Schwalbe Marathon Racer review

Jack of all trades with a tilt towards lower rolling resistance

The Schwalbe Marathon Racer is a variant on the famous Marathon lineage that is biased towards speed (although in truth, you would never race on one!).

More rugged than Schwalbe’s Kojak slick, but also built to a higher standard, this should be a very interesting tyre if you’re looking for a capable all-rounder.

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Like many of Schwalbe’s tyres, all sorts of wheel sizes are catered to, from 16″ right through to 700C.

The default width is 1.5″ / 40mm, although 26×1.75 and 700×30/35mm options are available if you’d like to go fatter or thinner!

Compared to other tyres in this class, weight is respectable – 375g for folding 700x35c (vs 550g for a 32mm Continental Contact II or 440g for a 35mm folding Panaracer Pasela TG).

Buy Online

For all that it comes as OEM on some models of bike, the Schwalbe Marathon Racer isn’t as readily available online as some other models, whether in Evo or Performance guises.

At the time of writing, there’s a respectable discount on the 26″ size from Chain Reaction, otherwise you’ll be wanting to look at Amazon who have up to a whacking 36% off on the 700x30mm / 700x35mm / 700x40mm or the 20×1.5″ sizes (Amazon marketplace is a surprisingly good place to find bike parts… is there anything they don’t sell?)

Width/weight

Obviously narrower tyres can come in lighter – Schwalbe’s Ultremo racer weighs just over 190g. However, as we’ve seen the Schwalbe Marathon Racer is competitive within its own niche.

Because they are 1.75x wider than a racing slick, there is a lot of air in a Marathon Racer:

width relative width relative volume
Continental GP4000s 23mm 1x 1x
Specialised Armadillo 28mm 1.22x 1.48x
Schwalbe Marathon Racer 40mm 1.74x 3x

The 40mm Marathon Racer even has 30% more air volume than the 35mm Kojak – this makes a real difference when you’re hitting obstacles (potholes, kerbs, rough ground).

Rolling resistance

Standard disclaimer: for most of us, one of the significant disadvantages of a wide tyre (the aerodynamic penalty of pushing aside an extra wedge of air) doesn’t apply, unless you’re time trialling and probably reading the wrong sort of review..

mracer-1

The Marathon Racer has in common with other wide tyres the floating sensation that makes them so comfortable and capable – but truth be told, rattling around on a rock hard 23mm tyre feels faster regardless of what the speedo says!

While initially fitting the Marathon Racers, I was completely certain that I’d find them slower than my old Kojaks, but if truth be told I find it difficult to tell them apart on the open road. Make no mistake – the Kojak feels more supple and in a lab I have no doubt it would come out ahead, but the Marathon Racer is fast enough that I can come close to my Strava record times on urban segments. Surprising, but there you go.

Because the Marathon Racer is now part of the top-flight Evo tier of Schwalbe tyres, it benefits from some innovations that are not present on the Kojak (improved carcass, sidewalls, and tread compound) which might account for this..

Comfort

I’m running the 700x35mm tyre on the rear of my commuter and the 700x40mm (marked 38c) on the front. Compared with the 23mm tyres I used to commute on years ago, these are worlds away in terms of their ability to eat potholes, kerbs, tram lines, small animals and general debris. At relatively high pressures they feel direct and responsive, but you can safely let some air out to give a plush and very comfortable ride.

I’d say these rate equally with Kojaks in the comfort stakes *at the same width* – the 40mm Schwalbe Marathon Racer has 30% more air than the 35mm Kojak however, and is certainly happier on rough surfaces like Edinburgh cobbles! (However, let’s not forget that compared with 23mm racing tyres, this is like arguing which of two sofas is more comfortable, compared with a pile of straw).

Reflective bands

One key difference with the Kojak is that the Schwalbe Marathon Racer is fitted with reflective sidewalls. Although sidewalls (and spoke reflectors) are arguably the least important type of safety equipment this is still a nice-to-have, and might be a clincher for you:

mracer-3

Very effective indeed!

Grip

The Marathon Racer is intended for on-road use and has a cosmetic tread only. I’ve ridden on dirt and grass on these and also on complete slicks, and if pressed I might admit the Racers are a little better, but please don’t buy these if unsealed surfaces are any kind of priority. There are far more suitable tyres out there!

Like Kojaks, the Marathon Racer allows a more positive connection with the road due to their width and lower pressure than does a narrow racing slick. However, it additionally benefits from the RoadStar Triple Compound which optimises grip (and wear) by intelligently choosing an appropriate type of rubber for different areas of the tyre’s cross-section – in a nutshell, hard wearing in the centre and tacky on the edges for cornering performance.

Flat resistance

The Schwalbe Marathon Racer features the top-level HD Speed Guard high density vectran breaker strip, a considerably more advanced level of puncture protection than the Kojak’s Raceguard and one it shares with tyres like the Ultremo ZX or Marathon Supreme, both of which have a good reputation in the puncture stakes.

Mine are looking very good so far, but I’ll update this if and when I encounter problems (I commute a substantial distance on a disused railway path covered in glass, putting any tyre through its paces).

Durability

Tread thickness is directly linked to rolling resistance, so to reduce the latter, the Marathon Racer also has less of the former!

That said, it has more tread depth than the Kojaks (which give me a few thousand miles each) and is perhaps the best tyre for those wanting a compromise between durability and speed. Touring-biased versions of the Marathon line will offer vastly increased mileage at the expense of weight and ride quality…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

ICE Adventure FS from Laid-Back-Bikes: great terrain for Marathon Racers!

Like most light road tyres, I’m happy to take the Marathon Racer on hardpack or well-trodden dirt paths (like the Union Canal towpath), but I wouldn’t use it to ride on green roads or anything more adventurous where a stray rock could trash the sidewall.

Weight

A wider tyre simply must be heavier than a narrow one, that much is obvious – so if you’re an outright weight weenie, you probably haven’t read down this far 😉

It’s not too bad, with the 700×35 Marathon Racer losing out to a 700×28 Durano by around 100g, but as noted above, it’s significantly lighter than some competing models.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t say that the Schwalbe Marathon Racers are a favourite of mine, although I still have them fitted to my commuter and am riding on them for many miles each day.

To me, they fall between two stools: if you want a wide fast tyre, go and buy yourself a Kojak and stop worrying. If you want a tyre for all round riding and speed is not a priority, go and buy yourself a Marathon Greenguard and stop worrying. :)

In fairness, the Marathon Racer is a significant step up from the regular Marathon in terms of speed, so if you really don’t want a complete slick, these are probably the next best thing. They do benefit from a great quality carcass and puncture protection, and do offer significantly more air volume, which shouldn’t be underestimated (plus, of course, the reflective sidewalls).

All in all, a smart ‘jack of all trades’ with a slant towards speed. Get yours now.

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Vital Statistics

Note: On a 17mm rim the 700x35c measures 32.5mm while the 700x38c measures 37.5mm

Folding version:

ETRTO (mm) Imperial (“) Pressure (bar) Pressure (psi) Weight (g)
40-406 20 x 1 1/2 4-6 60-90 300
40-559 26 x 1 1/2 4-6 60-90 390
47-559 26 x 1 3/4 3-5 45-75 485
35-622 700x35c 4.5-6.5 67-97 375
40-622 700x38c 4-6 60-90 435

Wire version:

ETRTO (mm) Imperial (“) Pressure (bar) Pressure (psi) Weight (g)
40-305 16 x 1 1/2 4-6 60-90 255
40-355 18 x 1 1/2 4-6 60-90 295
40-406 20 x 1 1/2 4-6 60-90 340
40-559 26 x 1 1/2 4-6 60-90 465
47-559 26 x 1 3/4 3-5 45-75 575
30-622 700x30c 4.5-7 67-105 395
35-622 700x35c 4.5-6.5 67-97 465
40-622 700x40c 4-6 60-90 495

 

 

6 Comments

  1. john

    Hey Dave. I’m thinking about trying the 26″ Kojak (probably the 1.35s) on my tandem (upright) as an alternative to the Marathon Racers (26×1.75″) I currently have. Will I notice a difference do you think?
    I’m looking for a faster tyre than the Marathon, but I’m not sure if a 1.35 isn’t going to be a bit uncomfortable; not sure if the 2″ will fit under the mudguards.

    I really want a tyre comparable to the Conti GP4000s in 26″…

    Good reviews, by the way.

    Ta. john

  2. Dave

    Hi John,

    The Kojak would be a good choice – your other option is the Continental Sport Contact – 26″ x 1.6″ or 1.3″ both available.

    (For other readers – it’s also available in 700c).

    That’s a nice tyre, although only available in wire bead. I think the Kojak would be faster in equivalent widths, but there isn’t a 1.6″ Kojak so if the 1.35 is too narrow it could be worth a look.

    700c Kojaks seem to be out everywhere, but fortunately for you, 559 Kojaks are still readily available.

  3. john

    OK; I think I’m convinced enough to give the Kojaks a go. I just need to see whether the 2″ version can be made to work with the mudguards.

    Thanks again. john

  4. Jose César

    Nice informes. Thanks.

  5. Alexey

    Someone translated your article into Russian (and flipped the photos):
    http://velofun.ru/test-review-comparison/obzor-velosipednyh-pokryshek-schwalbe-marathon-racer.html

  6. Dave

    Lol, that is pretty entertaining. Thanks for the heads up!

    Trying to think of an appropriate Soviet Russia joke…

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