I’ve been running Schwalbe Big Ben 26 x 2.15 tires for most of the time I have owned my Novara Bonita bicycle. It originally came with WTB WeirWolf Comp 26 x 2.1 trail tires. I travel pavement and gravel rail trails and I don’t need an off-road tire; in fact, they are noisy and slow on hard surfaces and I got two flats in one 25 mile gravel trail trip from blackberry thorns.
I used Schwalbe Marathon tires on another bike and looked for bargains. I found the pair of Schwalbe Big Ben’s on Craigslist and thought I would give them a try. They have been good tires, but I wanted to try something smaller and with more puncture protection. I kept an eye out for a pair of Marathons and also considered the Continental Country Plus line. I found one brand new 26 x 1.75 Continental in a thrift store for $10 and picked up a match on eBay for $25, so that started this new experiment.
I got new tubes and mounted them up last week and got in a 27 mile trip around the city last Wednesday, riding asphalt rail trails, street pavement, bricks, and even a little loose gravel. There was a short rain squall so I got to try them on wet asphalt too.
- 3 plies, 66 TPI
- 900 grams
- 45-58 PSI
- Wire clincher bead
- Reflective sidewalls
The tread is a wrap-around cleated design with a fairly continuous center strip. As with the Schwalbe Marathons, they have a thick layer of filler in the center for puncture protection. They have far thicker and stiffer sidewalls than the Big Bens.
I expected a harsher ride than the balloon design Big Bens as well as less rolling resistance, but to my surprise, they felt about the same for cushion and speed: even root bumps on the asphalt trail felt the same. Traction was good and for the most part, there was nothing that drew my attention to the tires as I rode. I did worry less when there was debris. When consciously playing around with them, I did notice less sidewall flex and control was good. I was able to get them to slide on gravel with deliberate effort, but they never felt squirrely. Street obstacles like expansion cracks, bricks, trolley tracks, and the like were no problem, so no regrets in losing width. I did notice that they track better, tested by riding no hands with the bike a bit more stable. I thinkbthst is the stiffer sidewall, or perhaps some change in geometry? I’m satisfied with the performance so far.
The tires allow for a lot more clearance in the rear and I now have enough room to add a kick stand. Heel clearances on the Bonita are tight and a typical kickstand clamped just behind the bottom bracket had to swing out a bit to clear the tire. The chainstay tubes are large and asymmetrical and I couldn’t find a rear-mounted kickstand that would work. With the new tires I was able to bolt up a used Greenfield stand that I got at Bikeworks for a song. Some riders look down on kickstands, but I think they are a valuable accessory on anything but the most stripped down road bike and I’m delighted to have one again.