VEE Snow Avalanche 27.5×4.5 and stud kit long term review
I’ve had the opportunity to spend the winter testing out the new 27.5×4.5 Vee Snow Avalanche tires, along with the stud kits that are also available through Vee Tire Co. The frozen dirt season was just wrapping up when I mounted up the tires on my 2019 Salsa Beargrease. I had been using the 4 inch Vanhelgas, which have been my go-to tire for a couple of years, but I was very excited to try the flotation of these new supersized shoes! In addition to the monster truck capabilities, I wanted to see how these tires fared for everyday life. Deciding to leave the tires on all winter didn’t come easy for me because I like changing out tires to match conditions. It’s been a while, so (here) is the link to check out the first look article about these tires.
The morning after I mounted the shiny new set of ground grabbers, I dipped out of my garage to cruise across town the 8.01 miles it takes for me to get to work. A mist hung over the asphalt city trails, and the thermometer read 28 degrees. There were no problems for the first 7 miles- I was cautious of the light glaze collecting on the road like a hot donut, but traction was just fine. A wide, flat profile was keeping plenty of the silica compound rubber in contact with the ground. As usual, I wasn’t thinking much that morning- maybe something about how nice my new windproof pants were (total splurge for commuting pleasure!) Anywho, I began to lean into one of the only tight corners on my route. Some weird time-space barrier was broken and I went directly from upright to an admirable hockey puck impression. That’s what you get for falling asleep in class, kids! My new pants became much less new that morning, same as my new gloves.
Handily, these tires happen to come equipped with, like, a bajillion and a half little holes for studs. (They can be purchased pre-studded) Some messages bounced around on the interwebz, and Vee dropped a couple stud sets in the mail. I haven’t been able to dig up much helpful information on the studs, but it seems that their only option is a conical tipped carbide stud with an aluminum base. This was a normal offering a few years back, but with the introduction of concave, triple pointed, super mega xl studs from other brands, round studs aren’t anything to write home about. That said, regardless of style, all studs can help a ton. From what I can tell, the stud kits go for about $60usd for a pack of 250 studs and an installation tool. That lines right up with the price variation between pre-studded and non studded tires. I wanted to fill all 254 stud pockets in each tire, and the packages each had a few extra studs from the claimed quantity of 250. Installation wasn’t too bad. The worst part was cleaning out the dirt from each stud pocket. I found the included installation tool was relatively comfortable, and gave good leverage for working the studs in.
I was able to rip around on some chilled dirt for a few weeks before I sat down with the stud kit from Vee. Overall, I was happy with the grip of these tires on dirt. They don’t have the bite of big widely spaced knobs like a Vanhelga, Nate, or Bud and Lou. What they do have is an absolutely massive contact patch from the 27.5×4.5 casing holding a ton of medium sized knobs. This makes for a plenty capable bushwacking setup. The smaller tightly spaced knobbage makes for a pretty smooth ride on hard surfaces. After the initial spin up, it wasn’t hard to keep good momentum. Through the course of this test, I never felt like I was slowed down by the tread pattern or casing, which is a lot to say for a tire this big.
On twisty trails, I’m not a fan of bigger wheels. On the skinny tire side of the fence, I race on a 27.5×2.25 full suspension. I’m a pretty average height. 5’10” on a really good day. Smaller wheels are totally my jam when things get twisty. As an aggressive rider, I found these specific tires to be a little bit awkward. Due to the square profile, there is a steeper transition than normal from upright to cornering. Something like that is manageable with a standard 26 inch fatbike wheel, but the extra weight hanging out further from the hub requires more convincing to lean over at speed. My solution was to really push through corners, but I struggled to trust that steep transition. My point is, these aren’t nimble. They are big tires for big jobs.
Speaking of jobs, I accidentally rode my fatbike to work all winter. At 12psi, cruising across town was surprisingly easy with the tightly spaced tread blocks. I have a beater bike that was scheduled to be the main winter steed around town, but monster trucking home after a fast morning commute was just too hard to resist! Rounded studs don’t drag as much on pavement as their aggressive counterparts, so they worked great for commuting. I put a lot of pavement miles on this winter. Out of a total of 665.6 miles(per the strava machine) I think I was on pavement for all but 150-200 miles. I was surprised by how little wear the studs and tires had from so much pavement time. All of the studs stayed in place, with the exception of one that somehow tipped in its pocket (pictured here) The tips of the center rows of studs in the rear tire did wear down a bit, but they could easily last a few more seasons just like this one before I would consider replacing them. Rubber wear was minimal, some of the mold lines were still visible on the front tire. There is an option that will be available for the MultiPurpose Compound (MPC) instead of the silica compound that I tested. The MPC is designed for longer wear life and better puncture resistance and durability. I don’t see that being an issue with the silica compound, and I was really hoping to see an option for Vee’s Pure Silica Compound (PSC) which has been tested by Fat-Bike.com in other tire sizes and found to be both grippier and faster rolling in cold weather compared to a standard rubber compound.
To test the expedition-worthiness, I had a big ride on my mind. I was going to get on a state trail near my house and ride to a town about 35 miles away for lunch, and then cruise back home. The idea was to catch the trail before it was opened to snowmobile traffic, but after it had been groomed. The perfect weekend came along and I was ready to go, but had to roll alone because my idea of a fun ride isn’t shared by many. Rolling solo meant that a few miles of trail leaving town were going to be untouched snow. After a whole bunch of swearing and dumping air pressure, I hit the sweet spot at 1.5psi. Once I hit groomed snow, I was back up to 6ish pounds and cruising along. A fresh layer of fluff on top got deeper by the mile, and soon I was back to 1.5 psi. These tires love airing down and going straight! The going was slow, but I was still making good progress in what eventually became 4” of fresh sticky white stuff. Now is when the weird textured area between knobs came in. Snow would build up on that surface and grip the white stuff on the ground better than rubber itself can. The size and shape of the 4.5” Snow Avalanches really shined on this ride. I had to call in the sag wagon after a freehub failure, but I had really been looking forward to continuing my ride. These conditions were perfect for the tires!
My local trail organization started grooming our singletrack this winter. Conditions were pretty amazing almost the whole winter! Though I didn’t get to ride the sweet trails as much as I hoped, It was a treat when I did on the Sn’avalanches! A few times it got so packed that some tires struggled to get good traction. The combination of studs and decent sized side knobs worked well on those days, but I still didn’t trust the hard cornering abilities. Or maybe I just don’t trust myself!
At the end of the test period, the tires hadn’t measurably changed in height. The width did increase by 3.5mm bringing the casing to 110.5mm (4.35 inches) and the tread to 109.5mm (4.31 inches) measured at 8psi. On my 2019 Beargrease with the stock 80mm rims, the front had plenty of clearance. In the rear things did get a little tight, and the hairs on the side knobs would brush the chainstays at higher pressures. At trail riding pressure this wasn’t an issue, but there wasn’t mud clearance. Long term tubeless performance has been fantastic, there is plenty of rubber all around the casing to halt any seepage, and there is plenty of sealant left after a full winter of riding. I haven’t had any problems with air leakage at all. Almost all bicycle studs use the same pocket style interface with a tire. I will be looking for some more aggressive studs to replace at least some of the outer row of studs. Sharp studs are way cheaper than busted bones!
I would recommend these tires to someone who wants a fast-rolling high volume tire, but also wants a 4.5″ high volume tire. The unstudded versions of both compounds are priced at $115USD and the pre-studded versions go for $175. There is also an option for a wire beaded MPC compound tire for $80. These products are not yet available for purchase but should be out soon.
Check out more tires at VeeTire.com