SCHWALBE MARATHON RACER TYRES
400g (each) 30x622 700x30c £37.49
Marathon Racers? Thought Seven Day Cyclist did not usually do ‘racing’? Well, don’t get too concerned, you won’t find these in the Tour de France. No, Schwalbe’s range of tyres include plenty suitable for speed, but their robust Marathon range becomes increasingly subtle. The good old Marathon Plus still adorns many bikes, but the Marathon Supreme, Tour, Mondial, GT, and the Racer offer cyclists the opportunity to refine their rubber to suit personal preference. So, let's introduce the Marathon Racer.
Pros: Decent price, good rolling.
Cons: decent, rather than great puncture protection.
These are clincher tyres, with a moderately aggressive tread (less so than the Marathon Tour, GT360) aimed primarily at road, but with some, albeit limited, off-road capacity. 67 tpi does not promise the really fast rolling of out and out race tyres, but it does suggest a good level of durability combined with good rolling. Schwalbe rate these as 5/6 for rolling and road-grip, 4/6 for durability, 5/7 for puncture protection, but just 2/6 for off-road grip.
Schwalbe point out that the Marathon Race is the lightest of the range. As part of their Performance Line, its Speed Grip compound, aims to give the best of handling for its purpose. Well, you’d hope so, wouldn’t you? The weight is kept down by reducing puncture protection, a little. The sidewall’s LiteSkin material sheds several grammes, too. Mind you, both suggest to me that keeping pressure up may well be best for longevity and to prevent flats.
Max load, per tyre, is 85kg, so these are not just for the light-weight tourer. Likewise, a pressure range of 65-100psi covers sporty to distinctly grippy.
There’s a “Reflex” reflective strip.
Size-wise there’s an interesting range. 18x1.50, 20x1.50 and 26x1.50 (40-355, 40-406, 40-455), will cover some folders, as well as many hybrid bikes. 30-622, 35-622, and 40-622 (700x30c, 700x35c, 700x38c or 28x1.20, 28x1.35, 28x1.50).
Ours was the 700x30c version. A perfectly good option and, mid-way between my regular 28 or 32s. Initially, I was a bit surprised not to find a 700x28c, given the “Racer” designation. However, touring tyres are getting wider and deeper, so the size range makes sense. When, let me tell all you young folk, I first went exploring by bike, no-one toured on 700x40c. (I’ll try to stop showing my age now, and doubtlessly fail.)
They are directional, but that is where any trouble ended. Fingers and thumbs eased them onto Son H Plus, Mavic, and Ryde Sputnik rims. They’ve lifted off with equal alacrity, using tyre levers, such as the nicely unspectacular LifeLine Professionals following a squeeze away from the rim.
Puncture protection 3.5/5
Race Guard puncture protection does not offer the same level of protection as Schwalbe’s Smart Guard. You’ll find the latter on some of the Marathon range, such as the Marathon Plus.
As, fundamentally, a road touring tyre, I’ve tried to find bits of glass, hedge-cuttings, and that sort of thing, to ride over. I’ve not had any trouble with any of it – mind you, keeping the pressure toward the top half of the range probably helped.
Off road, flints and suchlike have not caused a problem – though I’m talking forest tracks and sealed-surface canal towpath, as opposed to real rough stuff. Even better, neither these nor road detritus seem prone to take up residence in the tread. True, always best to check, but I’ve not brought any home yet.
Ride Quality 4/5
I’d agree with Schwalbe that these are very much road touring tyres. I’d add to that jauntier day-rides or light-weight weekends. Road handling is really very good, without going so far as some real racing models. They’ve made for some spritely rides in rain and shine around the local lanes. They still have a certain liveliness under load – be it camping gear or shopping. That’s quite handy when negotiating traffic, but also gives confidence on twisting descents.
Off-road things are much more limited. Moderate pace on, generally dry, solid forest trails has been fine. However, looser surfaces and wetter conditions have reduced speed considerably. My old Marathon Supreme’s offer a bit more backwoods potential, but even those have their best times on asphalt.
At lower pressures – 70-80psi – things felt a little spongy. Mind you, I weigh in at around fourteen stones, so am definitely in the cruiser-weight division. Having said that, I got around puncture free and held firm to the greasy road surface. Higher pressures, are generally my preference, and these were no exception. That would be even more true under load, especially with the LiteSkin sidewalls. They gave a lively, sprightly, ride, even with a moderate load aboard. Heavily weighted down, things were perfectly manageable, though occasionally skittish over metalwork.
In reality, I’d go for the Racer if I were going to tour almost totally on good, solid surfaces – wet or dry. Mud and gravel need more.
As ever, this is difficult to judge, but four hundred miles in there is no hint of stress. however, given Schwalbe's description and rating they should last good long while, with care, but maybe less than some others in the Marathon range.
Finding an exact equivalent has proved more than tricky. A touring tyre with an emphasis on rolling on the road? This may be a bit niche. The Continental Contact Speed Reflex tyre share some characteristics, but is slicker and probably has less touring potential. It is a few pounds cheaper, but you’ll find discounts on both online.
As a baseline, Schwalbe’s own Marathon Plus may be the dinosaurs of the range, but are still popular all-rounders. They may not be the perfect go-anywhere tyre, but they’ve served well for a generation of mixed surface touring.
Closest, in my view, is the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. These are a lot pricier, but I have had several years of touring and day-riding from them: above all, they have more potential for trips down forest trails and cart-roads, when a road-orientated tourer gets that urge to head on a brief off road launch. The Marathon Tour are another good option, with rather more off-road and fully-laden potential.
Then there’s the Marathon Mondial, which impressed Michael so much, but will, by comparison, empty your wallet.
As I’ve indicated, Schwalbe’s range of Marathon tyres comprises a spectrum of very good tyres. You’ll not go too far wrong with any. Much is about the balance of your riding, and - to be a bit cynical – the extent to which you feel ‘marginal gains’ are important to your journey. That is not to say that there are not real differences in the tyres. Go anywhere GT 365 tyres offer very different qualities to the good old Marathon Plus. On the other hand, in my opinion, the Marathon Supreme and the Marathon Racer are not far apart – the Supreme, I think, being a bit better off-road, and close to the Racer on it, whilst suggesting more durability under heavy loads. Overall, the Racer is really one for the speedy, but not racing day out, and the mainly road – or, at least, solid surface – tour.