6k Schwalbe Mondial review: The ultimate bike touring tires, except…

Finding the ideal tire is something that two-wheeled nomads seem to spend a lot of time thinking about prior to, and during a trip. I have talked with folks who have blown out a couple of sidewalls, been plagued with flats or just went through several inferior sets of rubber. They all come full circle to the Mondial after a while. Or at the very least, they want a pair.

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I have been tweaking Gin’s Troll and piecing together my next dirt-friendly touring build and have been obsessing with bike touring tires… again. She’ll be running her existing set that consists of one lone XR (the Mondial’s predecessor) and a one Mondial. Both 2″ wide. But I have to acquire some new rubber in the 29″ variety. In the process I started studying my Mondials, how they held up and reflecting on how they performed on dirt and gravel. Here are my thoughts:

The ride on Pavement

I can hark back to my first ride impressions of the tire. Before I bought them I was running classic Schwalbe Marathons (1.75″) and I was fairly certain that putting 2.15″ wide and more heavily lugged Mondials on my Troll would make it feel, well, more trollish.

I was wrong.

The Mondials impressed me immediately at how well they rolled. The rubber on the Mondials feels slightly softer than that of the Marathons, and the XRs, but that doesn’t seem to affect the rolling speed. The Dureme is the other offering from Schwalbe that is popular with touring cyclists. Mike took a pair on his recent Europe excursion. In a nutshell, he preferred them for how well they rolled on a road-oriented tour, but they also seem to wear faster. In his words, “I liked everything about the Duremes but was surprised how quickly the rear wore.”

The ride offroad

The now defunct, but legendary, XRs were known to be slightly skidish on dirt and gravel. The Mondials have improved on their weakness with a tweaked rubber compound and about the same amount of tooth on the outer tread. For the most part the outer tread is what counts on off-road tires. It’s what grips on turns and catches the right places amongst loose terrain. Although most of the dirt and gravel riding I have done with Mondials has been fully loaded, there have been a few occasions where I pushed it a little. The Mondial rubber seems to grip surprisingly well. One thing I noticed on several occasions is that when riding on uneven slippery dirt or gravel, they seem to hold a line instead of sliding or shifting down. Even in sand they were able to plow through unless it got too deep. They certainly don’t have the balls-to-the-wall cornering capability of a Nevegal, but if you are mixing it up with dirt and gravel, they are a great option. Especially when durability and wear is important.

Wear

OK, this is the tire’s Magnum Opus. I met a German fellow who had over 12,000 kms on his and they were still in great condition. I have somewhere around 6k on mine and they are alive and well. The amount of tread wear on the tires is barely noticeable… even on the rear. I had intended on rotating them halfway in the trip but didn’t see a reason too upon further inspection at the time. I would guess that unless a shard of glass took them out, I could pull another 12-16k, easily.

Conclusion

If you are in the market for a set of tires for your next tour, especially if it’s a long one, these are your tires. If you are looking for a set to perform well on a tour of mixed terrain, with gravel, some dirt and pavement, I think the Mondials are perfect. If you have a 29er and need a larger width tire… sorry, they don’t have them in sizes other than 26″ and 700c x 40c or 35c. That is the one problem with the almost perfect Mondial. Dear Schwalbe, please make a 29 x 2.25″ version…

EDIT: from the comment below, ‘phlatphrog’ brought to light that they do make a 29er version of the Mondial in a 2″ width (50-622), and there is a 1.75″ width version as well (47-622). I was ignorant to the fact that 29er/700c tires are called 28″ when referring to them in the good ole Imperial system.

Pros:

  • Unbelievable durability
  • Very little wear even after hard riding through Mexico and Central American gravel
  • Very flat resistant

Cons:

  • Heavy: 26 x 2.15″ weigh in at 865 grams
  • No offerings in larger 29″ models (larger than 2″ width)

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon Mondial

Side View of my front tire after 6,000 kms.

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon Mondial

Hardly showing that much tread wear on the rear tire.

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon Mondial

And, barely noticeable tread wear on the front tire.
Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon Mondial

There is a seam on the rear that is peeling a little, but it doesn’t look like it will be a problem. Just cosmetic.

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon Mondial

Gin’s 2″ wide Mondial.

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon XR

Her front XR.

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon XR

Barely any wear on the front XR.

Bike Touring Tires - Schwalbe Marathon XR

Another shot of the XR side tread.

Surly Troll - Bike Touring - Schwalbe Mondial

Her Surly Troll build for a lightweight bikepacking-style expedition

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