SCHWALBE MARATHON MONDIAL TYRES
717(g) £66.99 each
The Schwalbe Marathon Mondial Double Defense tyres replace the brands’ legendary Marathon XR. Claimed to be the “ultimate touring tyre, made for road, tracks and trails of all continents”. Well, the SDC budget doesn’t presently stretch to cross-continental touring. However, 400 mixed terrain miles in, they’ve proven themselves surprisingly sprightly, yet extremely dependable.
Pros: Swift, durable, impressive performance on and off road.
Cons: Relatively pricey, unless you’re serious about rough stuff.
Ours were the 26x2.0 folding versions but there are some gravel/touring friendly 700x 35/40mm options, and a 650b.
Their Travel Star compound is reckoned to offer the best handling experience, in all contexts. Double Defense V Guard refers to an extremely lightweight and cut resistant high-tech fabric. The Snake skin outer encompasses tread and sidewalls, while the Double Defense V guard puncture repelling belt sits beneath the centre strip, for maximum protection against cuts.
Operating pressures range between 35 and 70psi, higher than we’ve become accustomed to, thanks to tubeless technology, but typical of this genre. Taking a peak at the sidewalls, there’s the familiar retro-reflective piping and a e-bike compatibility, albeit to a lowlier 25kph.
Big tyres usually ship aboard sans tools and like the proverbial Labrador. Our folders required a bit of shaping and deft use of a tyre lever first time round but behaved themselves, then on. Not that there’s been any call for this, in 450, mixed terrain miles.
I was expecting a plush, magic carpet ride, which is precisely what they’ve delivered, on and sans asphalt. What I hadn’t bargained for was their speed, especially compared to the venerable Marathon GT 365 . 662g (all told) lighter, rolling resistance was markedly less, restoring my Univega’s perky persona.
With widespread road resurfacing in full swing, I was able to cruise over the ramped and pockmarked sections at 20 odd mph. Even at 70psi, low-level buzz was mute, although a compliant, triple butted Cro-Moly frameset undeniably helps. Talking of buzz, there’s no effort sapping hum across well surfaced roads and I’ve caught a few road riders, when powering away from the lights.
This song remained unchanged when I tackled long stretches of unmade road and at similar speeds. In this context, dropping the pressure to 60psi improved matters further and gave a little more bite, when tackling looser, or indeed, wetter surfaces.
Once upon a time, dual purpose meant centre strips and knobbly patterns that looked the business but were in fact, the worst of both worlds. The Marathon Mondial genuinely cut it in both contexts with minimal compromise.
Continuing the nimble theme, they’ve really dug in, regardless how hard I’ve pushed them. Starting with my 1 in 7 trailer tugging tests. Wound up to 32mph along the wet, greasy tarmac, they’ve held their line impeccably, no matter how provocatively I’ve tugged at the bars. Even carving into the corners at 25mph (fast as I’d push a trailer combo), when relatively weary, they’ve never missed a beat.
Again 60-65psi seemed optimal, although I’ve dropped ours to 55, on some very early runs, when there’s been an icy sheen. The odd rogue manhole cover and railway crossing induced a split-second, predictable losses of traction. Ditto iced bovine dung that littered country lanes. Easily kept in check, especially at a town typical 15-16mph.
Off road, they can’t be flicked around tree roots, or ruts, in the same, split second fashion, as a lightweight cross country knobbly. Nonetheless, they’re still very nimble, which, combined with their moderate weight makes extended rides along dirt roads less taxing. Traction through piled, wet leaves and similar organic, autumnal mulch was equally impressive.
Since we’re on the subject, the tread’s water channelling groves also do a decent job of flushing grit, glass, hedge clipping and flints away before they can burrow into the casing. Small stones and shingle tended to lodge itself in the grooves, resulting in that familiar (and mildly irritating) tickly patter on dry roads. No worse than the Schwalbe Winter , or the Schwalbe Marathon GT 365, mind.
To date, I’m yet to flat, there’s no hint of nicks, cuts or similar and I’ve deliberately raced through shards of glass, thorns, tacks etc. Whether this version will rival Schwalbe’s legendary Marathon Plus, in the longer term, remains to be seen.
Thus far, Schwalbe Marathon Mondial Double Defense certainly matched my expectations of a genuinely all terrain tyre. Yes, there are some very minor compromises. Schwalbe Marathon GT and other tarmac specific models have the edge across well surfaced roads, ditto XC tyres, through forests.
By no means poor value (and we’ve seen them discounted online) this kind of outlay requires careful consideration. Nonetheless, the Marathon Mondial are very capable all-rounders that I would happily shod a cross, or gravel build with.