A year or two ago one of our favourite purveyor of FatBike goods, 45Nrth, began offering studded versions of their Dillinger 4 and 5 tires. We’ll discuss those more in another post soon but we’ll say now that we like almost everything about them. To be more accurate we love everything about them functionally, we just wish the prices were lower (as it stands they’re getting close to $400 per studded tire for the 120 TPI 4.8″ versions).
Enter Vee Tire. They make a 4.8″ studded tire, the Snowshoe XL, that employs the same 120 TPI as the high end studded Dillingers and a similar though of course not exactly the same tread pattern. They also seem to be similar to less weight, though this is a bit in dispute. The packaging says the Vee’s are 1380 grams each, and the first one that we weighed to verify for ourselves was actually 5 grams lighter than that. However, the next one we weighed was closer to 1500 grams. That’s quite a difference BUT the comparable 45Nrth tires are over 1500 grams each so at worst the Vee tires seems to be roughly the same weight if not lower.
So, same TPI, same or less weight at the same size, and similar tread pattern (and stud count). Here’s the difference: The Vee’s are just $265 each. Yup, that’s about a $200 savings for a pair of the Vee’s vs. the comparable 45Nrth Dillingers.
But how do the two different brands really compare? Though the specs are the same the proof is in the riding, and although we’ve only taken the Vee’s out on a few rides so far we’ve been able to hit lots of ice, some smooth and some rough, and we’ve done a bit of snow climbing. In all of these conditions both the Vee’s and the 45Nrth’s seem to behave similarly. Traction is similar both on the snow and the ice, and both tire’s sidewalls seem equally supple. However, the Vee’s are a little noisier and rougher on smooth pavement. We’re willing to mostly overlook that difference though because we didn’t buy these tires for pavement riding and hope not to find ourselves in such conditions too often.
It’s hard to describe general tread characteristics. The 45Nrth’s may feel a bit faster and a little more nimble in the corners while the Vee’s may feel a bit more solid connecting with the terrain, but the differences aren’t massive.
It’s also worth noting that the Vee’s are tubeless compatible. While they wouldn’t seat tubeless without a bit of Stan’s fluid (we tried seating them ‘dry’ to a set of carbon HED 90mm rims and to a set of carbon Whisky 70mm rims, both of which are tubeless compatible) with the Stan’s sealant they sealed well. The 45Nrth tires aren’t advertised as tubeless ready but with a bit of Stan’s we were able to get them to seal without issue to the same two sets of rims, so once again both tires behaved similarly.
The biggest comparison question that we think remains is how the Vee’s studs will hold up long term, and we just can’t answer that yet. Although both tire manufacturers use carbide studs the 45Nrth’s employ a concave tip that actually gets sharper as it wears, thereby providing good grip even after much use. The Vee’s have a squared off carbide tip that likely gets rounded after use so it could provide less grip over time, though we’ve read in numerous places that stud grip has more to do with the metal contacting the ice in any way, shape, or form than it does with precisely what angle the metal contacts the ice at. Time will tell we guess.
Verdict: The tire tread, though similar, doesn’t feel exactly the same so some of the choice is going to come down to preference because it’s not really a matter of better or worse in this case. Okay, maybe we like that the 45Nrth’s feel fast, but both tires offer similar performance and one of them does it at a more attractive price. If you like the feel of the tread on the Vee’s there may be no reason to look elsewhere.