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.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I have always had a sneaking suspicion that exercise plays an important role in my life.  Many people might view it as a chore or a necessity to fit into their new jeans or one of many possible things that you could do on a Saturday afternoon.  Up until recently, I might have agreed that it's something I "do on a Saturday afternoon" and that I find it fun.  But now, after taking it for granted for so long, I realize that I need to exercise.  It is largely who I am and what I do.

About 10 days ago, I was out on a bike ride with my friend, Eric.  At the top of a particularly long climb, we stopped our bikes to walk to the top of a fire tower and look at the panorama.  Trying to climb and descend the stairs of the tower, I found myself hobbling.  Which is definitely not normal.  Often I make myself feel like shit from doing way too much physical activity.  But it's an all over "feel like shit" sensation.  But right then, only the outside of my right knee felt like shit.  Uh oh.  Eric identified it as an inflammation of my IT band.  He recommended that I rest in order to keep from further damaging it.  I finished out the ride in an easy gear, hoping that I wasn't destroying my knee further in those last twenty or so miles.

Looking into the matter, I found that many of my activities including hiking, running, bowling, biking, and cross country skiing can cause or further compound IT band syndrome.  There are many recommended remedies, but the most essential one is to rest the knee until the inflammation goes away.  So, for the past nine days I have largely done nothing but work, read books and watch TV.  It has also provided me some time to think about things-which those that know me well know I'm introspective already, so I guess this was hyperintrospection.

It made me realize that my life more or less revolves around exercise or physical activity or whatever you want to call it.  I get some sort of exercise in every day and have been doing so more or less for years.  It's the fun thing that I like to do and the only area of my life except for food and shelter that I actually spend money on.  I bike or walk everywhere for transportation.  To a fault, it's one of the few things that I talk about with people and the way that I meet new people.  My personal definition of a friend is someone whom I have done something outdoors with.  Whenever I feel anxious or depressed (which happens a bit), running or biking takes the place of medication to even out my mood.  The only thing that kept me from a complete alcoholic stupor for years (and to this day) was the notion that I should beat the shit out of myself with exercise instead of with a whiskey bottle.  It's what I wake up for, save for, daydream about, and is my single biggest pleasure.  Talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket.

I am honestly not over dramatizing the role that getting outside and sweating plays in my life.  But I realize that there's no reason for melodrama yet.  I am giving it another week to see how my knee feels.  I've been trying to stretch more regularly.  There's probably a couple of adjustments that I need to make to my bike too.  And more likely than not, I'll be just fine.  Human beings have dealt with a lot more than just an achy knee and done far more than I will ever do, so I should just shut up already.  Which I will.  But I still have to say "WOW" because I didn't know just how much I love to get outside and play until now.

p.s.  Jazzercise still exists.  I thought it died out the same time as my favorite musicians did from heroin overdoses.