Cyclists tend to obsess about tyres; after all, they represent the two small patches of contact between us and the road, without which, we can’t get too far…
Here’s the latest round of Schwalbe tyres, and some first impressions.
Adios XR, Hola Mondial
I’ve long been a fan of the venerable Marathon XR, the tyre of choice amongst long distance tourers for years. Nothing could beat it for big (I’m talking 10 000 km +) cross-continental journeys. It was the go-to tyre for anyone heading to Asia, South America or Africa, where reliability was paramount. Punctures were few and far between, and it just went on and on and on: the XR tread was near immortal.
So, the decision to drop the XR from the vast, dependable Schwalbe tyre range was met with more than a little incredulity.
What’s more, there didn’t seem to be a direct replacement. There was the Extreme – which was grippy – and the Dureme – which was fast rolling. Both were considerably lighter, shaving close to a couple of hundred grams off per tyre. But as a result, neither were up to the kind of distances XR riders had become accustomed to, and demanded.
Finally, the Mondial was launched – effectively the true successor to the XR. The heft is back – it’s 730g in a 26×2.0 – but that’s okay, because it’s built for the long haul. Apart from the XR’s weight, the only real downside to its near indestructible tread was the firm ride and lack of bite off road. As such, the Mondial aims to improve on this, with Schwalbe’s new Travelstar compound. The tread pattern itself looks pretty similar; time will tell if it rolls as nicely and lasts as long.
For the most part, Schwalbe’s range of touring tyres aren’t cheap. The Evolution folders go for a tear-inducing $90 each – though there’s the more affordable, wire-beaded Performance series for half that price.
In any case, we’re talking close to $100 for a pair of tyres at the very minimum, and up to $270 if you’re buying folders and need a spare. Still, with Schwalbe tyres holding a reputation for longevity – we’re talking up to 10 000kms plus, depending on conditions – the investment becomes worth it.
Inevitably, there’s a lot of common ground shared between all three tyres, so which works best for you will depends on what you intend to be doing the majority of the time.
Paved with a bit of dirt? Dureme.
Dirt with a bit of paved? Extreme.
Gargantuan distances and heavy loads? Mondial.
For most people, the Duremes will probably strike a perfect middle ground. The weight and tread won’t demoralise on pavement, and there’s enough volume for dirt road detours too. For off-road riding with a fully rigid bike, it would be nice if it was available in a larger width than 2.0, especially as Schwalbe tyres tend to come up a little narrow. (just to add even more choice, a variation on a theme is the tandem version, which claims to offer Mondial-like sidewall strength – overall weight is about the same – with a slightly faster rolling tread).
I’m not sure about the future of the Extreme – its once broad range seems to have been whittled down to just a 26×2.0, available on the US site. It would be a shame if it was dropped completely. Opinions were divided about this tyre, but from my own experiences, it could handle a few thousand miles of rugged dirt road touring – especially at the front – without all the extra rotational weight of an XR.
29×2.0 Marathon Dureme, folding: 635g
26×2.0 Marathon Mondial: 730g
26×2.0 Marathon Extreme: 590g
If I was embarking on a long, overseas tour, without the ambition to mountain bike along the way, I’d run a set of Mondials. If I was aspiring to ride dirt roads where I possibly could, I’d let a Mondial take the brunt of the load at the back, and team it with an Extreme at the front. This would save rotational weight and offer some extra grip.
As for a spare, I’d either stash a Dureme – which could then be swapped out with the front for long road stints (preserverving the life of the Extreme). Or, if I envisaged mountain biking regularly along the way, maybe a second Extreme – or some kind of MTB tread – which I could swap out with the rear Mondial for lighter, livelier mountain bike rides.
Unfortunately, the range of large volume, touring-worthy 29er tyres (ie fat 700c) is seriously slim compared to what’s on offer for 26in wheels. That’s one reason to stick to the smaller, more readily available tyre size.
The good news is that the Dureme is also available in a 29×2.0. This makes it almost ideal for dirt road, non technical touring. A 2.1 or 2.2 would be even better, as would the option of an Extreme in that size. But it’s a good start.
Nothing beats putting in miles on a tyre to really know how it handles, and how it lasts. So if anyone has some input on how the Mondial – and other tyres – fare, it would be great to hear.