Tyre test: Schwalbe's Big Betty

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Schwalbe has revived one of its most iconic names, with the Big Betty (Photo: Schwalbe)
Schwalbe has revived one of its most iconic names, with the Big Betty (Photo: Schwalbe)
  • Extra traction on the rear from a tyre with big tread blocks
  • Excellent mud-clearing capability, making it great for loamy trails after some rain
  • Reassuring braking stability, especially on technical descents

The Schwalbe Big Betty evaluated here in 29x2.6” guise is marketed as a rear-specific tyre and comes either in gravity, downhill or in this instance, trail spec.

It was put to good use on our Scott e-bike test mule - also used in an earlier Ride24 mountain- versus e-bike comparison. Its preferred running mate, the Magic Mary is in very limited supply, so it was paired with the next best option upfront, Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf.

Betty’s tread pattern is broadly similar to Mary, but features an extra central row of split lugs to enhance braking. The blocks are cleverly spaced, maximizing traction and mud-clearing, but they are of such a size and shape that you feel like you’re riding up and down the blocks on tar roads or hardpack.

mountain bike
Big Betty is purposed as a rear tyre, with excellent traction when braking down steep trails (Photo: Ride24)

A tyre you can trust, mid-corner

Where the Betty proves its worth, is cornering on singletrack trails, where those lugs deliver a lot of grip and confidence, when leaning the bike. At 1340g the Betty isn’t light, but what's a gram or two when your e-bike already weighs 24kg?

The additional weight promises greater durability and sidewall protection. Schwalbe’s Betty mounted easily on the rim and held pressure well, even before adding the mandatory sealant. For the duration of my testing, I ran them at my preferred pressures of 1.5-bar front and rear.

Testing was carried out at some of the Garden Route’s most popular trails, which included Harkerville - a mixture of loose rocky trails and forest single track with multiple exposed tree roots. I also rode Concordia state forest at Simola, which has some incredibly technical short loops.

In the quest for a testing downhill section, we sent Betty down the Sanparks trail near Rheenendal. The mix of trails made for a credible diversity of riding, and being the Garden Route, there is always a plentiful selection of mud and sand.

I was a little concerned that the large blocks would create a bit of noise on hard-pack surfaces. This proved not to be the case once the glaze had worn off the rubber, during the process of getting to the trails, via tarmac links in our test route.

mtb tyre
Our Scott e-bike test rig, shod with its high-volume Schwalbe rubber (Photo: Ride24)

Large tread blocks generate loads of slip-angle grip

The Big Betty gives you confidence regardless of trail surface. I started with a loose gravel climb up Phantom Pass where it gripped well, especially on the downhill return where the tendency to lean the bike didn’t create any sideways slip.

It really came into its element once we left the road and hit the trails proper, where Hans and Betty combined to provide accurate steering response and ample traction.

Following recent rains, there was a lot of water flowing along the trails. Traction was plentiful and reassuring. During e-bike assisted acceleration on loose inclines, it didn’t spin out, whilst the braking performance was also excellent when confronted by unexpected trail obstacles such as fallen trees.

Due to Betty’s large side lugs, it gripped securely through washed away trail sections, allowing one to attack the singletrack leafy downhills with confidence.

mountain bike tyre
For true trail riders and daring mountain bikers, this is a choice rear tyre option (Photo: Schwalbe)

All the traction, no matter the climb

On an unexpected diversion from the Garden Route Trail Park to Buffalo Bay, via Serenity and Blackwater, I rolled through some very deep sand deposits on the trail. Although the torque from an e-bike makes reasonably light work of deep sand, traction was never in doubt.

I am rather looking forward to doing it uphill on my next visit to the area, thanks to Betty’s ability to deploy most of an e-bike pedal-assistance without wheelspin.

In terms of longevity, our initial testing showed no premature wear or vulnerable tread block tears.  I have used a Schwalbe Rocket Ron and a Racing Ralph previously on a conventional mountain bike and they lasted well.

The Big Betty is priced at R999, which is market related for a tyre of its size and specification. You can’t go too far wrong with a Betty at the rear, if you enjoy riding trails, instead of huge mileages on gravel roads.

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