Schwalbe’s Marathon XR tire has become the tire of choice for expedition tourers in recent years.
Unfortunately, Schwalbe have now discontinued the Marathon XR. Unless you can find some remaining stock in a bike shop, you’ll have to choose another tire.
Learn more about the Best Tires for Bike Touring currently on the market, as recommended by other cyclists and bike shop owners.
If you do manage to track down Marathon XRs, you’ll be pleased to know they are incredibly durable and they’re practically puncture proof!
Our comments are based on the 6 sets of Marathon XR tires (3 each) that we used on our world tour. We originally switched to the Marathon XR after cycling 11,000km on Vredestein tires.
We used the 26″ x 2.00″ size – quite wide and relatively slow but good if you plan to do any offroad or dirt road riding. They were relatively expensive, starting at about €30 each, depending on where we found them and whether or not we found folding models. Unless you plan to carry a spare around (necessary for long expeditions), it’s not necessary to pay more for the folding version.
The first thing you notice about the Marathon XRs is that they’re quite heavy, around 800g each, depending on if you choose the folding or wire bead. They also have a sturdy construction, which helps to prevent flat tires but can equally make them tough to get on the rim the first time around. If you haven’t got strong hands, you may need to enlist professional help!
For the most part, we were quite happy with Marathon XRs, although one set did give us sidewall troubles and we weren’t so impressed with the resulting customer service.
The tires that caused us grief performed well for the first 5,000km but then one day we glanced down and noticed several large slashes in both of our back tires, deep enough that the cord was showing through. To us, it appeared to be a manufacturing fault. Our bikes had not been left anywhere unattended where it was likely someone could have sabotaged our tires and the marks were too regular and placed equally around the tire sidewall to have been caused accidentally by scratching our bikes against something.
That was in Greece. With nowhere to buy replacements until Istanbul, we carried on with the damaged tires, hoping they would last the distance to the Turkish capital. In the meantime we emailed Schwalbe and asked for their advice but they weren’t able to offer any possible causes for the slashes. We did not find them particularly helpful or sympathetic. They suggested we always carry a replacement set of tires with us – quite a heavy option, we thought, and one that shouldn’t be necessary for a tire with such a reputation for lasting long distances!
Our tires lasted until Istanbul, where we bought two replacements and put them in our panniers. We were able to cycle a further 4,500km until, in Iran, we needed to swap our old back tires for the new ones because the sidewall slashes had widened and the exposed cord was starting to break and cause punctures. Had it not been for the broken cord putting holes in our inner tubes, we felt we could have gotten at least a few thousand more kilometers out of our back tires.
Perhaps some tire rotation would have helped. We found we got double the distance out of our front Marathon XR tires than our back ones.