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Old 10-15-09, 04:09 PM   #1
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Review: Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 2.0

I've been planning to post a review of my Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 29x2.0 tires for a while but have been waiting until I had a few more miles on them. However, I've recently been asked about them, and my enthusiasm is outpacing my patience. So here's a preliminary review, which I hope to update later.

Let's start with a picture:



Schwalbe lists it at 50mm wide, and that matches what my caliper tells me. They say it weighs 645 grams (nearly 100 grams less than a 700x28 Marathon Plus!), and I'll take their word for it, more or less.

The recommended pressure range, according to Schwalbe, for this size (as well as the 26x2.0) is 30-70 psi, while most of the other sizes are 50-85 (55-95 for the 700x32).

I got these tires from Niagara Cycle Works for about $45 each plus shipping. At the time, most places didn't have them in stock, including Schwalbe. That's the case again right now, but if you Google, I think you can find them somewhere, though not Niagara.

So, those are the technical details.

Let me start the subjective part of the review by saying up front that I have a seriously high level of irrational infatuation with these tires. Towards the end of summer, I was thinking about replacing the frame that I've got them on, and my number one requirement was that the replacement had to be able to use these tires. Everything else was negotiable. (FWIW, I ended up keeping the old frame.)

The picture above, being a side view, doesn't do justice to how truly huge this tire is. It's no Surly Endomorph, but after a summer of riding on 700x25's this looks gigantic. I like it!

I got these tires for my Marin Muirwoods 29er, which I use almost exclusively as a rain bike. Schwalbe says the Marathon Supreme has great wet grip. I tend to ride carefully on wet roads and haven't hit any unexpected obstacles yet, so I can't confirm that directly, but I haven't seen anything to make me question it.

I got the Supremes to replace a pair of 29x1.6 Conti Town Rides. I don't think I can make a good empirical comparison based on speed, because I hadn't used the Contis for a month or so before the switch, but my subjective impression was that the Supremes were faster. Without question, they have a better feel, which I'd probably describe as supple even knowing that probably doesn't convey anything precisely. You don't really feel the tire like you do with some tires. It just rolls. Does that make any sense?

I've got just over 300 miles on them with no flats. That doesn't mean anything, of course. Schwalbe says the puncture protection is very good. I don't question it. They better not flat a lot. I really don't like the idea of trying to fill these babies with a hand pump.

I've been running them at relatively high pressure up to now, mostly because I was trying to assess their speed potential. The description of the ride feel above is mostly based on that. But really, you don't buy a tire like this to ride at max pressure, do you?

I took the bike with these tires out for a leisure ride with my daughter this weekend, and I dropped the pressure to somewhere around 30-35 PSI, depending on whether you believe my cheap pump (30) or my cheap pressure guage (35) -- probably both are wrong but in the ballpark.

My first impression was that it was a lot firmer (as measured by squeezing) at that pressure than I expected. I was mentally comparing it to my 700x35 CX tires at the same pressure, which I realize is probably kind of a dumb comparison given the difference in air volume between the two.

The first day out at 30ish PSI I rode mostly on paved bike paths, with just a little bit of grass and hard-packed dirt. It did great with that ride, so I took it out the next day with the same pressure for my commute. Again, it felt great.

I can't say much about the speed because I had platform pedals on and I usually use clipless. It was maybe 1-2 mph slower than my typical speeds on the commute with these tires at high pressure (just looking at the numbers on the computer) but didn't feel slow. The tires still felt like they were rolling great.

Early on in the commute, I could feel the rear tire compressing a lot when I was climbing. I attributed that mostly to poor weight distribution on my part, and I was able to make it go away by shifting my weight forward when climbing. It probably would make sense to give the rear tire a little higher pressure.

The pavement on my commute is pretty smooth, so I had to seek out rough patches to get a feel for the shock absorption. It rolled over the kind of debris you typically find in a bike lane (twigs, small rocks, acorns, etc.) pretty well. I could feel it, but it wasn't rough. On badly broken pavement (tree roots growing under a paved bike path), it was good but didn't blow me away.

Then I took it across a choppy grass and gravel field/parking area at the local county fairgrounds. There I was really impressed. It ate it up without bouncing me around or bottoming out, and it was really easy to maintain around 14 mph. I enjoyed it so much I took a 2-mile shortcut through an even rougher patch of dirt and grass under some power lines on the way home. Once again, it was excellent. It reminded me for the first time in a long time that the bike these tires are on is a mountain bike.

When I first got these tires, I took them out on the Banks-Vernonia trail, which is mostly paved but has a stretch that isn't paved and one short, steep hill that is uneven with a bunch of loose rocks about 4-inches in diameter. I was running high pressure that day and tried to take it slow coming down this section (both completely wrong for that kind of terrain) and wiped out completely. Obviously no one would expect these tires to be good for conditions like that which would challenge most MTB tires. I mention it because they did so well on dirt and grass that it would otherwise have made me wonder why Schwalbe gives this tire such a low off-road rating.

I've never tried a set of Big Apples, so I can't offer any sort of comparison with regard to the comfort provided or other qualities. If anyone wants to send me some Big Apples, I'd be happy to give a detailed comparison review.

Update: Added information on the recommended pressure range, 30-70 psi, and how it differs from other sizes of the Sumpreme.

Update: 11/14/2010, my first flat at 580 miles. See description below.

Last edited by Andy_K; 01-14-10 at 11:23 PM.
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Old 10-15-09, 04:50 PM   #2
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Wow, I'm flattered.

BTW

The official word is, this size is due to arrive in our warehouse on November 4th. The only other size that we do not have in stock at this point is the 20x1.60, which is also due to arrive on Nov. 4th.

Andy, the price you paid is pretty amazing. I can't officially condone these prices, as it undercuts our dealer network something awful. But I'm not one to begrudge someone who has gotten a good deal.
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Old 10-15-09, 04:51 PM   #3
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I've been riding Supremes for about a year now, in smaller sizes. 700X35 front, 700X40 rear. I keep them both at 85 PSI, and really love them. The 40 still gives a good ride, and the 35 makes the steering more precise.

Thes tires are amazing for traction, wet or dry, possibly due to the wrap around tread, which also does away with transitions when leaning over.

I used to average 2.5 flats a week - now, none since last fall (the day I mounted them.) I have picked some shards out of the rubber, but nothing went thru.

And, that reflex sidewall is really BRIGHT!

I won't use anything but these, as long as they keep making them. An awesome tire.
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Old 10-15-09, 05:28 PM   #4
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Andy, the price you paid is pretty amazing. I can't officially condone these prices, as it undercuts our dealer network something awful. But I'm not one to begrudge someone who has gotten a good deal.
Yeah, the price was surprising to me too. It made me wonder if they were overstock from a previous revision of this tire or something. I got the last two they had at the time. The Schwalbe web page on these says, "For 2009 we have completely revised our : HD Ceramic Guard, Triple Nano Compound, LiteSkin side wall." I wasn't sure what to make of that (the colon seems misplaced, like something's missing there) or how I could tell if I had an older model.
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Old 10-15-09, 06:46 PM   #5
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Seconded, I run 700x40 because thats the biggest I can squeeze in the frame, and it is a squeeze. I have recently started running them at a lower pressure, 50/55 Front/Rear, and can hardly tell the speed difference, but the ride is very nice. Wet grip is more than good, quite remarkable in my opinion. Have had a flat, curved piece of valve spring(?) snuck in over the belt. Only one in about 3,000km. The bike feels very secure on these.
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Old 10-15-09, 06:52 PM   #6
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My Canadian LBS has them hanging on the wall for 100 bucks a piece.
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Old 10-15-09, 10:48 PM   #7
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AndyK, thanks for doing up this review -- I've been considering this tire to replace my current tires when they wear out.

McLuffAlot, that seems to be a bit of a rip considering that the US price is $65.05. At today's exchange rate, that works out to about $68.00. I don't mind a local store making a few extra bucks, but that is a bit ridiculous. A little while ago, I called an LBS (I'm in Canada as well) about ordering in some Schwalbe Hurricanes for me that retail in the US for $15.95 -- the LBS quoted me $38.00 per tire! That seemed a bit excessive as well so I opted for a different tire.

Kojak, can you shed any light on why Canadian prices seem so far out of whack with the US prices?
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Old 10-15-09, 11:00 PM   #8
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Kojak, can you shed any light on why Canadian prices seem so far out of whack with the US prices?

A Vancouverite pays $750K for a mouldy crack shack. Where O where to start.
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Old 10-15-09, 11:17 PM   #9
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A Vancouverite pays $750K for a mouldy crack shack. Where O where to start.
Yeah, but it's got a view of the ocean.
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Old 10-15-09, 11:19 PM   #10
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Thes tires are amazing for traction, wet or dry, possibly due to the wrap around tread, which also does away with transitions when leaning over.
The tread on a paved surface does essentially nothing;
Even Schwalbe admits that: http://www.schwalbetires.com/tech_info/tire_tread

I've been running 32mm Supremes on my touring bike for a year.
I can't say exactly how many miles are on them since I do ~5000/year split across two different bikes, but I would estimate ~3000.
The rear tire is getting pretty squared off and the center is now smooth.
So far I've had only one flat (front), caused by a massive 3/4" thick slab of broken glass that sliced the sidewall wide open.
I booted it and rode it 25 miles home, then replaced it.
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Old 10-16-09, 07:46 AM   #11
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The tread on a paved surface does essentially nothing;
Even Schwalbe admits that: http://www.schwalbetires.com/tech_info/tire_tread

I've been running 32mm Supremes on my touring bike for a year.
I can't say exactly how many miles are on them since I do ~5000/year split across two different bikes, but I would estimate ~3000.
The rear tire is getting pretty squared off and the center is now smooth.
So far I've had only one flat (front), caused by a massive 3/4" thick slab of broken glass that sliced the sidewall wide open.
I booted it and rode it 25 miles home, then replaced it.
If you are telling me that you can't feel the transition zone of different tire tread designs, on the same tire, when leaning over, you aren't getting over far enough. Practice, practice, practice.......

I can even feel the flat edge on my motorcycle tires, even before they get flatlanded too much...... I go out to New Mexico twice a year, to try to grind the edges back down where they belong...
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Old 10-16-09, 11:05 AM   #12
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High Canadian Prices can be the result of many things. Probably the most important factor is not what the Dollar/Loonie exchange is now, but what it was when the tire came across the border. Back in March, the exchange was 126, now it's nearly at par.

I'm still getting accustomed to living here; grocery prices are astounding. When my wife accepted her job, we were negotiating her salary, and the person doing the hiring had the audacity to boast about the low cost of living in Victoria. ............ he must be from London or Tokyo. It's beautiful here, but it's not cheap.
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Old 10-16-09, 11:06 AM   #13
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The tread PATTERN on a paved surface does essentially nothing;
Even Schwalbe admits that: http://www.schwalbetires.com/tech_info/tire_tread

I've been running 32mm Supremes on my touring bike for a year.
I can't say exactly how many miles are on them since I do ~5000/year split across two different bikes, but I would estimate ~3000.
The rear tire is getting pretty squared off and the center is now smooth.
So far I've had only one flat (front), caused by a massive 3/4" thick slab of broken glass that sliced the sidewall wide open.
I booted it and rode it 25 miles home, then replaced it.
Fixed. That the contact tread of the tire wraps around to the sidewall is a significant factor in how this tire corners.

It's true however that in most road riding situations (including rain), a slick tire works best. That being said, if all we built were slicks, a significant portion of the tire buying public wouldn't have them, so Schwalbe puts tread patterns on most of their road tires, as do the other bicycle tire manufacturers.

Last edited by Kojak; 10-16-09 at 11:13 AM.
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Old 10-16-09, 11:09 AM   #14
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I have the marathon supremes in 700x32 on my commuter and I love them. The grip is so good, it's like riding on rails. Fast but comfortable ride. No flats with them yet. I'm actually on my second set. I put over 8000km on the first and decided to get a new set for the winter and keep my old ones as spares (they're a little worn and the reflective sidewall is mucked up with road grime, but otherwise they're still in good shape). As for the price, I paid 30 euros each (about 45 USD per tire).
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Old 10-16-09, 12:13 PM   #15
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High Canadian Prices can be the result of many things. Probably the most important factor is not what the Dollar/Loonie exchange is now, but what it was when the tire came across the border. Back in March, the exchange was 126, now it's nearly at par.
When I contacted the LBS it was only a few weeks ago when the exchange rate wasn't more than it is now -- we're not talking about previously purchased stock. And even at 126, the exchanged rate difference is no where near the +100 percent markup over your listed prices on the website. And please don't give me a line about import fees, etc -- I've worked in the import industry long enough to know what those costs are and I accept reasonable additional expense because of these costs but in this case the increase in cost to the consumer is out of line. Sorry, but I don't accept your explanation -- my thoughts are that somewhere along the line between you and the consumer, someone is pocketing an unreasonable amount of inflated profit (at the expense of Cdn consumers).

This is not something that is unique to bicycle parts either -- it's become a common practice in many industries to gouge unsuspecting Canadian consumers. What I'd really like to know is what the folks at Schwalbe intend to do about this problem (yes, you do have the ability to not allow your retailers to inflate prices).

The other option of course, is that I look towards other brands of tires that have fairer pricing.

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Old 10-16-09, 12:26 PM   #16
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Is there a middleman after the tire comes across the US/Canadian border? Or, does Moser sell direct?

We can buy from Moser (Schwalbe) directly off their website (at MSRP) if we want to, but usually get a better price from a LBS/retailer.
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Old 10-16-09, 12:48 PM   #17
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hey! I just calipered my 26x2.0 BAs, they are 45mm wide!

Thanks for the review on the supremes!
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Old 10-16-09, 12:58 PM   #18
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I got these tires for my Marin Muirwoods 29er, which I use almost exclusively as a rain bike. Schwalbe says the Marathon Supreme has great wet grip. I tend to ride carefully on wet roads and haven't hit any unexpected obstacles yet, so I can't confirm that directly, but I haven't seen anything to make me question it.
I've had to hit the brakes going down a steep hill in the rain,and got air under the rear wheel with the front just digging in and stopping. These things stick like sportbike radials.

I just mounted a new set about a month ago. Prolly got about 3-4k or so out of the others. There was still tread left,but something cut the rear and I didn't want to chance just booting it. Whatever did it made about a 1/2" gash,but only nicked the tube enough to cause a slow leak that I was able to ride on. The rear also had many scars,and I remember pulling about 6 pieces of glass out of it last winter when I swapped the studs on. Very impressed. One thing though;I noticed the new set were made in Asia. I thought they were from Germany. Hoping things don't turn out like the Conti T&C's;the current ones have little flat protection and I ditched the set that came stock on my bike after the fifth flat.
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Old 01-14-10, 11:22 PM   #19
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Here's a four-months update one these tires.

What a disappointment! Some tires just can't prevent a puncture.

Let me tell you the story.

As of yesterday, I have 580 miles on these tires. Earlier in the week, I could have been one of those people saying, "I've got 500+ miles on my Schwalbe's without a single flat." But not today.

It was dark and the streets were wet, but it wasn't raining. I left work and rode 7 miles to the Park and Ride. So far, so good. I loaded the bike on the back of my car and drove home -- about a 15 minute drive. Then, when I went to unload the bike from the bike rack, I saw that the rear tire was flat. Not a little bit flat -- completely flat -- no air pressure whatsoever.

So I thought this was a bit of a mystery. I've had situations in the past where I locked the bike up in the morning with a tire that I thought was fine only to discover it was completely flat when I came back for it after work. The dreaded slow leak. But this was the first time I've had a tire go from fine to completely flat in 15 minutes when the tires weren't even touching the ground.

Naturally, I suspected I must have done something while loading the bike -- bumped the valve on the rack or something like that. But I didn't remember doing anything like that. So I wondered if maybe some flying debris got caught up in my slipstream and punctured the sidewall, but that seemed very unlikely. Then I wondered if maybe some miscreant slit it with a knife while I was in the car changing shoes. But that seemed even more far fetched.

I didn't have time to deal with it last night, so I went to bed with no plausible explanation.

This evening, I went to the garage and hoisted the bike onto the work stand and proceeded to examine the tire to see if I could spot the cause of the flat.

I think it might have been this little thing.





Still hoping to save the tire, I unscrewed it rather than pulling it out. Here it is most of the way out.



A little thing like that, and the tire goes flat.

The mystery now is, did this really happen by some bizarre coincidence in the last 10 feet of my ride, or was I actually able to ride with this in the tire before it went flat? I'm not sure which of those seems more unlikely.
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Old 01-14-10, 11:39 PM   #20
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I can't believe the Marathons couldn't prevent something like that!
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Old 01-14-10, 11:53 PM   #21
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I had 10 flats in 2600 miles on them.
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Old 01-15-10, 08:52 AM   #22
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Ten flats in 2600 miles seems like a lot. How have you done with other tires?


With regard to my incident, since I know someone here is going to think it, I'll admit now that I was running at low pressure, I think around 40 psi. You don't buy tires this size to run them at max pressure.
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Old 01-15-10, 10:36 AM   #23
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I am thinking about pulling the trigger on 40mm supremes for my CC.

I think you could have yanked that screw out with pliers and your tire will still be good to go for a long time. My 1st week on big apples I opened a 1/2" x 1/2" flap w/ a drywall screw, and proceeded to get another 2k miles out of it (2-3 more punctures through that same flap which didn't seem like too many considering its size, but I totally should have rubber-cemented it or something...).
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Old 01-15-10, 01:18 PM   #24
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I run 700x32C supremes on my main commuter. I'm currently on my second set. Combined, they have over 8000 miles with no flats. When I changed the first set, I yanked out a shard of glass in the rear tire that had been embedded in there for about 1000 miles. They're great tires, my favorite so far. Now if only they were available in 700x28C.
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Old 01-15-10, 01:47 PM   #25
tarwheel 
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How do you guys get so many flats? I run racing tires (Conti GP 4000, 700 x25) on my commuter and haven't had a single flat in thousands of miles. Over the past year, I've ridden well over 6,000 miles with one flat while riding on the road; that was with a Michelin PRo2 Race that I had ridden probably 2,000 miles without a flat. Most of the flats that I do get are "garage flats" where my tire goes flat over night from a pinhole leak or a failed valve in the tube.
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