Folding bikes always get branded as road bikes. It’s a sad fact, and whilst perhaps you wouldn’t want to ride down from the summit of Scafell Pike on a Brompton, here at The Folding Bicycle Club like to push the boundaries with regards to what can be done on these tiny folding marvels.
Most folding bikes come stock with pretty unimaginative tyre choices. My own Raleigh came with a generic Chinese branded tyre which whilst acceptable is hardly the grippiest of rubber ever.
When I found my Dahon III outside a farm, covered in chicken guano and priced at just £20 pretty much every piece of the bike was covered in rust and the original 1989 tyres were still fitted – and pretty badly split.
My choice, therefore, was to stay with a road tyre; or go for something with a little more tread – but with the price to pay being increased rolling resistance on harder surfaces and slightly increased tyre noise.
I’d heard good things about Schwalbe Marathon and I decided to stump up the £50 or so for a pair. With their Greenguard puncture resistant layer they should keep the puncture fairies away.
With their diamond cut tread pattern they promise rather grippier off road performance, but without making riding Wee Red (my Dahon) hard work.
They’re quite a substantial tyre too, weighing in a good 30g heavier than the stock tyres. They’re also very rigid and difficult to bend.
I pulled the old tyres – they came off with a little effort, but not too much when you use my patented “spoons” method.
When putting on new tyres I’d always recommend a little soap around the bead, particularly with 16″ wheels. It just lubricates the bead over the rim.
I cleaned up the original 1989 rims using a Dremel and applied new tape (I seldom apply new tape, but when the old stuff is 30 years old it tends to be a bit flaky).
The new tyres were rather tight on the rims (hence me recommending soap!) but eventually with a little pressure I managed to get them to pop into place and I inflated them to the maximum recommend pressure. I’m 100kg and 187cm tall so I’m at the top end of the maximum weight limit for a lot of foldies.
That was where my problems started. The new Schwalbe tyres, whilst marked as 16″ X 1.75 have a taller aspect ratio to the older tyres and whilst the back wheel is absolutely fine the front wheel fouled the mudguard rather badly.
To say they’re a tight fit is somewhat of an overstatement. In the end I had to space the wheel a little further down the fork as there is absolutely no room for adjustment or play at all with the mudguard. Indeed the tyres look substantially fatter on the bike.
Riding the bike I immediately noticed the increased rolling resistance from the previous tyres. Not a huge difference, but when you’ve only got three speeds via the Sturmey Archer hub it helps to be prepared for these things.
On the roads the bike feels planted. On tarmac you feel a little more rumble through the bars and on gravel the old feeling of moving sideways is totally gone. On a ride up to Elsecar through some muddy puddles and somewhat neglected sections of trail the little Dahon felt like a different bike. Through a muddy puddle the bike went straight on with no hesitation and setting off in first in mud gave only a little rear end slide.
I’ve had the tyres on a few months now and I’ve covered around 400 miles on them. Wear is absolutely negligible and they still perform beautifully. I’ve had no punctures (did I mention they have a protective green slime layer) and no problems with them jumping the bead.
From me it’s a well deserved 8/10 🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🟡🔵🔵
I just wish they were a little less tall, and bear in mind they aren’t a pure road tyre, Indeed Schwalbe describe them as a touring tyre. A real jack of all trades!