Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Touring Tyre Review

Full disclosure: Schwalbe gave me a pair of Marathon Supremes for my 2012 U.S. West Coast trip, asking for feedback and an honest write-up of the tyre in return.

From the ashes of the much loved Schwalbe Marathon XR expedition tyre arose a phoenix. Or, more correctly, a number of phoenixes. Or perhaps phoeni. Anyway. The point is that Schwalbe now make no fewer than 10 varieties of touring tyre, instead of just two or three; each specialising in a particular kind of touring.

My bike's rear end in the Sudanese desert

While this is probably better for Schwalbe’s profits (popular rumour has it that the XR was discontinued because it lasted too long), the jury’s still out as to whether or not expanding the range was a good move for their customers, as it takes time for new tyres to earn a reputation. In any case, for my springtime tour in America I decided to take the new Marathon Supreme tyres for a spin.

What kind of tyre is the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme?

The Supreme is a touring tyre, so it’s designed first and foremost for longevity under load. However, the Supreme is distinguished by its place at the fast and light end of the spectrum. It features a fast-rolling asphalt tread, with noticeably lower rolling resistance against my brother’s Continental Contacts (on the same model of bike).

To suit the kind of bike and riding style this will attract, it’s available in sizes down to a rather skinny 700x28C, which weighs just 310g — a third of the weight of my old XRs. So if you’re off to break the world record for cycling round the world (again), the 100PSI 700x28C Supreme is probably your tyre.

It’s also available for 26-inch mountain bike wheels and road wheels at up to 2 inches diameter, though it’s difficult to see many circumstances in which this would be useful except as a city semi-slick. Most varieties of the Supreme are folding, so carrying a spare is practical. There’s no dynamo track, however, if you do still use a sidewall dynamo.

How do they perform?

I chose the 700x35C Schwalbe Marathon Supremes to put on my touring bike, having tested the 32Cs and decided I’d like a little more plumpness in the medium term. Like most tyres, they took me where I wanted to go, and didn’t explode. Unlike most tyres, they did so without a single puncture over the course of the two-month ride. Given their very low weight, this was impressive. (My brother’s Continental Contacts suffered 2 flats on the same ride.)

Sutras

Of the two months I’ve toured with the tyres, one full month was conducted in near-ceaseless rain, and the other month under an incessant sun, so I can vouch for the Marathon Supremes’ grippiness in both very wet and very dry conditions.

I was also impressed when I took them off-road at a lower air pressure for a few days, which I’d be reluctant to do with any standard road slicks. Sure, it wasn’t a particularly comfortable ride. But the Supremes survived unscathed, and the semi-slick tread only lost grip on the harshest and loosest of climbs. Impressive.

How long do they last?

Wear was slightly more noticeable on the rear tyre, as might be expected, but practically non-existent on the front tyre. I’ve pictured both here with two months’ wear on them. First the front tyre…

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme: Front tyre wear after 1,500 miles

…and now the rear tyre:

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme: Rear tyre wear after 1,500 miles

Regular switching of front and rear tyres would go a long way towards evening-out the wear, though there is an argument for maintaining more grip on the front tyre which plays a more important part in braking (likewise, there’s a counter-argument that this argument is not so applicable to loaded touring bikes as two brakes are usually needed to slow the extra weight).

Based on the amount of wear accumulated over two months of riding, I’d conservatively and loosely estimate a pair of the Supremes to last at least six months on a tour of average pace and load, if not longer.

Summary

If you want to tour fast and light on asphalt, but don’t want to sacrifice durability or longevity, you probably won’t find better than the Marathon Supreme. (Unfortunately, you probably won’t find pricier either…)

Schwalbe UK have a webpage detailing the Supreme’s various sizing options and detailed specifications. 

Chain Reaction Cycles* sell the 700C* (20% off) and 26″* (11% off) Supremes online.

essential-gear-sales-page-header

Buying gear for your next bike trip?

Reading this 257-page ebook first will probably save you a packet.

Find out more at GearForCycleTouring.com

19 Responses to “Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Touring Tyre Review”

  1. Adventurelaus

    Keep in mind that flats are probably more dependent on the rider than the tire. I noticed that during my ride along the Pacific coast when I tagged along with other cyclists.

    I believe that bicycles belong on the road with the traffic. Therefore I ride more in the road ways where there is less debris. I also do plenty of dodging glass shards and swerving around pot holes. Of course that goes with the cost that I’m exposed to more stress from the traffic which was especially noticeable on highway 101. Others don’t mind riding over the debris on the fare side of the shoulder in order to have a more relaxing time from the traffic even if that means that flats will be guaranteed.

    Reply
    • Tom

      I do get your point, but flats aren’t guaranteed. I rode these tyres on shoulders from BC to San Francisco whenever they were available, as I prefer not competing with traffic for road space (let’s face it — bike vs car? Bike vs truck? No thanks!).

      Number of flats? Zero.

      Reply
  2. Jeff Bartlett

    It wouldn’t surprise me if they discontinued a tire because it lasted too long. My wife is still on her original Marathon Plus tires after about 10000 km of touring.

    I had to warranty one of mine. It only last 4500 km with a manufacturers defect on the sidewall. Literally, the tire came with a torn sidewall but still lasted 4500 km on my overloaded touring rig. I took a photo, emailed it to Schwalbe and received two brand new tires in the mail.

    I cannot imagine touring with another brand of tire!

    Reply
  3. Nigel Francis

    Once again Tom excellent review. I run Schwalbe Marathons on my touring bike which I will be also taking too for my tour down under. For extra off-road ability when these wear out (by time I reach the far east) I am also packing Continental Travel Contacts. Only as they also come with a good review, and do have the extra edge nobbly bits!

    Reply
    • Tom

      Thanks Nigel. I’d like to hear about the Continentals off-road. I’ve fitted the Marathon Mondial for my next trip — according to Schwalbe’s man in the UK, it’s the closest to the old XR. I’ll do a review when the time comes, of course!

      Reply
      • Fed

        I have gone through the most remote parts of Iceland with the conti contacts (various mix of sand and rocks terrain) and they performed very well, although in the sand they sink easily as they are not very large. No punctures, easy to fit, good grip. On tarmac they really are not fast. If you plan to do quite a bit of off-road they are a sensible choice, not otherwise. Congrats on the blog Tom!

        Reply
        • Tom Allen

          I agree, they’ve plenty of grip for the dirt roads, even if they are a bit narrow. They don’t come close to the Schwalbes in durability terms, however — 2000km down the U.S. West Coast and they were as good as spent.

          Reply
      • Nigel

        Stick to Schwalbe. The Continental just doesn’t have the strength in the tyre wall compared to the Schwalbe under load.

        Reply
  4. Nigel Francis

    Through my experience it is not down to the tread on a tyre, but the quality of compound. On my commute bike I originally had Schwalbe Kojaks (baldy!). Once they had worn, I tried the cheaper Michelin City tyre. Now the city had good tread, but the Schwalbe Kojak having no tread still did a far better job of adhering to the road than the Michelin City did.

    I now run a Schwalbe Speed Cruiser tyre on the rear of my commute bike. Just the job!

    Reply
  5. Bike porn - Page 1580 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

    […] This I have them on my rat/pub, nice bike and my missus’ bike .. all good, fast rolling and light and good grip in wet and good cornering performance. Also this: http://tomsbiketrip.com/schwalbe-mar…g-tyre-review/ […]

    Reply
  6. jeff hovis

    Any info on the supremes for 29er.I’m converting my dirt Fargo back to street touring

    Reply
  7. michael

    Did you have to change your rims? I have a 2011 with Freedon Ryder 21 that recommend a max thickness of 32.

    Reply
  8. Eddie

    Any further updates on how these tyres are going Tom?

    Reply
    • Eddie

      Mmmmmm speechless I guess.

      Reply
      • Tom Allen

        Whoops — missed this comment!

        They’ve been on my training bike for the last 12 months and are still going strong. They’ve worn down more than the XRs used to, but then they’re half the weight, so that’s only to be expected. The only puncture I’ve had was a snakebite, which was my own fault (low pressure + cattle grid).

        Reply
  9. Any question answered... - Page 1129 - London Fixed-gear and Single-speed

    […] Yup; get from bike discount de might be cheaper; I am at 1100+ miles with 1 puncture and no cuts. Moar: http://tomsbiketrip.com/schwalbe-mar…g-tyre-review/ […]

    Reply
  10. Paul Lieberman

    Just switched to a pair of Supremes after getting 6,500 miles on a set of Marathon Plus 700x35c with zero flats. I’m hoping for a faster, smoother ride and even if they don’t last as long I hope they can be as puncture resistant.

    Reply

Leave a Reply