SCHWALBE BIG BETTY AND MAGIC MARY COMBO REVIEW
Photos by Dusten Ryen
As a disclaimer, Schwalbe sponsored our 2021 eMTB Shootout as the official tire sponsor. No part of that sponsorship contract required us to review the tires after the fact, however, our entire crew was so impressed with the tires aboard all twelve of our test bikes that we decided to risk the ridicule of being called corrupt marketing parrots to share some really awesome tires for those in the market.
Until this year’s shootout we had been rocking the Schwalbe Eddy Current almost exclusively on our personal ebikes. The Eddy Current tires are impressive all around, offer stout sidewalls and plenty of traction on most terrain, so we were a bit bummed when Schwalbe told us they would be shipping out a different combo than we had been used to. Especially since we were not huge fans of Magic Mary’s on hardpack and loose over hard terrain, which our Utah desert test terrain was chock full of. It was apparent right away that the new work to Schwalbe’s rubber compounds have yielded some much better performance from tried-and-true treads, like the Magic Mary.
Along with revamping their compounds Schwalbe added the Big Betty tires to the lineup. For our shootout we ran Schwalbe’s Magic Mary Super Trail casing up front and the Big Betty in the Super Gravity casing on rear. The crew at Schwalbe knew the relatively lightweight combination would be pushed to their limits in the harsh conditions of the Greater Zion, Utah aboard our heavy eMTBs, yet they simply smirked and said, we’ll send extras just in case, but we think you’ll be happy. They were right.
We went through the fine details of Schwalbe’s Addix rubber lineup when it was first released, which you can check out here. The short of it is that Schwalbe put their entire force of 30 engineers to work to create a range of compounds which offer up to 35% more grip while increasing tire life by up to 62%. We opted for the Addix Soft compound which is intended for trail through to enduro bikes and offers impressive damping and grip whilst retaining reasonable durability making it first choice for our daily drivers. To offer the ultimate in grip and control, we ran the 2.6” width on front and rear for all models on test, with both 27.5 and 29” wheeled machines featured.
The Big Bettys that we ran in the rear of our test bikes came spec’d with the Super Gravity casing, which is Schwalbe’s strongest and most puncture resistant casing aside from the full blown Super Downhill. The $94 Super Gravity casing consists of four main carcass layers plus the cut-resistant Snakeskin fabric, with Apex sidewall protection and a Kevlar bead. The result is a durable sidewall that retains some flex and damping, designed to resist punctures on heavy bikes and aggressive riders. The tread on the Big Betty has rectangular center knobs with a long-supported edge to provide increased braking performance, whilst the front sides have subtly ramped faces to reduce rolling resistance. Schwalbe paid special attention to the tightly spaced side lugs, ensuring these blocks were stiff enough to resist collapsing under hard cornering loads and produce a predictable platform. Schwalbe suggests the Big Betty to be suitable for dry to damp conditions, with it forming a perfect partnership with a Magic Mary in the front.
The Magic Mary needs no introduction, being a long time favorite of of many riders and top racers over the years. The $89 Super Trail casing is targeted for a slightly lighter use case, with three carcass layers under the tread and two on the sidewalls. Retained from the Super Gravity construction are the Apex sidewall protection and Snakeskin fabric layers, helping to retain a decent level of toughness. Given the sheer grip on offer, the slightly ramped center knobs allow Mary to provide a reasonable rolling speed, with the aggressive side lugs offering seemingly endless traction across a huge range of conditions. Most notable is the improved support on the shoulders in harder terrain. We’ve picked ourselves off the ground more than once in the past due to Magic Mary side knobs folding over while inside-lining Whistler-packed berms, so we welcome this improvement with open arms.
Fitting the Schwalbe Big Betty and Magic Mary tires to our full fleet of E-MTB test rigs proved to be a struggle at times with their tight tolerances on the beads, but with some perseverance and the occasional profanity we got them mounted and aired up. After 100,000ft of vertical testing in a week on sharp edges and smooth rolls interspersed with high-speed rock gardens, we were astounded to suffer from zero flat tires, despite even destroying two rims. A truly impressive feat for a group of hacks like us, taking some heavy eMTBs to their limits on unfamiliar trails.
Traction and predictability across a wide range of conditions was the standout theme amongst all our test riders. We had one bike show up with tires from another major brand mid-way through testing, and we all felt that we just did not have the confidence that we had become accustomed to on the Schwalbe tire combo. The Magic Mary and Big Betty combination offered consistent grip and cornering confidence throughout testing that left us all very impressed.
For my 170-pound mass, I opted to run 24psi front and 26psi rear on the 2.6” casings, which I found to be the optimum setup to keep the sidewalls soft enough to conform to the trail while not deforming during hard cornering. The soft rubber compound is both sticky and slow enough to rebound that I never felt on the edge of grip and held up reasonably well for the test duration showing only a small amount of wear come the weeks’ end.
The Big Betty on the rear provided a great climbing tire in both 29 and 27.5”, hooking up well across a variety of ground conditions. On the descents, the narrowly spaced side knobs give the rider supreme confidence that the rear will not give out from under them during hard cornering efforts. Braking traction is also impressive, allowing for late braking in all but the muddiest of conditions without losing traction and skidding. The rolling speed of the Big Betty is reasonable, but it would not be our first choice for a tire to take on the longest rides in hardpacked terrain.
As you know, we think the Magic Mary is a great front tire that offers oodles of predictable traction across the full spectrum of conditions and may be as close as we have found to a perfect all round front tire. The only downside we could think of is the slightly slow rolling speed in high-speed smooth sections, and the occasional knob-squirm on the hardest packed corners. These are only minor nuances though, and we struggle to recommend against the Mary for most aggressive riders.
At $183 for the Big Betty and Magic Mary pairing, these Schwalbe offerings sit up at the top of the pricing scale for mountain bike tires, but we believe it is a case of you get what you pay for, with performance and durability to aid in the justification of their price.
The Wolf’s Last Word
In their Big Betty and Magic Mary combination, Schwalbe have produced one of, if not the best all-condition tire combinations on the market for riders seeking excellent traction without a sufferfest of rolling resistance. The pairing of Super Gravity casing on the rear with Super Trail on the front was faultless through a tough week of punishment on E-Bikes, offering impressive durability without a ton of excess weight.
$94 – Big Betty Super Gravity
$89 – Magic Mary Super Trail
1,300g – Big Betty Super Gravity 29×2.6”
1,260g – Magic Mary Super Trail 29×2.6”
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