Schwalbe are sure to have the right tire for your bike. Offering a huge selection with everything from commuter all the way to hardcore downhill tires, the traditional German brand has got the right tool for the job. Across all the mountain bike tyres we tested, the Schwalbe options consistently measured wider than their stated size. We found that a 2.35″ Schwalbe tire was usually just as wide as a 2.4″ from other brands
Before we get into the review, we would like to tell you about our new print edition. Consisting of around 240 (!) pages, the 2019 E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Editon offers a ton of inspiration, buyers advice, and eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the hottest bikes of the year. Our premium magazine is aimed at experienced eMTBers and beginners alike. Click here for more information (new window) or order it directly in our shop or on Amazon.de!
Here you’ll find everything you need about mtb tires: The best eMTB tire – … and why there’s actually no such thing
During our testing, we rode four different casings: Downhill, Super Gravity, Apex and Snakeskin TLE. These are used on tires on Schwalbe’s flagship “Evolution Line” range. We would only recommend the thin SnakeSkin casing for the front of your eMTB. For the rear, we would either go for the extra sturdy Super Gravity or the somewhat lighter Apex casing. Unfortunately, the Apex casing is only available on Schwalbe’s 2.6” models.
Yes, Schwalbe offer even lighter casings, but Snakeskin TLE definitely marks the lower limit of durability for eMTB riders. The additional SnakeSkin layer on the outside of the sidewall is designed to protect against cuts. Like the heavier models, the Snakeskin carcass also manages to stay inflated quite well without tubeless sealant. However, the casing is simply too thin for demanding trail use. Riders weighing more than 80 kg are bound to suffer pinch flats on the rear wheel. On the other hand, lightweight riders will likely benefit from the reduced rolling resistance and weight and should get along well with the Snakeskin TLE casing up front.
The Apex casing is exclusive to the wide tires in Schwalbe’s portfolio, appearing only on their 2.6″ and 2.8″ models. It uses a reinforced insert between the layers of the two-ply carcass to strengthen the sidewall, increase puncture resistance and improve lateral stability in corners. If you do suffer a pinch flat, the fatal cut will usually puncture the tread, while the hole in the sidewall typically remains small enough for tubeless sealant to plug. Apex casings sit in between the often too thin TLE model and Super Gravity casing. Unfortunately, the limited range of tire widths available doesn’t always make it a viable alternative.
Schwalbe have updated their Super Gravity casing to make it even more robust. In terms of resistance to pinch flats, the Super Gravity casing is hard to beat, unless you want to go with one of the even heavier downhill models. The cornering stability at low pressures is great too. That protection and stability are achieved by combining a SnakeSkin layer with an Apex insert and a four-ply casing. With so much additional material you can imagine that it’s no lightweight, weighing more than most of its competitors. Nonetheless, we would always advise riders over 85 kg to go with the Super Gravity casing on the rear of their eMTB.
If you order downhill tires from Schwalbe you’ll get them in a huge box – the tyres can’t be packed smaller due to the non-folding bead. The six-ply casing offers the ultimate puncture protection, but the stiff wire bead means that fitting the tires can be quite a chore. Compared to the Super Gravity casing, the rolling resistance is a lot higher too. Despite the stiff bead, the downhill tires will stay inflated without sealant. Although it rarely happens, we have managed to pinch flat one of Schwalbe’s downhill tires. If you need even more puncture protection, we recommend trying MAXXIS’ downhill tires.
For the high-end Evolution range, tires are offered with one of Schwalbe’s range of four Addix rubber compounds. The hardest and fastest-rolling Addix compound, Addix Speed, doesn’t offer enough traction for eMTBs. Instead, you should be looking at either the Speedgrip, Soft or Ultra Soft compounds. The rubber compound is easy to distinguish by the coloured stripe in the tread.
Addix Speedgrip has one huge advantage over the softer compounds. The blue-striped tires are a lot harder wearing and roll faster. If you typically only ride in good weather anyway, the Addix Speedgrip compound is a good option for longer lasting tires that’ll go easy on your wallet. Up front, Addix Speedgrip is for skilled riders and those with a hankering for endless gravel climbs only. Personally, we never use a Speedgrip tire on the front, preferring something with more grip.
The Addix Soft triple compound is Schwalbe’s universal blend and performs well on almost any bike. It offers a good compromise between grip and rolling resistance on an eMTB for both the front and rear wheels, and could happily be a universal option for longer rides or general riding. Incidentally, the rolling resistance is comparable to MAXXIS’ 3C MaxxTerra compound. If you want a compound with which you’ll be able to enjoy the trails all year round in all conditions, Schwalbe’s orange-striped tire is a good choice. Whether on the front or the rear: Addix Soft always works well.
ADDIX Ultra Soft
The downhillers darling: the purple-striped Addix Ultra Soft is the softest rubber compound and is primarily used for Schwalbe’s downhill tires. It is also available on some Super Gravity tires, where it is ideally suited as a front tire for really challenging trails. In terms of grip, it’s hard to beat in the wet, but the rolling resistance is correspondingly high. An Addix Ultra Soft tire on the rear of your bike will quickly drain your battery and the tread won’t last long either.
The range of Schwalbe tires is huge. However, bicycle brands almost exclusively spec one of three Schwalbe models: Magic Mary, Hans Dampf or Nobby Nic. Alongside these all-rounders, Schwalbe also have more specialised tires such as Dirty Dan for deep mud or the Rock Razor for extremely dry conditions. The Eddy Current was developed specifically with eMTBs in mind and features front- and rear-specific tread patterns.
Magic Mary is a favourite amongst gravity riders. The aggressive tread pattern with its massive shoulder knobs offers excellent cornering grip on soft ground. The braking traction and the self-cleaning properties are good and compared to the Dirty Dan it doesn’t squirm on rocky terrain or hard-packed trails either. With the latest generation Super Gravity construction, Schwalbe have solved the problems of the past where the shoulder knobs quickly got torn off the tire. Thumbs up! It also makes for an excellent front tire on longer rides.
The Hans Dampf is Schwalbe’s all-round tire. The closely spaced tread pattern provides a good compromise between rolling resistance and traction on technical climbs. It works well as a mile-muncher on both the front and back of your eMTB. The pronounced transition knobs create a round profile that makes cornering predictable at every angle. This tire doesn’t track quite as well as the Magic Mary, but that makes it easier to drift in a controlled manner. In berms, the shoulder knobs withstand the forces of the tightest corners, which makes Hans Dampf an interesting rear wheel option for bike park rats. By the way, the tread pattern is bidirectional, so if you want to save some money you can turn it around after a few weeks, giving you fresh, unworn edges that bite into the ground for that new tyre feeling.
The Nobby Nic starts to feel out of its depth just when the downhill fun begins. That’s also reflected in the available casings, as you won’t find any Super Gravity or Downhill models here. The profile and height of the shoulder knobs are similar to the Hans Dampf, but it rolls even faster thanks to a more closely spaced centre tread. Doesn’t that make it a good rear tire? Yes, but only the more robust 2.6″ Apex version.
Eddy Current Front
Forget everything you’ve ever been told about tire pressure. The extremely robust Eddy Current performs just fine if you feel like experimenting with pressures below 1 bar, front and rear, thanks to the sturdy, supportive, heavy Super Gravity casing and thick layers of rubber. There is a big difference between the tread patterns of the front and rear tires. The Eddy Current Front was designed to offer two things: cornering and braking traction. To achieve this, Schwalbe lengthened the centre knobs for improved tracking and added big shoulder knobs to dig into corners. However, they’re not quite as aggressive as the Magic Mary. The wide 2.6” version works well on gravel roads and rocky trails but doesn’t grip quite as well on soft forest ground as the narrower 29 x 2.4” model. We prefer the precision and direct feel of the narrower model, and we never found it lacking in grip.
Eddy Current Rear
Schwalbe’s design team took their inspiration for the tread of the Eddy Current Rear from motocross tires. The massive centre knobs dig into loose ground like spades, making the Eddy Current a true climbing specialist particularly suited to steep, loose climbs where it never seems to lose traction. The braking traction is hard to beat too. However, the 27.5 x 2.8” version is a little too vague in corners, which is why we prefer the narrower 29 x 2.6” version and we hope that Schwalbe will soon be making a narrower option for the “smaller” wheels as well. There is one thing the front and rear tires have in common: they’re heavy. The Eddy Current is overkill for light trails and you’ll only need it for the most aggressive type of riding.
As the name implies, you’re meant to get dirty with the Dirty Dan. The aggressive and widely-spaced knobs on this mud tire dig into soft ground but effectively shed mud that could bring your ride to a grinding halt. The tire offers a lot of traction and precision on wet roots too. However, as soon as you run into rock slabs or hard ground, you have to be cautious. The tall shoulder and centre knobs deform quite a lot the handling becomes vague. Rolling resistance is very high too, so we would only recommend this tire for the front.
Rear wheel only! With this semi-slick tire, you’ll fly up the climbs. Don’t be fooled by the minimalistic centre tread – on hard ground, the large contact area generates a lot of traction. The shoulder knobs are slightly smaller and flatter than the Magic Mary but still grip well in the corners. Their smaller size means they’re also less prone to squirming in berms. Leaning the tire onto the shoulder knobs is consistent and controllable thanks to the tiny transition knobs. However, even the best riders will end up fighting the Rock Razor in muddy conditions. It only makes sense you if you live in a dry climate or regularly swap your tires to suit the conditions. Another point of criticism is that the 29″ model is only available in the fragile Snakeskin version.
Our choice of Schwalbe tire combinations:
All-round (f/r): Magic Mary, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity – Hans Dampf, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity
Grip (f/r): Eddy Current Front 2,4”, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity / Eddy Current Rear 2,6”, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity
Fast rolling (f/r): Hans Dampf, ADDIX Soft, TLE –Hans Dampf, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity
For more information head to schwalbe.com
Our big E-MOUNTAINBIKE group test at a glance
Here you’ll find everything you need about mtb tires: The best eMTB tire – … and why there’s actually no such thing
All the models in test
It's finally here: The 2019 E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Edition, our timeless annual issue! Consisting of around 240 (!) pages, the 2019 E-MOUNTAINBIKE Print Editon offers a ton of inspiration, buyers advice, and eMTB know-how as well as reviews of the hottest bikes of the year. Our premium magazine is aimed at experienced eMTBers and beginners alike. Click here for more information (new window) or order it directly in our shop or on Amazon.de!
Words: Felix Stix Photos: Valentin Rühl