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  1. #1
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    Off-Road Capatility of Marathons XR's

    Schwalbe positions the XR as the "ultimate expedition tire" with excellent puncture resistance and durability. They do not promote it as an off-road tire even though it comes in a very mountain-bike like 50-622 (as well as 26" MTB sizes).

    However, to what extent can the XR's be used off road? They have a tread, but I sure wouldn't call them knobbies. I've used them on degraded chip seal, but can they be used efficiently on double track? What about deep sand and mud? For those of you with experience where would you and where would you not go off-road with the XR?

  2. #2
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    We rode the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean down to Fairbanks with them - about 300 miles of that is on dirt road in various states. We went through mud one whole day and then little patches after that and I didn't have any trouble at all. I've never had them on single track, so can't comment on that, but I suspect they would be just fine.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  3. #3
    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    We are going with the 2" wide XR's for our great divide ride, I have yet to put any miles on them, but have read many rave reviews about that tire on the GDT.

  4. #4
    mev
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    I bicycled across Russia on XRs. This includes ~1000 miles of gravel road. They did fine. I haven't ridden them on single track.

  5. #5
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    I've used 2" XRs on every thing [mud, sand, gravel, pavement, washboard, rocky dirt roads] and not had any issues. They are not MTB knobbies so you can't ride as aggressively, but since you posted this in the touring forum you can ride anything that you'll want to tackle with a touring bike.

    Where would I not go off road with the XRs? Anything really soft [deep sand or mud], really tough technical single track with steep loose climbs and technical descents, slippery roots - that sort of thing. Not anywhere I'd plan on going with my touring bike.
    safe riding - Vik
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  6. #6
    40 yrs bike touring
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    I used the 700x47 XR's on the Divide Ride with excellent results except for the deepest sand conditions. Great durability and puncture resistance- only one flat.
    At home I use them on single track as well.

  7. #7
    Tinkerer since 1980 TheBrick's Avatar
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    You will not be riding hardcore style on a touring bike.
    Travelling without inertia

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    OP here. Thanks for the input. My concern is for those brief periods in inclimate weather where you find yourself in a sketchy situation. Of course, getting off and pushing is always an option. What do you guys feel about the times when you're pushing the envelope of what terrain is acceptable for touring? Would a knobby up front for traction and a XR in back for puncture resistance get you past the scary part of the trail?

  9. #9
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    OP here. Thanks for the input. My concern is for those brief periods in inclimate weather where you find yourself in a sketchy situation. Of course, getting off and pushing is always an option. What do you guys feel about the times when you're pushing the envelope of what terrain is acceptable for touring? Would a knobby up front for traction and a XR in back for puncture resistance get you past the scary part of the trail?
    I wouldn't equip my bike for the 2% of the time when things are sketchy. I'd optimize my bike for conditions I'm going to encounter 80% of the time. If things get sketchy first you'll slow down, then you'll walk the really bad parts.
    safe riding - Vik
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  10. #10
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    I just fitted a pair of XRs to my hybrid and took them out last weekend. They coped just about perfectly with the dirt roads, some of which were in pretty poor condition after recent rain, probably about as well as anything I ever recall using on my MTB when it was rideable. I tend to agree with what Vik said about preparation, go for what you'll encounter most of the time. Anything that's too rough for the XRs is probably too rough to ride with anything else.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  11. #11
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    The only time we've had problems with our XRs is when we've camped in a field and rain overnight makes the field really mucky. Once or twice in this kind of situation the mud has stuck to the tyres and under the mudguards and made a right old mess that took a good 30-60 minutes to clear. I don't know if that can really be helped with any tyre though? Overall we're pretty pleased with them and we've done a reasonable amount of dirt and gravel riding.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

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    The first time I went out on my XRs, I fell off the bike! I got caught in a rut which my knobblies would normally just climb right out of, but the XR just skidded along the edge and I lost my balance. I also had trouble on wet, muddy tracks - the tread filled with mud very quickly and both wheels became difficult to control - they just slid around as if they were on ice. So if you're used to knobblies, I'd advise some care with XRs in off-road conditions until you get a feel for their characteristics.

    I agree with what most folk are saying above - unless you're planning to tour Vietnam in monsoon conditions, I think the XRs are a good bet for most of the paved/unpaved cycling a tourist would encounter.

  13. #13
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    OP here. Thanks for the input. My concern is for those brief periods in inclimate weather where you find yourself in a sketchy situation. Of course, getting off and pushing is always an option. What do you guys feel about the times when you're pushing the envelope of what terrain is acceptable for touring? Would a knobby up front for traction and a XR in back for puncture resistance get you past the scary part of the trail?
    Hi,

    I was very disappointed on wet snow. For gravel the tyre works well. On mud to be honest I'm not sure.
    Last weekend I had mud like clue and that worked with the XR but I think if the mud gets wet the tyre won't be so good. So far I have no experience on sand. But with less pressure the type is broad and that should work. If you start to spin than you have to push your bike 50m and try it again.

    You can tour every terrain - if you tour on paths/roads the XR is fine. If you make a single trail MTB trip when I would use another tyre.

    In the Amazonas area no tyre of the world allow you to cycle....

    Thomas
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  14. #14
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnyW View Post
    Hi,

    I was very disappointed on wet snow. For gravel the tyre works well. On mud to be honest I'm not sure.
    Last weekend I had mud like clue and that worked with the XR but I think if the mud gets wet the tyre won't be so good.
    Interesting - I used an XR [26 x 1.75"] on the back of my snow bike two winters ago and had a great time blasting through all the snow and slush up here in Canada. I did use a lightly studded Schwalbe winter tire on the front for traction on icy parts on the road. That was a good combo.

    I recently rode a couple hundred kms of wet muddy roads and found the XRs [26 x 2.0"] to do well. I had very little mud build up on my tires as it was so wet, but that is just a factor of the specific surface you are riding. I'm not sure that any tire with tread would avoid picking up some mud when conditions are just right for that to occur.

    I think you need to really keep an eye on your tire pressure when facing challenging terrain. A tire with too much pressure won't perform very well and too little pressure will be slow with a greater risk of pinch flats.
    safe riding - Vik
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  15. #15
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Hi vik,

    I mean this conditions:


    On dry snow as I expect in Canada I think they work well. As I wrote with mud I'm not sure. Most problems occurs uphills steeper than 5 %.

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  16. #16
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnyW View Post
    Hi vik,

    I mean this conditions:

    On dry snow as I expect in Canada I think they work well. As I wrote with mud I'm not sure. Most problems occurs uphills steeper than 5 %.

    Thomas
    We don't have dry snow in my part of Canada any more than we have wet snow. It just depends on the temperature doesn't it? Some weeks it's -40 deg C all week - some days it goes from -15 deg c to +15 deg C. The snow conditions change accordingly.

    No tire is immune to slipping if there is enough mud or snow so that it can't get traction - especially on steep hills. Even studded tires are ineffective once you get deep snow so they can't bite into the ice. I'm not sure there is really anything you can do about that. If things get bad enough you'll have to push your bike no matter what.

    Unless your whole tour revolves around such extreme conditions I wouldn't setup my bike specifically to deal with those conditions at the expense of performance the rest of the time.
    safe riding - Vik
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  17. #17
    Senior Member tkehler's Avatar
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    I've ridden LOTS on them, including a 300+ km tour just a month ago through BC (Kettle Valley railbed), all on rough gravel. I had no trouble with the tire per se, but I had trouble with the air pressure. (I was running a 26 x 1.75 tire.)

    The problems were all my fault! I was riding with 50 lbs pressure. It was great on the gravel, especially the hard packed gravel, but terrible in the mud and sand.

    It's a trade-off. You want to go fast and be efficient on the better roads and surfaces -- and most of the time the conditions were okay -- but you don't want to sink in when you are on sand or in mud... Overall the tires are superb. You can hardly tell they've been ridden on. The only flat was in a town, where a wire got through. The tire was fine once I got the wire out.
    Last edited by tkehler; 08-04-08 at 12:52 PM.

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