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I'm here trying to decide if I should get a new Schwalbe Marathon Plus for my touring bike. I've just finished a 6000km tour in Australia, riding on paved roads with a heavy load. Here's the looks of it:

enter image description here https://photos.app.goo.gl/GUGQFkfMV5OVssiZ2 https://photos.app.goo.gl/zRXOkOIuf5MePkDf2

Next month I'll be leaving again for another 5000km tour, this time on rough dirt roads (Central Asia) but with a much, much lighter load.

Do you think that this tyre is going to make it through ? Should I swap front/back ?

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    Doesn't look that worn to me. Are the sidewalls cracked? – Daniel R Hicks Apr 24 '18 at 12:29
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    Swapping front an back is generally a bad idea. The better one should be at the front, a blown front tyre being a greater risk. – Carel Apr 24 '18 at 20:12
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    @Carel early swapping can be good though. My marathon plus were off over the winter in favour of studded tyres. The back had visibly more wear than the front but still it's got thousands of km left on it. So that's gone on the front, and the old front on the back. The pictured tyre would be more than adequate for the front, just not for setting out on a long tour. Putting a nearly-dead tyre on the front is another matter – Chris H Apr 24 '18 at 20:22
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    How would you feel halfway though the tour if the tire was down to canvas? If it would ruin the fun for you, put a new one on. If you like the challenge and adventure of 'living on the edge', leave it on. In the scheme of a 5000km tour, cost of a new tire is nothing (What is your travel cost getting there, if you loose a day or two whats the impact on the holiday?) – mattnz Apr 25 '18 at 1:14
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    If you look up Marathon Plus, there's a very thick protection layer below the tread. It's very unlikely you manage to wear it to threads before being able to buy a new tire. – ojs Apr 26 '18 at 20:48
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There's a good thread already on wear of this model of tire here: When does a Marathon Plus tire (not) need replacing?.

I'll repeat a shorter version of my answer from there:

  1. The Schwalbe Smart Guard is an extra layer of rubber between the road side and tube side of the tire, and depending on tire model it is one of a few non-black colors. Check if you can see the colored middle layer anywhere, if so , replace the tire since you've broken through to the middle layer and the road side of the tire could start delaminating.
  2. If you want to keep using your tire but are getting lots of flats, check for small embedded puncturing agents e.g. small pieces of glass or radial belt wires from transport truck tire blowouts.
  3. If the rear is very worn and front looks good, resist the temptation to swap them between front and rear wheels (AKA rotating the tires). A worn tire is a greater candidate for blowouts, which are more likely to cause injury when they happen on the front wheel. If you don't want to replace both tires, then chuck the worn rear tire, move the partially worn front tire to the rear, and put a nice new tire on the front. More info on this from Sheldon Brown here.

FYI, I finished an 8,200km tour on these tires with no punctures, and a decent but not complete level of wear on the rear. I would not have started another long tour with the same tires.

IMO, your tire probably has 5,000km left in it, but you should suck it up and buy a new tire before your next tour so you're less likely to need to replace mid-tour with the challenges that come along with that (Where to buy replacement? Do you need to get them shipped to a hotel? Etc.). When you're finished your second tour, you'll probably have 4 Marathon tires that all have a decent bit of life left in them and you can run them into the ground commuting around town or Randoneurring, situations in which it's not a big deal to have a tire wear out (just replace it at home at the end of the day). That way, you've got plenty of tread for your upcoming tour, and no tires are going to waste long term.

  • That's priceless advise, I'm ordering a new one and leaving the old one for when I'm back :) – htatche Apr 26 '18 at 16:54
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As previously said, I'd recommend changing the tyre before you go for this tour. You have to take into account:

  • The load of the bicycle, rider and luggage can have an effect on your tyre wear.
  • Your riding style can cause things to wear either unevenly or in an unusual manner. Relying on your rear brake or locking it can pronounce wear on the rear tyre, for example, or very rarely banking over during a turn.
  • Tyre age is a big thing. Also, heat cycles. Bicycle's tyres aren't likely to get too hot, but they are designed to a minimum, not only for costs, but for general use.
  • The rough terrain will really punish your tyres, luggage weight or not. A tyre should be bought to match the conditions it's used in. You wouldn't buy a racing slick for downhill mountain-biking, for example.

However, an option is to buy a new tyre and carry with you. You can get your money's worth out of that tyre and change it mid-way through your tour if you need to.

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There's plenty of life left in that tyre. I commute on marathon plus that are more worn than that. However I wouldn't set out on a long tour with a tyre in that state, especially on rough roads far from the nearest bike shop.

If you're fitting something new you could take the chance to consider whether the marathon plus is what you want for that ride. It might well be, but you might be better off with something like a marathon mondial if it's going to be really rough.

  • I'm considering the Marathon Plus Tour, would that be an OK combination with the simple Plus at the front ? – htatche Apr 24 '18 at 12:50
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    I don't see why not, but then I'm happy to mix and match tyres in general – Chris H Apr 24 '18 at 13:12
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    Ahead of a long distance ride like this I'd change the tyres, the tubes and the chain, and store the tyres at home. Just to be on the safe side. Enjoy that ride! – Carel Apr 24 '18 at 20:01
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You drove quite a bit on these tires. I recommend to ask the manufacturer for the life of these tires. That is how many kilometers you can use them. But 5000 is a lot.

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I replaced both of my Marathon Plus tires after 5,000-5,500 km on my last tour. The one in front developed a bulge in one side and appeared in danger of blowing out, so I proactively replaced it. About 500 km later the rear one appeared to have worn down as I finally noticed the colored rubber through it at a couple of points - after two flats in two hours.

I rode mostly on paved roads and cycle paths, and over countless cracks and potholes, though with some few km of gravel roads and the occasional singletrack, with fully loaded rear panniers...

If those were my tires I would replace them before going out on another tour.

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