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Commuting/Fitness & Some Off-Road Tyre Advice

agv457agv457 Posts: 32
edited July 2009 in Commuting chat
Ive recently brought a Specialized Crosstrail Elite '09 (hybrid). I dont have much of a frame of reference but it feels fast - i like riding it. ... spid=38465

It comes with Specialized Borough 700x45c XC Sport tyres which are bald in the middle and knobby on the sides - they seem to have low rolling resistance. They are quite wide tyres. I really like the tyres and IF they had puncture protection i wouldnt be changing them but I dont want to fix a puncture if possible.

Ill be using the bike for commuting / fitness 98% of the time (in/around London), 50-150 miles a week depending on weather! Mostly road but there will be times when i cut across a park, gravel, trail etc. so some off-road ability would be good. Although im not interested in proper off-road at the moment id like to retain basic/medium off-road ability without having to change tyres if the interest ever develops.

So the question is what tyre and 'SIZE' (width) should i go for?
What level of puncture protection?
Best balance between speed & off-road & protection for 'me'?

Ive been looking at Continental Travel Contacts and Schwalbe Marathon Plus - both around 700x38c (anything from 35c upwards) but i dont really know where the balance is for what i want to achieve - speed vs puncture vs off-road - the classic question?!

Marathon Plus have a great reputation it seems? And there are variations on both the tyres eg, Marathon Supreme etc. and the whole Continental Contact range - which one is best?

As mentioned, im a commuter / fitness user so although id like to keep it light for max enjoyment & ease of use but i dont know if its an important issue based on my usage. Im about 15st/210lbs (and reducing!) if that helps.

Any recommendations would be appreciated - and technical advice welcome - i want to learn for future riding considerations. Thanks. :)


  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,165
    for parks and such to be honest, you don't need off road tires, the tread is about as much use as on road, ie slim to none, if you do ride though anything soft the tread will just clog.

    Marthon pluses will handle that and more, though at 38mm they are really very heavy and give a rather leaden ride, fine for the commute as they are close to puncture proof as one is likely to find.

    for that sort of use i'd go for a road tire, as unless you head off fairly rough trails, the bikes will cope with towpaths etc on even very thin tires.
  • tardingtontardington Posts: 1,379
    What he said. Though if you really really like the Boroughs you can get puncture proof versions...
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32

    Im still not sure which way to go. Id buy the marathon plus - and they are being held for me until tomorrow - except the weight of the 38c's as putting me off. I could just put one on the back which might save me ever having to take that wheel off and leave the borough on the front - which im happy to change.

    I was reading today that a wide tyre on the front and narrower one on the back is a good setup as you need traction on the front and free rolling on the back. But the write-up also said the thread is pretty much useless/for effect unless you are proper off-roading so any road tyre will do - which is the same as roger said.

    So i still dont know.

    OR you could say thread/off-road is less important and its now between speed & puncture with minimum weight.

    I wouldnt want to spend £24 + tube (x2) and then feel a drop in speed performance. Any other suggestions most welcome.
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    And ive seen the Borough CX Armadillo Elite Tire - puncture protection but i dont know much about it. Unlike Schwalbe there doesnt seem to be a dedicated user base forum.

    I also had the crossroads tyre on another bike and it was a pretty hard ride and rolling resistance wasnt great - but these are first impressions - i could be wrong.

    But can i put a 32c on my crosstrail, going from a 45c? in terms of carrying my weight and the profile of the bike which might look alttle odd with a really thin tyre?
  • doog442doog442 Posts: 370
    thats not a performance bike in any way shape or why are you worried about the tyres,performance and weight of tyres?

    I think you picked the wrong bike

    a road or CX bike with some solid 25mm tyres will blitz your bike yet still be able to handle the off road you suggest

    Just get the thinnest tyres your rims can take, with puncture proof protection
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    Yes, given what i know now id get a road bike. The idea of a hybrid snowballed and then to start researching a different type wasnt going to happen - i needed to dive in somewhere. I rode mountain bike for 2 months before this so this seemed a logical step.

    This is my first bike in over 15-20 yrs so im learning quickly. The next one will be perfect.........

    That said its a half decent bike that i like and i still want the best ride possible for fitness & commute.

    What are the thinnest my rims can take?
  • doog442doog442 Posts: 370
    apologies if i sounded like a muppet

    Its a quality commuting bike , I cant help on the size of the rims but they look as if they should be semi road like! You may have to research it when you have the bike in your hands

    You will be suprised at how much grief your tyres can take off road / trail etc my 25mm cope easily ...but you will more than make up for it when on road and rolling very quickly

    anyway welcome to the forum :wink:
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    The size of the rims are approx 20-22mm so accordingly i think the thinnest is 35.

    I had the idea to buy a 700x38c Marathon Plus on the back and hope that i never have to mess with that end of the bike in terms of punctures, whilst keeping the original 700x45c borough tyre on the front (fixing front easier).

    This way i keep the cost & extra tyre weight to a minimum + i then have a spare inner tube for front to carry around. And whenever it wears i can replace it with the spare.

    I think this is a good solution..... as i doubt id be able to sell the originals anyway - or for much. Being 700x45c they are seem a niche product and i havent seen any/many inner tubes available in that size...

    ... althought having different makes front and back seems alittle visually odd?.....

    Any more input? Im going to buy today and then get on with riding!
  • tardingtontardington Posts: 1,379
    Well, I think bikes with two different tyres look horrible, unless they are those tread-specific mtb ones! Plus Wouldn't you want the narrow one at the front, and the tractiony one at the rear? Cos that's where the pedal power goes!

    I had the borough ones on my tricross sport - they were great and had no problems with them at all - cycled edinburgh to thurso on them no hassle, no punctures. Only when I found out they were non-punc-resistant did I start getting flats! :shock:

    I switched to schwalbe marathon plusses and haven't had one since. Last week I rode over a broken bottle by accident. The only thing I would say is to get the shop to put them on as they are well tricky to get on... they are vey tight due to the hardness.

    The spesh armadillo's are a bit lighter and easier to get on, and the punc-proof-ness is pretty good. I had them on my previous bike, and the only problem I would say is that they don't seem to live all that long. A year-ish? Then the rubber starts to flake off to show the kevlar. I still didn't get any punctures though!

    I would say to go for the marathons, in the narrowest width you can get safely (mine are 28s I think). You will find the speed difference amazing! Still perfectly rideable for basic off road stuff in dry weather. [/i]
  • tardingtontardington Posts: 1,379
    Also I wouldn't be doing my job right without pointing these out. ... dZViewItem
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    PINK?! :shock: NEVER!! Too thin anyway i think.

    The theory of traction on back rings true. However, there is the argument that the front is where the steering requires traction and the back tyre is the passenger. The later seems true if you go with the idea that thread is largely cosmetic when it comes to road usage ie. less is more.


    Im going to buy today and move on - so ill see what else they have in stock before buying the two 38c marathons - get them home and decide whether its a one wheel or two wheel change.

    If they have Travel Contacts in 37c ill buy them because they are almost half the weight of marathons and have kevlar band.
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    Ive brought both the Marathon Plus (700x38c) & Travel Contacts (700x37c).

    Marathons come in at £48.50 + £10 for innertubes = £58.50. The Travel Contacts at £42 & include innertubes 'free'. So 50% diff in price & weight diff (almost). The guy at the LBS said travel contacts would be a better ride but the marathons mean no punctures.

    So now i will decide. Im thinking im going to experiment. Ill try a week or two with both and make up my own mind - then sell the "under performers" on ebay etc.

    Anyone whos used both id love some feedback. Ill have another little think & research on the net for opinions tonight and fit one later.

    But these are the two ill be choosing between.

    Thanks for advice so far and anything else would be appreciated.
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    Installed the Marathon+ and took it for a 5 min test ride - too late for anything else.

    First impressions in terms of looks : the bike has lost some of its "cool" - its lost its rough tough look without the big knobby tires. First impressions in terms of ride : based on 5 mins - it felt smooth. Going over little pot holes & bumps i felt cushioned. Maybe the blue goo stuff is a cushion? I didnt notice any rolling resistance - it felt as least as fast as the Boroughs if not faster.

    I pumped them up to 70-75psi. It has a max of 85. Should i go 85?

    Based on 5 mins it felt better than the Specialized Boroughs 45c... but ill know for sure tomorrow after a 30 mile round commute into central london. I hope no punctures!

    Im going to return the travel contacts because they look too thin for the bike. If the marathons dont work out ill get 700x42c on the Travel Contacts but it looks like the marathons win......?

    Also used my old inner tubes so thats a £10 saving and found the Marathon+ for £19 via this forum so ill price match it tomorrow and that another £10!! £38 for 2 marathons - not bad and hopefully a puncture free future!
  • Having not ridden a bike for 25 years, I bought a Crosstrail Sport in April and have exactly the same issues as agv457. Sounds like we do similar kind of riding. I would also buy a completely different bike tomorrow, if given the choice

    I'm commuting into central London 2/3 times a week and did the Capital to Coast yesterday. However, I've had 3 flats in the past 2 weeks and want to get some puncture protection tyres.

    Does anyone know about the Marathon Cross tyres? They look like a pretty good hybrid tyre and are lighter than the Marathon Plus.
  • will3will3 Posts: 2,173
    tardington wrote:
    Also I wouldn't be doing my job right without pointing these out. ... dZViewItem

    YEah you can get them not in pink and wider. A very good tyre in my opinon, for the purposes you suggest. ... d=TYHAT73D


    they're quite narrow for a 38 and relatively puncture resistant.
  • roger_merrimanroger_merriman Posts: 6,165
    FTLConnors wrote:
    Having not ridden a bike for 25 years, I bought a Crosstrail Sport in April and have exactly the same issues as agv457. Sounds like we do similar kind of riding. I would also buy a completely different bike tomorrow, if given the choice

    I'm commuting into central London 2/3 times a week and did the Capital to Coast yesterday. However, I've had 3 flats in the past 2 weeks and want to get some puncture protection tyres.

    Does anyone know about the Marathon Cross tyres? They look like a pretty good hybrid tyre and are lighter than the Marathon Plus.

    they would offer the same protection as the normal Marathon so unlikely to puncture rather than improbable, with the plus's.

    again i'd say for light off road use i'd stick to the normal Marathons as for park or towpath etc stuff quite frankly slicks are fine. the cross is unlikely to cut at least compared to MTB tires off road.

    i'd personaly say it's highly likely to be a jack of all trade and master of none. the normal marathons have got me though reasonbly thick mud, though some over grown and rocky byways etc.
  • Thanks Roger, Bearing in mind your earlier comment (about simply going for road tyres), what about the Specialized Armadillo Elite Borough CX (700 x 32)? Will they look too thin for the bike? Or the Crossroads (700 x 38)? Or the Nimbus (700 x 35/38). It's all so confusing!!

    The Borough XC's have been fine. I'm resigned to not breaking any land speed records and the extra work I've had to put into pedalling means my fitness has really improved (which was the main reason for getting the bike in the first place). I just don't want to be changing tyres every week.
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    edited June 2009
    FTLConnors - Yeah, given a choice id get something more 'classic' / roady - no suspension. But nothing wrong with the Crosstrail whatsoever - just not the optimal for intended use.

    I rode with the marathon+ around 25 miles today. They were perfectly fine without being 'exciting'. I felt after a few miles the bursts of speed in/around traffic i could achieve with the Boroughs seemed more difficult - maybe the weight comes into it alittle? Also felt climbing the curb wasnt as inviting as with Boroughs. And the wider Boroughs felt like they sat on the road better....

    Id like to put the Boroughs back on and ride tomorrow to compare again but i cant be bothered.

    I think im going to use these for awhile and then ill buy the Continental Travel Contacts 700x42c as the thread is very similar to the Boroughs - so original profile of bike will return! (+puncture protection + lighter than the M+). The m+ have a very light blue grey tint - wish they were black.

    Travel Contacts interest you FTLConnors? You can get them for £20 each with tubes from - but your standard tubes will fit them so youll have two spare.

    Ill get on with riding for while now...hopefully puncture free.....
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    FTLConnors - i think the 32's will look really thin. Imho they will make the frame look way out of proportion. Like when a car uses that really thin functional spare tyre just to get home look.

    I brought & returned the travel contacts 700x37c bcos they look too thin - although i didnt put them on. Depends how bothered you are with the look. Also, and im not an expert at all, but the 32s maybe too thin for rims. Youll need 35's atleast i think - but others may rightly have a different opinion.

    FYi, i had crossroads on the mountain bike i used before the crosstrail and they felt quite rigid - a hard ride. I also looked at the Nimbus and they have mixed reviews in all areas.

    It will be interesting to know what you go for. Keep us posted.
  • Thanks AGV457 - I think you're probably right about the width of the tyres. But I'm no closer to making a decision. I'll give it some further thought and let you know what I decide. I don't remember things being so complicated last time I bought a bike. Back then, it was a toss-up between a Raleigh Chopper or a Grifter.

    I went for the Grifter!!
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    Agree, wasnt as complicated 'back then'. I went for the chopper!!! :P

    EDIT - i just did an search and i think it was a grifter.... long time ago.
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32
    Been using the M+ for 5 days now and they are really growing on me - in ride & looks. They probably are alittle slower/heavier on the acceleration but they ride very smooth. Bumpy roads where i previously felt alot of vibration (80% of London roads!) are now noticeably smoother with these tyres. They seem to absorb alot. Alittle early to say maybe but no punctures and on reputation i doubt ill have to change them for 2+ years - based on 100 to 200 miles per week in fair weather (by which time i have a road bike!).

    However, I got the Continental Travel Contacts 700x42c in the post today and although i want to see the difference im thinking they would have to be really good for me to give up the comfort & bombproof-ness of the M+...... could save time & hassle and just send em back! :twisted:

    .... decisions decisions....... I'll have to satisfy my curiosity this weekend and try them.....

    ps. There might be a pair of Schwalbe Marathon+ (700x38c) or Continental Travel Contacts (700c42c) in the classified soon! And some Specialized Borough XC Sport 700x45c all used for 1 week with no punctures - pm me if interested.
  • agv457agv457 Posts: 32

    Ive used both the Marathon Plus 38s & Continental Travel Contacts 42s on my Crosstrail each for 5 days on my regular routes and my observations so far are as follows.

    Marathon Plus
    - 970g per tyre.
    - Smooth & Comfortable Ride / Good vibration absorbers - a BIG plus!
    - Little more effort required on acceleration & on incline but good cruising/rolling speed.
    - No punctures over 5 days + best puncture reputation....
    - Changes profile of bike but looks fine. Reflective band emphasizes the tyre size.
    - Look very durable and I think they would last a long time.

    Travel Contacts
    - 670g per tyre.
    - "Normal" ride on london roads - you feel bumps etc but no more than any other tyre i dont think.
    - Easy acceleration / good rolling / faster than M+ but thats a given.
    - No punctures over 5 days + has puncture protection + good rep.....
    - Tread & size maintains the look/profile of the bike when originally purchased.
    - Prob wear out quicker than M+.

    I havent tried either off-road so cant comment but i would think both would be ok for light / dry use. Maybe the Travel Contacts would be marginally better based on tread pattern & weight?

    I have kept the travel contacts on - looks & rides good - but i wouldnt hesitate to put the M+'s on if need be and prob will keep them as spare or next the set should the contacts ever wear out or get damaged (+ got them got 16 each as LBS made a price match error).

    1, Had i been patient and got the Contact 42s first i wouldnt have got the M+
    2, Had i put the M+ on second then i prob would have left them bcos im lazy & justified my laziness bcos of the comfort factor! :twisted:
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