I begin to see why Schwalbe Marathons have such a cult following.
Many years ago, when I first went back to biking, I was having a bad season. I was falling victim to the dreaded Colorado Goathead. An especially nasty variety which is prone to puncture almost anything at any time when riding. They’re especially bad in dry years, it seems, and it was a dry year.
As I was sitting on the side of the bike path, changing and re-inflating a tire for the third time in a month, I was running out of fun tickets. A friendly bicyclist had stopped to see if I needed help, and on hearing how many flats I had gotten, he suggested I look in to Schwalbe Marathon tires. I went home and fired up Google, finding where to order them online. The idea of putting $100 worth of tires on a $50 frankenbike seemed a little absurd, and there the idea stalled out.
This year, I went ahead and pulled the trigger on a pair, with the hopes of avoiding flats on the most recent tour. They did exactly that. This was the first tour with no flats. But there were some other things I noticed about the tires.
The ride has both an upside and a down. The upside was its many times smoother than the ride the previous 28c tires I had on there gave. On pavement and gravel both, there was a cushy sensation I was not used to getting. There is a nice dampening of lateral motion leading to excellent stability skinner tires just don’t have. There’s even a sensation of squish when going over the expansion strips on the bike path paving. All in all, a very nice magic carpet ride.
The trade-off is the rolling resistance. I had read in some reviews there was increased rolling resistance. I didn’t think it would be quite so much. Climbing on these 35c Schwalbes at 65 psi feels like using the 28c tires at around 25 psi. You have to work a bit more. Coasting is noticeably shorter as well. It’s less pronounced when fully loaded, it seems, but still there.
But the other bonus is the way they handle mud. I was able to deal with the peanut butter consistency mud we faced pretty well. The tread design just dug in, allowing me to drop down to the lowest gear and make it through until it got too deep and I sunk in. These things work great on a rough trail.
While I like these tires, they aren’t the choice I would make for all-around touring. They’re ideal for gravel, chat or mud, but not my first choice on the road. I should have upgraded to their higher model that rolls better, the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. That might be a second set I get just for riding around town and road touring.
Schwalbe Marathon Tires- the magic carpet