READ THE FOLLOWUP POST HERE
About me and my riding style (or lack thereof): My bicycle is my only vehicle. I expect miracles out of it. It should be able to do anything that my old Chevy pickup truck could do. It hauls way too much stuff on racks and on a trailer. It gets ridden on asphalt, concrete, chip 'n tar, gravel, broken glass, sand, dirt, mud, entrails, snow and singletrack. It takes me to the grocery store as easily as it does rock climbing or cross country skiing. It cooks me breakfast as well. The bike in question is a mostly stock Surly Long Haul Trucker. I only want to own one bike and I want it to be ready at the drop of a hat, no futzing or changing components before I go for a ride. I am a 6' 1" male who weighs 150lbs after eating 5lbs of tortellini. I am unrealistic.
ON TO THE TIRE TALK!
Whenever I first got my touring bike, it came stock with Continental Contact tires. After riding them for approximately 4,000 miles they were ready to be replaced. While the Contact isn't a bad tire, I found them lacking for my needs. On road riding they were perfectly acceptable with the exception of durability. Riders in Pennsylvania will find a lot of shit on the sides of roads including nails, screws, glass and indistinguishable rusty crap. This could be easily extrapolated to roads everywhere. I got punctures from screws, nails and glass in the Contacts which is to be expected from time to time. But even after putting a boot over the resulting hole, the rubber would slowly chip away leaving a bigger and bigger hole. Uh, I don't think I want to ride too much further on something like that.
On mixed surfaces, I did not like those tires. Riding on loose gravel felt akin to riding my bike on a skating rink that had been freshly greased. My tires would frequently slip riding uphill on gravel or dirt as well. Since about 25 to 30% of my riding is off road, this traction issue is pretty critical to me. Granted I keep my tires inflated at 85 psi, but I don't want to have to change tire pressure each time I go off road.
ON TO THE SCHWALBE TALK!
Since I barely trusted my Swiss cheese like rear tire to get me to work and back anymore, I decided it was high time to get a new set of tires and while I was at it, get a new type. So I went down to Freeze Thaw Cycles to check out my options. I decided to get a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Mondials which looked like they would offer better traction. Most people also tout Schwable tires as the most durable out there. I was pretty stoked about them. Jordyn happily took my money and told me to go "constructively beat the shit out of them".
While I will hopefully, do a more in depth review of the tires after I have ridden them further, I wanted to share my initial impressions. After only one 50 mile ride, I believe I may have found my "unrealistic" tires. My one hesitation with purchasing these tires was that the overall tread was deeper and there were bigger lugs on the outside edges of the tread pattern than my old Continentals. I worried that they would be slower on the road and there would be a "buzzy" feel/sound like when you ride a mountain bike on the road. To start off the ride, I rode 16 miles of rolling farms roads that is second nature to me. Absolutely no time difference from the many times I've ridden that stretch with the Continentals and they didn't feel "slow" either. Over the next 30 miles, I then tested them out on a pea-gravel rail trail, loose and hardpacked gravel fire roads, grass, dense dry leaves, and pine needles with plenty of climbing and descending on each. The Schwalbes gave me great confidence on all surfaces and held straight riding through long sections of loose gravel (which used to be my nemesis). I capped the ride with a 1000 ft descent on pavement and again there was no sensation of them being slow.
I will continue my research on these tires and hopefully have a little more to say later, but for right now, I am pleased. Moving right along, my roommate and I are emptying some beer bottles to smash on the sidewalk for the durability test.
READ THE FOLLOWUP POST HERE
CONTINENTAL CONTACT 700X37C Inflated to 85psi
SCHWALBE MARATHON MONDIAL 700X35C Inflated to 85psi