Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review: Schwalbe Little Big Ben Tires

schwalbe little big ben

Bicycle tires come in a dizzying array of types and sizes. While it's nice to have such a wide variety to choose from, it can also make the task of selecting the perfect tire quite challenging. My search may have finally ended with the installation of Schwalbe's Little Big Ben tires.

Schwalbe introduced the Big Ben a while back as a cousin to their popular Big Apples. Although I liked the look and design of both models, they were too big for my purposes. Fortunately for me, somebody at Schwalbe came up with the idea of a smaller version of the Big Ben, and the Little Big Ben was born.

Naturally, the Big Ben line was designed for the streets of London, but they will take you much further than that. I think it's safe to say these tires will get you through any city with comfort and confidence. They seem to be quite durable, so road debris no longer appears intimidating, and they are big enough to provide some cushion on worn and choppy roads. The reflective strip provides an additional measure of security for night riding. The tires also perform well on packed dirt, and they have me steering towards it much more than I used to. I will also be putting them to the test as touring tires very soon.

The tradeoff for all the comfort and versatility is a bit of weight and rolling resistance. Speed demons and gram counters should look elsewhere, although they probably wouldn't be looking at these tires in the first place. For me, it is not an issue. I like to take my time and enjoy the scenery, and I really don't like repairing flats. Still, I don't feel slow on them either. The times when I have felt these tires really shine have been on long, steep descents on paved roads. I can go plenty fast, and these tires feel very solid and sure-footed at high speed, which is very confidence inspiring. They take all the worry out of a steep descent and put me into a state of pure fun.

The Little Big Bens seem like just the right size for a Cross Check. Not too wide, and not too narrow. They are labeled at 40mm in width and I'm getting about 36mm actual width on the stock Alex rims. There is still plenty of room for fenders as well.

For whatever reason, these tires are not carried by many US retailers, so I ordered mine direct from the Schwalbe website. The ordering process, communication, and delivery time were all top notch. Whomever is in charge of direct sales at Schwalbe is doing a bang-up job.

As it turns out, I am not the only fan of these tires. Rivendell Bikes had this to say about them:

When we got the samples, we were all agog, because we all had the same ridiculous reaction: This tire is Perfect. It’s obviously the Perfect tire. Why do we even sell anything else?

High praise indeed. Good job, Schwalbe.

UPDATE 5/16/13: I've just completed a 500 mile bike tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Even when riding with a load, through all manner of road debris, the Little Big Bens performed flawlessly. No flats and no worries. 

UPDATE 8/1/13: Finally got a flat. Was riding off-pavement and a rather long thorn embedded itself in the front tire. To be fair, I don't think many bicycle tires would have repelled it. So, one flat after about 1000 miles of riding.

cross check little big ben


  1. Did you ride the cross check from San Fran to LA? Were you loaded for touring?

    1. Yes, I did use the Cross Check. It was loaded, but I kept it fairly light. I just posted an entry about the trip, and you can see the loaded Check in the first image.

  2. why were the bigapples not suitable? didnt fit your frame? They roll with twice the ease and seem to be ideal for your touring purposes

    1. I sometimes run fenders, and fitting apples+fenders probably wouldn't happen, or would be extremely hard to do. I had a hard enough time fitting fenders over the LBBs. Thanks for commenting.