Schwalbe has brought to market a product that many eMTB riders have been waiting for, even if they didn't know it. The Eddy Current combo is comprised of a heavyweight, plus-sized option for the back of the bike that promises massive climbing traction, and a 29" x 2.4" front tire for steering predictably – exactly what most performance motorbike have used for decades.
Most of Schwalbe's tires, other than the 'Hans Dampf', get a fun alliterative name, but the Eddy Current is another exception to the rule. Eddy current is defined as 'a localized electric current induced in a conductor by a varying magnetic field,' so marks to Schwalbe for bringing a physics theory into the name and still ticking the 'something to do with electricity for e-bikes' box. Electric Eddy would have been too easy, I assume.
Schwalbe Eddy Current Tire Details
• Front and rear specific
• Addix soft compound
• Super Gravity carcass
• Sizes front: 27.5 x 2.8"; 29 x 2.4, 2.6"
• Sizes rear: 27.5 x 2.8" and 29 x 2.6"
• Weight front: 1300g (actual
29 x 2.4")
• Weight rear: 1362g (actual
27.5 x 2.8")
• MSRP: $103 USD
The sizing isn't the only similarity to 'real motorbikes' – the tread patterns of the Eddy Current's are nearly identical to that found on trials motorbikes. But it's a copy with good reason - trials motorbikes, yes, all of them
, for decades have used the same basic tread pattern – they don't have different tires for conditions and every brand's offering looks nearly identical.
Currently, the Eddy's are only available with the heavyweight Super Gravity casing, and Addix Soft rubber compound. 27.5" x 2.8" for the rear with the 'square block' pattern, and 29" x 2.4" for the front with rectangular blocks. They are not light, or cheap, with the front tire coming in around 1300g, and the rear closer to 1400g, priced at $103 USD. Construction and Details
The plus bike phase feels like it has almost passed. The concept seemed promising at first, but for more aggressive riders it ended up delivering flexy, unstable tires when going fast and too many pinch punctures. They have their place though; if my dad wanted a new mountain bike I would suggest a plus-tire equipped machine; he would get the benefits of comfort, rollover, and grip, without ever riding hard enough to find them flexing or to pinch them.
Plus-size tires then made their way on to many eMTBs, which makes sense in some ways, but putting thin, flimsy 2.8" rubber under a much heavier chassis and potentially higher speeds is only going to increase the flex, roll, and the likelihood of a puncture.
The closest I found to what I would call a usable, large volume tire for eMTB was an unlikely candidate from Surly called the Dirt Wizard. They were heavy with a good tread pattern, decent rubber compound, and tough carcass. These Schwalbe's promised to go one better with even more weight, which is a good thing for eMTB's, and the terrain they are capable of tackling – heavier weight means a stronger tire and a stiffer carcass in general.
The Eddy uses Schwalbe's tried and trusted Super Gravity Generation II casing which now uses five layers of material across the tire, similar to a dual-ply DH tire, but thinner layers are used under the tread blocks, where they are naturally protected more against punctures. The thinner casing here decreases rolling resistance and increases grip by allowing the tire to absorb bumps more easily and conform to the ground better. The Apex layer that spans the whole carcass has also been changed from rubber to a new fabric version, which Schwalbe say is their best line of defense against cuts.
Schwalbe claims that their new Addix Soft compound has 20% less rolling resistance, 12% more grip, 4% more damping, and 49% more durability over their previous Trailstar compound. Bold claims - and without a lab in the garage, we will have to take their word for it. Out of the four Addix compounds, this is the second softest and grippiest in the range, offering great grip for aggressive riding without the glue-like feel of the purple Ultra-Soft which is focused more on downhill and racing. Schwalbe says that rolling resistance wasn't even considered on the Eddy, as they decided grip, weight, durability were the focuses. Despite that, they claim the tread pattern only rolls 5.5% slower than an equivalent Magic Mary. The main difference in the rolling resistance, in this case, comes from the angled leading edge on a Mary, compared to the square edge on Eddy - this square edge increases the bite for climbing, something that is more important on an eMTB.
The tread pattern itself looks like a trials motorbike tire, but there are a few key differences. After every two blocks on the edging tread, there is a gap to allow mud to clear; this space aligns with three center blocks. Aligned between the pairs of edge blocks there are only two center blocks. This is to allow better mud clearance and more bite into soft terrain – trials moto tires have more focus on gripping to
things like rocks, logs, and vertical walls, so the tread pattern is closer and their extreme low pressure actually let the tire bite on to obstacles as the casing deforms. The other slight difference is the siping on the center blocks themselves; on the rear tire, the square cut into the top of the block is deeper perpendicular to the tire to give more accelerating and braking traction. On the front tire's center blocks, there are only sipes in-line with the direction of front tire for more sideways traction when turning.
I mounted the Eddy Current tires to my Specialized Kenevo test rig and headed up the hill. My first impression was that they seem to roll and accelerate better than I was expecting. Of course, mounted to an eMTB, weight and rolling resistance are much less important than when purely using your own steam to get up a hill. Heading into my test climb, the grip on the rear was exceptional and they out gripped anything else I have used on an eMTB. The combination of compound, tread, and casing worked together well to stick to the smooth ground as well as molding around rocks and roots, almost never spinning or skidding.
Heading down the first run, after having previous days being littered with punctures using the Butcher Grid casing tires from Specialized, I was instantly greeted by another infuriating pinch puncture between the rim and a rock. Luckily, this was the only one sustained over 700 kilometers of riding two pairs of Eddy's on two bikes.
After the tire was plugged and pumped back up, I got back on track. The following 15-minute descent was one of the best of my life. Perfectly dry and slightly loose terrain was shredded with a great balance of pointing the front wheel into corners, leaning in and feeling the rear wheel oversteering predictably around corner after corner. I had such a buzz that I kept pushing harder and harder; masses of grip combined with rising adrenaline - things just kept getting better. Sipping on espresso in the cafe afterward (that's all lazy eMTBers do isn't it? Ride to cafe's, pubs and pie shops?) I was ogling the bike and noticed one of the side tread blocks was missing. Upon further inspection, I had ripped around twenty clean off...
I have heard about this happening with other Schwalbe tires in the past and is guaranteed to appear in the comment section, but this was the first time it had ever happened to me after years of using different Schwalbe rubber. I returned this to Schwalbe and mounted another one – I never again had such a perfect run, and coincidentally, didn't lose any more on subsequent rides, though some were showing signs that they were ready to leave.
For your tires that you received after Eurobike, my initial theory got confirmed that these early tires had not enough rubber on the tread, so the knobs don´t have enough connection to the carcass and might partly rip off in heavy use. As the first samples come from a trial/sample production this was detected early and will not appear in the commercial production. We have already checked the stocks and have many tires running that do not have that issue, both from first sample products as well as from final production. - Michael Kull, Schwalbe Marketing Manager
After this initial mishap, and hundreds of kilometers more on this setup, they are a great performing tire in many conditions. The only time I didn't think they worked great was at a local eMTB race in thick gloopy clay, the huge size of the rear tire floated and squirmed on top of the mud, clogged up, and spun a lot on the climbs. Of course, this is not a mud tire, and the only choice on that day would have been a full-on, much narrower mud spike.
I even used a pair of front tires on both wheels of a Raaw Madonna to race the EWS in Finale. This turned out to be a great combination of rolling, predictable and stable cornering, similar to the much sought after predictable drifting feeling of Maxxis' Minion DHF tires.
When it comes to braking traction they offer huge performance at slow and medium speeds. At high speeds, they aren't as good as something like a Minion DHR II, for example, due to the reduced space for the leading edges of the blocks to bite into the terrain.
One rear Eddy has now clocked up around 400 kilometers on the back of the Kenevo and has worn incredibly well. Even though they are showing signs of wear, it still maintains big blocks and deep tread that keep on gripping, although some of the side blocks are looking like they are ready to jump ship – hopefully, this will be sorted for production versions, and if not this will be covered by warranty. Of course, this only applies to the blocks tearing off, not if you have skidded them to death.Pinkbike's Take