|The Schwalbe Smart Sam is a tyre that instantly appealed to me when it turned up for test. I like my rear tyres fast rolling, large volume, low weight, with grip on the shoulders for leaning over in corners, oh and I don’t like punctures.
The central part of the tread is a near continuous line of closely arranged knobs that when pumped hard, form a nearly smooth rolling surface for minimal drag and maximum speed. The tyre carcass is quite square, so the more open tread on the shoulders rolls along quite nicely until you lean it over when it really bites in and cornering is impressive even in wet conditions. The tread clears well and there were no problems with mud clogging things up out back. All round traction was pretty good, obviously not as good as a full open tread pattern, but everything’s a compromise and I prefer the speed gained from the close pattern in most conditions to the slight loss of traction on really muddy steep climbs.
All it takes is a little more ‘body language’ to tell the rear wheel to stay planted, which means sitting in the saddle for a little bit longer than you might do normally on those slippy climbs.
The 2.25″ width carcass is bigger than many choose from a weight saving point of view, but the extra volume means more comfort, more puncture resistance and if pumped hard it will make little difference to your speed.
The Albert is something of a Schwalbe classic, with a widely spaced open tread. I’ve owned these in the past and though I like them, I found that the wore out too quickly. The Alpencross seems to be wearing pretty well so far, though the compound is no different from the regular version, so perhaps the compound has changed since my earlier production versions. My older versions have managed to lose a couple of knobs due to hard cornering, exposing the carcass beneath, however, the new ones have shown no signs of suck extreme wear at all.
Steering is not as pin sharp as some more directional front tyres, but on loose trail surfaces and mud they dig in well and are fantastic when the anchors are hauled on to come to a quick stop. They clear very well in mud and inspire late braking going into corners in all trail conditions. On the road the knobs can squirm a bit under fast cornering and the drag can be felt on long climbs. They are a good all rounder though and worth trying.
Both of these tyres are the Alpencross version, which feature Kevlar beads, saving 70 grams and meaning they can be folded away. They also feature ‘Snakeskin’ a light and flexible sidewall layer that makes them extremely resistant to sidewall scrubbing by rocks, something that can end a race in one swoop.
In addition they have puncture protection in the form of ‘RaceGuard’ to stave off thorns, pins etc. A rubber compound is coated on the outside of the tyre bead to stop it slipping round the rim when subject to very hard braking and ripping the valve stem off. It seems to work well and the puncture protection has been superb. I used these in the World Champs and for many rides since, but have not had a single puncture. This more than makes up for the extra weight of the puncture protection systems, which brings total tyre weight to about 690 grams each.
I think these are ideal tyres for adventure racing, I’d buy them again without hesitation, despite the price. They would be very worthwhile looking at for those that are keen to try tubeless tyres using one of the liquid latex systems on the market, as the puncture resistance is first class and losing the inner tube would compensate for the slight increase in weight compared to the standard version of the tyre.
The Albert is available in 2.1″, 2.25″, and 2.35″ widths (Alpencross in 2.25″only) and each is available in Tubeless form. The 2.1″ size is available for 29″ wheels too.
The Smart Sam is available in 2.1″ and 2.25″ widths, with Tubeless available in the 2.1″ and Alpencross in the 2.25″ only. No 29″ version is available.
For more details please visit: http://www.schwalbe.co.uk