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Schwalbe Marathon Plus Review

November 1, 2018

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Schwalbe Marathon Plus Review

Schwalbe Marathon Plus
4.79

Summary

Schwalbe’s three-tire Marathon Plus lineup is among the company’s most popular, and has been around for more than a decade and a half. For the most part, it’s immensely popular among most who’ve tried it. After all, they report it delivers a solid mix between comfort, low rolling resistance, high puncture protection, and a variety of tread patterns from which to choose, depending on terrain. As with most products in the cycling industry, though, you’ll pay for the technology.

Pros

  • Long-standing favorite among cyclists
  • Great puncture protection
  • Ultra-low rolling resistance
  • Resistance to wear and signs of aging
  • Variety of models/tread patterns available
  • Suitable for a wide variety of terrain
  • Can handle a range of air pressures

Cons

  • At the upper end of the price spectrum,
  • Will come with higher rolling resistance than thinner tires, or those without tread patterns
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After riding Schwalbe Marathon Plus bike tires for hundreds of miles, as well as finding out what online consumers are saying, we’ll help you learn more about the lineup, including their technologies, pricing, and competitors.

Now that the northern hemisphere is squarely in the midst of fall, many cyclists are changing out their tires for something more robust, puncture resistant, and ready to take on less-than-stellar weather. And near the top of many lists is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus.

This three-tire lineup features patented, 5 mm-thick puncture protection belts made from a highly elastic combination of natural rubber and recycled material. Together, the company promises they deliver “the best possible protection against glass, flints, or metal shards,” dubbing them “the only tire worldwide that can be called “flat-less.”

Despite this, Schwalbe advertises the lineup is lighter than, and rolls as dynamically as, third-party tires without puncture guards.

As mentioned on the website, it’s impossible to guarantee that you’ll never have a flat tire. But, is it worth sacrificing weight for the added protection potentially provided by Marathon Plus’s puncture belt?

Here, we’ll combine our first-hand experience, along with publically available online information, to help you narrow down your options. Before exploring the differences between each tire in the lineup, though, let’s zoom in on their commonalities.

The Technologies You’ll Find in Each Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tire

Quick Facts
ManufacturerSchwalbe
ModelsMarathon Plus Original, Tour, MTB
CategoryRoad, MTB, Touring, All-Season
Sizes Available 16”, 20”, 24”, 26”, 27.5, 650B, 700C, and 28” (30+ versions total)
Weight 480 – 1,100 g
Pressure Range30 – 100 PSI (2 – 6.9 bar)
Rubber CompoundSingle and double (depending on version)
Threads Per Inch67 TPI
OriginIndonesia

Each Marathon Plus tire comes in a Black-Reflex color, with a wire bead, and 67 ends per inch, along with the following technologies:

SmartGuard & Flat-Less

Schwalbe’s SmartGuard technology, which is attached to the tire’s carcass as a belt, is the primary component that delivers Marathon Plus’s ‘flat-less’ functionality. According to their website, they’ve used it on their tires for more than 15 years.

Related: A Visual Guide to Bike Tires

This technology involves 5 mm of flexible rubber, part of which is natural, while the remainder is derived from recycled polymers. It’s thickest in the center for maximum top puncture protection and gradually thins toward each sidewall.

Schwalbe’s SmartGuard system involves a rounded, 5 mm belt of natural and synthetic rubbers that helps prevent flats—even from objects as long as a thumbtack. Credit: Ralf Bohle GmbH

E-Bike Ready 25 & Performance Line

Schwalbe’s E-Bike Ready technology can accommodate the higher loads and average speeds of motor assist bikes (otherwise known as e-bikes), up to 50 km/h.

On the other hand, the Performance aspect is said to deliver excellent quality for intensive use, and the best value tires for the money.

What Are the Differences Between Each Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tire?

Now, let’s look at their differences. Here’s a quick overview of the aspects we’ll discuss:

 Original HS 440Tour HS 404MTB HS 468
MSRP$47 – $57$57$62
Available Sizes16”, 20”, 24”, 26”, 27.5, 650B, 700C, 28” (18 versions in all)26”, 700C, 28” (5 versions in all)26”, 27.5“ 29“ (up to 57 mm wide)
Weight480 g – 1,010 g890 g – 1,100 g1,150 g – 1,350g
Key DifferenceThe ‘flat-less’ standardAdds a thicker trekking tread for longer distancesAdds dual-compound rubber and a tread pattern ideal for on/off-road use

Marathon Plus Original HS 440

According to the Schwalbe website, this is the company’s best-selling model, which they advertise as “The most puncture resistant pneumatic tire there is.”

Compared to older versions, the new Marathon Plus Original features Anti-Aging sidewalls that last longer and are more resistant to cracking caused by adverse weather conditions or insufficient air pressure. It also comes with a new Endurance compound that’s said to offer thousands of miles of “excellent performance characteristics and low abrasion.”

The Original offers the broadest range of sizes among the Marathon Plus lineup, with 18 different versions in 16”, 20”, 24”, 26”, 27.5, 650B, 700C, and 28” sizes available. Weight varies between 480 g and 1,010 g, with load between 65 kg and 115 kg, and PSI ranges between 50 and 100.

Depending on size, MSRP is between $47 and $57, although third-party online retailers offered it for $43 to $53 each as of this writing.

45-degree angle diagram of Schwalbe Marathon Plus bike tire showing layers
Schwalbe’s Original Marathon Plus tire has been around for years. Due to the level of puncture protection it provides and its low rolling resistance, it’s also the most popular model in the company’s lineup. Credit: Ralf Bohle GmbH

Marathon Plus Tour HS 404

The Marathon Plus Tour model adds a more robust and distinctive trekking tread than the Original, which is designed for long tours and everyday use alike, both on and off-road. Together, they advertise it offers the same rolling resistance, road grip, protection, and durability, but adds a slightly improved off-road grip.

Schwalbe only offers five different versions of this Tour model in 26”, 700C, and 28” sizes. MSRP is $57, while many online sites sold it for between $23 and $60 apiece.

Load is measured from 105 kg to 130 kg, with 30 to 85 PSI and weight between 890 g and 1,100 g.

45-degree angle diagram of Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour bike tire showing layers
The Marathon Plus Tour tire features thicker tread designed for long days in the saddle, whether on asphalt, dirt, or a combination. Credit: Ralf Bohle GmbH

Marathon Plus MTB HS 468

The MTB version of the Marathon Plus is available in 26”, 27.5“ and 29“ versions up to 57 mm wide. Built into its dual-compound rubber are central ribs designed to reduce rolling resistance on roads and hard-packed dirt, with smaller outer ‘lugs’ to maximize off-road traction.

Together, this model—advertised as the most puncture resistant MTB-tire available—offers the same road grip, protection, and durability as the Original, and adds a slightly improved off-road grip. As expected, this also slightly increases the weight to between 1,150 g and 1,350g, as well as the tire’s rolling resistance.

Load ranges between 120 kg and 132 kg, with acceptable air pressure between 30 PSI and 65 PSI.

Schwalbe’s MSRP for the Marathon Plus MTB is $62, while we found online retailers selling it for between $32 and $61.

45-degree angle diagram of Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB bike tire showing layers
The Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB model offers the same high-level puncture protection and robust construction as other versions, but features two aggressive tread patterns for maximum traction on hard and soft terrain. Credit: Ralf Bohle GmbH

My Experience With the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Original Tire

Testing Details
Tester SpecsAge: 41 Height: 6’ 1” (185 cm) Weight: 185 lbs (84kg)
Bike/RimsOlder, generic mountain bike and single speed cruiser
Size Tested26 x 1.75 (HS348)
Weight 995 g
ETRTO47-559
Surface ConditionsTacky, slick, gravel, sandy, muddy
Weather ConditionsWet, dry, windy, calm, hot, cool, cold (including minimal exposure to sub-freezing temps)

I rode a set of 26” Marathon Originals across Missouri’s Katy Trail, a rail-to-trail project that spans more than 220 miles across the state, roughly from Kansas City to St. Louis.

The tires were mounted to an older mountain bike fully loaded with approximately 40 pounds of gear, food, and clothing. (Yes, it was my first tour and I massively overpacked.) I found the mounting process straightforward and easily accomplished in a few minutes.

During the tour, I logged 50 to 70 miles daily over the course of four days, primarily on a packed crushed limestone surface. This was highly variable, though, and was more akin to asphalt in some areas, while shallow beach sand in others.

Despite all of the added weight, I felt the Marathon Plusses tracked straight, were predictable, handled well, provided minimal rolling resistance, and didn’t feel overburdened. I did get one rear flat during about half-way through the ride, though.

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Again, since the mounting process was easy, I had the tube changed out and was quickly back on my way again.

left picture of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tread pattern, right outline showing tread at 45-degree angle
On the left, we can see the Marathon Plus’s boomerang-esque central tread pattern, as well as its four-sided outer shapes topped with small bumps for added traction. On the left is a simplified, exaggerated outline of the tread’s side view. ©TreadBikely

After returning home and placing the Marathon Plusses in storage for a couple of years, I dusted them off and mounted them on a single speed cruiser bike, which was mainly used for getting around town within a couple of miles of home.

Here, they were used only on asphalt, and often in urban conditions with plenty of obstacles to avoid, as well as debris that would puncture most standard bike tires. In these conditions, I felt the Plus’s low rolling resistance was much more noticeable, and I’ve yet to experience a flat tire.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus sidewall mounted to rim
Even though these Schwalbe Marathon Plusses are several years old with 300+ miles on them, they look great, don’t appear overly worn, and show little-to-no signs of cracking or other damage. ©TreadBikely

Bottom line: After well over 300 miles of testing, I found the Marathon Plus rolled well on a wide variety of surfaces, despite its moderately deep tread. Riders can also implement a range of pressures, depending on their cushioning preferences, and the tires are incredibly adaptable and work very well in many different scenarios (touring, commuting, cruising, etc.).

And despite the fact that my Marathon Plusses have been in storage for several years, the rubber remains pliable and looks great, with no visible dryness or cracking.

Online Feedback For the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Lineup

Between sites like Amazon, Road.cc, Chain Reaction Cycles, Bike Tires Direct, and REI (to name just a few), we encountered well over one thousand combined online professional and customer reviews for Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus tires—some going as far back as 2007.

And with average ratings 4.5 stars or higher, it seemed like most were pleased with the ride delivered. As was the case with our firsthand experience, many praised its puncture resistance, adaptability, and low rolling resistance.

Pro tip: Speaking of which Bicycle Rolling Resistance tested the Marathon Plus Original back in 2015 and found it provides 25.5 watts of resistance. This is meaningfully lower than the manufacturer’s claimed 34.9 watts.

On the other hand, the relatively few gripes related to a greater number of flats and lower quality than expected, as well as high price.

Competitors to the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tire Lineup

Although the Marathon Plus lineup is often at the top of many cyclists’ lists, several popular competitors could provide just as much performance value, depending on your preferences. These include similar traits like puncture resistance, minimal rolling resistance, and broad functionality:

ModelPricingSizes AvailableStandout Features
Schwalbe Marathon Plus$47 – $6216”, 20”, 24”, 26”, 27.5, 650B, 700C, 28”The most popular tire in Schwalbe’s lineup, available for years with almost wholly positive online feedback
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme$76 – $8426”, 27.5, 28”Features a different OneStar compound, less tread pattern, faster rolling resistance, available in tubeless
Continental Gatorskin$32 – $46650 x 73, 700 x 23 – 32C, 27 x 1.25Unique ‘reptilian’ tread pattern w/large slick spaces, wear-optimized tread
Continental Grand Prix 4-Season$42 – $64700 x 23C – 32CLarger patches of ‘reptilian’ tread for greater traction, DuraSkin fibers for unique sidewall appearance
WTB ThickSlick$37700C, 26”, 27.5, 29”Completely slick tread pattern, claims twice the rubber as standard bike tires

What do we mean? Here are a couple of preference-based examples:

If budget is your main priority, Schwalbe’s Marathon Supreme tire is the highest in the list above, followed closely by Marathon Plus, along with Continental’s Grand-Prix 4-Seasons.

However, the 4-Seasons are not available as mountain bike tires. Even if you’re solely interested in 700C sizes, they still offer far fewer selections than pretty much every other competitor in the table.

Price-wise, WTB’s ThickSlicks come in at the lowest price point and also offer a wide range of sizing options, depending on the bike you ride. However, as the name suggests, none of their tires feature tread, so they’re probably not ideal for venturing off-road.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus: Bringing it All Together

Considering their high puncture resistance, low rolling resistance, and wide range of sizes, Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus tires have been popular among cyclists of all stripes for years. And it shows, considering the almost wholly positive reputation the lineup has among online consumer reviews.

Coupled with our highly positive experience touring and cruising around town on them, we’d strongly recommend the Marathon Plus tire if you’re in the market, despite its higher price. If you’re dissatisfied, most retailers offer at least 30-day refund policies, and Schwalbe offers warranties on all of their tires.

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Keep rolling: How Bike Tires Are Made

Derek is an avid cyclist with more than two decades of experience in the sport, and currently resides in Denver, Colorado. He enjoys all types, including road, MTB, cyclocross/gravel, commuting, and touring. When he's not writing reviews and guides related to bike accessories, parts, and gear for TreadBikely.com, he's riding, talking about cycling, or thinking about bikes he can't afford. #rolloutblissout
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