Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Grrrr... hey! Check it out! Beta tools... only the best for Pete!

This evening, I am annoyed. Really annoyed. Saying lots of bad words annoyed. Grrrr.....


If you recall my review of the Kona Jake the Snake I mentioned the fact that I am now riding on Schwalbe Marathon Plus clinchers. I chose these heavy beasts after a string of flats at rather inopportune times (which raises the question whether there really are opportune times to deal with a flat?). These flats stemmed not from the quality of the clinchers (usually Vittoria) I was riding, but rather terrible Rome roads as well as the heavy load the bike was carrying... especially with the two panniers filled with work related material and clothes.

Why the Marathon Plus model? Well, everything I read indicated that these babies had the ride qualities of a tank tread, and weighed slightly more than that. BUT,
every review I saw indicated that this was the closest one could come to puncture-free nirvana. You see, as is obvious in the diagram below (straight from the Schwalbe US site), not only are these heavy clinchers with a LOT of material, but they also incorporate a special protective layer (Smartguard in Schwalbe marketing speak) which is meant to offer '...particular resistance to shards of glass and flints'.

The Marathon Plus clincher diagram. Notice the blue Smartguard protective layer.

As the Marathons are well nigh impossible to find in Italy, I ended up ordering a set (at significant expense I might add) from good 'ole Germany. To my wife's question regarding their price (well in excess of the higher performance clinchers I mount on my road bike) I responded informing her that flat would now become a thing of the past for me. Never again. Mai più. Plus jamais. Nunca más. Well... you get it.

When they arrived, I was amazed by how rigid and heavy the dang things were. I felt slower just looking at them. The Schwalbe marketing blurb assured me that they would roll as smoothly as any other clincher. They lied. They are heavy with awesome rolling resistance. No chance of dropping anyone when riding with these!

But that's not why I had purchased them! I began to commute on them every day. I declared that I was flat-free. And so it was. And it was good. Jokes aside, I was actually impressed. Nice investment, Pete. Puncture free Pete. From June till... this evening. Pete is not so happy anymore.

This evening, as I was riding home at lightening speed (as always, of course), less than 1 km from my front door, I hear the dreaded 'ppppppssssssssssssss' at each wheel rotation. I make it home with some pressure left in the front tire. Dejected and depressed. To discover this....

Can you see the shard of green glass in the tire?

Yup. A shard of glass in the tire. Looks like it sliced straight through the Smartguard. Hhhmmm. Let's pull this sucker out and see what has defeated our mighty Schwalbe-ness.

Yup, needed the pliers. Gratuitous sexy hairy leg shot. No racing this year, no shaving. Deal with it.

After a couple of minutes I am able to pry the shard out. It is quite large and very sharp - probably it has been stuck in the tire since the start of my ride, slowly working its way through the Smartguard...

There it is. Dog gone it, that is a big shard of glass...

Later this evening I will see if I can still ride this tire (I suspect so) - if the gash is not too wide.

Of course, on a 'normal' clincher this would have blown and the tire would have been a throw-away. Hopefully our Schwalbe investment has not gone down the drain. Any comments on the size of the hole? Is the tire still good? Experienced Marathon riders, what do you have to say?

Can you see the hint of blue? That is the puncture-proof Smartguard layer! ;-)

Disclaimer: I am really rather annoyed at having had a puncture. So when I wrote this post (I meant to take the night off, need to ensure that all you pastatrail readers don't get too used to regular posts!) I slagged Schwalbe, which is not fair. No clincher is 100% puncture proof. The Marathons are a great set of commuting clinchers, and the puncture protection is well worth the significant weight and comfort penalty that is part of the trade-off. I also love the reflective band on each side of the tire - I commute year-round, so I love all the reflective bits that I can get. Better dorky than dead!

So, if you commute/ride on rough glass and debris strewn roads, get 'em. They work... almost always!


  1. That shard of glass is f*cking massive. I don't think any tyre would've resisted it!

  2. True. But I can still be annoyed! It is huge though...

  3. You silly silly man....nothing and I mean nothing can protect you from GREEN GLASS! I am sure if you get the microscope out you will read under the finest of the fine print that green glass is not covered in the puncture resistance. I ride glass laiden streets every day even ones litered with hypo-dermic heroin needles and the only flat I had was a pinch. I think I have $10 dollar tires and 38 cent tubes on my bike....great now I just cursed myself to a flat in the near future.

    If it were me I would put a big ol gob of Gorilla Glue on that bad boy and keep on truckin...but thats me.

  4. Max,

    Why do you never say curses on my site? I feel left out!

  5. LOL. I am sure he can be convinced to curse on your blog too!

    LOLx2. I cannot believe you just said you only had a pinch flat on those roads.

    Counting...1, 2, 3... ;-)