At the end of January 2011 I took myself and my bicycle to Oslo, Norway. My plan was to ride 1,600km north through Eastern Norway and Swedish Lapland before popping out of the mountains at Bødo in Arctic Norway. This is a review of how my Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro 26x2.1″ tyres performed during that journey.
With the exception of warmer, coastal regions of Norway, my entire journey took place on minor roads thick with hard-packed snow and sheet ice. While ploughed clear of fresh snow throughout Scandinavia, no roads are salted in midwinter — salt being ineffective below ‑5°C.
The temperature varied wildly and often, but ‑15°C was around the daytime norm, with nights generally between ‑20°C and ‑30°C. To all intents and purposes, I rode for a month on hard-packed snow and solid ice.
Needless to say, spiked tyres were not just a luxury, but a necessity. I was lucky to be running Schwalbe’s Ice Spiker Pro tyres on this trip, not just because Schwalbe agreed to supply them free in support of the journey, but also because they were brilliant. I slipped and fell on one occasion during the entire time I was riding, and that was because I lost concentration and veered off the side of the road, not because the tyres lost traction.
The tyres are unquestionably targeted at more demanding conditions and riding; each of the 361 spikes being embedded in a chunky mountain-bike-style knob of rubber. I ran the 2.1″ version of this 26-inch wheel-size tyre, but a 2.3″ version is also available. I wouldn’t expect this to be necessary, however, except in seriously choppy off-road conditions. The 2.1″ knobbly tyre could be pumped up to its highest pressure for low rolling resistance on clear ice (and frozen lakes), and let down a little when riding through fresh, uncleared snow, as happened on a handful of occasions.
Weight is impressive: 695g per tyre, compared to almost a kilogram for Schwalbe Marathon XRs which I’ve used on fair-weather adventures. Despite this, there seems to be little loss of durability: the tyres, which are not designed specifically for touring, happily supported the weight of myself and my 30–40kg of luggage without any complaints — not even a puncture.
Schwalbe’s advice to ‘break in’ the tyres on asphalt is sound: doing this plants each spike more deeply in the rubber. I counted two missing spikes by the end of the trip, having failed to run them in properly.
The pointed studs were visibly rounded after 1,600km of fully-loaded riding; far more so on the central row in constant contact with the ground than the outer rows towards the edge of the tyre; but the traction seemed unaffected by this — I didn’t notice any loss of performance. I imagine that the determined user could extract the studs with a pair of needle-nose pliers and thus swap inner and outer rows, but I haven’t tried this myself (I’m too lazy).
Riding on ice is unnerving for the first few seconds, but once I realised how much grip I was afforded, it became almost too reassuring — many a time my foot slipped away beneath me when I stopped on the ice for a break and put my boot to the floor. If only I’d had the same studs on the soles of my shoes! In Östersund — the Winter City — I went riding on the skating routes across the frozen lake, without a hint of skidding. It was possible to slip the tyres under very extreme and deliberate braking (with hydraulic disc brakes), of course, but a moderate emergency stop is perfectly possible to achieve, once you get used to these excellent winter tyres.
For riding (floating?) in deep snow, a Surly Pugsley and some Endomorph tyres on Large Marge rims is what you need. Or ditch the stupid bike and ski instead, you crazy fool. But that’s another kettle of fish.
Despite being fairly pricey, I would highly recommend the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tyres to anyone looking for a rugged winter tyre for demanding use on treacherous, ice-clad roads such as those I journeyed upon in Norway and Sweden. Traction will make or break your ability to ride on such roads, and the Ice Spiker Pro is a fantastic example of how a winter studded tyre should perform.
Full specifications can be found on Schwalbe UK’s website. Chain Reaction Cycles* sell the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tyres online.
12 replies on “Review: Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro Studded Winter Touring Tyres”
Hi Tom, this article got me to your blog a bit over a year ago. Just wanted to say thanks for the review (tires are excellent) and also to congratulate on your fantastic film Janapar, which I just watched. Yay!
Cheers Timo! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Hoping I’ll get a chance to use my own spiked tyres in Cumbria this winter…
I purchased the Schwalbe Winter Marathon snow stud tires for last seasons winter commute riding and they were great on ice. However, if you were to ride on even an inch of snow they were very squirrelly and didn’t feel safe. So I’m thinking of picking op a pair or a single tire of the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro Studded Winter tires and maybe leave leave the snow stud on the back tires and add the Ice Spiker on the front tire for added traction for turning. The other option is to use both Ice Spikers as well. My commute to work is 50 km per day so having the right tire will make a big difference. I was also thinking of purchasing a new front rim and just swapping out the Ice Spiker or snow stud for the conditions of the day. Thanks, Liv
Thanks for your comment. Sounds like a good idea to replace one or both tyres. I can imagine the Marathon Winter feels sketchy on snow — as far as I know it’s an ice tyre. I found that the Ice Spiker was fine in light snow on ice-covered roads, especially with a little air let out for traction. I was doing up to 100km a day with full luggage like this.
I love the site, Tom! This is some really crazy stuff!
[…] Tom Allen has reviewed Schwalbe’s studded tires for winter touring. […]
Hi Tom, First of all great website, inspiring stuff!
I’m a 27 year old actor who is normally out of work in the winter, so have been planning on cycling to Russia (if no work materializes). I was also planing on cycling back through southern Scandinavia.. I wanted a challenge and am fairly well travelled, but could do with a little advice..
Will I need studded tyres? I was planning on using marathon plus tours..
Also what is a good sleeping bag for this time of year? I have been looking at the North Face Superlight and the Ajungilak winter..both about £200, which is my budget…I plan to use my gortex bivi bag and a poncho as shelter… is it worth investing in an Optimus nova+ stove or is using a coke/gin and tonic can really a good alternative? Thanks for reading this and keeping the dream alive for those of us who haven’t as yet tested our metal (bike metal).
Your questions depend a lot on the exact conditions — which depend on the route, time of year, etc. My trip would have been utterly miserable without studded tyres — I rode a thousand miles of sheet ice. Afraid I’m not the best person to ask about sleeping bags, as I took the wrong ones!!! As for bivvying and using a beer-can stove — if you get away with those, you’ll have my eternal respect 🙂
Hope that helps…
eternal respect…hmmm…it might just be worth the risk.…:)
I guess I need to do a bit more research into the exact conditions, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a thousand miles of sheet ice, but I suppose riding through France and Germany with studded tyres isn’t ideal.… Ok, I’m just thinking out loud now. Thanks for your help Tom! I look forward to your book. L
You’ll be able to pick up studded tyres in Scandinavia (not necessarily these ones), but you won’t need them until you’re pretty far north. They’re mandatory on vehicles during winter months…
I’m Norwegian, and I just wanted to comment afew things on your questions, based on my own winter outdoors experience.
If you’re going anywhere north of Dovre mountain in Norway i’d get as warm a sleeping bag as possible.. They cost, but quite a few areas along the E6 are notoriously cold due to the geography.. The same goes for stoves.. A capable stove and a warn sleeping bag (and lots of wool) could be life or death.. at least it sure as hell feels like it! My stove went bust in 20–25 below zero, and i just had to bail out and get to my car at 4 o’clock, despite my bag being rated for ‑25.. And you might not have anywhere to bail.. Regarding temperature, my impression is that inland sweden is even colder,as it’s.. well, far inland.. dunno about coastal sweden, but the Gulf of Bothnia freezez over in winter, so my guess is that it’s cold too..
Not trying to undermine your plans or anything! Just trying to help.. Let me know if there’s anything you wanna ask a local..
Andreas is right — the reason I headed into Sweden from Osterdalen was because the Norwegian coast wasn’t cold enough! Much colder inland, therefore drier, so (counter-intuitively) better for camping!