Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Schwalbe Marathon Mondial review

So, a couple of months ago, I parted with some cash to purchase a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires.  It was my first experience with the brand and was a little hesitant to purchase these more expensive tires.  In the end, I'm sure glad I did.
These tires did see a fair amount of off-road action...
I wrote about my first ride with the tires here.  After riding about 500+ miles (I kinda didn't keep track) I feel like I can give a better evaluation of these tires.  About 80% of my riding was done on roads and the rest was on varying surfaces including gravel, mud/dirt, and snow.  Half was commuting and the other half was longer recreational rides.

As a pure road tire, I would opt for a different model obviously.  The more aggressive tread of the Marathon Mondial is just plain overkill if you sticking to smooth pavement.  While I didn't notice it on the first ride, after a while I could tell that there is some slight rolling resistance with this tread.  Of course, since I wasn't switching between tires or bikes, this is entirely a subjective assessment.  Where the tire definitely excels is transitioning between many different loose riding surfaces and still working quite well on roads.  They offered great grip for their width on gravel and mud and didn't even shy away from packed snow.  For those wondering, they offer little to no grip on bare sheets of ice... I had to find out the hard way.  In warmer winter conditions, the tires seemed to quickly gather snow on them in the tread and then eventually jam against fenders.  However, that's probably going to happen with any lugged tire combined with a fender.
The test lab.
I did get the opportunity in the past week to take a ride out in my local state forest with a modest load of overnight equipment.  Although this winter has been fairly tame, I was still concerned about the condition of the roads and what traction problems I may have.  Whether it was a long fire road climb on packed snow or a long, long climb on soft and tacky mud, the tires never skipped a beat.  My legs may have skipped a couple of beats though.  The Marathon Mondials definitely gave me the necessary confidence to maneuver my loaded bike along the slippery roads.

After over 500 miles of riding, there is no evidence of wear on the tires.  I really would have expected more of the tread to be rounding off in spots.  You would also think that if the rubber is so firm to resist wear that it wouldn't offer much grip on rock or wet pavement.  That thought has been dispelled as the tires provide great grip on such surfaces.  Also, the claims of high puncture resistance in the Schwalbe Marathon line have so far held up.  I  haven't gotten a single flat with these tires yet (and I hope that I didn't just horribly jinx myself).  Lest you think I have been babying them, I haven't.  I live in a town with a major college and everyday I literally ride over tons of broken glass provided by intellectuals' copious broken bottles.  I'd say that's a pretty fair test.

If you are looking for a tire that can ride anywhere well and stand up to abuse, this is it.  If you are already looking at the Marathon Mondial specifically, buy them.  They're worth it.

Update 10/18/2012-  I have over 8,000 miles on this pair of tires now and have only suffered 3 flats total.  That includes riding across the entire United States.  The tire that was on the rear was wearing more and the tread was a bit worn in the center.  I have swapped the front and rear tires and will continue to ride them.  After all of the miles, I am still 100% pleased with them and stand behind everything I've written previously.


  1. Hi Tom, I'm Michael from France.

    I'm currently changing my old mountain bike for a high level touring bike made in France :

    During my lasts travels i'have seen how much a good tire can be a good companion. Do you think this tire is a good one for traveling 90% of the time on road and 10% on tracks ?

    I will buying 4 tires for me and my girl friend... and i don't want to be wrong into my choice, but difficult front to internet to get a good judgment :o).

  2. Michael,

    Those look like beautiful bikes indeed!

    I have ridden hundreds of miles of road with the Mondials and don't mind if they have a little bit more rolling resistance than other tires because I have absolute confidence in them when I am off pavement. If you are not a really aggressive rider, I don't believe that you will mind either when you are riding roads.

    I would suggest looking at the Schwalbe Marathon Racer if you are primarily concerned with riding fast and efficiently on the pavement portions of your trips. Otherwise, if you're touring with a casual pace, the Mondial is the tire to go with because you'll have the confidence to go anywhere.

    That's my opinion. Hope it helps!

    1. Hi Tom !

      Merci beacoup :o)

      Thank you very much, that's exactly the opinion i wanted to finaly decide myself to make the mondial choice.

      See you on the road...and tracks :o)


  3. Hi Tom!

    Thanks for the great review! It was very helpful indeed as I'm currently hunting for a pair of mondials (or duremes) myself. I think I'm going for the more affordable "Performance line" version, though.

    I have just one question: does the tire make any noise when rolling on a perfectly smooth surface? I know it's not such a big deal, but I've been riding MTB tires in the city for a couple of years now and it's making me crazy! It would be absolute bliss for me to have a perfectly stealth smooth ride.


  4. Mikko,

    I was out riding this evening on some freshly paved road and paid attention. There is a faint hum when you're riding on the Mondials. It's absolutely nothing like the whirring that mountain bike tires make, but they're not completely silent. When I first read your question, my first thought was "Of course they don't make any noise" but I guess I have gotten used to them and tune out the slight road noise.


  5. Hi Tom!

    Well, I guess I can handle a little low pitch hum. I'm sure the noise issue will be nothing compared to the constant buzzz I have to put up with now. How often do you ride on a polished marble surface without any environmental noise anyway, right?

    You really helped me make up my mind. Thank you! Schwalbe should be giving you some free tires for your world-wide influence in spreading the good word. I see you helped convert at least one searching soul in France, and now in Portugal too!

    Keep on pedaling! Oh, and happy easter too!


  6. I bought a wired 700/40 Mondial to check for fender clearance and after 50 miles or so noticed a regular clump on smooth roads. It felt like I was hitting a regular tar seam. Anyhow, close inspection revealed that one center tread block was about 1/16 inch lower than the rest resulting in a flat spot. I have opened a warranty claim with Schwalbe and we'll see how they respond. I hope it's not a defect that affected an entire run but suggest checking your tires carefully. Also, I notice that the $90 folding Mondial is made with a superior rubber compound and a superior sidewall so it it not really the same tire as the $50 wired Mondial. If the flat spot issue is addressed I'll probably go with a folding Mondial on the front.

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  8. Thank you for the note on the wired version Alan. I hope that your warranty claim goes smoothly with them.

    I bought the folding bead version and did not experience any similar problem. It's interesting to hear the construction differences between the two as well.

  9. I sent Schwalbe my warranty claim (slick, web-based process) on Friday and yesterday (Wed) got an email that they were sending me a new tire. Can't beat that!

  10. Many thanks for this review! I need to change the Schwalbe Citizens that my new hybrid bike came fitted with to something more suitable for occasional off-road riding, and I was thinking about the Mondials. Now I'm sure they will be a good choice. Greetings from Spain!

  11. Hello people, greetings from Singapore. I'm currently using these tyres on my ATB (26 x 2.00, wire bead). I agree with everything Tom has said about these tyres. He couldn't have reviewed it better. I just want to add more thing. These tyres have more than adequate grip on crushed granite paths as well. I have a section of my local trail that is literally like a bed of loose granite chips. They move all over the place when ridden upon. However, where my previous tyres used to spin and slip, the Mondials do a far better job of moving you along. Considering it's not an agressive knobby MTB tyre, this is impressive.

    This tyre is truly all-terrain & truly versatile. There is none other like it.

  12. These things are virtually indestructable I have a set of mondial evo 2.15's that I use on expedition tours - they have survived 1000+Km offroad Sabah, Trans Sulawesi 1700km 25/75 tarmac offroad, the Munda Biddi in Western Australia, trips to Bali, Bhutan and nepal. Not one puncture and still going strong - I set mine up tubeless, was pretty easy- I take them off and use either marathon racers or duremes for commuting (or I use my road bike) I find the rolling resistance and weight of mondials very irritating for road commutes.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jon! I have about 16000km on my original pair and I think I experienced 3 punctures in that time. They are about ready for retirement and I think I'm going to increase from the 35mm width to 40/42mm for touring. I also switch over to a Continental Gatorskin for commuting since they're faster and cheaper.

  13. Hi Tom,
    Thanks for the info, its helpful.
    I'm still wrestling with whether to go with the Mondials or Racers, but would like your thoughts on going with 35, 38 or 40mm. It seems minimal but I see you are going even bigger too.
    I'm thinking that I'd be doing 85% road, and nothing off-road too crazy.

    1. David,

      I'd say it depends on what your pace/style of touring and riding is. The 35s (which actually measure out at 37mm) are great for pavement and plenty good for dirt and gravel. I put many miles on them and experienced adequate traction on looser gravel. They are relatively smooth and quick rolling for a larger semi slick. If you are more into taking your time and riding in cushy luxury, then the 40s (actually 42mm) would suit you better. The additional "suspension" and traction are noticeable, but so is the rolling resistance. Since you are comparing them against Racers, I would say stick to the 35c over the 40c.

  14. Hi Tom,

    I ride an REI Novara Torero 29er hardtail around Boulder, mostly on bike paths joined by x miles of county roads (which during winter I encounter shoulder sand and some snowpack), occasionally on mixed surface paths through Denver suburbs. Once in a blue moon on dirt county roads in the Rockies (which I may look to do more of). The Torero is 50b w/my gear and came with WTB Nano Comps. Tired of thorn flats, I'm honing in on Mondials after considering the Plus Tour; a guy at Schwalbe US pointed out the scant protection hit and the better rolling and traction measurements.

    My question is width. The Nano's are 2.1. I have little riding experience; most bikes I owned prior to the admittedly modest, but comfortable, Torero were uncomfortable. Now I, at 63, ride out&back 15-25 miles 3-4 times/week. I use a Weekender suspension seat post and a Serfa's Rx fully split gel saddle. The Schwalbe guy said I'd notice sharper handling with 1.75 or 40c. I'm into comfort yet would appreciate less rolling resistance if it's noticeable enough. The Nano's max at 65psi; the Mondial 2.0s can go to 80psi.

    Any guidance? This all seems so abstract yet I'd like to get it right as possible.

    1. Hi Bart,

      I think that the person you spoke with at Schwalbe was fairly right on. The 2.00 in wide Mondial is a bit much for gravel and dirt roads, unless it is really soft and sandy for much of the time. I have ridden the 35mm and 40mm for years on all of the types of surface conditions that you mention and they worked great, but they don't offer as much "cushion" as you might have gotten with your Nano Comps. The 1.75 will give you the best compromise between decreased rolling resistance/improved handling and shock absorption. I would go with those 1.75s and get out there!


  15. Hi Tom,

    For better or worse I went with the 50-622 or 2.00 Mondials. The folding, DoubleDensity protection model maxes at 70psi. Just mounted them yesterday and did 5 minutes round-the-hood. I noticed decreased rolling resistance immediately compared to the WTB Nano Comps (which still had some center tread left, albeit a bit ripped up), a touch harder ride (not unanticipated) though appreciably grippier. I found the Mondials from a German store at $35 each; that was too little to pass up, so to speak. Tomorrow I'll be out in a 50º winter day for a full run. Thanks for your input in any case.

  16. Tom, last post from me on this old thread. Spoke w/Schwalbe USA several times to fine tune a few things. They advised me, and I read more deeply on their German site in English, that wider tires actually roll more efficiently because the contact patch is comparatively shorter than on same model narrower tires; the patch goes width-wise.