December 18, 2014

45North Nicotine Studded Tire Review

26er 2.35 Ice Spiker Pro on top, 29er 2.35 Nicotine on bottom
Note that both are about the same width, the 29er is closer to the lens

The king is dead, long live the king? A made in Canada comparison.  Got a set of Nicotines for the 29er. Are they are the best studded mountain biking tire I am aware of? The former king was the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro but the Nicotine is the new challenger. Here is the scorecard:
  • Tubeless capable - Nicotines are very loose when mounted. I haven't tried but they won't work without building up the rim quite a bit. It would be a project to get them to work tubeless without burping and farting. Schwalbe's are capable (in the 26er size I have) but the 29er is not listed as "TL Easy" like the 26ers so likely the same issue - not readily tubeless capable. Tie
  • Weight - both are folding tires. 870 (measured) for 29x2.35 Nicotine, 29x2.25 Ice Spiker Pros listed at 890 on Schwalbe website. Basically a Tie. Regular Ice Spikers have wire beads and are much heavier but we aren't discussing those.
  • Width/Float - Nicotines win-  are actually 2.5 wide, 2.25 Ice Spikers are not and that is the widest size in 29er. My 26er 2.35 were about 2.5 as well.
  • Best Studs - Nicotine's cratered tips are fancier than the Ice Spiker's pointy tips. But both grip very well on ice and both are carbide, so really a tie when it comes to performance.
  • Performance in the snow - I can't tell the difference, both are very good. Probably depends on snow consistency which is infinitely variable of course and I haven't had time to check all those infinite conditions. Tie.
  • Rolling resistance - Nicotines easily win. Very nice roll for such a grunty tire. The knobs on the Schwalbes are pretty irregular and rough rolling on hard surfaces. The Nicotine's knobs line up and transition better from one knob to the next when rolling along.
  • Price - both are very expensive but the Nicotines are more so. Schwalbe win.
  • Overall - I have to give the overall kingship to the Nicotines. The greater float on snow and the lower rolling resistance are noticeably better and these are key features for winter performance. After all, it is important to beat the fatbikes on Strava - all of them. A skinny bike with these tires is faster than a fatbike in many snow conditions. That's why you generally aren't allowed to race fatbikes with a 29er (except on Strava). Worth the extra money and cost way less than a fatbike (although I will probably get one of those too). But if I had Schwalbes, I wouldn't rush out to buy the Nicotines (unless I could find some buyer for the Schwalbes).
Hope that helps.

Jan 6, 2015 Update - now that I have a lot more rides on these tires, I have discovered one issue. The rubber is relatively soft which is good for traction. Unfortunately, it isn't as good for retaining studs. I have done a number of rides on icy/rocky descents and several studs have been ripped out on the back tire. They cannot be replaced as the knobs are partially torn off, so new studs would just rip out again. Almost all the lost studs are on the side knobs. No lost studs on the front tire to date though. The back tire does tend to skid on icy/rocky turns and on uphill slopes a rock can grab a side knob. So for durability I would rate these tires as inferior to the Schwalbes whose studs and knobbies last somewhat longer. Same thing happens to Schwalbes, just not as easily looking at my tires and those of people I ride with. The scientific knob-squeeze test clearly shows the Schwalbe knobs are harder than the 45Nrth knobs. So 29er x 2.35 studded tires for Schwalbes would be a good choice for winter trail rides too - except they don't make them.