September 19, 2009
Designing a touring tire with the optimal mix of puncture resistance, durability, a plush feel, and a low rolling resistance is nothing short of difficult. Fortunately, Schwalbe has put out a plethora of touring style tires that balance out the different tire characteristics to fit a wide variety of rider preferences and terrain. On the flip side, having a large quantity of options can also be intimidating. Instead of running down all of the tires in Schwalbe's Marathon lineup, I'll hit three tires that provide a good representation of what they have to offer.
Marathon Extreme HS 402: Pavement or gravel, wet or dry, this is a heavy duty expedition style tire that will tackle just about any road from Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego. There is a puncture resistant belt built into the tire that helps keep glass and other sharp objects from working their way towards your tube, and the actual tire compound is soft enough to contribute to a comfortable ride. The tread may look better suited for off-road use, but in addition to providing excellent grip, it also rolls surprisingly smoothly on pavement. The $77/tire price is a bit intimidating, but the durability and piece of mind that comes with it is hard to beat.
Marathon HS 368: The jack of all trades. Priced well at just under $40/tire, they balance durability, puncture resistance, and low rolling resistance with the best of them. The shallow tread is best suited for pavement, and will channel water nicely for sure footed handling in the rain. The durable casing and light tread pattern will allow you to venture out into the world of gravel as well. This tire is available through our store in sizes 700x28, 700x35, and 26x1.75. If we don't have the size you're looking for, check out the Schwalbe website for more sizes that will fit your road, mountain, and even Bike Friday wheels!
Marathon HS Slick 341: Smooth, quick, and quiet is a good way to describe this tire. Available only in a 26x1.75 size, this is a great way to get your mountain bike ready for the pavement. These high mileage tires will keep you rolling consistently with just enough traction to keep them from getting too slick.
I'm still in denial that summer is on its way out, so I won't say anything about their studded winter tires for a few more months. If you're interested in what else Schwalbe has to offer, check out their website and browse through their many selections available.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's Member Services Department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.