Schwalbe Magic Mary

The Magic Mary is the only tyre here that actually measures up to the width quoted on the side. At 2.35in exactly, it’s also the biggest. The SuperGravity casing uses really stiff sidewalls that rebound from big impacts very slowly, giving a stuck-down feel. The top of the tyre is nice and supple though, so it feels far less wooden over trail chatter than many beefy tyres. This means lower rolling resistance, less fatigue and more traction.

MTB winter tyre mega test
  • Weight: 1145g
  • Width: 2.35in
  • Height: 2.2in

It’s pressure-sensitive and can feel harsh if run too hard, but the sidewalls offer plenty of support as low as 20psi. It’s heavy too but has proven incredibly puncture-proof while rolling resistance is not too bad considering the grip. The TrailStar compound is not actually that soft, but heavily siped, deep tread blocks claw up tenacious traction regardless

It’s on muddy and loose ground that the Mary really shines. The spiky, slightly ramped centre tread generates superb braking grip, while tall, well-supported shoulder blocks dig up unsurpassed cornering bite.

Though it’s a bit too square on really wide rims, it allowed us to rail turns on our 25mm wheels with huge confidence and later braking than any other tyre. It will clog up slightly easier than a Shorty in pure slop, but the Mary is equally at home on rock, dust, gravel and roots.

 

Review by Bike Radar

 


 

Schwalbe’s Magic Mary is unquestionably one of the most dominant Downhill and Enduro tires of the last years, with countless wins and titles. While professional riders are most often obligated to use the tires of their sponsors, amateurs and semi-pros preferably pick Schwalbe’s Magic Mary as their weapon of choice. Even more telling is the practice of some professional teams to black out the Schwalbe label and “cheat” on the tire of their sponsor (E.g. check out Cedric Garcia’s or Joe Barnes’ bike). I think there is no higher level of praise than that.

I just needed to get a Schwalbe Magic Mary and see for myself.
The tread design of the Magic Mary looks aggressive, but utilitarian and simplistic. But when you look closer, yo
u find a lot of love and attention to detail in every aspect of the tire.

Designed as a “digging” tire for mud, soft or loose terrain, the Magic Mary has rather thin, but tall knobs. Those knobs dig nicely into softer ground, but it also leads to a small contact area on hard terrain. Schalbe increased the grip by siping every second row of the center tread. The siping increases the adhesion and lets the tire mould better to the ground surface, while the un-siped knobs provide stability. The knobs are also slightly ramped. I’m not a big fan of ramped knobs to reduce rolling resistance, but to increase the stability of those tall and rather slim knobs, it’s just perfect.

MagicMary_5Another noteworthy aspect of the tread design, is how well Schwalbe optimized the void in front of the knobs. The bigger the void in front of a knob, the more effective it is. Just look at how the side knobs are placed exactly between the knobs of the center tread. This maximizes the traction of the side knobs and gives the tire more cornering speed. The void in front of the rows-of-three is ridiculous. There are three rows which almost channel and compress the soil before it hits this row. I just don’t understand why Schwalbe siped the row-of-three. With that much runway, I think the interlock-traction is excessive and those knobs need all the stability they can get.

 

Installation

MagicMary_1I went with the TrailStar compound, which is in between the grippier VertStar and the faster PaceStar. The tire has a “SnakeSkin” which is an additional thin layer to prevent abrasion and cuts to the sidewall. The 29″ version came in at 870 grams, which is really light for a beefy and robust tire like the Magic Mary. On my 30mm (internal width) rims, the tire measured about 62mm (2.44in) which is a noticeable more than the nominal 2.35in. This is not a quality issue, but due to the fact that there is no standard in measuring tire width.

I installed the tire tubeless and it sealed immediately and never lost significant air nor sealant. In fact, I switched tires multiple times and I never had any issues when getting the Magic Mary back on. There was also no bleeding of sealant on the sidewalls or at the tread.

 

Riding Impressions

MagicMary_2I rode the Magic Mary between 20 and 24 PSI. 20 PSI when the terrain is loose and lateral force is somewhat limited. I go harder when there is plenty of grip or I’m worried about my rims because the terrain is so rough. In any case, the Magic Mary is a fairly comfortable tire. I’m sure the SuperGravity or even the Dual-Ply downhill version are much harsher, but the single-ply casing plus SnakeSkin, for additional sidewall protection, moulds nicely to the ground.

The grip of the Magic Mary ranges from good to outright insane. When the tire can dig into the ground, the Magic Mary is just hard to beat. The knobs penetrate into the soil and then grab onto it like there is no tomorrow. It’s ridiculous how late you can brake and how fast you
can go around soft corners with this tire. The Magic Mary is also fairly forgiving when you’re sloppy with your cornering technique. You still will have good traction even when you don’t lean the bike over like you should, and it’s not an instant disaster when you brake and corner at the same time. On soft ground, the knobs are also sturdy enough and folding of knobs wasn’t much of an issue in this terrain.

Eventually the tire releases what it grabbed onto, and that means that Mary is throwing dirt at you – literally. Get used to being fed by Mary and learn to close your mouth when there is something on the trail you really don’t want to eat.

The tire also excels in loose conditions. It’s the same story, just with less flavor: knobs dig, knobs bite into the ground, knobs throw little rocks at you.

MagicMary_7The wide spacing and tall knobs shed mud extremely well. I rode it in loamy and wet terrain, which is a real mess. With other tires, you feel like you rolled up the entire park around your wheels including wild life and fauna. Without any exposed knobs it gets tricky, and all the weight is like someone is holding you back. Riding in those conditions is always sucking some energy out of you, but with the Magic Mary you have the right companion. Actually, the Magic Mary used to be called the “Muddy Mary”, and was built as a mud tire. But as the tire excelled also in soft, loose and rough conditions, Schwalbe wanted to get the “mud” out of the name, and the tire out of the niche. However, Magic Mary still rules the swamp.

Every tire has it’s sweet spot and it’s weaknesses. Where the Magic Mary struggles is on hard-packed ground. In fact, I bought the Mary already last summer, but in California most trails are hard-packed over the summer. As I already said, the knobs are relatively thin, especially for their height, and together with the wide spacing, there is just not much of a contact area with the ground. And even though Schwalbe did a great job of stabilizing the tire, I miss the feeling of being firmly connected to the ground on hard packed terrain. It gets a little squirmy when you push the tire hard, and the knobs start to fold eventually. It’s still grippy, but the tire doesn’t excel at it like it did on softer terrain. Simply put: Magic Mary wants to dig. For hard-packed ground, there are better tires. Schwalbe positions their Rock Razor and Hans Dampf tires for hard-packed terrain.

So when it comes to grip, the tire has lived up to it’s outstanding reputation and there haven’t been any surprises.

What was a surprise, is the rolling performance of the tire. When you put a tire like the Magic Mary on your bike, you’re not expecting it to be fast. And for sure, there are hundreds of tires which are faster. But when you compare the Magic Mary to other grip monsters, it’s a pretty fast tire and, for example, leaves the Maxxis Minion DHF in the dust. Climbing is much more enjoyable with the Mary. Part of it might be attributed to the lower weight, but it also feels to roll more efficient. And Strava isn’t lying. I’m definitely faster with the Magic Mary on the climbs and flats. If you feel safer with more grip on your front wheel, you can go with the Mary and don’t regret it on every climb.

 

Durability and Puncture Protection

MagicMary_8Durability has often been a critique of Schwalbe tires. I recently rode the Rock Razor, the Nobby Nic and now the Magic Mary. What I liked about all of them, is that they are fairly lightweight and also fairly soft and grippy. You can’t expect high performance tires with those characteristics to last forever and you should stay off the tarmac as much as you can. Having that said, my experience with all those tires was not particularly short-lived. In fact, I like “how” the Magic Mary aged. The tire is not “falling apart”, as some of my Specialized tires did, but it ages gracefully, in a way that the knobs are getting shorter, but the edges stay somewhat sharp.

 

Summary

So many professional and amateur racers can’t be wrong, and they aren’t. The Magic Mary is a great, if not the greatest, front tire in soft or loose terrain. On hard-packed terrain, there are better options. The light SnakeSkin version will not hurt too much on the climbs.

 

Review by Biting Tires