Sunday, May 23, 2010

Schwalbe Delta Cruisers vs Marathon Plus

I have written before about how much I like Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires, and almost a year later I feel the same: These are my favourite tires for commuting. Happily, we have now finally installed them on my Pashley Princess.

I know, my tastes are so predictable! - but how can you beat this gorgeous crème de menthe look? See here for the "before" picture.

Because the Pashley originally came with Marathon Plus tires and I rode it with them since last summer, I thought that the change provided a good opportunity to compare the two tires and to explain why I opted to switch to the cream Cruisers.

One key difference between the Marathon Plus and the Delta Cruisers, is the level of puncture protection they provide: The Marathon Plus are basically the bestest/toughest/kevlarest tires you can get. Delta Cruisers still have plenty of kevlar protection; they are just not the absolute best in this respect. As a result of all that extra armour, Marathon Plus are almost twice as heavy as Delta Cruisers. Additionally, some report that Marathon Plus tires feel sluggish and "leaden" when they roll (I agree) - whereas Delta Cruisers have a zippy, racy quality to them. Delta Cruiser tires are also somewhat balloon-like: cushy and better at swallowing potholes.

Pashley's wheel with the new tire. Removing and re-installing the front wheel was fine, but the rear wheel was a different story. The chaincase was actually pretty easy to deal with, but the custom coaster-brake hub took some figuring out.

Upon removing the chaincase, we were shocked to discover how clean the chain was. This bicycle lived through a snowy winter! I guess the chaincase really works.

With the wheels successfully re-installed and the coaster-brake hub adjusted (thanks to the Co-Habitant - who can do anything when he has the time for it!), I immediately set off on my daily errands.

Mmmm, yummy cream Delta Cruisers!

In terms of the ride quality, I could feel an immediate difference. The Delta Cruisers are indeed both zippier and cushier than the equivalently sized Marathon Plus. On a bicycle where I have been trying to maximise speed and maneuverability, that is a major benefit. To me, this factor is more important than the super-extra degree of kevlar protection of the Marathon Plus - which for me is overkill anyhow.

Whether you prefer the Delta Cruiser or the Marathon Plus tires, really depends on your needs. Do you consistently puncture all of your tires - even those with kevlar belts? If so, get the Marathon Plus and that is the end of it. On the other hand, if you prefer a faster ride, love cream tires, and are fine with a degree of kevlar protection that is "only" excellent and not unbelievably excellent, then ditch the extra weight and go with the Cruisers.

39 comments:

  1. I have the Delta Cruisers in black on my Hercules. I really like them a lot! But, then again, I have nothing to compare them to aside from the original Dunlop tires that were on her when she first came home.

    How do the cream colored Delta Cruisers look after time? I had considered them, but went with the black because I thought that the cream would end up greyish with road dirt and that I would never get them clean again.

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  2. I have always maintained that tires, grips and saddles were meant to be black... after reading your blog for 4 or 5 months I now have 2 brown saddles, amber shellacked cord grips on two bikes and am thinking that my $25 junkyard pathracer needs $100 worth of cream colored tires. ALL YOUR FAULT!!!

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  3. spindizzy - $100 cream colored tires??.. Delta Cruisers are $20 each for 28" wheels!

    Amy - People worry about getting cream tires dirty, but it's unwarranted. They do show dirt immediately, but after that they don't look much different no matter how long and where you've been riding them. I've gone off-road, through mud, through snow, on grass, etc. on various cream tires, and it's all good.

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  4. Vintage white Vittoria 700 x 28 sew-ups are $50 each. Used, in marginal condition. And I have to build wheels for them... See, I've gone mad...

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  5. Ah! Well, thanks for making me feel "economical" for once, at least!

    I do wish they made the new (and less costly) white limited edition Vittoria Randonneurs in 700x32C, though, for my future mixte build...

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  6. I have GOT to get me some of these! They are too gorgeous and they sound so comfy to ride. And just reassure me that it's not criminal or incorrect somehow to put these on my '48 Raleigh? I'm new to all of this restoration business but I'm no purist (and I don't think this bike is all original) and these seem so right, aesthetically...

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  7. you're leaving out the very sensible middle choice, which is plain marathons (not marathon plus)! plain marathons are quite a bit longer wearing and more puncture resistant than delta cruisers, but not at all leaden-feeling like the marathon pluses. but no, sadly they don't come in cream.

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  8. Oh, those creme tires on the Princess do just add a certain flair. Thanks for point by point comparison. I think you just found a new Delta Cruiser convert.

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  9. Clever - I've never cycled on regular Marathons, so they are not something I can meaningfully comment on. But it does sound like a good option.

    Sarah - The 28" Delta Cruisers are available without the modern reflective strip, which makes them perfect for vintage restorations. Those are what we both have on our DL-1 Roadsters. Not sure whether the 26" are available in this version as well.

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  10. Hey, the cream Delta Cruisers look superb on the Pashley! What a difference! I was interested to hear your review on how they ride. Zippier. I like that. I guess when my Marathon Pluses finally die I can treat myself to a pair. No budget for new tyres at the moment though. The woman at the bike shop where I bought my bike told me the Marathons for the Pashley were a special size not readily available. Not in Australia, anyway. What size Cruisers did you fit on Eustacia Vye?

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  11. Odd. The Pashley has 26" wheels, which is not such an unusual size. I am pretty sure that both the Marathon Plus and the Delta Cruiser tires come in 26", 28", and 700c. I have the 26" Cruisers on the Pahsley and 28" Cruisers on my vintage Raleigh.

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  12. It's not the 26" that's the odd bit, it's the width. Something inches and 1/4" or the like. Apparently similar to a wheelchair tyre size (hmm... wheelchairs with Marathons... makes sense I guess as you wouldn't want punctures).

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  13. I am a little nervous about the durability of the delta cruisers, having been nothing but pleased with the Marathons.
    As you noted, removing the rear wheel on a bicycle with an IGH and rear hub braking (coaster or roller) is not a simple operation, and getting the axle back in position in such a way that the chain is perfectly tensioned and the axle perfectly perpendicular to the frame is not simple to arrange on the side of the road.
    I'm fortunate that I normally cycle in locations where a short walk and a bus or train ride would get me where I needed to go, but i would be careful taking Gilbert really far afield until I have a better sense of how flat protective these cruisers are.

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  14. Looking good. I think the removal of the basket was a good choice too, not just for aerodynamics, but visually as well. I'd love some of those Wald folding baskets for my bike but they don't sell them in the UK.

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  15. i have a set of 28" delta cruisers in cream on my raleigh DL1, and i agree that they are a very comfortable and smooth rolling tire! the only disadvantage is that they only come in a few sizes-- mostly roadster and 3-speed sizes. velouria, are you sure they sell delta cruisers in 700c size? does the pashley take "modern" 26" tires or the "3-speed" 26" tires?

    carinthia-- the 26" size is confusing. there are at least three different "26" inch tire types that i know of that are completely non-interchangeable. the classic raleighs and other english 3-speeds use 26 x 1-3/8", while modern mountain bikes use 26 x "x.xx" where "x.xx" is any one of a dozen widths, like 1.5, 1.75, 1.9, etc, using decimal fractioning. the confusion lies mostly in the fact that the "26" part (wheel diameter) is actually 6 mm different between the 3-speed (1-3/8")and mtn bike (x.xx") tire varieties, and the two are incompatible.

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  16. Out of curiosity, what *is* the exact size of the Marathon Plus tires? Would you be willing to sell them by any chance? :)

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  17. oh, and kudos for aligning the tire decal with the valve stem. that's how the pros do it and there are some non-obvious advantages to using that method :-).

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  18. Amy,

    As Velouria said, Delta Cruisers do get a bit dirty, but it looks really nice and natural!

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  19. @somervillain: like finding whatever may have punctured your tire after removing the tube :)

    I have the Marathons (I forget if they're pluses or not) on my Raleigh, and there is definitely some solidity to them in terms of the road feel as compared with other tires I've ridden on.

    In about a year and a half, I've only had two punctures on them (one of them being this morning), so that's been nice, but the other thing about them is that they are so rigid, it's very difficult to get the tire bead off the rim - I actually broke a plastic tire iron trying to get the tire off the rim last time I punctured it. This time, I'm just walking it to Clever Cycles after work.

    It's interesting starting to hear more and more in sort of mainstream bicycle talk about lower pressure, softer tires actually being faster than really high-pressure rigid tires for riding on normal road surfaces (anything that isn't perfectly smooth). Nice to just see the popular idea that super lightweight+skinny tires is always faster and easier being challenged, since we've all known for a while it's not true :)

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  20. Has anyone noticed cracks in their cream Delta Cruisers? I've had mine for about six months and they have a ton of cracks in the sidewall. Am I doing something wrong? Am I running them at too low a pressure??

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  21. For those with confusion regarding sizes:

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tire_sizing.html

    Bead Seat Diameter, not nominal casing size, is your friend! If I recall, the Princess has 559 wheels, but correct me if I'm wrong.

    And regarding side-of-the-road rear wheel removal for punctures, it's not necessary unless you've destroyed your tube. Usually you can perform a rubber cement patch by simply removing the tire from the wheel while it's still attached to the bike. Shimmy the tube out, and voila. The frame pump on Pashleys comes in handy in these situations, too.

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  22. well done Velouria, now the only thing I would change is the Skirtguard. I like the Skirtguard of the dl-1...

    Ciao

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  23. cycler - We've had the Cruisers on 4 bikes total. We have cycled everywhere with them in the course of the past year - on the roads to various part of the city, on long distance trips to the middle of nowhere, on trails, on gravel, on the beach - no punctures. My "Austrian bike" had the Cruisers too, and it traveled throughout Vienna on them for years with no problems. Anecdotally, I have not heard or read about any Delta Cruiser puncture incidents among my acquaintances - while several people I know have gotten flats on the regular (non-plus) Marathons.

    Herzog - No, no cracks in any of our Delta Cruisers. I could sell the Marathon Plus, though it's not imperative. I've been trying to decide if I should keep them for winter.

    The size of the Pashley's tires are 26" x 1 3/8, just like vintage 3-speeds.

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  24. excuse me for my schwalbe model abbreviations, but velouria, i wouldn't bother swapping the DCs out for the MA+s for winter riding. from what i understand, it's preferable to have a softer, lower-pressure tire for snow and slush... something about maximizing the contact area between tire and ground? they recommend this for cars as well.

    as for puncture protection, DC versus MA+:

    who knows what tire is really better... probably only the R&D people at schwalbe really know for sure, as they are the only ones who've probably done a well controlled comparison. as velouria said, her info from acquaintances is anecdotal, as the sample number is small and there can be many variables contributing to claims of zero flats for DCs (e.g., DC owners probably don't do as much hardcore commuting on those tires as do MA+ owners, and may have fewer overall miles of experience to back their claims). just sayin... it's important to treat anecdotal evidence as just that, and from what i've read from various online reviews (where the sample number is larger), it's hard to beat MA+s for puncture resistance.

    for people really determined never to get a flat on the rear wheel of an IGH bike with chaincase, there are other strategies that can be combined with a puncture-resistant tire, such as a thick puncture-resistant tube, or filling the normal tube with slime. however, the drawback to either of these options is extra weight and rolling resistance. but some people swear by these supplemental measures...

    i have not had a flat on any schwalbe tire i've owned (i've had old generation MA, new generation MA, and DC). by comparison, i have had two flats on a generic branded kevlar-belted tire within the first 100 miles of use, and both flats were caused by penetration of the kevlar layer. so although anecdotal, not all puncture-resistant tires live up to their claims as such.

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  25. somervillain - Thanks, I've gotten some very mixed advice regarding this. I was told that the Marathon+ is a better winter tire, but subjectively, the Delta Cruisers on my DL-1 felt better in the winter than the Marathon+ on my Pashley did.

    Okay then, looks like I have a pair of 26" Marathon Plus tires for sale.

    Oh, and yes I am sure that Delta Cruisers come in 700c sizes:
    http://www.schwalbetires.com/delta_cruiser_hs392

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  26. For record, I have gotten two punctures on my Delta Cruisers -- a huge chunk of glass through the front, and a little sliver through the rear. I've had another two flats since, but I blame them on the crappy patching job I did (I did it in a blizzard!) and not the tires.

    Velouria, where is the right place to talk about price? :)

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  27. Herzog - email me at "filigreevelo-at-yahoo-dot-com" . Sorry to hear about your blizzard malfunctions!

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  28. Herzog, the two-year-old Delta Cruisers on my wife's Hercules have cracking in the sidewall of both front and rear tires. This is possibly due to a period of underinflation, though the cloth carcass of the tire is in fine shape. I've been in contact with the customer service folks at Schwalbe USA about it, and they are responsive and friendly, and handle things very well.
    If you cannot see any split fibers, you are probably fine. I expect we'll wear out the tread before the sidewalls let go.

    Amy, we've had these creme tires on for two years now, and they only get a little dusty looking. I have a brand new set to compare them to, and they have not darkened appreciably. I live in a Redwood tree grove, and the ever-present tannins color *everything*, so this color consistency is no mean feat. Just wipe them down with a damp cloth, and take a moistened old toothbrush to them to take off the caked dirt.

    Corey K

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  29. I had the "cracks in the sidewalls" issue explained to me as follows one day, as it happened to both my 635s (on my roadster), but has not yet happened to the 559s on my lady's Princess.

    The tires are made in a similar process to those having 'natural' sidewalls and black tread. The sidewall of the so-called "casing" (the fabric that makes the tire's shape and gives it it's strength) - on these apparently bi-coloured tires - has no rubber applied to it in the final step of the construction of the tire, in which the black "tread" layer is attached to the casing.

    Delta Cruisers' sidewalls, however, have a thin layer of the same rubber used in the tread layer applied to the sidewall. It could be considered a "skim coat" of sorts, I suppose.

    My thinking is that if they're going to apply this decorative layer, why not make it durable? Alas, we have to live with these little cracks. Even Schwalbe's website says they are not grounds for warranty claims, as they are "cosmetic" only...

    Not knowing all that much about tire construction, taking my retailer's word for this seems to be good enough for me.

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  30. i have a strong suspicion that the marathon pluses for sale are not 559s, but 590s (these are ISO bead seat diameters; both are called '26"' unhelpfully.) one or the other of these numbers will be printed on the sidewall.

    we have (or had) rental bikes shod with both regular marathons and with delta cruisers. the delta cruisers got flats, while the marathons didn't (never yet!), so we've switched them all to marathons. marathons also cost more than delta cruisers, so i presume the former are made with more costly processes or materials than the latter.

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  31. I don't know if I buy that explanation! The cracks on my tires have stretched somewhat which suggests they go pretty deep.

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  32. Creme de menthe - lovely!!

    Since I saw your DL, it clicked that cream tires would look beautiful on the sea blue of the Betty Foy. Alas, they don't appear to come in 650b. Not that I needed to spend more money anyway :)

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  33. Nice! I just did the same to my newly acquired rescue - a 1972 Raleigh Sports 3-Speed. Tires look great against the bike's coffee paint. Rode 80 miles this weekend with these tires over side roads with glass and gravel and not a puncture (e.g. others in the group were getting flats). I notice the positive difference in comfort too!

    A peak is here:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_AldAsksoNQE/S_yETf-z1xI/AAAAAAAABSk/VlyTtNAgMgg/s1600/1972_raleigh.jpg

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  34. Clever - Yes, they are 590.

    Ed - That is a seriously beautiful bicycle! Glad that the tires served you well on the group ride.

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  35. Poland here.

    I bought a pair of Delta Cruisers for my Batavus Flying Dutchman in 2008 (shortly after getting my bicycle)Since then me and my two wheels traveled together in all sorts of terrain and never had any puncture. I commute, went off-road, been at the seaside, even took my bike to the beach (I walked) - tires did fantastic. Though I slipped and fell two times on ice. So no snow fun :)
    In general - lovely tires for city bikes though they do quite well on dirt roads (except patches of sand - that's a "no no").

    Regards
    Agnieszka

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  36. I am confused when looking at the Schwalbe website- what is the difference between "creme" and "creme-reflex"?

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  37. I have also noticed the sidewall cracks on my Delta Cruisers, 700 x 35. I removed the tire and they look brand new inside, wrench at the lbs said he'd ride them without worry, so they're back on. They've been mounted to this bike about two years, tread is dirty but not very worn.

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  38. Mini cracks in the tires are commonly caused by swings in the humidity levels, bikes left outside are far more likely to suffer this.

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  39. Curious to hear follow up about the cracks that occurred with some creme colored tires. I'd heard somewhere that one reason tires use black rubber, is that the ingredient that makes them black (carbon?) is mixed in for protection from UV. If this is true, the cracking mentioned by some above could be due to degradation from exposure to UV (sunlight).

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