Issue #038, Review -

Schwalbe Mountain Bike Tires in Review

Schwalbe are sure to have the right tire for your bike. Offering a huge selection with everything from commuter to cross country all the way to 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

Here you’ll find everything you need about mtb tires: The Best Mountain Bike Tire – We had them all!


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. On Trail and Enduro bikes, you’ll most often find the Super Gravity or Snakeskin casing, but we found there to be a huge gap between the two regarding puncture protection and stability. The Apex casing could actually fill this gap quite well, but unfortunately, it is only available in tire widths from 2.6″.

SnakeSkin TLE

Yes, Schwalbe offer even lighter casings, but Snakeskin TLE definitely marks the lower limit of durability for Trail and Enduro 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.

Super Gravity

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 an Enduro bike.


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.

Rubber compounds

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, is only used for cross country tires. For Trail and Enduro bikes, you can choose between Speedgrip, Soft and Ultra Soft. The rubber compound is easy to distinguish by the coloured stripe in the tread.

ADDIX Speedgrip

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 Enduro bike for both the front and rear wheels, and it makes for a grippy front tire on a Trail bike. 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 on an Enduro bike. 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 legs and the tread won’t last long either.

Tread pattern

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.

Magic Mary

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 makes for an excellent front tire on your Trail bike.

Hans Dampf

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 both a front and back tire on a Trail bike. 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.

Nobby Nic

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 for Trail bikes? Yes, but only if you weigh less than 80 kg and have a smooth riding style. With the exception of the 2.6″ Apex version, the Nobby Nic is only available with the SnakeSkin casing and Addix Speedgrip compound.

Dirty Dan

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.

Rock Razor

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 recommendations

Enduro – all-round (f/r): Magic Mary, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity / Hans Dampf, ADDIX Soft, Super Gravity
Trail – grip (f/r): Magic Mary, ADDIX Soft, TLE / Hans Dampf, ADDIX Soft, TLE/Super Gravity (je nach Gewicht)
Trail – fast rolling (f/r): Hans Dampf, ADDIX Soft, TLE / Nobby Nic (2,35”), ADDIX Speedgrip, TLE

Our big ENDURO group test at a glance

Here you’ll find everything you need about mtb tires: The Best Mountain Bike Tire – We had them all!

All the models in test