Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tyres

Do you hate punctures? I mean, really hate them? Well these Schwalbe Marathon Supremes will turn them into an unpleasant memory. These tyres are basically indestructible. 

Words and Images - James Raison


ABOUT

My dalliances into endurance cycling have given me a taste for super-wide-tubeless-ready-puncture-resistant rubber. Enter the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme HS 469, this is the microskin TL Easy version. Previous iterations of these rubber rollers are highly regarded by touring cyclists and the kind of sensible folks who preference ruggedness over weenie-ism. 

So let’s talk numbers: these are 35 mm wide and weigh (wait for it) 545 g. I’ll come back to outright weight later. They’re adorned with a reflective strip around the sidewall that gives off a healthy glow when lit up at night or in the early hours. They have a maximum recommended load of 100 kg, and a recommended pressure of 55 - 85 psi which I completely ignored. 

Fitting and setup was easy (according to my mechanic who did it for me because there’s no way I was rolling out for Indy Pac on my own ham-fisted attempt at tubeless). The tyres hooked onto the rims of my Curve CC38 rims, inflated nicely, and held their pressure without any problems.

THE RIDE

There’s no denying a certain lethargy when you’re accelerating these tyres but that’s unsurprising given their bulk. I also found myself tinkering around with tyre pressures quite a lot. They had a quite stiff ride at 70 psi, unsurprising given their stiff sidewalls. I eventually dumped out all the pressure down to about 40 psi and then rode them all the way to Comfort City.

Yes, these puncture fighting rubber slabs got nice and comfortable set tubeless and 40 psi on the rear and 35-ish on the front. The small amount of flex in the sidewall did a great job tuning out vibration and bumps. I’ve ridden these fellas for 3,000 kms on some atrocious chipseal roads, highways, and other generally awful surfaces. Dropping down the pressures changed them from rugged to comfy and rugged.

I was pleasantly surprised how well they roll once they’re at speed. They eat up flat roads exceptionally well. I had full confidence descending on them too. The compliance that comes from low pressures gives the bike a solidly planted feeling that shrugs off most bumps and road texture. Anecdotally, I didn’t notice any slower rolling when riding with friends on much racier tyres. Many times I found myself rolling away from them while we freewheeled down shallow descents. 

Of course, the elephant in the room is… well… the tyres. Once the gradient goes up, so does your awareness of their weight. They are heavy tyres and heavy tyres are no fun when climbing. I was previously running Compass Bon Jon Pass 35 mm tyres that were about 200 g lighter per tyre. I missed them when climbing on these. But hey, I’m not going to lambast them too much. I knew they were heavy when I bought them. It was a concession I was willing to make for puncture protection.

These tyres have had a hard life

These tyres have had a hard life

I did some close inspection of the tyre wear for this review and found… nothing. Apart from a small discolouration where the rubber touches the road, they’re immaculate. The problem I have now is that I don’t think I can wear them out and I need to test other tyres. Some testimonials talk about over 10,000 km with no punctures and they're still not worn enough to change.

SO WHO ARE THESE FOR?

These tyres occupy a strange corner of the market. They roll quickly but their weight means most people will overlook them. They definitely get a recommendation from me though. For commuters, tourers, or people with a winter rig, they are a top notch tyre. I've gotten so confident now I don't ride with spare tubes unless I'm doing a really long ride far from home.

WRAPPING UP

I grew to like Schwalbe's hefty rollers a lot more than I thought. Sure, they're heavy and weirdly ugly, but they've got a lot going for them. They do have a harsh ride at recommended pressure, but I found dropping that right down made them comfy and smooth. Grip was very good, rolling speed was surprisingly good, and they held air really well when setup tubeless. 

After the nuclear apocalypse there will only be cockroaches and these tyres. I suspect wind erosion will destroy them before I will. Check them out if you want to eat a lot of road without worrying about your rubber.