Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro Tyres
26x2.1 1060g £80.49 each
The Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro Tyre is described by Schwalbe as “The turbo of spiked tyres” and several wintry weeks down the line, I'm inclined to agree. I’ve run a few spiked models over the years and found all of them impressive when it’s icy and in moderate snow. However, when it comes to cornering and “handles like it’s on rails” confidence, the Spiker Pro wins by a country mile. That said, they are priced accordingly and it's worth checking frame clearances before parting with your hard-earned.
Pros: Phenomenal grip in wintry conditions, agile for bigger section tyre, lower rolling resistance than expected.
Cons: No 700c options, check rear triangle clearances, pricey.
Now, let’s talk spikes. There are 362 of them. The Marathon Winter Plus (which I’m still a major fan of) and the baseline Winter model have 240 and 120 spikes respectively, which should give some idea of the Ice Spiker Pro’s prowess). Ours were from the performance range, employing more basic steel spikes. Those fitted to their higher end stablemates are Tungsten Carbide for corrosion resistance and durability, although the cores are also clad in aluminium to save a few grams. Replacements are available and straightforward to fit, with the dedicated Schwalbe tool.
There are two versions- our wired Race Guard model, which has lower puncture protection and carries a few more grams compared with its folding tubeless ready stablemates. Both have 67TPI casings, which would account for the relatively sprightly ride quality.
There are three sizes. Our old school 26x2.10, 27.5x2.25 and 29x2.25. Nothing in 700c, so those of you with adventure and gravel bikes (not to mention some rough stuff tourers) will need to look elsewhere. 1060g is competitive by genre-standards too.
For context, the base (26x1.75) model tipped the scales at 978g each, Continental’s Contact Spike (700x42mm) is a claimed 950g and Kenda Standard 168 stud Klondike is cited as 920g. Recommended pressures are between 30 and 55psi, which offers scope for added traction, should things get seriously slippery.
Width certainly helps but they’ve slipped aboard the Ryde Andra hoops without resorting to tyre levers and a single, bog-standard budget nylon offering- oh and that’s with bitterly cold hands and –1. Oh, and as is good protocol with spiked
tyres, I bedded them in on clear, metalled roads before letting rip on icy stuff. Retro reflective sidewall logos are another useful safety feature with the added benefit of telling others why you’re still upright and hustling along frozen roads.
Test Bike/ Contexts
Ursula was the obvious choice but here’s where some compatibility hassles may present. Ursula is based around a late 90’s cross country mountain bike frameset and runs full-length guards for four season’s comfort and practicality. Long story short, insufficient room at the rear triangle and even sans guard, though not fag-paper things were too close for comfort.
1.95, not 2.1 including spikes was very much the limit. Therefore, I went for the Schwalbe Winter Plus (26x1.75) at the rear, Schwalbe Ice Spiker up front.
Ample room with the Carbon Cycles Exotic Fork and SKS Blumels Shiny Mudguard Again, this would’ve been a non-starter with Ursula’s original fork and full-length chrome plastic guard, so a consideration if you’re looking to fit them to a similar build. The test period has been –2 –6 degrees, taking in icy, untreated rural backwaters and modest snow.
Now, since we’re on the subject, there’s a fair bit of discussion surrounding whether you need a set of spiked tyres, with the front-end being cited as the best choice. Ok, so on my fixed gear cyclo crosser, I can only get a 32-35mm tyre in the rear triangle, so I’ve no choice but to go the front only route. Doing so will save me from a nasty collar bone, or similar braking fall but a standard rear tyre will still lose traction, so climbing icy hills etc is much more of a gamble.
Allowing for some minor increase in resistance and the audible gravelly patter, the Ice Spiker Pro ensured I could ride Ursula at standard pace along icy stretches- iced cowpats couldn’t cajole fault and the spiked shoulders meant effortless, dependable cornering. A bit of common sense is still needed at roundabouts, junctions and long descents carpeted in snow, but I’ve had no issues at 17-20mph and with progressive braking, they’ve never missed a beat.
A rogue rabbit caused me to brake hard on once icy bend, but the Ice Spiker Pro just bit deep and I to a sharp but controlled stop. Worth mentioning I’ve run them at 55psi most of the time - even at 430am with the mercury at minus 5 they’ve delivered a perky but planted ride over lumpy, bumpy battle-scarred tarmac. Black ice hasn’t called their bluff either.
A revelation coming from the lowlier but still very competent Winter, and Continental’s Nordic Spike, which can be spotted between my fixed gear winter/trainer’s fork legs. Though there’s no doubting the reassuring “crackling” patter of those spikes, they do increase rolling resistance slightly. It’s on similar decibel level to running knobblies on the road but in my experience, less energy sapping, dare I say audibly intrusive.
I’m typically dropping a couple of gears to keep the same tempo, especially when climbing but it’s something I’ve quickly adjusted to and cancelled out by the fact I can ride at usual pace without fear of going rubber up.
A big strip of frozen bovine dung would usually have my senses screaming with alarm, with the Ice Spiker Pro, I could simply laugh and attack it with enthusiasm. Moderate braking, with the trailer trundling behind, I’ve never lost traction.
Feedback is reassuringly good and one on the one occasion I felt a momentary “pause” it was very easy to make a quick correction and plough on through. Contexts where the rear 240-spike winter plus was still biting but much less convincingly. I’ve also run the Ice Spiker Pro off road - through moderate bridlepath and unmade farm tracks with similarly pleasing and confidence inspiring results.
Puncture Resistance/Durability 3.25/5
I’ve not punctured during our 500mile test period, which is a relief, given tending flats in sub-zero temperatures can be painfully demoralising. I was a bit more conscious of this, compared with the Winter Plus, since the wire bead Ice Spiker Pro score three out of seven on Schwalbe’s puncture repelling scale.
To date, the spiked/knobbly pattern doesn’t seem overly prone to collecting stones, or mud that might otherwise gather sharps- we've just come from hedge cutting season and I’ve had a few Hawthorne clippings rip into other tyre casings.
Tube quality also plays a part. Cheap ones will often succumb at a slight graze, in contexts where premium butyl fares much better. 500 miles down the line, there’s only superficial wear to the spikes- to be expected and be prepared to replace these from time to time.
Judging by long-term use of the Winter and Winter Plus, this shouldn’t be too often. That said; it’s worth noting that I only leave them in situ for a week past the icy periods, before switching back to street/trekking rubber.
Spikes will corrode in salty weather but will wear off given a few minutes riding. Replacements are also readily available from Schwalbe. The blocky treat pattern shows only minor signs of use.
£80.49 apiece is not to be sneezed at and their worth will depend upon how harsh your winters are and how much you value being out, rather than churning away on the indoor trainer. Then of course, this must be offset against damage to bike and rider, in case of a spill. Lost earnings would readily exceed the price of a pair for many self-employed people. We’ve seen online retailers offering discounts.
Comparison with other brands is a little tricky, given other brands offer models are quite a bit cheaper but by the same token, offer fewer spikes (240, or 120 being typical). Kenda Klondike Standard SRC K-Guard is available in 26x1.95 and retails at £54.99. It offers 168 carbide spikes a coarser, 30tpi casing and pressure range between 30 and 65psi. It has the advantage of better clearance with older XC mountain bike framesets, such as Ursula, particularly if you’re running full length mudguards. Continental Contact Spike are available in three 700c options (32, 37 and 42mm) and a choice of 120, or 240 spikes- £44.95 and £54.95 respectively.
Ultimately, the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro are biased towards mountain bike clearances. Arguably there are other, more suitable for touring and general winter riding-especially through more urban settings. That said; there is no getting away from the fact they have considerably more spikes and superior grip in very challenging contexts. If your frameset will swallow them and your wallet bear the cost, the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro’s blend of speed, agility and tenacious grip open a new world of winter fun.