Continental TopContact Winter II
Weight: 745 grams per tire
Review by Scot Banks
The day after I mounted the Continental Contact Winter II on my Electra cruiser, it began to snow and didn't stop for many days and has been below freezing on and off for the past few months. So I have been able to ride the tires on dry pavement, 6"+ powder, soft and hard packed snow, -10*f Styrofoam-squeaky super hard packed snow, slush and of course ice.
In every snow condition I pedaled through, the tires gripped a layer of snow to the tread! For winter tires, this is where tires gain most of their real traction in snow. The high siping count and special rubber compound tread features little edges that flex during very cold temperatures and help grab the snow and ice. I immediately noticed that the tires had excellent forward traction and I was unable to break loose the rear tire with the lowest ratio on the Shimano 3-speed Nexus hub while pedaling normally. Also, making the bike power slide through a hard turn proved difficult due to the surprisingly sticky traction of the rear tire.
The more I leaned the bike through corners, traction remained surprisingly stable and consistent. While turning more aggressively, the front tire did begin to wash out, but was still controllable. Under hard rear wheel coaster braking, the rear tire occasionally broke looset but this is to be expected when braking is concentrated to one tire. Braking with these tires would improve greatly with a front brake or rim/disk brakes over a coaster brake setup. In snowy conditions, the Contact Winter II greatly outperformed traditional knobby mountain bike tires.
At 26x1.9 the Contact Winter cuts nicely through fresh snow, without being too narrow, it gains ample traction on the packed snow or icy surface below. With a low tire profile, the Continentals changed the cornering capability of my Electra cruiser, by decreasing the already low bottom bracket height. Pairing this tire with a higher bottom bracket bike like a mountain or commuter bike, this would not be an issue, but on a cruiser cornering required a bit more caution.
In slush and wet conditions, the tires did not hydroplane like most cruiser tires and is the main reason I chose to use them on my Electra. On dry pavement, the only drawback was the low profile made for a lower bottom bracket height causing the pedals to strike in sharp or off camber corners. This wouldn’t be much of an issue on a bike with mountain/commuter bike geometry. On ice, the Winter Contacts proved much better than any non-studded bicycle tires I have used. Though they lack the overall grip that metal studs provide on sheer ice, they are light, fast and quiet on snow/ice free pavement.