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.
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.