WHAT: Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro
HOW MUCH: $135
Schwalbe stepped up its line of winter offroad tires for '08 and introduced the Ice Spiker Pro, the James Bond model of Schwalbe's studded tires. With 361 wolfram carbide studs and a snow-chewing tread pattern, this tire is meant to go where others won't—and with finesse.
At a scant 695 grams, the Ice Spiker Pro compares in weight with light- to medium-duty non-studded tires and a weighs more than a pound less than its predecessor, the Ice Spiker. The Pro model also sports 57 more studs than the standard, nearly 1000-gram Ice Spiker, making for a footprint almost entirely covered by studs. Both the Ice Spiker and Ice Spiker Pro are available in one size only: 26×2.10.
The Ice Spiker Pro is a folding tire that uses Schwalbe's Evolution carcass, which is responsible for most of the tire's light weight. Schwalbe stopped using steel studs years ago and switched to steel-clad tungsten carbide studs, but the Ice Spiker Pro goes one step further to save weight with aluminum-clad wolfram carbide studs. (Schwalbe claims the wolfram carbide stud material used in the Ice Spiker Pro is even more durable than tungsten carbide, which has the highest melting point of all metals and is known for its density and high tensile strength.)
It's ridiculous to feel confident when riding across a sheet of rock-solid ice, but that's how well the Ice Spiker Pro hooks up. The pair of Schwalbe Snow Stud tires on my townie handles ice slabs suitably well with 100 studs per tire, but it doesn't compare to the traction of 361 studs on the Ice Spiker Pro I ran in frozen Colorado over the last couple months. Icy ruts usually lead to icy wrecks, but these tires climb up and out with minimal slippage. Slam on the front brake and get flipped over the handlebars, these tires are not going to yield easily. Even hard braking in turns is effective and fairly predictable.
Slogging through heavy slush and deep snow gets to be impossible at a certain point, but the big, widely spaced lugs on the Ice Spiker Pro dig in deep and shed snow and mud easily. These tires are perfect for frozen singletrack with patches of snow, ice and mud where they can give traction and control that feels almost as manageable as dry trail.
The low weight of these tires is not as easy to notice on soft snow or slush because the tires sink in and bog down, but it's noticeable on solid surfaces and equates to less energy expenditure over the long haul.
Lighter tires mean better handling and easier pedaling, but it can also mean pinch-flats and less stability. The tires easily get up to spinning speed without compromising traction in the 25-35 psi range. I ran them as high as 45 psi and didn't notice losing any significant traction. However at pressures less than 20 psi the sidewalls start getting wobbly and become more susceptible to pinch flats.
It's difficult to gauge the durability as these tires are only in their first season of riding. So far, not a single spike has come out, even after a few brief skid sessions on the asphalt. With 361 spikes, quite a lot of them would have to come out to significantly affect traction, but the more the better. While the tires never pinch-flatted during testing, they almost certainly would have if they were ridden at less than 20 psi.
These are impressive tires, pricey, but worth the money to riders who want to be able to trail ride in the winter. This is not a commuter tire, it's an aggressive offroad tire that handles well in mud and snow and offers supreme traction on ice. At less than 700 grams, these tires make winter riding less cumbersome and allowed for quicker, easier acceleration. With adequate tire pressure, the Ice Spiker Pro feels plenty stable and have good traction in all conditions. If ice and snow are poison to winter riding, then these are the antidote.