Who is it for?
For the price conscious bike riders who wants to cycle on icy and snowy ground without risking to make a fool of themselves while falling in front of a bunch of kids.
Chain Reaction Cycles is at the time of writing charging about US$ 60 for a 26×2.1 wire tire. Use the Google search field below to find the best prices.
Studs and knobs
The Schwalbe net site states that the 304 studs per tire are partly made of tungsten carbide (WC). According to Wikipedia the WC is an inorganic chemical compound containing equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms that is three times stiffer than steel. The pro version of this tire has studs with a WC core that is clad in aluminum. I guess the non-pro version of Ice Spiker doesn’t have aluminum spikes, but are partly made up of steel. Why? Because I have seen rusty studs, and aluminum doesn’t rust. Every knob on this tire, except for those on the side, has a single stud. Half of the central knobs are connected in pairs. The knobs are quite long, and the pairing of knobs prevent some of the deformation that happens when they are pressed against hard surfaces, and gives a little bit more grip on loose snow.
Installation and run in time
Installation is not a problem with these tires. They fall easily in place in the rim without too much hassle. It’s also fairly easy to remove the tires, just using your hands, or one or two tire levers. The studs need to be secured to the knobs. The way you do this is to do a run in of the tires of about 40 km easy cycling on asphalt without aggressive acceleration or breaking. If you don’t do this you risk losing your studs quite fast.
Ice and snow are not just ice and snow
Like every other tire you are using on your bike the choice of winter tire depends on where you are riding and how much you are willing to spend. The Lapp and Eskimo languages have over 100 words and expressions to describe snow, so you know that snow and ice can vary a lot. Ice can have different structures and varying degrees of slipperiness. Snow on the other hand can be loose or hard packed, have different depths, and a lot of other different properties related to temperature and age. Combine snow and ice, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to slip and slide.
To grip or not to grip, that is the question
To my experience the Ice Spiker is great on hard packed snow and most icy areas. If it has snowed a lot during the night it’s going to be a problem no matter which tire you are using. Small areas of 10-20 cm deep loose snow are doable, but passing long stretches drains your strength really fast. Loose snow over ice is not the best surface to ride on, because the knobs get packed with snow such that the spikes don’t reach down to the ice. Longitudinal inclined ice slopes are also of course somewhere you have to be careful.
Recently my tires slipped a place I really didn’t think they were going to. It was a quite steep slope upwards where the car tires had polished the ice. To my surprise the tires didn’t stick like gum on a wall to wall carpet. So like all tires they are not magical, but a compromise between a lot of different factors (weight, rolling resistance, stud length, type of material, construction, durability, price, and so on). For my use (back and forth to work on icy and snowy asphalt roads) they’re perfect!
Puncture really isn’t a big issue with winter tires. You are most of the time on ice or snow, and I haven’t heard about anyone getting a puncture from that, even on really sharp ice crystals . Often you want to reduce the air pressure on the tires to get a better grip, and that makes you as always susceptible to snake bites (pinch flats). That’s nothing new under the sun.
Studded tires are heavy. That is no wonder when you punch metal studs into the rubber. No matter how light each stud is, it’s going to weigh a lot when you have 304 of them. The Ice Spiker weighs a hefty 980 gram pr tire. If you want to travel light, go for the Ice Spiker Pro which only weighs 695 gram.
Rolling resistance and noise
These tires have a lot of rolling resistance and they produce plenty of noise on asphalt. But nothing beats rolling fast and silent on a few centimeters of newly fallen snow.
As long as you run the tires in for about 40 km when you start using them and don’t do stupid things like blocking your brakes on asphalt, the studs are going to stay put in the tire. If you mostly use them on snow and ice the wear in negligible, which means you’ll probably have these great tires for several seasons.
If you want stay reasonably secure while cycling on ice and snow, and doesn’t mind that each tire weigh almost one kilogram, there is no reason not to buy these metal rubber beauties.
If you have a problem with heavy tires, don’t want to cycle on snow and ice, or are more comfortable in front of a the burning fireplace than wearing 4-5 layers of insulation to keep the minus 20 degree Celsius outside, you’ll probably better off without these great tires.
Where to buy?
I usually buy my gear at Chain Reaction Cycles or eBay, but I’m often surprised by the speed and the price of local shops. If you want to find the cheapest prices – type “Schwalbe Ice Spiker” in the Google search field below: