Cycling Around the World

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Evolution Review

Not having a clue what a good tyre was for cycle touring, I just took what came with my touring bike at purchase. Those tyres were Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Evolution.

At first look I couldn’t believe how slick they were. I imagined a touring bicycle needing plenty of tread to tackle off-road trails and tracks, as well being very capable of handling smooth tarmac. My thoughts were on something almost knobbly. It wasn’t until I got going that I realised how great these tyres were.

Riding an old bike along canal paths and beachfront promenades once in a while was about it regarding my cycling experience. I’ve changed a puncture and straightened my handlebars when I have fallen off, but nothing more technical than that, but that didn’t stop me buying an expedition touring bike and setting out on my first ever tour

My gearing was a belt drive and Rohloff hub initially, and I was really concerned about having to take the wheel off if I had a puncture, a simple job to most, but for me it was something I really wasn’t looking forward to and really hoped that I wouldn’t get too many punctures and hoped for lots of good roads and pathways.

Well, so much for lots of good roads and pathways. The first 3300 km’s through the UK, France and the centre of Spain, had me riding on tracks and trails I really didn’t imagine in Europe. Sure, I thought that at some point - like the Australian Outback - I might encounter gravel and really bad roads, but not so soon, not in these parts of Europe.

For days on end I would bump and bounce my heavily loaded bike over rocks, gravel, mud, and even no tracks or trails at all, just fields. Of course I had my share of great roads too.

I didn’t have a clue that the sidewalls of the tyres were so thin. In fact, on looking into these tyres in more detail, the sidewalls are referred to as LiteSkin. Super thin sidewalls to keep the weight down and aid folding, as the tyres can be folded too.

My weight of 151 kg’s when I set out, 40 kg’s of bags, and the bike weighing in at 22 kg’s is a lot of total weight, too much weight really. But not one single puncture in 3300 km’s.

It wasn’t just the tracks and trails and sharp rocks and stones, I also clipped plenty of curbs and other hazards. I would wince as I felt the tyre squeak down the edge of a paving stone or curb, or get trapped in cracks in the pavement, and not to mention potholes.

My cycling experience was so limited prior to this tour, so learning to avoid tyre hazards would come to me in time. I also went right over nuts and other metal bits that I often spotted too late on hard shoulders or in gutters.

Nearly 3000 km’s into my tour and I noticed a wobble in my rear wheel, which turned out to be a bulge in the sidewall. This was likely a result of the battering the tyre had received. I changed the tyre at a bike shop in Southern France 80 km's later.

I can’t honestly comment on whether they have great rolling resistance, as I really had nothing to compare it to due to being such a novice, but I did feel like I was flying when on well maintained tarmac. I would imagine most tyres would do well.

One thing I did notice was that on really steep gravel or stony tracks and roads, the rear wheel would spin. There wasn’t enough grip for the tyres to climb the really steep stuff. When I say steep, I’m talking steep enough that the front wheel would be hardly touching, like I was trying to do a wheelie. But that said, it could simply have been that most wheels would have spun on these hills. I was in my lowest gear with a fully loaded bike after all.

While my bike was being fitted with a new drive, I had the dealer put another couple of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Evo tyres on. He told me that the one I still had on was still good with plenty of life in it, but I had it changed anyway and will use the old one as a spare, now that I know it folds up.

People swear by Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres, as they have stiffer sidewalls and a deeper tread, and I can understand that, especially if their touring will involve an awful lot of trails or even snow and sand. I would imagine the Supreme Evo's not being the best choice for ice and snow, but then again I don't plan on cycling in those conditions.

Deeper tread can also mean more chance of getting a puncture, because what I did notice was that when I did hit a nut or object on the road, it would be forced out to the side or fold over. If the object would have encountered a groove in a tread, it may well have been forced to go straight into the tyre. Well, that’s just my opinion. I always kept the tyres pumped up solid too.

I love these tyres.