller and are positioned in a much less aggressive way. Come winter, the ground, shockingly or not, becomes much less warm, and the soft compound used for summer tyres is much less trustworthy regarding grip and stability.

Naturally, like with your car, you need to switch to a harder compound that gives you extra grip during colder months, especially on wet and snowy terrain. For the bike, that means bigger treads specifically designed to provide you with excellent grip on muddy or hard trails, which can self-clean and allow you to keep your balance even when the ground beneath you is slippery and wet. This will not only make your riding safer, which should be quite enough but it will make you faster and more confident, and you will enjoy your rides more.

What to look for in a winter tyre?

Usually, it’s not that hard to get the right winter tyre. All you need to do is make sure it has a suitable hard compound that ensures you will stay on your bike even if the ground becomes softer and colder. Moreover, the aggressive knobs should be far more frequent on a winter wheel than on a summer one. This will ensure you will have enough grip to take sharp turns without sliding off the road or trail. Finally, good tyres have a unique thread positioning that guarantees mud shedding. Believe me, there is nothing more frustrating than having to clean your tyres from mud every two to three minutes. Everything else can’t be seen so easily without some help, so it’s better to stick to the brands you know. If you are wondering which are our favourite winter tyres, check out our dedicated article and find out what a good tyre looks like.

Winter cycling
Your two-wheeled friend also deserves a set of winter tyres, and if you want to stay on it and not dive in a muddy puddle on your first winter ride, you should definitely satisfy this need. © Profimedia

Why is getting cheap winter tyres for your bike a bad idea?

There are several reasons why you have to dig a little deeper in your wallet when going out shopping for winter tyres – and safety is at the top of that list. Cheaper tyres can betray your trust at a very uncomfortable moment, right when you need them the most. The worst part is that they have little to no quality control over what they put inside the rubber. In some cases, they even use old trucks or cars’ rubber to make bicycle ones, which, unfortunately, doesn’t give you the durability, quality, and trust you need to go down a slope with such tyres.

This aside, a cheap alternative will probably cost you even more, as it will wear out much faster, especially in cases where the tyre was produced of old and recycled rubber. Also, since the compound has already been “burned,” its durability is significantly lower, which will show in just a few skids. The knobs will wear out quite a bit faster, making the wheels pointless for your winter rides.

Furthermore, the grip heavily depends on the rubber compound, and using a cheap one will drastically reduce the traction that you will get. This, in terms, will slow you down, make you more uncomfortable during rides, and will drain your power significantly more.

Keep in mind that the tyre cost is usually tightly connected to the materials used to make it. So, sometimes, cheap bike wheels have a reduced number of knobs, which makes them far less trustworthy for downhill rides.

So, is buying cheap winter wheels smart?

In general – no. It’s an uncalculated risk that can significantly affect your riding experience, the ability to control your bike, and the energy required to ride. The only upside is that it’s a bit cheaper but the wheels are by no means the most expensive part of your bike, so why cheap out on something that is so important yet not that costly, to begin with? So give your trusted two-wheeled friend a nice gift. You know your bike deserves it, as do you.