Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme - did I walk under a ladder?

I was looking for new tires recently. I wanted something I could use mostly on pavement, fast rolling, lightweight, but wider than the standard "roadie" 23-25mm tires. Remembering the old rule that buying cheap usually means buying twice, I thought about going for the "best": Grand Bois Cypres Extra Leger. These tires come in 700x32c size, weigh only 232g and are supposed to be the Holy Grail of on-road riding. These fake French tires (since they are as French as I am - they are made in Japan by Panasonic, err... Panaracer), are very thin and lightweight but relatively wide, which is supposed to result in a very comfortable ride. The sidewalls are soft and supple, cushioning road vibrations. They have almost no tread so I can't expect them to work in slick mud at all but they are apparently THE solution for longer rides on pavement, as many reviews indicate. And as the true Holy Grail, they are not only crazy expensive ($85 each) but also completely... unavailable. Well, the last is not entirely true. The do show up sometimes but recently with tan sidewalls, which I don't like at all. Since they exist in all-black version as well, I decided to wait for it to show up.

This all meant that I had to look for an alternative and after some thinking I decided to buy Schwalbe Marathon Supreme in 700x32c size. These tires live by their name - Marathon tire is a legend. The Supreme version is supposed to be lighter (I measured 370g per tire), with softer sidewalls for more comfortable ride, without sacrificing durability. They are not the cheapest ($62 is still pretty steep) but they may be the best commuter tires.

Installing these on my bike was quite straightforward although not painless. They were a bit tight but with an aid of a couple of levers I finally managed to put them on my Velocity A23 rims. The next day I was ready for the first ride. And this is where all the fun ended and my bad luck started. This must have been the worst bad luck I had on bike so far. After only a couple of miles, I heard a loud hiss coming from the rear tire. Getting a flat tire is nothing unusual but I think that earlier that day I must have broken a mirror, walked under a ladder and crossed paths with a black cat.
It turned out that a long nail penetrated the tire all the way in, straight through its sidewall, making two huge holes in the tube. There was no way I could have it fixed roadside. Fortunately, I wasn't too far from a local bike store where I had to buy a new tube and a new tire. Obviously, they didn't have the Marathons in stock so I ended up with a cheap Vittoria Randonneur on my rear wheel. This one turned out to be even harder to put on the rim than Marathons. Anyway, I was able to get back home.

So this is how $62 went straight into a drain. The tire is destroyed. The sidewall is ripped too much and there is no way to fix it. I will have to order a new one. I am not blaming Schwalbe on what happened. Very few tires would survive a close encounter with a nail of this size. It is just a pity to have a brand new tire destroyed on the first ride. I was really starting to like them.

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