November 09, 2012

Schwalbe Marathon Winter Studded Tire Review

Marathons after yesterday's snowstorm
I hate to say it, but it's (winter) stud time again. I have had the Schwalbes mounted for a few weeks now and they have been necessary. These are the best winter commuter studded tires I have found so far. Sure they're heavy (920 g each for mine, listed at 910 g) and they roll slower than normal cyclocross tires, but they are lighter and faster than other studded tires I have tried. The tread is reasonably aggressive, but not overly deep. Squirms and slips a bit on deep snow, but most tires do. These aren't ice spikers after all.

I rode these tires for most of last winter as well. When I got the tires I noticed there were a number of studs that were not properly embedded. So I embedded them properly. From Schwalbe:

In order to ensure that spikes are permanently fixed, tires should be run in for about 25 miles (40km) on asphalt, while avoiding any fast acceleration or heavy braking.
I first rode them for 50 km on pavement without any fast acceleration or heavy braking and lost 3 studs anyways. They were all in the same area of the tire so probably a single bike handling episode ripped them out before they were embedded properly. I replaced them with new studs. Since then I haven't babied them and have only lost a single stud in quite a few km of ice and pavement riding - 2000+ km? Who knows, but I do commute year round and use these for 3 or 4 months each winter whenever its icy. In this neck of the woods, we get a snowstorm followed by warmer weather and lots of salt applied by the city. That turns the bike paths and roads to a mix of ice and bare pavement, mostly. Hard on studded tires, but these tires have the carbide studs so stud wear hasn't been an issue (unlike steel studs). The rubber itself shows no sign of any wear.

The tires make the bike ride very rough on rough pavement when they are pumped to 80 psi, but at lower psi they are smoother, if slower. Not an issue if there is a bit of snow on the ground. I tend to pump them to the high end of the range so they roll faster and assume the rough ride increases my bone density. Win, win. If it is extremely icy I will reduce tire pressure for more grip though. You can still slip around, even with studs. But for the most part I can ride as hard as I want without crashing and pass lots of tentative people on the bike path on slippery days. I haven't crashed once with these tires, fingers crossed.

I like the reflective sidewall for the dark days of winter, but to be honest, it gets all dirty and not so reflective after a while. Could wash them off I suppose. I don't fuss it.

I wish they made a narrower version for my particular application. And in a folding version for lighter weight. I have the 700x35 which is their narrowest version for 700c wheels. Somewhat overkill for me. Can't imagine using the 700x42. Those would be real beasts. This tire is also made for several other wheel sizes including 26 inch.

The tires have a belt of something or other for flat protection. Good idea as fixing tires in winter sucks. No flats for me to date. The tire is very solid and thick so it would take quite a nasty piece of road garbage to cause a flat. Pinch flats are pretty much impossible with minimum recommended tire pressure or more. The tires should last for a very very long time given their heavy construction.

All in all, these tires make the best of a bad situation for commuting on icy roads. I do take every opportunity to swap them out for my Schwalbe CX Pro tires though, conditions permitting. I like the speed and stopping the clackety-clack of the studs on the pavement. Am I purposely picking only Schwalbe tires? Not really, it just worked out that way.

January 18, 2014 Update: Lots of miles (80 km yesterday), no visible wear, studs are staying put. Never had a flat. Very good tires.