Product Performance Report: Schwalbe & Mr. Tuffy

(A personal note to Schwalbe designers follows this report.)

Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tire

This is a product performance report for three items:

1) Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 knobby tires, 2) Mr. Tuffy 4XL Fat Tire Liners, 3) Schwalbe 26×4.80 inner tubes

BACKGROUND BRIEF: I have been pedaling recumbent tricycles thousands of miles since 2009, using only Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires up until summer 2015. During that time, which included numerous long distance journeys, I had never experienced a flat tire on my trikes. That is six years of flat-free riding, including one experience where hundreds of goathead thorns became embedded in the trike’s Marathon Plus tires. The tires withstood everything the road threw at them. I ceased using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires upon my acquisition of the 2015 ICE Full Fat backcountry trike, only because Schwalbe does not manufacture a Marathon Plus tire in the 26×4.80 size. The following report documents the 2015 results of using the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim knobby tire, Mr. Tuffy tire liners, and Schwalbe fat tire inner tubes.

ICE Full Flat 1

REPORT OF FACTS: Prior to my return home from the ill-fated Mojave Traverse tricycle expedition, an adventure that was abruptly and unexpectedly terminated due to severe and life-threatening weather events, I had the opportunity to ride the new 2015 ICE Full Fat backcountry trike on three short jaunts in the Mojave Desert. The first ride was 4 miles long, the second ride was 3 miles long, and the third ride was 10 miles in duration. Total distance ridden was 17 miles, with about 5 of those miles being on dirt roads, trails, and virgin cross-country desert terrain. I would have ridden more miles on the fun dirt desert roads, but I ran into a problem that finally stopped me.

On that first ride of 4 miles, I did include a minimal amount of virgin desert terrain, perhaps a half mile or so. Upon completion of the ride, a person asked me how much air I was running in my rear tire. I told him about 15 pounds. He said that it looked pretty soft for 15, so I looked back down at the rear tire – air pressure looked to be closer to 2 pounds. In fact, the tire had begun separating from the rim. Sure enough, I had just suffered my first flat tire on a tricycle, after six flat-free years! Undaunted, my head convinced me it must just be a fluke – probably picked up a nail – removed it all from trike – no nail – no evidence of puncture but for a nearly invisible little hole where air was hissing out if I pumped some in. I patched it, put it all back on the trike, and came out the next morning to see the rim on the pavement again. Bummer. This time, I put in a new tube. Good to go! Front tires still okay. Good thing I had included three spare Schwalbe tubes in my expedition kit. Still had two new tubes in reserve.

ICE Full Flat 5

Tumbleweed thorns, known as goatheads, easily penetrate the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim!

On the second ride of 3 miles, I only rode on two-track dirt roads. I did not head out over virgin desert terrain. This was the day I was filming for what was to become my “TRICYCLE” movie (click HERE to see it). I returned from the ride with three tubes still full of air. Next morning, the tires were still doing fine. Okay, that first ride was a one-time experience, I thought. Now I’m going to have some fun out here!

On the third ride of 10 miles, my goal was to see how well this ICE Full Fat could do on dirt roads that had deep sand pockets here and there. Riding along the bone-dry Mojave River, my thighs were being hammered by the undulating ups and downs in the road, which was also covered with enough sand to make forward progress quite challenging. But, the Full Fat kept on making headway as long as I kept applying power to the pedals – amazing! I never in my former wildest dreams imagined that I could ever pedal a tricycle through this kind of terrain – it was awesome – I was proceeding rather slowly, but I was still in the seat and pedaling. Trikes had finally entered a new arena where the sky is the limit (depending on one’s strength and endurance, of course). Speed was not on my mind. I was blown away that this new fatrike was capable of such travel. Yep, ICE nailed it with this design! I had absolutely NO reservations of spending close to ten grand for a tricycle!

Mojave Bigfoot 04

The ICE Full Fat, with tires full of wonderful air! Yee Haa, what a thrill ride!

On this third ride, there was only one spot about 7 feet long that I actually had to dismount and walk it through, as the sand was just way too deep for pedaling. Even so, I realized that I was loving this trike! And by the way, it is SOOO very comfortable on the pavement, with its huge balloon tires and full suspension – like pedaling a recliner chair. I highly recommend this recumbent tricycle for those seeking real adventure!

Of course, I was so hyped by this ICE Full Fat’s superior ability that I had to take it to the next level – I like to find limits, and then exceed them whenever possible. So, off the old sandy dirt road I pedaled, heading across virgin Mojave Desert like a champ, dodging gullies, circling rocks, and finding the path of least resistance through the untold millions of bushes that eventually become what we commonly know as tumbleweeds. I was in a sea of tumbleweeds. I realized that these bushes, that look so cuddly from a distance, are actually goathead colonies … every branch of the dense bush literally covered from ground to tip with one spiky goathead atop the other. If you put your hand into one, it will be the last time you do it!

Tumbleweed

Upon return from the ride, feeling triumphant that the ICE Full Fat could conquer just about anything, I was totally stoked and applauding Inspired Cycle Engineering for their utter brilliance! I was in heaven, realizing that now I was no longer limited to paved roadways, where the annoying constant drone of automobile tires kept my ears company while it deadened what’s left of my thinking brain. Nature is awesome.

My delirious elation was soon tempered however, when I discovered the rear tire was bulging way more than it should have. Within five minutes, the rear was totally flat. I grabbed the rear rack pull handle, lifted slightly, and pulled the trike backwards into the garage where I was staying. Okay, that’s a bummer, but I’ll fix it tomorrow, I thought. I got a drink of ice water inside, and returned to assess the tire a few minutes later. My eyes beheld a sight of unimaginable horror. I could have then renamed my trike an ICE Full Flat – yep … ALL THREE TIRES WERE FLAT AS A PANCAKE! I was so dumbfounded as I realized that I only had two more spare inner tubes. The tires had uncountable little goathead thorns embedded all over them – the thorns stuck in the knobby areas of the tires did no harm, but the thorns stuck in the smooth tire carcass between the knobs (by far the majority terrain of the tires) were all firmly doing their damage. Right then and there, my flame went out, and I resigned myself that I would not be doing any further riding in the Mojave Desert this year, and once back home a new solution was to be found.

ICE Full Flat 6

A truly horrific sight to behold after sixty minutes of desert riding!

What I really found interesting was the fact that each tire had a Mr. Tuffy tire liner carefully installed between the inner portion of the tire and the vulnerable tube! On that final ride, where I pedaled across about a mile of virgin desert floor, not only did the three tires fail to protect the tube, but also did the tire liners. Hmm. So that’s basically the end of this little drama. Four flat tires occurred over the course of 17 miles of riding, with virgin terrain amounting to perhaps four miles at the outside. The dirt roads were not the problem, rather the contact with the tumbleweeds.

CONCLUSIONS BASED ON THE EVIDENCE: I purchased this ICE Full Fat for my ultimate human-powered freedom machine. It delivers in spades! ICE has pioneered new ground, and unquestionably leads the pack with their superior vehicle. None of what I have explained in this account is a negative reflection on Inspired Cycle Engineering. They got it RIGHT! The failures that led to the end of my riding time while in the Mojave Desert fall squarely on two companies: Schwalbe and Mr. Tuffy.

Here are some thoughts I find amazing: 1) This trike is designed for backcountry exploration, yet the Schwalbe tire company makes an inferior tire for terrain that is many times more demanding than that found on pavement with my former Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. 2) Even the reportedly invincible Mr. Tuffy tire liners did not stop the goatheads once the thorns breached the lightweight tire carcass. To come back from one ride that lasted about an hour and a half with all three tires flat is, in my humble opinion anyway, absolutely unacceptable! I am not interested in any rhetoric from Schwalbe that to build a desert-worthy tire, such as the Marathon Plus in the 26×4.80 fat tire size, would make it too heavy! NO EXCUSES SCHWALBE – STEP UP TO THE PLATE AND MAKE A FUNCTIONAL TIRE! What good is a superior trike with inferior tires?

ICE Full Flat 2 ICE Full Flat 3 ICE Full Flat 4

Three tires worthless after one short ride in the Mojave Desert!

Schwalbe makes both the best cycling tire on the planet and the worst cycling tire on the planet. I suppose to the company’s credit, it could be argued that since the fat tire market is so new, they simply rushed into production a tire that looked aggressive and tough, and maybe now they will learn the lesson and get to work designing a true off-road tire that actually allows a backcountry explorer to fully explore without fear of not making it back. What has this taught me? Most significantly, I now realize that I CANNOT depend on Schwalbe to get me back home! To say I’m gun-shy at this point is a gross understatement. Of course, I could opt to avoid desert terrain, and simply ride dirt roads, staying clear of anything that hints of thorns, but why would I choose to do that? I never worried with my Schwalbe Marathon Plus! Four flats – crazy!

I seek a tire that rises to the same level of ultimate superiority and domination that the trike itself enjoys. Imagine if all four tires on 4×4 Jeep vehicles went flat in less than ten miles of backcountry exploration – the customers would not stand for such a thing, and Jeep sales would suffer if no tire company could make a worthy tire. There is no fun to be had fixing flat tires, literally every 5 miles. Why do bicyclists accept this notion that flats are normal? Because they have been sold a bill of goods. But with Schwalbe’s Marathon Plus tire, it has been made abundantly clear that cyclists do not have to put up with flat tires. This Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 fat tire is so thin that I can actually wad it up with my bare hands when flat! It is the most worthless tire I could imagine. The company is riding on reputation with this Jumbo Jim, figuring that most riders will not use it for genuine tough going, and hoping that it’s “macho” appearance will sell the inferior product. You can fool some of the people all of the time.

1975 Jeep CJ5

My trusty 1975 Jeep CJ-5 never failed me. Only one flat tire during a ten year period!

Then, there is the coveted Mr. Tuffy tire liner. Surely, I initially figured that even though the Schwalbe Jumbo Jims were not Marathon Plus quality by any stretch of the imagination, that the Mr. Tuffy liners would save the day. After all, the Mr. Tuffy tire liner company states: “Tire Liners (aka Tube Protectors) shield against punctures from thorns, glass, and road debris – the nemesis of every bicyclist. When a thorn or piece of glass attempts to penetrate the Mr. Tuffy liner it comes up against a surface that is both hard and elastic. The object pushes against the surface which gives way while resisting initial penetration. Mr. Tuffy grinds a thorn into sawdust and broken glass into sand.” (boldface emphasis by Mr. Tuffy – read their claims HERE). Lest anyone think that a stray thorn breached the sidewall of the Jumbo Jim tires, the offending breaches on the first of my four flats were directly on the tread that contacts the road – not on the sidewall. The Mr. Tuffy box even says: “RIDE FLAT FREE!”

When I removed the three Mr. Tuffy tire liners after all these flats, I ran my hand across the interior portion of each liner, the side that contacts the inner tube. What I felt was ample evidence to realize that the liners did not accomplish their intended job of protecting the delicate inner tube. On each of the tube-side of the liners, my hand contacted numerous tiny thorns that had penetrated all the way through, and had consequently punctured the tube. These were little thorns too, not big thick ones, and they left so many holes in the Schwalbe inner tubes that to attempt patching them all would have simply been a waste of time. Lesson #2: Convert to a tubeless tire setup from here on out!

At this point in time, I do NOT recommend Mr. Tuffy tire liners. In my situation, all they did was add weight to the trike. This added weight would have been acceptable to me if they successfully prevented a thorn breach that the inferior tires let through, but considering that the liners were not effective, I see no need for them. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh … without the Mr. Tuffy tire liners, the multiple flats might have occurred sooner, actually stranding me out there – at least I made it back to the garage (barely) before all the air was lost. So, perhaps Mr. Tuffys are simply time extenders.

ICE Full Fat Mr Tuffy 3

I initially I installed the Mr. Tuffy liners with high hopes. Things just didn’t work out. Notice that on the green Mr. Tuffy box, it says: “RIDE FLAT FREE!”

Last, and probably least, is the question of the inner tube itself. Kenda makes an ultra heavy duty tube called the Q-Tube, which is highly thorn resistant. It is no guarantee, but at least you can feel the difference is thickness when comparing it to a typical Kenda bicycle tube, which is pretty close to worthless junk in any situation beyond smooth pavement. As with Schwalbe, Kenda makes both the best and worst tubes on the market! What are they thinking?

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: My initial thoughts that night after discovering three flat tires after a couple of miles of virgin desert riding was wondering what good this awesome backcountry trike was if I couldn’t actually use it to explore the remote and wild natural world I so much adore. It was a conundrum. Here I have this very expensive piece of off-road equipment called the ICE Full Fat, but then the tire industry produces inferior products – and without quality tires, tubes, and/or liners, I can’t go anywhere with confidence! So where do I go from here?

Another disturbing thought also crossed my mind the next day after the flats: My long planned Mojave Traverse expedition was aborted unexpectedly at the last possible minute before I headed out into extremely remote and hazardous territory due to a freak and unpredicted regional storm deluge. What if the weather had been as predicted, and I actually had departed into some of the most remote and inhospitable terrain know to humans? I had three spare Schwalbe inner tubes in my trike’s emergency supply kit, along with one full spare tire (made by another company other than Schwalbe). Based on the experience I had during these three rides discussed in this article, I now feel that I would have been heading into a potential death trap out there, quickly using up all my patching material and spare tubes.

The spare tire I had for that expedition was a Vee Tire Company “Bulldozer” model, a 26×4.70 gnarly knobby tire that looks even tougher than the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim. Keep in mind that I have never used this Bulldozer tire, but from simply handling it, it does seem more rugged than that Jumbo Jim. I initially was going to mount Vee Tires all around on the Full Fat, but ICE threw in the Jumbo Jims gratis, and based on my former experience with Schwalbe, I figured I would just go ahead and give the Jumbo Jims the ultimate run for their money across the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. Clearly, the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires are as close to worthless as one can imagine when riding over ground with thorns! Do NOT BE FOOLED by their “tough” outward appearance – they are lambs in disguise! The rubber carcass is so thin you would be shocked! I certainly was.

The Schwalbe Jumbo Jims are now history as far as I’m concerned. I will never run this tire again – four flats in 17 miles of mostly dirt and paved roads proves an inferior product rushed into production without proper or extensive testing. Reputation only goes so far. Schwalbe will have to once again earn my respect if they wish to see their fat tires on my trike! Actually, I really do hope they step up to the plate and make a Marathon Plus tough tire for off-road adventurers (it is more needed off-road than on the pavement, so should be better). If Schwalbe continues to offer only this tire, I will be sorely disappointed. I absolutely do NOT recommend the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tire if you are serious about heading out into the remote backcountry!

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS: The Vee Tire Company Bulldozer tire will be the next rubber on the drive wheel of my ICE Full Fat, with Vee V-8 tires on the front. The more tire tread that is composed of traction knobs rather than open empty space, the less chance thorns will do their dastardly deeds. Jumbo Jims are full of thin empty space, whereas Vee tires have much more thick rubber in the form of traction knobs covering their tires.

When I first acquired this ICE Full Fat backcountry trike, the dealer Mark Waters of Backcountry Recumbent Cycles recommended that I put some chemical flat tire liquid into the tubes to prevent flats from thorns. Since I have used tire liners with my former Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, I opted for the liner solution over Mark’s chemical option. Of course in retrospect, his potential solution seems like it may have been a wiser choice, but unless I eventually try it myself, I will not know.

There is another potential solution, and that is the idea of going tubeless. My good cycling friend Matt Jensen pleaded with me for weeks leading up to the Mojave Traverse expedition to go tubeless, using a tire sealant compound inside each tire. Matt has been riding his Motobecane Lurch fatbike all over for months now, with not one flat tire! He is convinced that tubeless is the ultimate answer for reliability. As has occurred in the past six years when Matt has given me advice I did not heed, I am now thinking the better of my decision to remain with a tube setup. We shall see.

I LOVE my ICE Full Fat, and hope to keep it from becoming an ICE Full Flat!

~

ICE FULL FAT VERSUS JEEP CJ5: My head comes back to this comparison simply because it is fully relevant to my situation of backcountry exploration. I wish to compare the rugged and time-tested Jeep to the new ICE Full Fat. My old Jeep was set up in a way that exceeds the current Jeep Rubicon legendary performance capabilities. I had large tires with traction treads that got me over the roughest backroads I could find. The Jeep allowed me to successfully explore California’s Mojave Desert from north to south and east to west. During a period of ten years with the Jeep, I only had one flat tire, and that was caused by a sharp metal shard. NEVER did goathead thorns flatten any of my Jeep tires! If I were to apply the same comparison with my Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires to my Jeep, it would be roughly equivalent to me having all four tires of my Jeep go flat within each 60 to 90 minute time period. I could not imagine having to repair four flat tires on my Jeep every hour and a half – that would really ruin my backcountry experience!

Let’s consider the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. They are known for designing and manufacturing superior tires, just as Schwalbe is known for designing and manufacturing superior tires with their Marathon Plus line. Imagine for a moment if Goodyear produced a tire meant for Jeep Rubicon vehicles exploring the wilds, except that instead of using the same superior quality they do in their road tires, they used an exceptionally thin walled rubber that could not withstand goathead thorns! Would serious Jeep enthusiasts buy that tire? Of course they would not! If a Jeep was stopped within 90 minutes of total travel time with four flats, word would immediately spread that the tires were absolutely worthless!

So why is Schwalbe producing tires for backcountry exploration that fail consistently if they leave two-track dirt roads and head cross country through virgin terrain? They make the tires look tough as nails with the aggressive knobby tread. They hype the tire to buyers based on its huge size. They are careful however to limit their discussion to snow and sand (was this intentional?). Here is what Schwalbe says about the tire on their website: “BIGGER IS BETTER. This is especially true if you want to cycle in deep snow or loose sand. In these conditions only large volume combined with extremely low air pressure can help. Schwalbe‘s Jumbo Jim is an extremely light-bike Fat Tire. In the usual Fat-Bike 4 inch width, it weighs less than 1000 g Alternatively, it is also available in extra wide 4.80 inches.”

Schwalbe seems very concerned about remaining as lightweight as possible in that description, boasting that it weighs less than 1000 grams. Personally, I prefer a tire that gets the job done and gets me back home safely, regardless of weight, rather than one that fails consistently to keep me in the game. What good is a lightweight tire when you are stranded in the middle of nowhere with flats on each wheel? People who are outback adventurers may not be so weight conscious as road bike racers are. The goals are completely different: speed versus exploration. I would like to see Schwalbe boasting about the Jumbo Jim reliability and toughness rather than their current direction.

Initially, I certainly felt confident about the tires based on the company’s solid reputation, and my six-year experience with their Marathon Plus line. When in sand, they performed well for me. Truth is, this tire is functional in snow and sand, but DO NOT take it across a desert under ANY circumstances! Thorns destroy this tire so quickly your head will spin.

Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tire

This Jumbo Jim may look tough and rugged, but it is a lamb in wolf’s clothing! It has no protective belts or carcass strong enough to keep out even the smallest thorns. The tire material is so thin that I can mount and unmount these tires with my bare hands. As it currently stands, this tire is not a serious contender for serious backcountry explorers. Even though it may look like your motorcycle tire, that’s where the similarities end – if these were on a motorcycle, they would be torn to shreds in short order.

ADVICE TO POTENTIAL BACKCOUNTRY EXPLORERS: If you plan to remain on dirt roads, this tire may work for you. However, if you plan on really pushing the limits to your remote journeys as I do, this Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tire WILL leave you stranded, even if you have extra tubes in your emergency kit. Punctures and flats happen so frequently that you will quickly deplete your supply of spare inner tubes! Weekend Warriors who keep things pretty tame, or who enjoy cruising main street to show off their monster trikes, will do fine with the Schwalbe Jumbo Jim. Just keep an eye out for those sneaky thorns – don’t ride through any accumulation of fall leaves on the ground either, as sometimes goatheads have been known to reside under the gorgeous leaf covering. If you want an easy tire to change, this is it, as this tire is so darn pliable that it’s a snap working with it!

SCHWALBE JUMBO JIM 26X4.80 FAT TIRE:

PROS:

Looks tough and impressive – works well in sand and snow – super easy to mount on or remove from the rim – folds up small for carrying a spare – Schwalbe lettering on sidewall is impressive – does the job for most occasional backcountry riders who stay on roads or well-used trails – carry spare inner tubes and patch material even if using for light-duty riding just in case.

CONS:

Extremely thin carcass not able to withstand a breach by even the smallest goathead thorns – so much non-treaded open space (area between the traction knobs) that most thorns embed directly into the vulnerable thin skin rather than the impervious knobs, thereby puncturing the inner tube – no built-in layers of tire protection that prevent thorns from reaching the tube, as found in the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire – not a functional tire for those serious about extensively exploring remote outback where dirt roads end – requires rider to carry as many spare tubes as will fit in the emergency kit, along with multiple patches, and a working ability by the rider to repair or change inner tubes – thin lightweight carcass more vulnerable to sidewall damage or breach by sharp objects than a Marathon Plus tire.

WILL SCHWALBE LISTEN AND RESPOND?

I am but one guy in a sea of folks who ride fatrikes and fatbikes. Watching the online video of people who use this new breed of cycle, it appears many of them are out for a whopping good time in a limited setting, and if that market has no quarrel with this tire, then Schwalbe will likely continue to produce it as is. Folks who live in desert regions, where thorns reside in abundance around every corner, will eventually experience the same failures as I did. It is all a numbers game with large manufacturing firms – if the monetary income numbers justify a continuance of the current tire, then it will probably remain as is. Only if enough people with ongoing puncture issues speak up would anything change. I suspect I am in a very tiny minority, thus change may not occur. I did not buy my fatrike for simply weekend thrills, but rather to replace a petroleum powered Jeep, so I could use it in real life just as I did my Jeep. I do not baby the vehicle by keeping it on hard packed dirt roads all the time, or in snow or sand. I use it to explore where my call of the wild leads me, and having to alter that because goathead thorns might be out there is not an option … period! I want a no-compromise tire for my no-compromise trike! I simply do not care if it weighs a little more – the peace of mind is worth it!

Perhaps a way Schwalbe can “save face” on this one is to simply put into production a genuinely functional backcountry tire for serious explorers like myself, perhaps naming it the Jumbo Jim Plus. That way, both markets can coexist side by side. I would most definitely use Jumbo Jim Plus tires IF they reach the same superior standard set by the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire (which stops goatheads in their tracks – a true flat-free tire). There is a world awaiting out there, and I do not want to be limited because of flimsy tires! Come-on Schwalbe … let’s do this right! Thanks!

NOTE TO SCHWALBE DESIGNERS:

You have designed a tire that leads potential users to believe it is a rugged tire capable of getting them into the wilds and back again. The aggressive appearance of the Jumbo Jim clearly shouts this to fat tire cycle adventurers. However, there is more to building a tire than creating one that will sell itself based on appearance …

If you have not already done so, I invite you to learn about an expedition I was on the verge of taking, one where my objective was to pedal an ICE Full Fat clear across the Mojave Desert, the same desert that brought about the failures discussed in this article. Click here to learn about the Mojave Traverse backcountry cycling adventure. Why is this important information for you to understand as a tire designer? Very simple: my life was about to be at risk by attempting the passage. Tires are where the vehicle contacts the ground. If the tires lead to failure, as demonstrated here, not only would the expedition fail, but a life could have been lost. The Mojave Traverse was to be an unsupported journey of 410 miles, 48% of which was off pavement. I had no automobile backup. I was going to be on my own. In the best of circumstances, it would have been very risky!

The only reason this trek did not occur was due to severe life-threatening weather events that flooded and devastated much of the route. It was called off the morning of departure based on the available evidence. I was about to embark on a dangerous ride on Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tires. I had packed 3 spare inner tubes, thinking that surely I would not need all of them, if any. Why did I think this? Because I have been using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for six years with NO flats. I had faith in your brand name, your company, you as designers of capable tires.

You see, designing a tire means more than simply making one that weekend warriors on day rides close to home can use, where if they did get a flat, it would be inconvenient, but probably not life threatening. If a tire shouts aggressive adventure, as your Jumbo Jim does due to its appearance, people like me, who trust a company like Schwalbe, will head out into adventures where equipment failure could be fatal. This is serious business here! You may respond that the Jumbo Jim was meant for just soft snow and sand, but please understand that it appears to be capable of more than that. If desert travel was not designed into your tire (which it clearly was not), then a disclaimer should accompany your advertising to warn potential users like myself not to run your Jumbo Jim on my trike for a remote and hazardous expedition.

It is my hope that by reading this end-note, you will reach a higher level of awareness regarding who uses your tire and for what purposes. Had you tested the Jumbo Jim in desert cross-country terrain, you would have quickly discovered, as I did, that they are not worthy of rugged off-road terrain. As I ponder how this all played out, I am relieved that the severe weather system of mid-October 2015 in the Mojave Desert brought my plans to a sudden and unexpected halt. Had I proceeded as planned, I now realize that I would have quickly exhausted my spare inner tube supply, and would have been seriously stranded in territory that has claimed many lives over the years. I was about to embark on an adventure that could have been my last.

A great responsibility rests on your shoulders. I hope that has become apparent through reading this entire article, and learning about how I was poised to use your Jumbo Jim tires in a very serious way, that a classy a looking design and some slick advertising to folks who want to play in the snow or sand on fat tire cycles is only the tip of the iceberg. If you are going to market this design at this low level of quality (compared to your Marathon Plus tire), you owe the cycling public an explanation of the tire’s limits, which, as we have now learned, are quite restricted. It is not an all-purpose off-road tire by any means. Tell your customers please!

It is also my hope that you will step up to the plate and design a Jumbo Jim Plus tire, with all the rugged durability I have come to expect from the Marathon Plus tire. Off-road backcountry riding subjects a tire to MUCH more abuse than a road tire, thus must be even more rugged than the Marathon Plus street tire. Will it be heavier? Sure, but guess what … I will make it through the expedition alive! Weight is insignificant when weighed against one’s life!

So, I now have an offer for you, dated November 25, 2015:

Send me three Jumbo Jim Plus prototype tires when they are ready, and I will happily test them for you, and I guarantee a non-biased evaluation. If they work, I will sing the praises from the mountaintops, as I have done for the past six years with your Marathon Plus tire. So, let me know when you’re ready to rock and roll!

Mojave Bigfoot 01

This is what I’m talking about: a Full Fat, not a Full Flat! Can it happen?

~

NOTE: This article may be read at any future time on the following pages:

Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tire report (under the MORE main menu)

Avoid Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 fat tires (under the SteveStuff main menu)

Bigfoot Issues (under the SteveStuff main menu, then Bigfoot submenu)

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About trike hobo

Steve Greene is a naturalist, philosopher, and teller of tales. He pursues absolute truth in all things, modifying his existence as supported by legitimate evidence. His ideological foundation rests on the respect of life, as he follows a path of health, serenity, and maximum functional longevity. He has authored ten books, and is a noted authority on Death Valley National Park, human powered recumbent cycle touring, fitness and longevity, and professional law enforcement. Steve has not owned a petroleum powered automobile since 2008, as part of his environmental preservation paradigm. He eats a vegan diet, exercises regularly, and enjoys exploring the wilderness. Harmony with nature tops his priorities. To learn more about Steve, please visit: http://wildsteve.wordpress.com
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9 Responses to Product Performance Report: Schwalbe & Mr. Tuffy

  1. This does not surprise me. This is exactly what I would expect looking at a FAT tire. They are designed to be low pressure and soft pliable tires so they have to be made like they are. As you well know the Marathon Plus tires are quite stiff and a bit heavier compared to their other tires. Making a FAT tire like that would totally change the characteristics a FAT tire is known for. If there is an answer to this I would be very surprised. Yep, the very first time I looked at a FAT tire my thought was immediately … flats galore. As to the Mr. Tuffy liners failing to prevent flats that does not surprise me either. I never have been all that impressed with them. As you probably know there are those who report that they get flats from goatheads using Marathon Plus tires.

  2. Marcel says:

    Hi Steve,

    so sorry to hear about your misfortune. Maybe a good thing the weather stopped you from going on your wild tour through the desert.

    Right now the easiest I can think of, is that you try out slime in your innertubes. I have used Schwalbe Doc Blue with good results with Schwalbe Marathons on my Greenspeed GT3. Best with a schrader valve, but a french valve should also work when it is from Schwalbe (I read somewhere).

    Or you can try putting “something” as an inner layer yourself. I am often amazed what I can find via Google, what people “invent” to make something better and most of all cheaper than what you can buy in the shops.

    In the future I hope there comes a solution for this and not something heavy and stiff like the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. Perhaps a tire with flexible closed cell foam in an extra layer on the outside. Foam on the outside and air on the inside. Even better something exchangeable to minimise cost. Not likely to happen in this capatalist world I think ;) It could be a dealbraeker for me considering the enormous cost of buying a fat trike.

    All the best.

  3. Alonzo L Savage (Trike rebel) says:

    Hi Steve,
    Clearly the ICE Full Fat is a superb machine as are all of the ICE trikes. I think that it is quite likely that ICE will rethink their choice of tyre. Like you Steve, I have ridden Schwalbe marathon plus tyres flat free for seven years now and that is without tough tubes and tyre liners. I am so disappointed that the fat tyre is of such poor quality. Then again close inspection shows an awful lot of knobble free tyre surface. It is fortunate that the weather stopped your expedition otherwise we would probably never heard from you again. This tyre problem is a serious one for ALL buyers of Full Fat style trikes although I guess such riders are not too obsessed with tyre weight, if they are then they need, like me and some other trike riders, to lose a pound or two of body weight. I’ll be looking closely at my Schwalbe Mad Mike BMX front tyres that I use for dirt/trail riding and maybe I will fit tyre liners as I’ve done with the rear Continental tyre.
    Do keep us posted on your tyre solutions Steve.

  4. Down Wind Dan says:

    Man oh Man, that’s a long blog !

  5. David Blakeman says:

    Goat heads have been the thorn in my tire since my childhood (60 years ago). But they don’t come from the tumble weed. They come from a ground hugging plant with small dark green rounded leaves, and little five petal yellow flowers, that produce a cluster of thorns. These breakup into the thorns that have plagued me all my life.
    The cure that I have used here in the desert of Arizona is an old nylon seat belt placed between the tube and the tire and a 4 to 6 ounces of Slime per tire. Haven’t had a flat since. The belt prevents the thorn from reaching the tube, the Slime seals the occasional thorn that is long enough to work through the belt.

  6. Bob Devlin says:

    Steve,

    So sorry to hear about your desert weather and now the flat issue. Although I am still dreaming of an off road trike, think I will wait until you have figured out all the bugs. BTW, I did have a flat on a marathon plus but over many, many miles and I still swear by them.

    Are there off road trails in Florence that don’t have goatheads?

    Bob

  7. As I have been running on my Q-4 on a daily bases, I have had no problems with my tires ( Surly Lou’s 4.8 ) and have driven almost all type roadways, trails, and beach thus far, I have no complaint as my tires are performing, without any regrets whatsoever…! I do realize that surly tires are some what more expensive. than the schwalbe Marathon Plus tires.. And I hate to use the old adage that you get what you pay for… Because I have previously used Schwalbe tires, and had no troubles with them in the past, but with one minor exception if you can call it minor.. I use a local trail which has been paved with concrete, and shell mixture, which is common, and is used almost everywhere, here in Florida, and had been riding a regular, 2 wheel, what we call a beach cruiser here in Florida, and was going down this very same path which is lined on both sides with yellow pine trees, and as I was going along at a pretty good speed, when I seen this pine cone just like drop right in front, of my front tire, and because it had happened at such an instance, where I could not maneuver around it, I had run over it, and it wobbled, I am guessing, but which blew out my front tire as well, and kind of threw me forward, and to the left face forward where I tried to break my fall as I reacted before thought had been processed, and landed on my wrist, and broke it… But the point being, that after I have fallen, and was in pain from my wrist, and almost every other part of my body, and I should not have been on a bicycle in the first place, because of all my medical problems… But I managed to crawl over, and used one of the pine trees to help me off the ground, because there is hardly anyone traveling down this road at most times who could have helped me… But to make a long story short, I brushed myself off and picked up the pine cone, and it seemed rather smooth then corse which I had been expecting… So I dragged the bike home the 3.5 mi. and after sitting on my door stoop for what seemed like forever I inspected the tire, and had noticed it was ripped down the center, and about 3″ in. in length.. So I just attributed this disaster, to be of a freak accident, and which could have happened to anyone.. After which I had my neighbor drive me over to the hospital to have my hand, and wrist casted because the doctor had said that I had several cracked bones , but I also had a couple of severely broken bones which had to be re set… Now back to the tire, I have been, as I stated before, had used the schwalbe tire before, and after the incident, and never did I have a problem with them, and if it were not for the fact that I wanted to use the Q-4 more off road, then on I would have more than likely used them again with, or without the thorn barrier… I just have a hard time understanding how all the tires had failed, and I believe you had said were 4 in total.. ! What is going to be your next course of action, will you be contacting Schwalbe tires, and let them know what had happened, because it sounds as if you had gotten a few tires, in which may have been faulty rather than the bike’s fault, your , and or the terrain in which you had been traveling…! It could be, if all tires were bought at the same time, a bad run of tires that had slipped passed the quality inspector, and is in need to warn others, of this problem, as well as maybe compensating you for the monies lost from the purchase of these tires… Also and not just by you bringing this to their attention may even save someone’s life…! As this could be a potential killer sitting silently awaiting that moment in time, where some unexpected, and, or experienced rider to come along and to be a victim of this potential killer… Either way, I believe it to be a serious issue, and believe it be an issue, to which, I would make the effort to contact Schwalbe Tires… That’s me though..!
    Armadillozack

  8. wild steve says:

    I just removed the three Schwalbe Jumbo Jim 26×4.80 tires, the Mr. Tuffy tire liners, and the Schwalbe inner tubes from the ICE Full Fat. The trike is now up on a platform for a bit. Inspection of the Mr. Tuffy tire liners revealed goathead thorns protruding through to the tube side of the liner, thus the liners were breached. Regarding tumbleweeds, at least here in this part of the Mojave Desert, the Tribulus terrestris plant, which commonly is referred to as having goatheads due to the shape of the fruit prior to it drying into the hard thorny spikes, does indeed detach from the root system and ground, and is then blown throughout the desert landscape. Interestingly, as I was working on the trike a couple of days ago, one of these dried plants blew into the garage, about the size of a basketball – there were hundreds of goatheads on it. When I refer to tumbleweeds, it is a layman’s reference, so I simply call any dried desert plant that blows and tumbles across the desert as a tumbleweed.

  9. Glen says:

    Stwvw, One possible solution may be to use Moped Tires. Since the problem seems to be the tire carcass, moped tires come in various sizes and have a heavier build to them to cope with the extra weight & speed. These guys might be able to help – check out the tires.http://www.shinkotireusa.com/tires/off-road/trials-trail

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