The pros and cons of ice tyres

There surely are few occasions more dispiriting than when things start to warm up in spring and you swap out the ice tyres on your bike… then another cold front moves in and you have to put them back on again.

I hate changing the tyres on my bike. It’s not a difficult procedure but there’s so much about it that seems unnecessary. You’ve got to take the wheels off to put them back on again. Deflate the inner tubes and take them out to put them back in and pump them up again. All just to change the tyres. Tyres have a right-way-round, which probably matters more with tyres with studs in, and I often fall foul of this detail and have to go back through the whole rigmarole again once I’ve realised. I almost always seem to manage to give myself a puncture at some point during the whole debacle, and it usually doesn’t become evident until the next morning when I’m in a rush to get on the road for work.

So imagine my disappointment when, having worked up the momentum to switch back to regular tyres, the forecast changed to sub-zero conditions FOUR DAYS LATER.

Why didn’t I just leave the ice tyres on until July or something? Well the flipside of their super grip on slippery surfaces is, they can be a total slog on any other bike ride. They weigh a lot more and make the daily grind feel distinctly more, well, grind-y. Plus, because they’re a bit more expensive than regular tyres, I always feel like I want to save them for when they’re really needed.

I’m coming to the end of three seasons of heavy use of my winter tyres, and I don’t think I’m going to get a fourth out of them. There are other brands of ice tyre available – though I’ve never tried them – but I would recommend the Schwalbe Marathon Winter Plus: they’ve definitely endured some marathon use and they’ve been infallible under a variety of harsh winter conditions. (Incidentally they’re also the most resilient tyres I know against that country cyclist’s nemesis, fresh-cut blackthorn hedge). I’m not sure what the ‘Plus’ is there for, though since I put them back on eight days ago, we’ve had plus plus plus of weather…

Friday: a light dusting of snow, low temperatures and clear skies with a warm sun that gave rise to slim patches of ice. Weird dog lady* down the road said it was like ‘living in the Alps’.

Saturday: cold and dry in the day, with a battle through a blizzard in the dark on the way home

Sunday to Tuesday: rain, rain and more frickin’ rain, getting cold to my bones through sodden bike gloves and stopping every three minutes to rescue frogs on the road (you’re so worth it, froggy friends)

Wednesday: an Arctic chill, with ice all over the road and inches deep in patches, and a freezing mist that kept anything from melting until lunchtime

Thursday: yet more rain…

Friday: I had been expecting to cancel a cycle training session with a colleague, but we were rewarded with one of the most unseasonably warm days I’ve known. Almost T-shirt weather.

What’s a cyclist supposed to do with a week of weather like this?

*Both the lady and the dog are weird.

Saturday 18 April, 2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s