Schwalbe’s Marathon Supreme is the quickest big volume semi-slick I’ve used to date, rolling a lot faster than its two-inch profile or 600g weight would suggest. The tyre is aimed at tarmac-riding touring cyclists. Its centre section uses harder rubber designed for optimum durability and reduced rolling resistance, while softer shoulders and Liteskin sidewalls improve cornering and shave a few grams. Schwalbe call this construction ‘triple nano compound’.
There’s scant loss of durability or puncture protection compared to Schwalbe’s nigh invincible Marathon XR, an expedition tyre that better suits a mix of on- and off-road surfaces. The only real downsides are the steep asking price and – if you happen to use a sidewall dynamo – the lack of a dynamo track.
Tyre sizing is sometimes nominal and our 26x2.0 (50-559) version looked trim compared to many off-road 1.75in tyres. This means ample room between tyre and frame for mudguards, although it’s worth noting my Univega has lots of mud clearance around the stays in any case; other framesets might not be so accommodating.
However, there is a narrower version for 26-inch wheeled bikes: 26x1.6in. Other sizes available are: 20x1.6 for small-wheeled bikes; 28x2.0 (50-622) for 29ers and 700C-wheeled touring bikes with huge clearances; and several 700C variants for more conventional tourers, hybrids and ’cross bikes (700x28, 32, 37 and 42). A few wire bead options are also available. The folding versions tested fit compactly into panniers and should pop on and off most cross-country/expedition touring rims without recourse to tyre levers.
Inflated to their 70psi maximum, a pair of Marathon Supremes made my Univega noticeably more responsive, even heavily laden – so much so I substituted the 14-28T cassette for a 12-25. The big pocket of air offers majestic passage over irregular surfaces while the compound delivers excellent grip in the dry. Conversely, slimy, swooping descents nudging 30mph haven’t caught them off guard, and their light tread offers some towpath capability. I’m temping fate to say it, but I’ve ridden punctureless through thorns, shards of glass and other debris too.
Superb long-haul tarmac touring tyre, as long as you don’t need a dynamo track.
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Make and model: Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 26x2.0 tyre
Size tested: 2.0
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"A touring tire that can do everything. This was the goal of our development team. For 2009 they completely revised: HD Ceramic Guard, Triple Nano Compound, Liteskin side wall".
Best for tarmac but behave impeccably in most contexts so long as you weren't planning on riding aggressive singletrack.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 37 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)