Big thanks to my friend Joe for this Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB review. He's been riding for years and the man really knows his stuff!
I love riding, pure and simple. A great Saturday takes me out of town, onto flowing singletrack, down a rooty hill or two, over the odd rock garden, hopefully through a babbling brook, and definitely to the local pub.
And I do NOT want to stop to fix a flat.
I like to ride fast but I’m not racing anyone. I need a worry-free, tough-as-nails tire as I’m out for maximum fun: confident cornering, smooth sailing on hardpack, and security on shaky ground, all without worrying about the buzzkill of a puncture. This 29x2.10 MTB tire delivers.
The tire’s biggest selling point: its Smartguard technology, a patented 5mm belt of tough rubber. Schwalbe doesn’t shy away from a bold claim, calling Marathon Plus the first ‘flat-less’ tire.
- Schwalbe's highest-level puncture resistance gives peace of mind
- Strong outer tread sticks corners on almost any surface.
- Central rib rolls smooth enough on hardpack and pavement
- At 1.8 pounds (listed), it's not the lightest MTB tire on the marketIt's not a fast roller on pavement
- It's not a fast roller on pavement
- The toughness of this rubber makes it famously 'tough' to get on your rims!
Summary: Schwalbe, kings of the built-to-last puncture-resistant tires, offer this as a reliable solution for riders like me- out to have fun without stressing flats or loose-dirt slideouts.
With a smooth-rolling central rib, gravel-grabbing outer lugs and Schwalbe’s strongest puncture resistance in the SmartGuard technology, this tire provides confidence-inspiring all-around performance.
Sounds Great But Who Is This Tire NOT made for?
Before you buy the Schwalbe's you'll want to ask yourself what type of riding you intend on doing
- If you're on pavement most of the time, try a smoother tire with puncture protection, like Schwalbe's super-cushy Big Apple.
- If you like keeping things light on the trail, you'll find this a bit heavy
- If you're an aggressive, fast downhiller or XC racer, you'll want the knobbier tires grippy enough for the gnarliest stuff.
Who Should Be Mounting These Tires?
- Commuters who ride mountain bikes (or cyclocross or hybrid bikes with enough clearance) and use rail trails, paths, and roads that may not be the smoothest will appreciate the grip and stability.
- Recreational riders who hit singletrack, gravel, and some technical terrain, but roll quickly through town to the cafe or pub afterward.
- Bikepackers or bike tourists doing multi-day (or week, or month) trips on trails or paths like the eastern United States’ Great Allegheny Passage.
This is all interesting but what's the real story?
What To Expect With Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus
With a powerful aversion to flat tires, I have a long history with tires marketed as puncture-resistant. Some have worked well, some not so much; there are always tradeoffs.
As a city commuter, I rolled two flat-free years on a pretty wide road version of Specialized’s Armadillo series. I had no flats, but not a ton of fun either as I found them a bit heavy and sluggish.
Continental’s Gatorskin series offered a nicer, quicker roll and good resistance- but I lost my flat-free streak on them.
I started getting plumper with boutique tiremaker Challenge’s Gravel Grinder off-road racing tire in 38mm. They’ve rolled nicely on pavement and kept me upright on technical terrain, but they don't have the perfect record I'm after, with a (totally reasonable) two flats in around 2500 miles.
Since I've made the jump to these large-and-in-charge tires (in my case, on a drop-bar adventure bike rather than a pure mountain bike) I've felt like I'm getting pretty close to the right balance of tradeoffs and advantages.
I'm not whizzing through my city streets en route to my favorite forest getaways, but I roll smoothly and comfortably enough out of town.
Once I'm on the rough gravel-and-clay surface of the C&O Canal towpath outside my Washington, DC home, I really appreciate the limousine-like feel and peace of mind these tires offer.
Turning off the towpath and onto hardpack singletrack - with no shortage of rooty bits, rocks, and loose-soil corners - I feel steady and secure. If I lose my grounding and end up throwing a 'yard sale' it's probably going to be my fault, not the tires.'
And true to the promise, I've yet to have a flat tire knock me out of my zone.
That's not all.
Check out the tires put to the puncture test by Yisj00 below:
Another Rider’s Impression
There are just a few reviews on Amazon of this particular model in Schwalbe’s Marathon line. Reviewer Mark S. Mann’s thoughts echo my own:
“Great tire and no flats in 500 miles. I wouldn't call this a pure MTB tire though, more light trail or aggressive cross tire. Quiet on crushed gravel, fast on pavement and sticky in the wet, just fair in mud. I got what I wanted, but buyers should be aware this is not a typical aggressive off-road MTB tire.”
Worth pointing out here is a condition I didn’t get to test out myself- ‘just fair in mud.’ I’m happy to have enjoyed a mostly dry winter and spring, and offer this user’s experience of riding in the muck instead.
Perhaps because of a more road-leaning background, I found the tires a bit less than ‘fast’ on pavement, but I certainly didn’t feel I was being held back too much.
What To Know Before Buying
A bit of information that’s good to have before making the purchase:
- These tires can be a challenge to put on. If you have little or no experience swapping tires, be sure to watch a tutorial or two and be patient. There’s also no shame in asking your friends at the local bike shop to put these on for you- and give you some pointers.
- Running puncture-resistant tires is just part of the battle against flats! You need to make sure you’ve got the correct size tubes, and always keep the tires inflated to within the recommended range of pressures.
A Crowded Field
The market for versatile, puncture-resistant MTB and all-terrain tires has grown since Schwalbe’s pioneering Marathon line was introduced.
A strong contender in the field is Clement; their XC LXV is lighter and faster, but its puncture-protection belt isn’t quite as failsafe.
Maxxis’ Beaver KV eXCeption is made to fare better in wet conditions. While made with a hard inner layer of rubber, it does not have a thick protection belt.
Hit The Trails With Peace Of Mind
Schwalbe builds its reputation on tires like these. Balancing all-condition performance, fun, and utility, the Marathon Plus HS 468 came through for me.
If you want solid rides across any surface you roll onto, and you won’t abide being sidelined by flats, these tires are for you.
That's a wrap. I hope this Schwalbe Marathon Plus MTB review has been helpful to you!