[Test] Schwalbe Magic Mary
On our way to Crankworx this year we knew our main mode of transportation would be our DH bike. Why would you spend much time on anything else at Whistler of all places? Anyhow, we gave Schwalbe a shout in search of a fresh set of Muddy Mary tires. We quickly found that they had discontinued the iconic, World Cup winning tire. At first, we were a bit bummed so we challenged them and asked why on Earth they would stop making such a great tire. Well – we were a bit taken aback by the response.
Hopefully they don’t mind being quoted. Schwalbe told us “We’re not like other companies that become complacent and offer the same product for 10+ years”. After hearing this we immediately thought of certain tires that fit into this category, but also began skeptical of the claims that the Magic Mary was such a massive improvement over it’s predecessor. We initially had an (unfounded) aversion to them – mostly due to the fact that visually, it looked a bit like an oversized cut spike. We feared that while it may work well in loose duffy loam, it might not be optimal for the beaten down bike park trails that Whistler is primarily comprised of. Boy were we wrong. How does that old adage go? “Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.”
Where should we start? Compound. Our test tires consisted of Schwalbe’s latest and greatest compound – dubbed the Vert Star 3, this is the best combination of tackiness, slow rebound and durability. We chose to run the 2.35″ versions which seem a bit closer to a 2.5″ tire. Regardless, the 2.5 is a bit bulky and given the widely spaced knobs, we feared the tire wouldn’t roll that fast. Again, we were proven wrong. More on that later.
For the sake of a proper review, it’s best to break this down into a few basic categories : Cornering, Braking, Rolling Resistance and Durability.
Cornering : When we first popped these onto our bike, we had a feeling the tire would be a solid performer in loose conditions, but we have to admit, we were slightly skeptical about how it would handle hardpack, and slick rock given the tall and narrow profile of the knobs. After a few runs the Magic Mary pleasantly surprised us with all the grip we could ask for on each and every condition we encountered at Whistler. From the sidewalk firm surfaces of high speed jump trails like “Dirt Merchant”, to the loamy, uncut, off the beaten path tracks like “Wake the Neighbors” this tire simply blew our minds. The only time the tire broke in any corners was when we had already known that we had simply pushed too hard and were clearly riding over our head. Time and again this tire proved to be a solid performer and never felt vague or unpredictable.
Braking : This is an area that’s fairly black and white when judging tires. Either a tire brakes well or it doesn’t. And when it comes to bad conditions, either it sheds mud and continues to slow you down as needed, or it packs up and rapidly becomes worthless. The Magic Mary quickly became a solid contender. To our surprise, this tire reigned supreme regardless of conditions. Hard pack, slick rock, mud, loam, sandy or grassy…it didn’t matter, when we needed to shut it down quickly, these tires never disappointed us.
Rolling Resistance : Upon first inspection of the Muddy Mary, we may have been a bit overly critical in our initial judgements. As mentioned earlier, we thought this tire looked a bit like a cut spike tire which had a bit of added volume. Because of the square, widely spaced and tall knobs we assumed it might roll a bit slowly. To our surprise, these rolled along quite well. There are DH tires on the market that roll a little bit faster – however, those tires don’t perform nearly as well under cornering and braking as the Magics did. Overall, we can’t really knock them and say that they were particularly slow, but on the same token we can’t exactly commend them for being the fastest rolling tire either. We never felt like they were a drag, but at the same time we didn’t exactly feel like we were riding semi slicks.
Durability : In this last category, just like the other areas we mentioned prior, these tires proved to strike a perfect balance. Generally speaking, if a tire is too soft, it’s side knobs can fold over or start to rip clean off in tight, hardpack turns or under hard braking. Conversely, if the tire utilizes a rubber durometer that is just too hard, the tire won’t bite and it’s user will lose precious traction and blow out turns, or not be able to slow down in steep, critical sections. Schwalbe’s latest Verstar 3 compound showed us that a tire can be both soft and firm at the same time. We were(and still are) impressed by their wear during our time spent at Whistler, plus a healthy dose of chairlift runs at Snow Summit, and a fair share of shuttle runs all over California. The pictures show it – these tires are wearing appropriately and showing no signs of premature degradation. As deep as we are into them, they’re still rolling tough and keeping us in control.
Overall, this may seem like a bold statement, but these are the best DH tires we’ve used to date. It’s refreshing to be proven wrong and have our preconceived notions shattered now and again. We were pleasantly surprised by the Magics. These are definitely a big improvement over the Muddy Mary, and they will be our go-to DH tire from now until they decide it’s time to move on and improve upon it. Hats off to Schwalbe for constantly chasing perfection – they have certainly won us over with the Magic Mary.
Product photos : Ian Collins
Action Photos : Fred Robinson