Schwalbe Big Apple K-Guard — wire bead balloon bike tire — 28 x 2.00 inch — a review

© 2019 Peter Free


22 April 2019



Photograph of side wall of Schwalbe Big Apple K-Guard bike tire.


Photograph of Scwalbe Big Apple K-Guard bike tire tread. 


Why this review?


Reviews of Schwalbe's — Big Apple K-Guard wire bead, balloon bike tires — are (virtually always) favorable.


Mine, below, contains a few cautions.



Test conditions


I have a pair of these in 28 x 2.00 size on a 2013 Trek Cobia 29er.


I have been using the tires the way that some people, who mix commuting with very mildly less-than-perfect conditions, might.



Yes, the tires are comfortable


They are also slightly faster than knobby mountain bike tires. I notice the difference more going uphill, than I do on the flat.


Other than those two benefits, the Big Apple K-Guards don't have much to offer, if safety and practicality are concerns.



The negatives


The biggest negative to the Big Apples is that they are lousy, even occasionally dangerous, under wet conditions.


These are the worst in-the-wet tires that I have ever used. That's based on experience gathered during (too many) decades of riding a wide variety of terrains and surface conditions.


Even 23c road racing tires are markedly superior. Their tiny contact patches transmit concentrated pressure to the ground. The Big Apples, in contrast, distribute friction more widely and at less pressure. They often don't overcome water's contribution to slickness.



Surface conditions in south Texas — highlight these tires' flaws


This is limestone country.


Bits of smooth limestone gravel sometimes comprise part of road and trail blacktop aggregates here. When such surfaces get wet, even from dew, they are slicker than many might anticipate.


The terrain (that I ride) further highlights the tires' shortcomings:



The immediate locale is active floodplain.


And I ride a couple of very short, but noticeably steep hills that climb out of it.



This small area is an aged, creekside water reclamation project. A complex of deteriorating paved paths cross it. Cracks frequently show heavy grass and weed invasions.


Photograph of weeds in cracks of deteriorating paved path taken for Schwalbe Big Apple bike tire review.


The rest of the tracks, mostly put there by maintenance trucks, cross open dirt and grass-weedy vegetation.


This floodplain is subject to frequent flooding. Flooding and runoff deposit thin layers of mud and silt in a few spots. Big Apple tires don't cope well with either.


Below are some pictures of the ordinary surfaces that Big Apples don't like wet. And sometimes even dry. Dry loose silt, mixed with changes in bike direction, can challenge their ability to maintain traction.


Photograph of mud and debris that Schwalbe Big Apple tires do not cope particularly well with.


Photograph of mostly dried mud that Schwalbe Big Apple bike tires don't like when it is wet.


Photograph of mud-filled dip that Schwalbe Big Apple tires will slip in.


Even for someone accustomed to riding on snow and across patches of ice, these surprising slips can be disconcerting under such unremarkable surface conditions.



Then there's the uphill problem


Two of the steeper hills here are noticeably slanted by any bike rider's standards. If you don't pay attention to weight distribution, your front wheel comes off the ground.


The Big Apples completely lose traction, when the paths going up are wet. Even from dew. Vegetation on these paths also causes the tires to break loose. The rear wheel spins under power. Velocity and momentum drop to zero.


Getting going again, without toppling over, can be an effort. When I am tired, I usually elect to roll down the hill a bit, turn and retry.


When this happens a few times a day, it can irritate.



The moral? — I would not buy Schwalbe Big Apples again


If all I did was ride on dry flat, paved or concrete terrain — as I suppose true balloon bikers usually do — I might consider them. But I don't and never have. Neither, I imagine, do most of you.


Big Apples' comfort is certainly enticing, even addicting.


But — if you fall and break something — under the ordinarily non-challenging conditions that I have described — the nostalgic balloon tire perception will probably evaporate.


I cannot think of any weather-affected environment that the Big Apple's penchant for unexpected slides would especially suit.


Even without Texas limestone in the road aggregate — leaked automotive oil, ridden in rain, can produce the slippery conditions that these tires do not handle notably competently.



The moral? — Schwalbe Big Apples would not be my first choice


Unless I was a comfort-obsessed, mostly fair weather and flattish ground rider.