SCHWALBE MARATHON PLUS TOUR TYRES
700x35c 890g £45.99 (each)
I’ve run Schwalbe tyres on various bikes for many years. Each visit to their website reveals further refinements to the range. At one time a set of Marathon Plus tyres for the tourer made selection easy. Now, with the Marathon Mondial, the Marathon Supreme, the GT, GT360 there are fine decisions to be made. Well, the Marathon Plus Tour is a robust choice for mixed surface touring where speed is not of the essence, but durability is. It has offered sound handling on all the surfaces, wet and dry, I’ve taken it over. It may be a compromise, but then there are many people out there who do not specialise in surfaces, just in riding their bikes all over the place.
Pros: a rugged all-rounder.
Cons: no 700x32c option.
Fundamentals are these: a wired, directional, twin-skinned tyre. Nothing unusual there. It comes in five sizes; 26x1.75 and 26x2.00; and 37-622, 42-622, 47-622. This fits very nicely with recent trends in trekking and touring bicycles. Just check your clearances, especially if you like to run with mudguards.
A moderately aggressive tread promises road and off-road potential in roughly equal measures, according to Schwalbe’s publicity. 67 EPI is not the highest possible, but above this durability is sacrificed on the altar of rolling. Even so, you’d expect these to be lively enough for a touring bike. Schwalbe score rolling at 3.5/6.
The “Endurance” is common in Schwalbe’s touring range. They score it as 7/7 for durability – a definite requirement for mixed-surface touring.
The same score for puncture protection comes via their “Smart Guard” system. Rather than acting as a single line of defence, this uses defence in depth to expel infiltrators.
Pressures run from 50-85psi. Our two testers are both over fourteen stone, so testing tended to be toward the top end to preserve them from pinch punctures. More of that later. That range is actually pretty good, and should give something for everyone. Lower pressures may best be reserved for the larger profile versions.
There’s a reflective “reflex” strip and a track for a bottle dynamo.
Schwalbe state a weight limit of 105kg. Don’t panic. Remember, you have two tyres. 205kg should manage most touring rigs and riders.
Fingers only onto SON and Jalco rims. Likewise, Mavic and Ryde Sputnik. Schwalbe seem to have ditched the Marathon Plus’s reputation for stubbornness of bygone years. Removal, of course, requires tyre levers, but I’ve not had to resort to anything like the long handle. LifeLine tyre levers out of my touring tool-kit have sufficed. Definitely, no need for the long-handled tyre-wand.
Puncture Protection 4.25/5
Well, 350 miles of mixed surface riding has not yet heard the hiss of death. That has included urban cycle paths with the usual detritus left by our glass-smashing-brethren, as well as a long chunk of rocky single-track with technical rocky sections, as well as road and gravel.
Although the tread is moderately aggressive, it hasn’t picked up flints and shattered glass readily. I managed to find a hawthorn twig – usually enough to sink any tyre and inner tube. This was the exception. A puny hawthorn or a tough tyre – well, this is not an exact science.
My conclusion? Schwalbe’s Smart Guard is still as good as you get.
Having said that, if weight is no problem, I may well go for Tannus Armour to allow running at lower pressures. Fortunately, I’ve found the combination performs equally well under a touring load when I’d like to keep pressure higher.
OK, as ever, this report would be a long time in the making if we were to look at getting a couple of thousand miles in. At this early stage, there are no signs of marking on the tyre, despite a teenager’s skid-pulling antics on gravel tracks. In fact, with a little spit and polish they still look as good as new. With the emphasis on durability, and much experience of Schwalbe tyres, I’d expect these to last a long old time on a
commuter-touring- hack-leisure machine in use for all-purpose riding. In other words, as good as you’ll get for mixed surface tours.
These were not designed for fast-rolling. On the other hand, they’ve gone well-enough mounted on the aluminium frame of an all-purpose Pinnacle. On the heavier, big tour Swallow – hub dynamo on the front wheel – they take on a more stoical persona. Even so, they’ve plenty of life, perhaps a product of the supple side-walls.
Handling has been really good. True, they don’t cut into the surface as well as the G-One All Round or the GT365, but they’ve taken on some tight turns on forest gravel with confidence as well as feeling reassuring on wet tarmac in city traffic. Sound braking, too – including on those deliberate skids. I’ve found them more than adequately responsive, but faster rough-riders may prefer, suppler, less durable, tubeless set-ups (like the aforementioned G-One All Round).
As you’d hope, under load, their performance doesn’t diminish – within reason. Trucking long with full camping gear – or heading home after a supermarket run – corners will be taken more cautiously, but that isn’t caused by the tyres.
With this sort of profile, a comfortable ride should be expected – especially for someone who regularly runs 28s or 32s. As the trend is toward fatter tyres for touring, these hit the mark pretty well.
The best part of £92 for a pair of tyres is a big investment, but not unreasonable, especially when one considers the reliable miles you’ll get for each penny. In any case, you are likely to find them discounted on-line.
Other tyres in the Marathon range come in within a similar range, although the Marathon Racer is £37.49.. OK, the magic carpet, ultra-durable, multi-surface Marathon Mondial are significantly pricier. At just under £60 each, The Marathon Supreme are probably a better bet if your bias is for asphalt. Equally, we found the slightly cheaper Marathon GT365 a good bet, especially for mixed terrain riding in a typical UK winter.
Other brands of tyre are available, of course. For example, we found the Vee Tire Co Zilent MK2 worthy choices, not just for commuting and city work, but also for gravel and touring ventures (as opposed to the Zilent originals, which were best without a hefty touring load). The Marathon Plus Tour probably edge it on handling and rougher surfaces, in my opinion.
Goodyear County Premium tyres are a bit pricier, but may be preferred by some lighter-weight tourers looking for a bit more speed on a mixture of surfaces.
More than workhorses, though very good for the daily commute or shopping trip, the Marathon Plus Tour do well on mixed surfaces when underload or travelling light. Strong puncture protection is not unusual these days, and compromise is perhaps key to the good all-round touring tyre. Road-biased tourers may prefer, Conti Top Contacts or the good old Schwalbe Marathon Plus or the Marathon Supreme. More extreme terrain may require knobblier rubber, but I can’t think of a mixed-terrain tour that I have ever done that these would not have handled with aplomb.