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Mountain Bike Tyres!

Marin Team Issue Shimano Deore XT equipped
My XT equipped Marin Mountain Bike, fitted with Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres!

Thinking of fitting Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres, then I think you might want to read my review of them on this page first!

My Marin's Mountain Bike Tyres!

My bike may be two decades old, but I like to change the tyres, every decade or so!

I would ride both on and off road all year round with whatever tyres were on the bike.

I had spent many years riding this bike rotating the tyres on 2 sets of wheels, 1 set for summer and 1 set for winter use.

On my summer wheels I was using a set of Specialized Fat Boy 26 x 1.25 tyres (sorry no pics to show!) and on my winter wheels I had some Paneracer Smokes 26 x 2.25 for many a year.

Marin XT with Paneracer Smoke Mountain Bike Tyres!
Marin XT fitted with Paneracer Smokes.

Paneracer Smoke Tyre
Paneracer Smoke Tyre.

Paneracer Smoke Tread
Paneracer Smoke Tread.

My original Specialized Fatboys lasted for years before they seemed to wear down, and although a 'slick' tyre they had excellent grip. They were completely slick with zero tread and to casual observers it would look like the mountain bike was just fitted with innertubes, and you would often see people doing a double take!

The Fatboys were smooth and fast and when it came to replacing them, it was always obvious that I would be buying more! The trouble was the newer ones came with a 'new improved compound' & 'less punctures' label. These seemed to pick up constant punctures -but I liked the way they rolled so just put up with the punctures! I would ride with Fatboys until around mid-December each year, when the wet roads would begin to change to icy roads.

In December I would always change over to my Paneracer Smokes, eventually though (after about 10,000 miles use!) the smokes were in need of replacement too. By now they were a little prone to punctures, and threads were coming off the side walls. I would of replaced them far sooner, but they were no longer being made and I wanted to replace with the same again! Then Continental brought out their 'EDGE' tyre, and from the descriptions online, it was being reviewed as a copy of the old Paneracer Smoke tyre that was so popular in its day, but not been around for a decade (funny I still had mine!).

Marin XT with Continental Edge Mountain Bike Tyres!
Marin XT fitted with Continental Edge Tyres.

Continental Edge Tyre
Continental Edge Tyre.

Continental Edge Tread
Continental Edge Tread.

With the Continental Edge tyres 26 x 1.9, being cheap at only 13 each online I had nothing to lose and bought some. I found they had a low enough rolling resistance to be fast, but they did not seem quite as grippy or fast as the old Smokes. I would always ride with tyres at full pressure, whatever the conditions.

I found I had a couple of hairy moments at roundabouts trying to get around them at speed, that the Paneracers would of easily coped with. but all in all a good cheap tyre. I found that I could also ride carefully over ice with them when exploring the Norfolk coast roads in winter, saving a few 10 mile unknown detours! In the Summer of 2012, I even managed 51mph on them!(downhill).

Why was I riding my Knobblys in the summer of 2012, and not my slicks! Well that's another story...

Back in 2011, I decided that enough was enough, I had had it with fixing punctures on an almost weekly basis, so I threw the latest Fatboys in the bin and opted for some Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26 x 1.35 tyres for my summer wheels. I thought at the price of them and with a little bit of tread on them and reflective strips, maybe they would be a good all year round tyre! Little did I know!...

Marin XT with Schwalbe Marathon Plus SmartGuard Tyres!
Marin XT fitted with Schwalbe Marathon Plus SmartGuard Tyres.

Continental Edge Tyre
Schwalbe Marathon Plus SmartGuard Tyre.

Continental Edge Tread
Schwalbe Marathon Plus SmartGuard Tread.

On my first outing with them, taking my nephew to the park on his bike, we went over a road hump at slow speed and my wheel slipped out, I though ok, it's made from shiny cobble stones and these are brand new tyres, which maybe need running in before they grip!?

...but, within the next few weeks I found they would slip not only on any metal grids, especially when damp or wet, but also on painted road markings, which being back in Manchester, there are an awful lot of. I also found that I was having trouble cornering too!

On the annual Manchester to Blackpool bike ride (& back), another rider with me could see as we were approaching one right hand bend that my front wheel was begining to slide out, he backed off as he was on the inside of me, saying are you ok! I replied ' I can't make it round this corner!' as I was then sliding towards the kerb edge, luckily I just got the bike back under control as I was clipping the kerb! He said 'what happened?', I said 'it's the tyres, that's the sixth time now'!

In August 2011, after losing just about all confidence in the grip of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres I removed the wheel and tyres and reverted back to my Winter set! I had only kept them on so long due to the fact they had stood up to the target of zero punctures. The fact that they did not grip anywhere near as much as a completely tread-free tyre was a big surprise to begin with, but when you look at the rubber, the rubber is a much harder compound and the tyre is so solid it would appear that not as much of the surface area of the tyre is in touch with the road.

In 2012, I decided that reverting back to the Schwalbe Marathon Plus for the summer season was just not worth it. The 2012 Manchester to Blackpool (& back) bike ride proved a bit tougher than usual this year using knobblys, but at least I felt safe on them and I was happy to remain using them all year round.

One of the reasons I also stayed on the knobbly winter tyres was that 2012 was a hectic year for me (completely rebuilding my house!) and I just did not have the extra time and funds to sort a change of summer tyres out.

...but then in September on a local organised bike ride I hit a pot hole & buckled both my rear tyre and rim. This gave me only one option, dig my summer wheels out.

Big mistake, the rest of September proved quite scary on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, then just a couple of weeks later on another organised bike ride, BANG! my rim exploded off my back wheel and the innertube blew out from beneath the Schwalbe Marathon Plus rear tyre. I had examined the wheel before the ride and said the pressure in the tyres while they had been stored for the year seemed to have altered the shape of the rim a little! (perhaps the rim was just old and worn though.)

Schwalbe Marathon Plus Exploding Rim
Whoops! My Rim Blew Off!
(& I got my First Puncture whilst using the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres!)
Several photo's of the wheel were taken by people at the time and I was told it they had been posted on Facebook!

The next ride the week later, I was ready for, I had moved my Schwalbe Marathon Plus rear tyre onto my repaired Winter wheel, so although I had odd hubs for the first time ever, at least I could still participate. Also I only pumped them up to 80psi, to see if I gained a little extra grip, by not using the maximum pressure this time.

At one point on the way back on the ride, some of the following cyclists, went the wrong way. We were stood stationary waiting for them. I turned in the road, saying I'll go after them.. ..but just as I turned the wheel slipped out from underneath me and I was on the ground before I knew it! Those with me were like 'what the!?' & 'how!?' and I just said "it's the tyres!"

Unfortunately that fall at zero speed smashed my right hand gear shifter and damaged my rear mech!

So the next time anyone asks me how much my Marathon Plus tyres cost, I will have to add a few things up! ...but they won't ask about them, as they are being binned as I type! They still look as good as new, but I think that is down to the fact the rubber is too hard to wear down/grip.

As a tyre I hated them, but for their 3M Scotchlite reflective band and puncture resistance I loved them. So this is what I have now looked for in their replacements.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus at Night
The 3M reflective strip on the side of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres at night.

Having lost all confidence when cornering and with winter now approaching, (I used to take some corners at crazy speeds of upto 45MPH in the wet with the Fatboys & knobblys, that I would not take at 15MPH in the damp with the Marathon Plus tyres!), I have decided I am prepared to ride on a slower speed tyre, anything as long as grip is the number 1 priority, until I can now get my confidence in tyres restored.

For this I have now opted for Continental Top Contact Winter II tyres. I have not read any reviews for these, but that's where I went wrong on the Schwalbe Marathon Plus!

I bought the Schwalbe Marathon Plus after reading many rave reviews on Cycle Retailers websites, little did I realise such review pages are biased towards good reviews! I have tried to post my own experience of the tyres on many of the retailers review pages, but every time it has not appeared! That and together with the fact a fellow cyclist I met who was on a time trial bike yesterday said he had just bought some for winter after only reading good reviews, hence why I decided to write this page, today.

My new Continental Top Contact Winter II tyres have arrived and are totally flexible. They went on with ease, unlike the almost impossible to fit Marathon Plus tyres. The Continental Winter tyres, are also puncture resistant, so I do not see why the Marathon Plus tyres had to be so hard. Maybe it's because the Winter II tyres are made with a special weave of Vectran which is flexible but 5 times stronger than steel!

Are my new tyres any good? I don't know, but I hope so...

Continental Top Contact Winter 2 Tyre!
New Continental Top Contact Winter II Tyres.

Continental Top Contact Winter 2 Tread
Continental Top Contact Winter II Tread.

Continental Top Contact Winter 2 on front wheel
Continental Top Contact Winter II fitted on Front Wheel & ready to be fitted onto bike.
It's a bit of a shame that the 'Handmade in Germany' print does not line up correctly to eitherside of the dust cap, when you align the larger print to the wheel stickers on either side of the wheel :(


Marin XT with Continental Top Contact Winter 2
Wow as soon as you get on the bike you can just tell the Continental Top Contact Winter 2's are gripping the road, so much so that they are confidance inspiring. (& Roads were cold and damp when I went out)

I wish I had got tyres like these before now. It's just a shame that it took such a bad set of tyres for me to discover such a good set. After the first 20-mile test ride, I am now so pleased about buying these, that I was able to concentrate on traffic further ahead rather that what was immediately beside me. My fears have been lifted - in a single journey!... ...now that I did not expect. Also I had done 15 miles before I realised just how quiet a tyre they are too.

Although I found them capable at normal road speed, I was not yet able to try out some faster speed and cornering on them yet as the gears on the bike are still in need of repair :(
...but an upgrade to XTR shifters and XTR Rear Mech is on the way! :)


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