Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tires and a Tale of Vehicular Assault

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by Mark V on Dec 28, 2008 at 10:15 PM

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So after the biggest snowfall in Seattle this century (of course, we have time for bigger records), I can give my review of studded tires in the form of Schwalbe’s Ice Spiker Pro.

The Ice Spiker Pro is a folding, 26” XC tire with 361 sharpened spikes, one in each lug of the tread. And they cost around $140 EACH. That’s pretty extreme, and for many riders this tire is, frankly speaking, overkill. A commuter in most areas will not need the aggressive tread to ride over plowed streets. You’d probably do better with Schwalbe’s Marathon Winter, a 26x1.75 low-profile tread with 200 studs per tire, since the rolling resistance is lower but you’d still get adequate grip on slick ice.

However, if you actually ride trails in the winter, or if you live in a place where it snows but the municipalities don’t plow (hey, you mean like Seattle?), this Ice Spiker tire is the shit. Studs can only help you on ice, so you’ll also need an aggressive tread to bite into the snow. The widely-spaced lugs readily shed snow, and the wider 2.1” width gives you better float. Some people will say to run a skinnier tire at a harder pressure to get through snow, but that only works if the snow is light and thin enough for a tire to get to the ground. Otherwise, built-up snow is a lot like riding in a golf course sandtrap, where it is all about keeping momentum and floating.

Among tires in its class, the Ice Spiker Pro is outstandingly light due to its folding bead and its lightweight studs. Better quality studded tires use tungsten cored studs that don’t dull easily with use, but the Spiker Pro sheaths the cores in aluminium to reduce weight. As a consequence, the Spiker Pro (695gr claimed) weighs more than 150gr less than the narrower Marathon Winter that has barely half the number of spikes.

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What’s it like to ride these tires? Well, over the broadest range of conditions including snow (powdery to slushy) to black ice with some real trails thrown in, this tire is a superb tool. You will not need to fear packed snow that has turned to ice, but you still have to ride hard in challenging condtions. This tire will allow you to climb out of icy ruts, but you still have to work the bike with skill. It will roll over and through snow without accumulating it on the tread, but it will not turn powder into packed snow. Just like on sand, one has to run the tires at low PSI to improve float on the soft stuff, and the effort of even shorter rides in the snow is far greater than normal.

Tuesday night’s ride to Byron’s from Belltown was one of the most aerobically intense efforts I’ve done all year. He lives at the top of a tall hill, and by the time I got there I was drenched in sweat despite the chill temperatures. Only 2 other groups made it to the Xmas party and one was Byron’s nextdoor neighbors and the other group walked up the hill rather than drove. You can see the video of me arriving in Huggercast#77. What you won’t see in the video is my return trip after midnight where some whitetrash in a sedan deliberately tried to run me off the road along Harbor Ave.

The Ice Spiker Pro tires certainly proved their worth when I stayed upright after the asshole tried cross check me into a parked car. In fact, he probably failed to do it proper because his car didn’t have adequate grip to bump me hard enough without spinning himself. So I stayed upright and in control so that I could read his license plate and call the cops. Of course the cops didn’t put an APB out on the guy, but I am looking at the big picture and figure that a c*** like that will find his karma someday. And when he has to plead his case to the judge, my charge might just tip the scales against him.

So there you have it: the Ice Spiker Pro is a force for justice.

Oh, yeah. The license plate is WA state 290 XXE. Young, white, male, stupid.

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Comments: 6

I’ve never actually heard Mark breathe that hard and was impressed—also note those tires look like something off the set of Mad Max and would find use NOT for Mark to climb Seattle’s hills in the snow, but as a torture device.

With the winter conditions we’ve been having in Ottawa so far, I’m definitely not risking my life on a bike, studded tires or no.

I’m looking at you, Mr Hardcore Cyclist who forced me off the sidewalk and into a snowbank the other day, because the streets were too narrow for both cars and bikes during a slushtastic rushhour.

  Ice Spiker Pros are the best on ice covered streets and hard packed snow, like the roads in Saskatoon. It’s like that for 5 months of the year here, so, it’s a good investment if you commute every day.

Make sure your lit-up and take your lane, all of it.

Pete

I live somewhere it snows a lot, plowing is an afterthought, and the roads are never ever salted. I also commute on the order of hundreds of miles a month year round, I last drove in July. For commuting, Schlwalbe Marathon Winter period.

I commuted from north-of-Greenwood to Belltown in Seattle (about 7 miles each way) several days during our latest snowstorm.  I was riding on Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 tires on my 29er.

The Hakkas are much less aggressive than the Ice Spikers, with two rows of studs that hit the ground when you’re upright, but without the side-aimed studs that pull you out of ruts.  I was able to get there with no problem, and with considerably less effort than I’d anticipated—I was riding slowly, since I didn’t know how much grip I really had, and didn’t want to find out in an emergency stop.

The biggest problem I had, riding down Greenwood/Phinney/Fremont avenue, was traversing car tire tracks, which left lovely frozen edge-traps.  When I got going too fast, they threatened to spill me, but at low speeds (10 mph and under), it wasn’t a problem.

The most impressive trick I pulled with those tires was to climb from Fremont and 36th up 36th ave, which must be on the order of a 10% grade.  Each pedal stroke revealed the slightest bit of slippage until I shifted my weight back a bit.  Then, it was like riding on (slightly lumpy) dry pavement.  Amazing.  I would have fallen on my face if I’d tried doing that on foot.

I’m very glad I got a set of the Hakkas, and recommend them (or any set of studded tires, really) to anyone who has to ride in the slippery stuff.

I have run through two Boston winters now with my Hakkapelittas 106’s. They are a good all around tire for a 700 x 35 size. My commute is 8 miles, takes me 30 minutes in the summer, but in winter it takes 40 with the studded tires, and up to 45 minutes if there is snow. Intersting for me is that I do best in brand new snow. Automobile packed snow is treacherous. Ice has to be acknowledged, and feared, but I have yet to take a spill. I ride every day. I have yet to drive a car to work in 2 years. In and around Boston, bikes are often more time saavy than cars due to crazy congestion.

I just bought a pair of Marathon’s from Schwalbe (26” and 200 studs). I’ll let you know which I like better.

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