Last March I bought a pair of Continental Ultra Gatorskin tires. Their flat protection proved to be excellent — I have not had a single flat with them — but I found the durability of the tread to be wanting. They are now worn down to the point where they are basically racing slicks, which, while fun, is certainly not appropriate for wet weather riding. I don’t own a cycling computer or keep track of my miles in any other way, so I’m not sure how many miles the tires have on them. I think it’s fair to say that I average about 500 miles a month. The tires are likely to be just shy of 5,000 miles. For a pricey tire like the Gatorskins, I’d prefer to see a bit more longevity.
The various tires in the Marathon series from Schwalbe have an excellent reputation among long distance riders, both in terms of flat protection and durability. Peter White maintains a description of the various models which helped me to understand the differences between them. I decided that the Marathon Supremes would be a good fit for my needs. They are normally absurdly expensive, but I was able to find a good deal and pick up a pair of them for about the same as what the Gatorskins would cost.
I’ve been using the Marathon Supremes for a week of wet riding now and I’m very pleased with them. They certainly offer better grip than my worn-down Gatorskins. I feel more confident when aggressively cornering with them. The reflective sidewall is a welcome addition to my dark commutes. Despite the Gatorskins being considered a “race” tire and the Marathon Supremes more of a general road-riding/commuting tire, I haven’t noticed a significant difference in speed or rolling resistance. With the Marathon Supremes, I’ve gone back to a 700x28 tire in place of the skinnier 700x25 size of my Gatorskins.
The Marathon Supremes were much easier to get on my rims than the Gatorskins, which makes me feel a little better about the prospect of fixing a flat with these tires. Of course, if I get a flat anytime within the next 5,000 miles, the tires will receive a negative mark in comparison against the Gatorskins.
The real question about the Marathon Supremes is durability. I’m looking forward to see how they handle this winter and how long they last into 2013.