SCHWALBE EVOLUTION MARATHON SUPREME TYRES
32-622 700x32c 378g black (as tested) £58.99 each
Part of Schwalbe’s “Evolution Line” their Marathon Supreme Tyres offer a high spec for (mostly) road touring. “Evolution Line” promises; “The best possible. Highest quality materials. The latest technology.” A fair bit to live up to. So far they have not been outdone by the hype.
Pros: Great rolling and handling.
Cons: High quality comes at a price; a notch down on puncture resistance compared to Marathon Plus.
Materials and design
Coming in a variety of sizes from chunky 50-599 to a similarly stout 50-622 via slimmer models, we’ve been using a pretty traditional 700x32 folding version. Tubeless are available for those who want to save a few ounces and have a suitable set-up allowing running at lower pressures without risk of pinch-puncturing. Conversion kits are plentiful. Tubeless versions of the Marathon Supreme come in about £11 dearer.
Not all have the same spec, though all are built of One Start compound, aimed at reducing rolling resistance, hence greater suitability for the road: sportier and grippy on asphalt, with the faster non-racing day riders and longer distance road tourers in mind.
Puncture protection ratings vary between versions (37-622 and 42-622 have the higher rated Microskin protection - six out of six on Schwalbe’s in-house scale. Ours boasted the five out of six V-Guard. The former also have been awarded - by Schwalbe - a half a mark more on rolling quality. Potentially a good option for a comfortable ride, if you have suitable clearances. Worth remembering, too, is that ours come in over 100g per tyre lighter than the Marathon Plus.
With three skins each of of 67 TPI, the carcass is about as solid as you’ll get below the bomb proof Marathon Pluses or Mondials. Weight is kept down by “lite” sidewalls. However, as these are designed with long life rather than near eternal durability in mind; asphalt as opposed to miles of rough mud and rocky roads. Recommended pressure runs from 65 to 95psi - quite a range, especially in the context of loaded touring bikes.
A rotational tread looks well-suited to dispelling detritus, but unlikely to offer more than cart-track with shallow mud as an off-road diet. There’s also a reflective strip. Those running bottle dynamos will note there’s no dynamo belt. With this in mind, I popped the tyres onto the hub dynamo tourer.
So, we have a bit of a compromise, but a high quality one. I expected good road performance, more moderate off-roading, and sure handling on a light-weight exploration and full-laden touring.
Swapping these for the Conti Top Contacts involved none of the Herculean grunting induced on some wheels by my old Marathon Plus tyres. In fact they slipped on with only thumb pressure and a gentle gasp. Almost too easy, I thought, concerned that fast descents might bring back happy memories of tighter fits.
Rims can provide a remarkable range of tyre fitting experiences, so mine were H Plus Son Archetype. Trying them on the Sputnik Ryde rims produced a few grunts, but nothing serious.
Running them close to top pressure, at around 90, with two rear panniers loaded for a long weekend, swift twists and turns on the damp paving slabs of a city centre cycle route felt reassuringly sound - even when jamming on the disc brakes to avoid ear-phone zombies. Heading onto the stiff climbs and twisting descents of Kershope Forest’s pot-holed lanes were taken in their stride. Decent grip on forest tracks maintained forward progress, but loose descents and rockier trails were less sure-footed. Mind, you’d not expect to be corvetting amidst slimy ruts on this profile anyway. Dropping down to around the seventy mark imparted more security, but I’d not go so low under a heavy load - and i’m a pretty hefty rider even before taking luggage into account. There are alternatives in the Schwlabe range if you spend more time touring a la rough-stuff.
Climbing up to 1903 feet at Hartside next morning was predictably slow, but the run down to Alston was suitably rewarding. Lovely smooth surface gave way to one awaiting repair, but swerving to avoid pot-holes as speed approached thirty-five and occasional breaking for bends all felt fine. This was back up at ninety psi and with one very lightly loaded pannier.
The traffic-free cycle route from Slaggyford to Haltwhistle offers the full gamut of NCR fun from asphalt to gloopy track and a grassy field grazed by peaceful sheep. No problem at all - except where gravel lay several inches deep …. that would have needed a hovercraft.
Under four fully-loaded panniers there’s been no noticeable quirks. With the proviso that you have balanced your panniers reasonably, there should be no alarms. Slippery setts on canal bridges went just as comfortably as crushed lime and the odd filthy sump. At speed, sure-footedness was maintained and hard-braking felt reassuringly grounded.
Durability and Puncture Resistance
Too early to comment much, really. Given the better rolling and lighter weight, I’d not expect quite the same mileage as the old Marathon Plus. However, the first four hundred miles have barley left a mark - I scraped the mud off to check. I’d expect many, many miles.
Rattling along tracks and seeking out pot-holed back lanes and glass-strewn urban paths has not yet given me the opportunity to experience punctures. Having said that, the ease with which they popped on and off make the prospect of fixing one more pleasurable than my erstwhile Marathon Plus.
As anticipated, the flared tread pattern did not provide a home little sharps and gritty bits aiming to work their way in. I have not had to scrub the tyres, even after lengthy sections of gravel surfaces.
You’ll not get much better touring tyres than these - if you stick mainly to roads and a bit of rough stuff on tracks. Not as puncture-proof as some of their siblings in the Schwalbe family, they seem to be tough enough to cope with most things. Rolling feels rapid for a touring tyre, certainly better, I’d say, than the Marathon Plus and, at least, probably better than Continental’s Top Contacts.