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Schwalbe Marathon Winter Studded Tires (700×40)

by John Coe

Chrysler Rocky logoJohn Coe has been an everyday, four-season bike commuter in a four-season town for almost 20 years. He blogs, when he blogs, mostly about bikes and skis and stuff at rockychrysler.blogspot.com.


A favorable conjunction of fate and inclement weather brought me a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700×40 carbide-studded tires to test at precisely the right moment in time.

 

Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700x40

Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700x40

I live in a place where it snows and freezes. And studded tires, used by a limited contingent of die-hard, year-round commuters in these parts, are a fine thing to have now and then. For years I have used a pair of undeniably bomber 26×2.1 (53 mm) Kenda Klondikes, a threatening and authoritative tire: 252 carbide studs, painfully stiff sidewalls, an uncompromising bead seat, weighing in at over 1240 grams each. If you attempt to mount them in a cold garage with any sort of urgency they will destroy your nylon levers and make you bleed and curse; you must take your time and think happy thoughts when putting a Klondike on a rim. I always mount them late in the fall, on a bike that will become my winter commuter, ahead of major weather. Or I live without.

Installing

Schwalbe’s Marathon Winter tires, on the other hand, mounted with ease. While they are of real German extraction, the Schwalbe studded tires, with what I hoped was an honest 622 bead seat, promised a kinder, gentler sort of preseason setup. And I was not to be disappointed. The Marathons were more than willing to accommodate the wimpiest of nylon tire-levers, as well as my frigid workspace and last-minute prep without insult or injury. They slid onto my Surly‘s warped and out-of-round Mavic hoops like butta.

Riding Ice & Snow: Off-Road

Walked-Out-Snow-Turned-Ice

Walked-Out Snow-Turned-Ice

I got hold of the Marathons early this winter, between storms, when the roads were mostly melted off, but the trails were still hard and glassy with walked-out snow-turned-ice. So I took my first few test rides on the slick, frozen, December trails near my house. Identified as 40 mm in width on the packaging but marked as 622×42 mm on the sidewall, the Marathons handled challenging trail conditions masterfully. Pumped to around 50 psi, the 240-stud pattern created plenty of traction on even the slickest of surfaces.

Riding Ice & Snow: On-Road

Snow Packed Road

My Snow-Packed & Icy Street

A week later a real winter storm arrived. In earnest. Dumping nearly two-feet of snow across the region, leaving the trails buried and the roads snow-packed and icy for the better part of the next 10 days. Once in their element on icy, snow-packed roads, the Marathons very quickly proved their worth, outperforming my old Klondikes in just about every way. The 950-gram tire doesn’t feel too heavy once it’s rolling. And the aggressive knob pattern, studded only along the outsides of the tread, rolls confidently across snowy and icy surfaces, but still allows for plenty of control when you ride onto the occasional patch of salted-and-cindered pavement. Additionally, the Kevlar-reinforced casing provided a little additional confidence when riding streets where glass and other sharp objects might otherwise pose a threat.

When commuting on my old Klondikes, I’ve grown accustomed over the years to feeling less-than-stoked about my afternoon commute home. When the morning’s ice has melted off the roads leaving nothing but hard, wet asphalt, Klondikes exhibit more than a few disappointing traits. First and foremost, there’s the incessant stud-buzzing, which sounds like a coffee roaster constantly on second-crack following you everywhere. And there’s also the super-sketchy handling, which is basically akin to carrying your own dangerous, invisible road gravel with you everywhere. After each snowstorm, once the roads have passed the 50 percent clear phase, I’ve always just hung up my Klondike-bike until the next storm cycle.

One of the very best things about the Marathons is that they’ve completely eliminated my need to switch out bikes between storms. By fixing both of my chief frustrations with studded winter tires, the maddening noise and the dangerously poor handling, I’ve been able to continue to enjoy my daily rides both to and from work even as the snow has begun to melt away. The Marathons excel in the snow and ice, but because of the way they’ve arranged the carbide studs in the tread, they roll almost silently and handle confidently on dry roads, especially when pumped to around 70 psi, making them a fine tire to leave on in between storms.

So, after a more than a month of legitimately good winter-riding in a variety of conditions on- and off-road, I’m ready to say it: the Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires are for-keeps. They ride on snow and ice as-advertised: capably, confidently, with nary a slip to be found. Better yet, they ride super-well on the pave’, too, without many of the troubling handling traits and noise complaints common with other studded tires.

Got snow? Get ya some.

 
Burley nomad 229

13 Responses to “Schwalbe Marathon Winter Studded Tires (700×40)”

  1. Spencer says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. Love the tires. I’ve ridden a pair through a couple winters, and the carbide is incredibly durable. They are relatively spendy, but so are emergency room visits (or the embarrassment of onlookers as you wipe the ice with your back). Getcha some.

  2. Matt says:

    I’ve put about 700 miles on the 700c x 42mm version of the marathon winter, and they are the best compromise tires between a offroad studded tire like the nokian extreme and minimally studded tire. On clear pavement they perform quite like an unstudded tire. They handle predictably in pretty much all conditions, unlike the nokian extremes, which were unpredictable cornering on clear pavement.
    I’ve slogged through 4″ of fresh powder at 25 psi and cruised on mostly clear roads at 60psi, and everything in between.

    I’ve even taken them out on singletrack and was quite pleased with their performance at 25psi on hard pack snow.
    I’ve also yet to have a flat, which is something that is difficult to fix when the temps are well below zero.

  3. Ted Johnson says:

    John, Spencer, & Matt: I have these tires too, but I’ve already lost a number of the studs. I don’t know how many; I haven’t counted. But I’d guess about 10. What is your experience with this problem and these tires?

  4. matt says:

    thanks, John. I have been considering a pair of MWs for a few weeks now, and this is really informative.

  5. johncoe says:

    @ted: there’s an obscure note on the schwalbe website that indicates that the tires need to be run on pavement for several miles in order to “set” the studs. i had one stud wiggle a mil or two out of position, but i noticed it in time and reset it with a pair of needlenose pliers… all the others have stayed put. but, based on the presence of the schwalbe’s note and your own experience, i guess this might become an issue for some users.

  6. welshcyclist says:

    Living here in Wales, where usually, we only get 2 perhaps 3 weeks of snow a year, it is not really an option to buy studded tyres. However, this winter, we’ve had far much more snow than normal, and ice has been a severe problem. I’ve come off my bike only 6 times in 6 years of commuting a 40 miles round trip, everytime on ice, and painfully, twice this winter. Now, if there’s the slightest chance of ice out there I just don’t ride, which brings me onto studded tyres, are they that good? I’ve no experience of them. Can you ride normally with them or do you have to adjust the way you ride? The biggest question of all is, would I feel confident enough to actually ride in the snow and ice with them? I’d like all opinions, perhaps it’s too late for this winter, but then again there’s 2 months to go, and I’m feeling awfully frustrated at not getting my commute in each day, this last spell has meant me not riding for 6 days!!!

  7. Patrick says:

    Great post …. and I was writing the same article just now.

    Bought a couple of weeks ago two pair (Schwalbe winter marathon and snow stud )and we love them. And for the shoes we use “Icebugs” ….. shoes with studs.
    Have a nice and save ride

  8. matt says:

    I think you’ll find they solve all your problems. If terribly expensive maybe start with a studded tire in front and see if you still slip.

    I find that the Nokian A10 does not slow me down *at all* vs. a regular tire, but it has fairly few studs and little rolling resistance. More “aggressive” tires would be slower.

  9. matt says:

    just placed my order. thanks again for pushing me over the edge

  10. Mark says:

    I have put about 600 mi on my marathon winters and love them. These are good all-winter tires to keep from slipping on black ice and dying. I generally put them on for cold spells when there has been or will be precipitation. My commute is about 33 mi roundtrip, so I inflate to 80 psi, near the Rec limit for pressure. These tires seem to have the right mix of traction and relatively low rolling resistance; I don’t think that the nokian A10 would have enough traction for my needs.. We had an ice storm in December; rode 5 miles each way on solid ice in Creve Coeur park. No problem.

    Owners of these tires will tell you how every once in a while you will feel them slip laterally in deeper snow, like 1 to 2 inches.. Startling but harmless. Things get bad when the depth hits 3 inches and most of your effort is going into steering. Have not tried the lower PSI e.g. 35, but that may help.

    Stud loss is not an issue. I think I have lost a few (have to really scrutinize them), but the tires have worked well. Only PITA thing is the fit with Planet Bike fenders on my cyclocross bike. A lot of abrasion; the rivets on my last fender set wore off. My next bad-weather bike will have fender mount braze-ons, so the problem is not really with the tires themselves.

    Highly recommended. Will get another pair if these ever wear out.

  11. jnyyz says:

    I’m on my fourth winter with these tires. They are just a good as you say. Just make sure that you have enough stay / fender clearance to run them. They are not just wide; they are also quite tall.

    http://jnyyz.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/spring-has-sprung/

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