Ice Crispies

‘Oh aye, these’ll cut into the ice all right,’ bike shop man said. ‘Look at the gashes they’ve put in my lino.’

My bike had just been reshod with its spiky new shoes (and I’d just handed over a rather large amount of money) and I was about to set off home over approximately 5 miles of black ice, so I was glad of the reassurance. I knew about the ice, because I’d cycled in on it and it had been a rather stressful experience. You can cycle over ice – you just can’t steer or brake, at least not very much and not very hard. It takes nerve and skill, neither of which I have that much of, which is why I’d got off and walked in a couple of places and pulled over to the side of the verge whenever a car appeared because the edges were worse than the bits where the wheels had been and there’s not really room to overtake or pass without getting close to the edge. Worst of all, I was barely pedalling hard enough to keep warm, making the whole long ride into Bigtown a bit of an ordeal, and not one I wanted to repeat on the way back into the wind.

Setting off, the first impression was the noise – some people liken it to Rice Krispies, but to me it sounds a little like running over a sheet of bubble wrap only much fainter. In fact, the first safety advantage from the spikes is the fact that pedestrians on the shared paths look behind them as you approach, which was a pleasant change and saved me having to warn them I was coming. Then once on the road home and away from the treated roads, I braced myself for the ice and forced myself to pedal onto the first nasty stretch of ice with something approaching confidence. Pretty soon I had a car behind me, hovering on my shoulder, very politely (oh the contrast to yesterday) waiting to pass me, given the conditions on the road. Naturally, I sped up a bit (I try to be polite too) and then, when the road straightened out and widened a bit, looked behind me to encourage the driver to pass (polite driver etiquette round here is that they won’t pass until you acknowledge you’re aware of them). They seemed reluctant, so I found myself pulling over onto the edge, looking back again, until by the time they actually overtook I’d more or less forgotten about my nerves, and the bike was handling as if the ice wasn’t there. After that, I just rode, still keeping a close eye on the road surface and my hands off the front brake, but otherwise as normal and everything was fine. I sailed through the dodgy patches where I’d been forced to walk before – I even negotiated the glacier that crosses our front drive without so much as a whimper of fear. At one point, when I stopped to put on my lights, I put my foot down and was startled at how slick the road surface was that I’d just casually braked to a halt on without incident. I think we can call that a win.

These aren’t even the super-duperest of winter tyres – they’re pretty much the entry levels for spikes. And I have no idea if they’re actually making the bike better at handling the ice, or just making the rider better at thinking they do. Nor do I know how long they’ll last or how they’ll cope on the slightly hillier papershop run. But so far, I’m massively impressed and delighted with my new purchase. Schwalbe Winter Cruisers: I salute you.

11 Responses to Ice Crispies

  1. Parkywife says:

    So will you keep these tyres on one bike and have another one ready when the ice has thawed?

  2. Rosie Rutherford says:

    Very impressive. John will want to know about these.
    I chickened out and took the bus this morning.

  3. commuterjohn says:

    My mountain bike is kitted out with them, So as we are looking increasinhgly like having snow on Friday that will be my bike of choice!
    Be careful though when putting your foot down as that is when you fall off. I am trying a pair of snow grips for my boots this year to wear on the bike for such occasions.

  4. disgruntled says:

    @parkywife – I also got a spare set of wheels, so I can swap in and out depending on the forecast … much as I would liked to justify a whole new bike, I don’t think the budget would have allowed it!
    @rosie – you’re both welcome to give them a try any time.
    @john – yes, I’m sticking to my winter boots for pedalling

  5. So the “cheap” entry level spikes have missing spikes on the outside of the tread pattern? Apparently you can get spare spikes to fit in here if you wanted an upgrade…

    … and remember that you need to “run spikes in” for 20-30 miles to get them properly embedded into the tyre!

  6. Bob says:

    You’re a brave wee lass. And likely fit as a fiddle.
    The lowest temperature I ever braved was -9 (C, of course, what else?) and it’s a good thing I didn’t know how cold it was ahead of time, or I would have foregone taking the bike.
    Soldier on.

  7. Bob says:

    Oh, and there was no ice. (so easily forget what I was about to say)

  8. misspiggy says:

    I love your descriptions of various cycling feats, because it’s an experience I’ll never have, except in dreams. Soaring over the ice with your magic crunchy wheels sounds so free.

  9. disgruntled says:

    @Karl – yes, I’m taking it a bit gently until they’re bedded in. Probably done 20+ miles on them already though
    @Bob – having to go out in the cold is the real downside
    @misspiggy – I’m sorry to hear that. You’re right, it is kind of a magical experience, and one I have to remember not to take for granted…

  10. welshcyclist says:

    Schwalbe Winter Cruisers or a panacea? Could that be Panaracers ( I’m sure I’ve seen tyres with that name ), You are very brave, I’ve often remarked what a wimp I am when it comes to icy conditions. I think I’d need alot more studs to persuade me to travel. But you’re going well girl! Maybe next year for me, I’ve been saying that for at least 4 years.

  11. disgruntled says:

    It’s taken me 4 winters to get round to it. Eventually you decide that three weeks not cycling is worse than facing the ice.

    Trust me, I’m the world’s least courageous cyclist so if they work for me they’ll work for everyone. But they’re not cheap.

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