Friday Photo

 

The calm before the storm.

First Impressions: Schwalbe Marathon Winter Tires

Last February, I logged a measly 25 miles for the month because of icy roads.  This winter I vowed that Mother Nature would not get the best of me.  Ice or no ice, I was going to keep riding.  In order to meet that goal (and stay upright), I decided that it was time to invest in some studded tires.

Checking the internet, I discovered that Schwalbe offered four studded tires.  Since I would be riding primarily on pavement, I chose the Marathon Winter in the 700×35 size.  The studded Marathon utilizes the company’s RaceGuard anti-puncture technology, and is constructed from a special winter (rubber) compound.  The tires also feature reflective sidewalls, and dynamo strips.

Schwalbe Marathon Winter GRAVELBIKE.com Sun Ringle

One of the first things you notice about the Marathon Winters is their weight.  The 35mm versions weigh 910 grams–230% heavier than the Vittoria Voyager Hypers that I normally run.  At the maximum recommended 85psi, the tires measured 35.1mm when mounted on 23mm rims.  Before the carbide studs are broken in, they’re surprisingly sharp, so it’s not a bad idea to wear gloves when mounting these tires.

On dry pavement, the Schwalbes are extremely sure-footed thanks to the 240 carbide studs.  They’re also a bit noisy, but I found that I tuned it out after a short while.  Traction on dirt roads and trails was outstanding, even at pavement-friendly pressures.  My first encounter with ice was, thankfully, uneventful.  Straight-line traction (and braking) was very predictable, but I did detect some slipping when transitioning between the center and side studs (decreasing the pressure improved traction, however).

GRAVELBIKE.com Boulder Colorado Schwalbe Marathon Winter Sun Ringle Salsa Vaya Avid BB7

Surprisingly, snow presented more of a challenge than ice.  The Marathon Winters fared well in fresh snow (as long as it wasn’t too deep), but navigating rutted, “crusty” snow was tricky.  For those types of conditions, the wider 700×40 version would have been a better choice.

Because of the tires’ increased drag (and added weight), I only use them when I expect extended icy conditions.  After approximately 150 miles, the tread shows virtually no wear, and no studs have ripped out.  At this rate, I expect that the tires will last many years.

Please visit the company’s website for additional information about Schwalbe’s entire line of products