SCHWALBE’S EDDY CURRENT
THE BEST EBIKE TIRE AVAILABLE?
Words by Drew Rohde | Photos by Dusten Ryen & Schwalbe Tires
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics
A couple of months ago, before we started testing for our huge ebike shootout, we spent a lot of time working to ensure an even playing field and platform to grade each bike. Some of the most important factors that affect a bike’s performance are its traction and compliance on the trail. For that reason, we opted to find a tire sponsor to help give all our bikes a constant. We were thrilled that Schwalbe said yes.
Not many brands have taken the time to create dedicated eMTB tires, but after doing some research on the new Schwalbe Eddy Current, they seemed like a great fit. We couldn’t wait to equip all of our 2020 eMTB Roundup test bikes with these new tires. By supplying enough rubber for our 16 test bikes, and some extras just in case, we were able to give each bike the same platform on which to perform. It also gave our testers a constant in terms of judging a bike’s handling, traction and suspension performance, as we knew each bike had the same casing, compound, tread pattern, and PSI.
During our ten days of testing in the loose and rocky Palm Springs, California desert, our testers were blown away with the Eddy Current’s performance. In the months since returning to our home trails in Oregon and SoCal, we’ve continued to test them in a variety of conditions with equal admiration. Our long-term review will be coming out soon, as we’d love to see how many miles we can get out of these tires. In the meantime, we wanted to Dissect Schwalbe’s kick-ass eMTB tires, as they’re among the best we’ve ever ridden.
DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
As eMTBs have grown in popularity, brands are scrambling to develop products that pass ebike certification. Many products easily get the certification and can be run on either analog bikes or eMTBs. Rather than submit an existing tire for certification, Schwalbe took the extra steps to develop a dedicated tire that would not only hold up to eMTB riding but enhance the ride. When Schwalbe started their ebike program, they evaluated a few key principles: Grip, stability, puncture protection, braking power, and rolling resistance. EMTBs pose some major challenges for existing mountain bike components, some more than others. Handlebars and stems may not be hugely affected, but suspension, wheels and tires are products that can be greatly affected by the sheer number of miles and 25 pounds of extra weight compared to non-ebikes. Realizing that tires are the bike’s only contact with the ground, Schwalbe took a hard look at developing a tire that would hold up the weight and demands of an ebike.
Schwalbe’s eMTB tires all use the Addix Soft compound as they believe it offers the optimal blend of damping and grip, while still rolling fast enough to maximize efficiency. Below the Addix Soft compound sits five layers of carcass fabric to keep the tires shape under load and reduce the chance of punctures on the trail. Known as their Super Gravity casing, Schwalbe didn’t offer this heavier duty casing in tire sizes above 2.35 due to weight, but with the added power of a motor, ebike riders will reap the benefit of the added stability and puncture protection more than they’ll suffer due to the added weight. The casing includes SnakeSkin protection and the Apex puncture protection layer and comes in 2.4-, 2.6-, and 2.8-inch widths for either 27.5- or 29-inch diameter wheels.
The Eddy Current front/rear combo are Schwalbe’s first eMTB tires and are designed to be run as such. Taking inspiration from dirt bike tires, Schwalbe sought to create tread patterns that would best suit the demands of each tire, which would guarantee the best performance from the front and back. According to Schwalbe the front tire is designed primarily for maximum cornering grip and the rear is designed for maximum braking performance and power transfer on climbs.
A close look at the Eddy Current rear will definitely point to trials motorbike tires as a major inspiration. Trials moto tires have uncanny abilities when it comes to grabbing the earth beneath the rider and slingshot them up the most technical obstacles. EBikes have the same ability of allowing riders to tackle climbs and terrain that were unrideable to all but the most skilled of athletes. The large, fully-ciped horizontal paddle blocks dig deep into soil while also conforming incredibly to rocks and roots. The transfer of power and ability to stick to the ground means climbs are more fun than ever.
When you look down at the beefy Eddy Current front tire, you’ll notice large, aggressively arranged blocks that have v-grooves cut into them. The tire has a very open design and allows for deep penetration and conformation. Schwalbe actually claims that the blocks are 20% larger than most other all mountain and enduro tire treads.
After our group of eight test riders spent ten long days plowing through rocks and climbing the steep mountains of Palm Springs, we couldn’t believe the tires still looked new. On top of that, we didn’t have a single flat, puncture or negative experience. In all honesty, we’ve had some mixed experiences with Schwalbe tires in the past, and we were most concerned about getting pinch flats aboard these heavy bikes. We set up every test bike with the same air pressure, 22PSI front and 25PSI rear, and as the week progressed, we kept dropping it in hopes of finding the point of no return. Surprisingly we still never flatted a single tire, however more aggressive riders started to notice a decrease in cornering performance below 20PSI on certain types of terrain. More average speed riders will absolutely be able to run these tires in the 16-18PSI range depending on their terrain and preferences. It was honestly quite impressive the way these tires hold and conform to the terrain below.
When we returned from our trip we reached out to Schwalbe and asked them a few questions about the tires and gave our initial feedback to try and learn more. Here are a couple of the questions we didn’t already address above:
TLW: WHAT IS THE REASON CUSTOMERS SHOULDN’T JUST STICK TO THEIR PREFERRED SCHWALBE TREAD PATTERN WITH A DH OR SG CASING ON THEIR NEW EMTB?
Schwalbe: The Eddy Current has been specifically designed from the ground up to handle the additional forces the ebike motor puts on a tire while also addressing the extra weight and mileage ebikes put on a tire. Our other tires are designed to find a balance between rolling resistance and grip while being mindful of weight. With larger blocks a more robust casing and higher volume, the Eddy Current offers the best solution for delivering power from the motor to the ground while also still offering incredible cornering grip and braking properties.
TLW: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EDDY CURRENT AND YOUR OTHER SUPER GRAVITY CASING-EQUIPPED TIRES?
Schwalbe: The casing is built identical to our standard SG tires, but we do not traditionally offer that casing in tires larger than 2.35 due to weight. With the additional power of a motor, the weight is less of an issue, therefore we created the Eddy Current SG tires in sizes up to 2.8” wide.
TLW: AFTER MOUNTING OVER 30 OF THESE TIRES, WE COULDN’T HELP BUT NOTICE THAT THE TIRES ARE NON-DIRECTIONAL. IS THERE A REASON FOR THAT?
Schwalbe: Well, ease of mounting, as you hopefully found, is much easier when the tires are non-directional. Also, after examining forces exerted on ebike tires, we found that braking and acceleration forces are similar, so we designed a tire to work equally well under power and braking.
In a time when clever marketing hype seems to be the norm, Schawlbe has opted to let the tires and their performance speak. Yes, they’ve got a hilariously funny retro branding, but the Eddy Current website isn’t plastered with acronyms and e-minded marketing. Instead the Germans rely heavily on their scientific approach to creating and delivering an incredibly versatile eMTB tire. Over the last three months we’ve had nothing but great experiences with the Eddy Current and we look forward to putting as many miles on them as possible until we release our long-term review. We’re going to keep documenting miles until these tires show significant signs of wear so we can better inform you of what you can expect from these high performance ebike tires.
If you’re in the market for a new set of rubber for your eMTB before that time comes, we’d highly suggest you get yourself a pair of Schwalbe’s Eddy Current tire and see the benefit that comes from riding e-specific products.
Weight: 1,350g – 1,415g ;