I was recently contacted by a customer who said he had never ridden a tire with a recommended PSI of less than 100 on his Easy Racer. I had previously told him that the 700 x 35 Schwalbe Marathon tire that we stock recommends a maximum 85 PSI. At first, I was afraid that this specification had scared him off before I had a chance to find out if it was a decent choice for him. Luckily, he went on to ask me, "[Will an] 85 PSI tire make my bent slower? What are the advantages of going with a [lower PSI] tire?" This customer's question sparked within me a desire to explain away a common misconception among cyclists of all skill levels: That only hard, narrow tires can be fast.
It's important to remember that a softer tire is not necessarily a slower tire. It's really only on the smoothest roads that a super hard and narrow racing tire is beneficial. On everything from the average, ill-maintained roads that a commuter rides daily, to very hard packed dirt and gravel trails, a wider tire with sidewalls that give when impacted will provide a smoother ride. This is because the best of those types of tires are able to roll along with the bumps in the road, as opposed to a hard tire which has a greater tendency to vibrate and "bounce" over a surface that it cannot absorb.
The Schwalbe Marathon has one of the best engineered sidewalls ever created. It gives just the right amount, and rebounds at an unmistakably perfect rate. These characteristics have made the Marathon one the best selling touring/commuting tires in the world for more than 20 years.
On a well designed all-around bicycle tire with softer sidewalls, you'll typically also find a fairly hard tread compound and a durable, puncture resistant inner belt. Once a design team is satisfied with their pairing of a sidewall material and an exterior casing that creates the desired feel for the tire's intended use, they begin testing tread patterns for the contact patch. Tread depth, the amount of space between the protrusions, and direction of the grain is all directly effected by the ability of the tire's compound to adhere to the riding surface on its own. The Marathon has one of the most imitated tread patterns ever created and is particularly noted for its sure-footedness while cornering, and its super grippy feel in wet weather.
Nowadays, the science of engineering has become so pervasive that even some of the least expensive tires on the market include features previously only seen on offerings from the industry's premier brands. Premium Schwalbe tires, however, combine the latest material advancements with knowledge gained from the most technologically advanced testing systems in the industry. Every tire wearing the Schwalbe brand has been designed to last longer than the competition and out-perform everything that preceded it.
The legendary Schwalbe Marathon, dissected:
The Marathon Plus is one of the most durable tires available today, due in large part to the SmartGuard technology that it utilizes (clearly visible in this photo). This is the same lightweight flat protection system used on NASA's lunar rovers:
For comparison, the Schwalbe Racing Ralph, a lightweight competition mountain bike tire with a very thin, flexible sidewall and a deep, widely spaced tread pattern (for use on soft terrain, such as mud):
Also, the dearly departed, Schwalbe Stelvio is shown for comparison. One of the most durable road racing tires ever made has been preserved in spirit as the Durano:
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