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Schwalbe Marathon Plus and Continental Gatorskin are two of the most established and most-discussed lines of tyres on this site (171 results and 90 results respectively if you search "Marathon Plus" and "Gatorskin" on the site). Continental Gator Hardshell is a puncture-resistant version which competes directly with Marathon Plus.

I have been comparing the characteristics of both tires and am not sure which I would prefer for commuting. For the sake of putting numbers on each tire, Marathon Plus could have something like on the order of 1.1x more rolling resistance and 350g extra weight per tyre, but 1.3x more puncture resistance (according to one site's imperfect measurements).

If you had to choose one over the other for a five-mile urban commute (trying to avoid a couple of smashed bottles each way) and could buy them at the same price, which would you choose (taking into account rolling resistance, weight, puncture resistance, and other relevant factors)?

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    Product recommendations are considered off-topic on Bicycles.SE. – Adam Rice Feb 13 at 16:29
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    Please sign into your original account when you want to make edits to your posts. Or ask for the two to be merged. – Willeke Feb 13 at 19:32
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    I think there's a suitable question buried in there - "when should I choose a very tough tyre, and when should I choose a protected road tyre?" so haven't voted to close. I might edit when I get the chance. – Chris H Feb 13 at 21:27
  • Please use one account, not two. You have reputation awarded to both accounts, so its worth combining them. Please read stackoverflow.com/help/merging-accounts to start this process. This question will be closed as "product rec" or shopping, which tends to descend into options. You may prefer to discuss this in Bicycles Chat where its more free-form and less structured. – Criggie Feb 14 at 0:21
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There are reviews of both tires on bicyclerollingresistance.com: https://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/tour-reviews/schwalbe-marathon-plus-2015 and https://www.bicyclerollingresistance.com/road-bike-reviews/continental-gator-hardshell

The Continental Gator Hardshell is considered a road bike tire, albeit a very puncture resistant one. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus is a touring tire. It’s heavier, available in wider versions, more puncture resistant and has a bit of tread.

If you need/want more than 32mm width you are out of luck with the Hardshell.

Otherwise it pretty much boils down to personal preference. Both are high quality tires with their own strengths and weaknesses. Personally I can live with patching a tube every month or so. At the same time I like to go fast/far and light. The Gator Hardshell is pretty much the heaviest, slowest tire I would even consider using. The Schwalbe Marathon plus is way too heavy and slow for me.

I’m currently using Continental GP 4 Seasons on my travel cyclocross. In the city I have about 2 or 3 punctures per year (2*6km commute). I can live with that.

If you need/want all the puncture resistance you can get there is no way around the Marathon Plus.

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  • I appreciate your answer. I am familiar with the reviews you posted links to. I definitely see your point that one is a touring tyre and one is a road tyre - do you think I should edit the question to compare Gator Hardshell with Marathon Greenguard, which may be a more appropriate comparison? – novice Feb 13 at 19:11
  • The Marathon is a bit closer to a road bike tire i.e. less rolling resistance, less puncture protection. Still a touring tire though and surprisingly heavy probably because of the wire bead (instead of kevlar bead i.e. folding tire). I think it really boils down to how much puncture protection you need/want. There is no miracle tire which is great in everything. If there is a huge amount of glass on your commute and speed mostly dictated by red traffic lights I’d go for the Marathon or even Marathon Plus. If rolling resistance is important I’d go for the Hardshell or even GP4 Seasons or GP5000 – Michael Feb 13 at 21:25
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Honestly you'd be fine with either.

I have both - the summer tyres on my randonneuring/touring bike are gator hardshell, and the summer tyres on my commuter hybrid are marathon plus.

Within the marathon range, the closest equivalent to the gator hardshell is the marathon supreme. That might be my favourite road tyre except for the price (I've had 32s and 35s), but its sidewalls aren't very well protected. I've also tried duranos, but prefer 32mm to 28mm.

My regular commute is about the same length as yours, but leads to an infrequent train and the time is dominated by traffic conditions, so most days I take the bike with the toughest tyres - a puncture makes me an hour late if it delays me 5 minutes. So marathon plus (or ice spike winter tyres). But I don't worry if I take the other bike so I can have a ride on the way home. Punctures on the gators are still very rare. I fitted mine in August, swapped them for something more rugged in late December, and did 3-4000km in between with no punctures. I'd rather have tougher tyres on that bike than faster ones. I don't race, but don't enjoy fixing punctures in the dark and wet, many hours into the ride - which is when I get them.

One thing I'd say against the marathon plus is it's not the stickiest tyre. It lasts ages but the hard compound and tread doesn't grip quite as much as marathon supreme or gator hardshell - and fast-wearing tyres meant for racing will be grippier still. It's rarely an issue unless you like to corner very hard.

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Schwalbe Marathon Plus and Continental Gatorskin are two of the most established and most-discussed lines of tyres on this site (170 results and 89 results respectively if you search them in "Questions").

If you had to choose one over the other for a five-mile urban commute (trying to avoid a couple of smashed bottles each way) and could buy them at the same price, which would you choose (taking into account rolling resistance, weight, puncture resistance, and other relevant factors)?

I would pick neither. Both have way too high rolling resistance.

I have used Continental Grand Prix 5000 for the last 2000 km. Not a single puncture in that period.

The problem with Marathon Plus is its ridiculous rolling resistance. It's clearly out of the question.

Gator Hardshell has similar rolling resistance to GatorSkin. I have simulated GatorSkin and GP 5000, and the result is you lose 1.7 minutes with GatorSkin when compared to GP 5000 in a 5+5 mile commute there and back. Puncture repair with proper tools takes perhaps 5 minutes, so if you get punctures more rarely than once every three days, it's a better choice to minimize rolling resistance than it is to maximize puncture resistance.

Somebody could argue that arriving 5 minutes late at work is alone a reason to go for more predictable commute time with high puncture resistance and high rolling resistance tire, but then again 5 minutes is the difference of headwind and no headwind, so you have to be prepared to be 5 minutes late anyway.

Note my 2000 km during which I had no punctures with GP 5000 corresponds to 124 working days with 5+5 mile commute there and back. Way more than 3!

But, if there was no other choice than Gator Hardshell and Marathon Plus, I would clearly pick the Gator Hardshell and suffer its high rolling resistance, because the rolling resistance of Gator Hardshell is still better than that of Marathon Plus.

Weight is not a consideration. All similar tires weigh about the same, with perhaps minimal differences due to bead material (kevlar vs steel wire). Besides, low weight is overrated. Typically what determines your speed are air resistance and rolling resistance, not weight. Especially in consumable parts like tires, chains, sprockets, etc. saving weight is not advisable because you have to pay a lot to get a lightweight product that will last only few thousand kilometers.

About the width: I currently use 28mm due to historical reasons (when I bought my first road bike tire, it was GatorSkin 28mm because no wider variant was available back then). I mainly have stayed with the 28mm width because I have found it to work for me and have high investment in 28mm equipment. If I was to choose a tire today with no existing stock, I would go for 32mm.

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    The point of using a Marathon Plus is that you don't need to patch at all. There are plenty of bike uses where I simply don't care about a minute more or less (like commuting in a city with traffic lights, or when I'm bike packing). But I do care about not being interrupted by a flat over and over again. (Btw: Puncture frequency is also a question of where you ride. Bike only on tarmac streets, and you have low risk. Bike on old style bike lanes and dirt paths, and you have a high risk. In these situations, punctures may be as frequent as 1 puncture per 100 km without a puncture proof tire.) – cmaster - reinstate monica Feb 13 at 22:46

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