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Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB: The ideal bike tire for a world tour?

The moment bicycle tires get interesting... A slightly more technical blog about one of the most important parts of your bike!

What is the perfect tyre for a world trip by bike?
Gravelroads in Spain

Which bike tyres do you use?

In this blog we'll tell you a little bit more about our Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB tires. The outer tire of 27.5" is 2.25" wide. We combine them with Schwalbe;s SV19 inner tubes. You will read more about the rolling resistance, grip, puncture resistance, and durability off these Schwalbe tires. And above all, is it a good tire for a world trip by bike?

Via Instagram and Facebook you contact us daily with questions about the setup and material of our bikes. In the top 3 of these questions" "Which tires do you use?". About time to write an article that provides you with some necessary information. In this blog we evaluate how these tyres lend themselves to a cycling trip of longer duration. If, after reading this blog, you'd still have questions or need help choosing a tyre that fits your needs, get in touch.

Does the perfect bicycle tire for a world tour exist?

We can give a short answer to this question, no, we don't think there is an allround perfect bicycle tire for a world trip by bike. As with everything in life, selecting a tire is a matter of give and take. Everything depends on your own priorities. Many cyclists prefer a tire that rolls very smoothly, but often have to make sacrifices in terms of grip and puncture resistance. Others want a very durable tire that lasts a long time, which means that the weight is often increased.

If you're only going to make short cycling trips, you'll need a totally different tire than if you'd be making a world tour by bike. Bikepacking trips through rough roads need a completely different tire compared to when you'd only be cycling on asphalt. Setting the right priorities is essential.

How do you choose your tire for a bicycle trip?

According to us, what are the most important choices to make when selecting a bicycle tire for a world tour or a cycling trip from longer duration?

  • Protection aka I want to patch/replace tires as little as possible

  • Durability aka I want to cycle for a whole year with 1 pair of tires

  • Grip aka I want to feel safe cycling in the rain/through the mud/on slippery roads

  • Off-grid aka I want to cycle off the beaten track

  • Rolling aka I need a tire that's capable to cycle fast on paved roads

Schwalbe gives a score out of 10 on each component, below we explain how they score and how satisfied we are with them after just over 6,000km.

Puncture resistance (protection) and durability

For us, these two components were at the top of our list when choosing a bicycle tire. Patching a tire in hard, wet, cold conditions is one of the most annoying things while making a cycling trip. It can quickly ruin the fun of a cycling day and it's just great being able to rely on our tires on any surface while on the road.

Our Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires receive a 10/10 for "Protection" according to the manufacturer. Schwalbe's SmartGuard technology optimally protects your tires by adding a 5mm elastic rubber. This protects them from the most common things like glass, metal objects, sharp stones etc. Last year we cycled from Belgium to Spain (2,700km) over different types of terrain, but we have also cycled through Germany and went bikepacking in the Netherlands. All together good for +/- 6.000km through the most extreme surfaces. What is the result? We have currently had ZERO flat tires. So the 10/10/ Protection is indeed correct!

Yet we are curious how we could benefit from a tubeless tire (just an outer tube, without an inner tube). With a special fluid and valve, a seal is created which completely stops the flow of air, so you have less chance of punctures and less rolling resistance. Something that could be very interesting, because the necessity of patching a tire immediately disappears for a big part. We can mount tubeless tires on our wheelset and think it could be very interesting for countries like Mexico. There we’d often be cycling through cactus areas and we have no idea how our Schalwbes would deal with those conditions. Hopefully we can write more about this later.

When we talk about durability, it's mainly about "Approximately how many miles can we cycle with a tire". This of course depends on the surface and conditions for a big part. Schwalbe uses a special kind of rubber that gives an extra protection to the side of the tires, they wear down slower thanks to this. An average use for these tires is often estimated between 12,000 and 15,000 km, but we know world cyclists who have covered 25,000 km with these tires. Durable? Definitely! Knowing that other tires often only last 3,000 to 5,000 km. We again agree with Schwalbe, giving them a 10/10 rating for "Durability". We’ve used our tires for over 6.000 km now and they still almost look brand new.

Grip Schwalbe MTB Marathon Plus

The grip of our tires did not have to be outstanding for us. We are aware that (no matter how adventurous we think we are) we are cycling on asphalt roads at least 50% of the time. Schwalbe rates the grip for the Marathon Plus MTB a 6 out of 10, a score that reflects how we feel cycling through harsh conditions. We feel quite safe when the roads are wet/slippery, but also have to admit that we don't race downhill at full speed. The tires react properly to sudden and quick movements and we always feel in control of the bike.

However, once we cycle faster than 25km/hour we start to notice we have to be more careful with these sudden movements. Compared to our previous tyres, WTB Riddler 2.4”, we have to admit we felt more secure on those tires riding in harsh and fast conditions. This of course also has to do with the fact those tires are a bit wider. If you know you’d mainly be cycling in wet and harsh conditions, we would advise to go for a tire like the WTB Riddlers.

Off-Grid possibilities

Ok, this is a feature we added ourselves that Schwalbe doesn't use. We added it anyway, because we want to pass along to other (world) cyclists, that asphalt roads sometimes will become a bit boring. Knowing ourselves, we knew we’d be on the quest for adventure on the road. For this reason, we have chosen for a bike and tires that allow us to tackle any surface.

Our Surly Bridge Clubs are reliable and fun on any surface, our tires are no exception to this. Admittedly, both (tires and bike) don't excel on any specific surface, but can practically handle any conditions. From flat asphalt roads to hilly gravel roads and the most diverse MTB trails. During our trip through the Veluwe, where we very often cycled through loose sand, it was not a big win. Our thick, heavy tires slowed us down enormously and loose sand is a real drawback. Cycling through heavy mud, however, is very playful and fun with Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB tires.

Bikepacking Trip in the Netherlands
Not the perfect tire for a trip through loose sand

Rolling resistance

According to Schwalbe, this is where our tires scores the least well, namely 4/10. Unfortunately we have to agree with them, because they are certainly not the fastest rolling tires. There is quite a bit of rolling resistance when cycling on paved roads. Other cyclists with slick tires will overtake you while drinking their morning coffee. This is a bit exaggerated, but we honestly feel (and sometimes hear) the struggle our tires have with paved roads. Luckily, we can live with this, but if speed is important to you, we don’t recommend these Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB.

Our verdict: How satisfied are we with our Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB tires?

We are still very satisfied with our Schwalbe MTB Marathon Plus tires. The SmartGuard system really is a winner. We realise that puncture resistance is much more important to us than speed. In addition, it is not a top performer on the toughest MTB surfaces, but you can get anywhere with these Schwalbes.

Because we are both quite small (1m60 and 1m72) we would not easily choose a 29" tire (often more difficult for climbing if you’re small). However, we can't decide this for others and the best tip we can share, is to go to friends or a local bike shop and try out some different sizes. 27.5" is perfect for us because of its diversity. We feel a 2.25” width is the minimum required, definitely if you want to do a world trip through different conditions.

For a trip around the world or longer bike trips we feel this is the perfect tire for us! They handle various surfaces well and match our slightly more playful way of cycling. Personally we would like to have tires with less rolling resistance, but we have too little technical knowledge to know if this is possible at all in combination with a high Protection grade. In our opinion, you can never go wrong with Schwalbe!

Tips on buying bicycle tires

There are a few things you should know before buying a bicycle and bicycle tires:

  • There are different sizes in tires: 26" / 27.5" / 28" (700cc) / 29". Simplistically explained, the smaller the size, the more rotations you will have to make. So you will have to make more rotations with a 26" than with a 29" to cover the same distance.

  • You can't just fit any size of bicycle tire on any bicycle. This depends on the frame of your bike and that is definitely something to take into account.

  • Depending on the wheelset/frame you can mount a certain tire size. Be careful, because the width of your tires can also be important. Often the rule is, the narrower the tire, the less rolling resistance. The wider the tire, the more suitable for off-grid surfaces. Each wheelset has specific options towards the width of a tire, so be sure to check this beforehand as well.

  • Not every type of tire is available in every tire size. For example, it is not possible for us to mount the popular Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour on our wheelset, because it is not produced in a 27.5" version.

  • 27.5" and 29" are more oriented towards MTB-like frames. Therefore, in these sizes you will find a wider range of tires with more profile. Tubeless tires are also increasingly being made in these sizes.

  • 28" is very popular for standard touring bikes or commuter bikes.

  • 26" used to be the most accessible tire worldwide, but this is slowly decreasing. There are different opinions on this, but the fact is that they are becoming slightly less popular and harder to find in some places.

  • If you're planning a long distance cycling trip, be sure to check which tire size is the most accessible in the continent you're cycling in.

Alternative The combination of a Schwalbe Racing Ray Addix (front) and a Racing Ralph (rear) could be perfect if you want an even more playful bike. This 27.5" combination gives a little less rolling resistance and will also work better in loose sand, even on paved roads you will speed up the pace a little. You do sacrifice a bit in terms of durability and puncture resistance, but in those areas they still score between 6 and 7 out of 10 according to Schwalbe.

Schwalbe MTB Marathon Plus: For us a perfect around the world trip tire
Schwalbe MTB Marathon Plus: For us a perfect around the world trip tire

Do you have any questions about our bicycle tires or are you looking for a nice composition for your cycling trip? Don't hesitate to get in touch!

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Packing List World Trip by Bike
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