Winter tyres on my bike, really?

Published on 17.12.2021

It may sound like a ridiculous idea at first, but with the growth in soft mobility for all seasons, the fitting of special tyres is definitely becoming more common. We put ten different models to the test.

Something we now take for granted with cars is only just beginning to cross over into the realm of bicycles, this being the use of special tyres designed for wintry conditions. It is important, firstly, to distinguish between winter tyres, which have a softer composition and a more resistant profile for better grip on slippery surfaces, and studded or spiked tires, which have tungsten carbide studs for optimal grip in icy conditions.

The winter bicycle tyre test we performed in collaboration with TCS (Touring Club Suisse) and ADAC revealed some clear differences between the various categories of studded and winter tyre themselves, as well as in relation to summer tyres.

Studded tyres proved to offer a lot of benefits in wintry conditions when it came to braking in snow, static friction measurements on ice and subjective driving tests, and this was also the only type of tyre to offer a minimum level of safety on black ice. All of the studded tyres were, however, unpleasant to use on asphalt due to vibrations and noise, so we’d primarily recommend using them on snowy roads.

  ©Velojournal/Mirjam Graf


Continental and Retyre come out on top

Winter tyres also offer certain advantages over summer tyres on ice and snow, as well as making for easy driving on asphalt. They’re therefore recommended for cyclists who can’t bear to put their bikes into hibernation for the winter months. Of the models we tested, the Continental Top Contact Winter performed well on almost all surfaces, though it wasn’t so great when it came to driving on ice. With a reflective strip on the side to boot, it’s a great option for fast e-bikes, too.

Our study also provided an opportunity to try the Retyre, which fits over the bike tyre like a second skin thanks to a very practical zipper system. The verdict? Exemplary above-average performance on all surfaces. That said, this tyre was also by far the most expensive and the heaviest we tested.
 

                                                                                     ©Velojournal/Mirjam Graf
 

ACL advice

  • Studded tyres are suitable for driving on snow and ice, but not for long drives on asphalt.
  • Only studded tyres make for safe driving on black ice.
  • Winter tyres, with their stronger profile and softer composition, offer better grip on slippery surfaces.
  • Summer tyres can also be used on snow, but it’s important to exercise great caution when doing so.
  • Braking distances on black ice can be reduced by 25% by reducing the pressure from 6 to 2 bar. That said, this, too, should be done with caution, as low tyre pressure considerably increases the risk of a puncture.
  • When it comes to using studless tyres, the front brake should be applied very conservatively when driving in winter conditions.

 
Evaluation table.pdf (in German)
 

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