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.
I believe in Mondial’s. I have a pair on my 29’er and have never had a problem except for one crappy inner tube valve.
29×1.75 in the Mondial? Be cool if it came a little wider.
I have put about 1000 mi. on a pair of 700×35 Mondials with my Surly Long Haul Trucker. They really don’t show much wear at all and cruise just fine on pavement. I’ve been really happy with the purchase they give on dirt, gravel and light snow when riding with a touring load. Overall I’m pleased.
Look forward to seeing how you like them. Love reading about your adventures!
As far as I know, for anything thicker then 700×37 there are not a lot of trekking/touring frames out there that will take fatter tires yet. Except the Ogre..
I’m loving the Dureme 29×2.0 for their ride, planted and smooth, can’t comment on durability yet unfortunatly.
Good to hear. I’ve been getting on with them too.
I’m pretty sure I could fit knobbly 700x45s (1.8) in my old LHT. Monster Cross! Hopefully with the increasing popularity of 29ers and bikepacking, a good tyre for long distance, reliable gravel grinding/dirt road touring will pop up, with a bit more volume.
Idworx easy rohler has 700x50C tires, marathon supremes. Love this bike, especially the comfort, an how easy it goes on semi paved roads Can’t tell anything about wear, just have the bike. Previous bike had XR (700x35C) in the back, and vittoria randoneur in front. Never had any flat with both tires, but the XR goes on and on and on, The vittoria showed cracks in the sidewalls after 2 years, XR doesn’t. I’ve seen Dureme tires on easy rohler’s, but don’t know if they were the original tires.
I’ve used a set of Duremes for about 3000 miles – half of which was a fully loaded tour to Switzerland, with large chunks off road through the Black Forest and Jura, and the other half for London commuting. They were surprisingly good off road. I’ve had one puncture in that time, and that was a rear wheel pinch flat pinging off a curb with heavy panniers on. They seem pretty robust.
thanks for the informative post.
on another note, i see that your main rides have been surly steel bikes. why not try touring with a lightweight mtn load on a aluminum or carbon fiber 29er with a 80mm lockout front fork?
I like to tour overseas, and I’m more comfortable knowing the frame is made from bog-standard steel – especially when transporting it, which is the time I worry most. For instance, I managed to dent one of my Surlys, which could caused a stress point in an aluminium frame, and perhaps worse in carbon. Back home, I have a scandium 29er which I’ve bikepacked on, and it was great. But the tubes are super-thinly drawn, and I wouldn’t want to trow it back in a bike box or on the roof of a bus too much. The Surlys, or similar frames (like On One in the UK), are versatile enough to work at home and away – so worth the weight penalty for me.
I find a rigid fork and a 29er wheel provides enough comfort, keeping my options open on fun singletrack too. I rode the Ogre on some of the most rocky, technical trails I’ve ridden for a while the other day, and still had a great time. Plus, if the fork has the right eyelets, it’s easy to fit and remove Anything/bottle cages. There’s something about the connectiveness of a rigid 29er that I really like. A suspension fork up front would certainly make things more plush though, I guess it depends on the kind of terrain. I’m a big fan of Ergon grips with a rigid fork though – they were a big improvement on the stock grips.
I totally agree on the fork thing: my previous bike had a 50 mm, no lockout fork. These forks are not made to put panniers on, and make the bike-as the fork wears down – become very unstable in time. They’re good for sunday touring, but certainly not for long distance travelling. And now a 700x50C tire gives me all the comfort I need, together with Ergon grips. As for the 50C tires: Correct pressure is extremely important!
Our 1st set of duremes did 16,000km and the 2nd set have now clocked up 12,000km, we run extremes on the front and they have now clocked over 14,000km
In the last picture the caption reads: “29×2.0 Mondial on the Surly Ogre”, but you have a Dureme there, not a Mondial.
What about the Supreme or Kojak even for front wheel? (but still carry the Exteme for offroad like you said). Perhaps still keeping the Mondial on the rear as a compromise. Even in the wet (on road) Supreme / Kojak are supposed to be pretty grippy (according to Schwalbe).
Surely faster than the Dureme? Even if slightly less durable, the quicker distances gained would save days / weeks on a long tour (I’d have thought) and get you to the off road sections quicker. Worth it for a couple more punctures that take 10 minutes to fix & potentially replacing slightly more frequently?
Just a thought based on no actual testing.
I’ve no experience of the Kojaks. The Supremes are a great tyre, but definitely geared to riding predominantly on good pavement. I aspire to keep that to a minimum!
During my trip, I was inevitably on pavement here and there – but most of my riding was on dirt, or at least a good chunk of each day was on dirt. So for me, the Duremes seem worth the compromise, and I prefer the versatility.
Plenty of people riding south follow the Pacific Coast a lot of the way – at least through N America – in which case the Supremes would speed along nicely (I used a set through BC when I was in a hurry to get to the Great Divide).
Yes, makes sense; if you’re swapping pavement to dirt and back again in the same day then I can imagine the Duremes would be a better option than the Supreme. For just paved sections of more than a couple of days then I’d imagine wanting something like the Supreme.
One thing does slightly confuse me, it seems to me that people who purely tour on road / pavement tend to go for the XR or Mondial on both wheels. I can kind of understand this from an emotional point of view (wanting something tough and durable, no punctures) but doesn’t make complete sense to me as I’d thought the Supremes would be a better option to eat up the km; even if you have to carry an extra spares. The hours / energy saved would really start to add up over a long distance I’d have thought.
Well, the XRs have been around a lot longer than the Supremes, so they’ve really established themselves as the go-to tyre. As you say, there’s an element of peace of mind.
However, I also think it depends on where in the world you are touring. XRs are particularly popular with those embarking on round-the-world/cross continental rides. Even if you are sticking to pavement the vast majority of the time, this doesn’t guarantee what the roads are going to be like – they can be littered with debris, broken, potholed etc… I think XRs (and now presumably Mondials) are better suited to tour in the developing world where ‘paved’ can mean all kinds of things. And they should last longer too. If the tour is a shorter one, I agree that are overkill. That’s when I’d lean towards the Dureme, though I’m curious about its puncture resistance having not put in the miles yet.
I also agree with you that a light, slick will always be faster and more efficient. But sometimes the theory of swapping out tyres isn’t always as enjoyable as it is in practise: if one tyre can do pretty much do what you want, it can be easier to leave it on, especially if the stints between changes are short ones. I once did a tour down the Californian coast on a mountain bike, with the intention of stopping off at every trailhead and mountain biking. I carried a set of slicks, which definitely made a big difference – but in the end I got fed up swapping out tyres all the time and just left the knobblies on.
If you are planning on changing tyres regularly, then I’d recommend something like a Topeak Mountain Morpth – go for the mountain version as it’s better suited to high volume tyres, rather than the thinner version to high pressure skinnies.
A bit long winded, but just my take on things!
That Dureme looks to be what I need but when I phoned Schwalbe Uk they suggested Marathon Plus Tour which I had to wait for because there were none in the UK
I like Schwalbe tyres but I wonder if there aren’t too many ‘different’ models
Yeah, it can be confusing. I kind of ruled out the Plus series because even though the puncture proofing is great, they’re so heavy. When I did try a set a while back, I wasn’t crazy on the ride. The 26×2.0 is 1100g!
I see that series as being great for utility bikes and maybe city bikes. I often see them on rental bikes, like the Barclays bikes in London. Situations where you don’t want to bother carrying a pump/patch kit around with you – say your internal hub is awkward to remove. I think the Mondial and Dureme strike a better balance for touring though. Puncture proofing is considerably better than many tyres (especially the Mondial), and saving rotational weight is worth a lot more than skimming down what’s in your panniers.
I hadn’t consider rotational weight so I feel better about them now. I’m not doing huge mileages on long tours so perhaps the advice I was given was good.
I’m a cycle camper, sometimes hosteller or B&B’er and I tend to stick to the Welsh border country and a train often carries me out or home. I also have internal hub gears on all my bikes. The Shimano 11 hub is an easy device to remove and the 8 only slightly less so. Sram dual speeds are a beggar but it’s the derailleur element that complicates matters :0)
I wanted a tyre that would give me the grip on towpaths and bridleways that the Marathons weren’t providing. The advice I had was good it seems.
I had a puncture the first day out. A blackthorn through the sidewall. Ntw I thought, only my third puncture in five years of using Schwalbe. The following week I got another blackthorn straight through the tread of a Marathon Plus on another bike! Perhaps that was my quota for the next five years and now it is someone elses turn.
When (and if) you eventually wear out the Pluses, I’d try a Mondial (for more grip) or a Dureme (for a little less) next time. I think you’ll really notice the difference in the way they ride, and both should last well too.
I ran 42×622 Marathon Extremes on a tour around Iceland. They were great tires performance wise, but after 1500K or so they were pretty worn. Granted, some of the surfaces in Iceland are very abrasive (think volcanic rock), but these are supposed to be “extreme”, right? I guess there’s always a trade off between grip and longevity. They still have a bit of life left, but not enough for a longer tour. Good to see that there’s a successor to the XR.
Yes, I think Extreme isn’t quite the right name… I’m sure the abrasive rock took its toll (I had the same on volcanic rock in New Mexico) but still, they’re no XR. That’s why I think they’re best put at the front, with something more hardwearing (especially on a loaded bike) at the back.
Thanks for the input.
Would be nice of Schwalbe to stop confusing us with choices especially ( as you pointed out ) they are EXPENSIVE choices.
Luckily my XR’s will last me for quite a few miles yet before I have to replace them. I rode Marathon Plus for five or six years on my old hardtail and they would NOT wear out whatever I did. I would drop in at my local bike shop and the owner would look at those tires, see little wear, and ask with a frown ” Do you actually ride this bike? ” Wouldn’t buy them again though because they required too much effort in pedaling and always felt quite slow and sluggish. Definitely gave me strong legs though! But I mention this in case anyone is considering them. They take away too much from the ride quality. Much better to go for the Mondials or Duremes I think. Supremes ( good as they are ) not an option maybe where you need to go off road and need a bit of tread.On a long trip I’d be happy with Mondials front and rear and carry a good MTB tire ( any flavor you like ) for sticking on the front during dirt adventures.
Sounds good to me. I’d pick a spare tyre with a bit more volume too, for extra grip and smoother ride off road.
For the front MTB tyre, would you favour something like the CST Caballeros 26×2.25 that you’ve mentioned in previous posts? or Extreme? Or what other durable options are there out there worth considering for a tour? I assume the Extreme would be faster although the CST looks very cheap alongside Schwalbe. Also more grip in wet presumably.
I think there’s plenty of options to choose from (personally, I like a lot of what WTB make). CST produce tyres for a whole bunch of other manufacturers (who charge a lot more for their tyres), including Maxxis. Given the choice, I’d pick something with a faster rolling tread than the Cabelleros. But when money is tight, they do the job.
I’ve put about 1100km on the wire bead mondial 26×2.0 of almost entirely dirt roads down here in Patagonia and haven’t noticed a dent in the tread depth. The grip is quite good for all but the loosest of gravel downhill and at a standing climb and they role considerably faster than I was expecting. The noise is barely noticeable on tarmac as well.
well, this last stretch of route 40 between el maiten and bariloche did a number on the rubber, one tiny hole in the sidewall, one pinch flat, and the outter tread is showing signs of wear with a few chunks missing. I’ll keep my review up to date on my blog if anyone is interested at ikewithbike.com
My experience tells me that everything with very tight pattern(a few ‘water canals’ in thick rubber) is reliable and long lasting. The only difference is the compound. Soft rubber for winter and hard for summer. I ride all the 365 days in a year, and have tried even cheap Author’s slick’s(Slick I) in severe winter conditions(unbeliaveble, they were pretty good on hard snow) Marthon xr are good for summer, good choice. My choice will be more light, ’cause I’m very familiar with repairs and to repair a tire in 10 minutes is no problem for me at all(both, tire and tube).(Maybe you remember me. I’m the mechanic from Estonia, who welded Your front fork fixings and I’m very proud they have lasted for so long:) Schvalbe is for profi’s that’s for shure. Eventually, in the end, it does not even matter what tire you have as log as it is inflated, keeps you going and closer to the destination.
Thanks for this great review of marathon tires.
Your website remains a source of inspiration!
Hey, great write up here. Thanks. I live in Fairbanks and am getting an Ogre, but I’m lost at what tires should I put on it? Since I’m in AK, where even our pavement has gravel on it, I’m thinking at least a 40c, if not a 50. I am running 35c Marathon Plus right now and like them, although they’re a bit sketchy on gravel. I plan on using the Ogre to commute to work, but am mostly getting it for riding the Denali, Dalton, & Taylor Highways, plus the Denali Park & McCarthy roads. You’ve done some of these… what’s your recommendation? Thanks!
If your budget reaches to them, I’d go for the Duremes in a 29×2.0. They’re a pretty versatile tyre. Fast enough on paved. They don’t have the most aggressive tread, but I think you’ll find them fine on gravel – less sketchy than the Pluses, for sure. For your uses, I think they’d be the best of the (limited) bunch.
For more of a fat tyre flavour, I’ve found the Exiwolfs (29×2.3) a pretty fast rolling yet trail-friendly, large volume tyre. They won’t last nearly as long though for distance touring as the Schwalbes. I’ve only toured with them with relatively light panniers, but the sidewalls seem ok.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy the Ogre. It’s a fun, versatile bike!
4000 km on a pair of Dureme 26 x 2″ .. no puncture yet. Did about 200 km on a pair of Supreme.. but came back to the Dureme for comfort. Just purchased a brand new pair of XR 26 x 2″, just in case they’re needed.
Thanks for you great articles.
Thanks for your input, always good to know stuff like this. The only way you get really know how a touring tyre performs is by using it… and using it!
Chris, thanks for the great info on tires. I used a new set of the Duremes a while back in Asia, which is where I travel to every year to skip Colorado winters. I found the tire rolled great and handled easily. Only problem I found was that they are not impervious to flats and had 4 during the trip, one that caused a tear in the tire itself (I patched the inner of the tire after contacting Schwalbe). For me, the only tire I use anymore for touring is the Marathon Plus on my Surly LHT. I have a set of them now that has seen two 4 month tours of S.E. Asia (I just got home yesterday after 4 months) as well as two separate tours of the West here in the States. I had no flats at all this past trip. They’re a little heavier and you have to use a lot of finesse to get them on/off the rim (not hard after you’ve done it several times) but those tires are the best I’ve found.
Thanks for the comment. I guess that’s the downside. Duremes save you a chunk in rotational weight over the Pluses – so something has to give…
Sounds like a great lifestyle – commuting between Colorado and Asia (-:
I love my Pluses, too. Yes, they are heavier, but their rubber is soft, providing a very plush ride, yet they are very fast tires that hook up on dirt at the same time. Zero worries about flats… the weight is worth it. I wish I would have bought the 38s instead of the 35s, as they’d be a little more versatile.
I’m confused. 29×2.0 dureme? Where? All I see on schwalbe site is 700×50. Is this what you’re calling a 29er? Do they measure 50mm or 45mm like the site says.
700×50 = 29 x 2.0
Depends what country you’re from as to what you call them!
Ver y confusing indeed, I have 700-50C supreme tyres, meens 50-622 to Ertro standards. Schwalbe recommends the 19 or 19A inner tyre, which is 28×2.00. My bike shop gave me Bontrager 29×2.00 as a spare inner tyre. And i do have 28 inch wheels. Seems every “FAT” 28 inch tyre is called a 29-er ?
Great info. currently trying to track down a set of 28 x 2.0 mondials for my 29er. how do those perform on single track? any experience?
Depends on the singletrack! They’re not very high volume, with a shallow-ish tread. I’m not sure I’d like them on anything too rocky, but smooth, flowy stuff is probably ok.
I just started using marathon mondials on my crosscheck and gotta admit, I love them so far.
My crosscheck is my only bike and these tires compliment my riding style (commuting, long rides and some light off-road). I am yet to test them on a tour.
I notice a huge difference in durability between my old XR’s and the new Mondial’s. I’m quite disappointed. My XR’s could go on until 18.000 km before starting to age.
My first Mondial almost reaches 8000 km now and it’s almost completely smooth. I do carry more weight now, but could the difference be THAT big?
A german guy i met on the road recentely told me that Schwalbe deliberately lowered the quality because the XR’s were too good to be good for business. My present experience confirms this 100%.
THis only applies to durability. In terms of puncture proofing, they are as amazing as the XR’s
Is it your experience as well or did I just get a bad tyre?