Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Make sure they fit.
The Long Version: If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then the way to a bike's personality is through its sneakers. The stock Xootr Swift comes with a set of Kenda Kwest tires that are good all-around performers, which makes for a sprightly bike that's comfortable to ride. Narrower tires that run at a higher pressure will make the Swift into a little racer, while bigger tires have a tremendous ability to absorb bumps. Schwalbe's Big Apple tires are definitely in the second category. I put them on my bike a month ago, and the difference is amazing. I'm just disappointed that nobody else noticed how it makes the Swift look much tougher.
Having the big Big Apples on my bike has slowed it down; conversely, it makes me work harder to go not-quite-as-fast. But on hard-packed trails and bad pavement the difference is huge: much better shock absorption and a general sense of sure-footedness that I didn't have with the skinnier tires. It's also more stable when rolling at slow speeds, letting me stay on the bike and in control when other cyclists are putting their feet down. I don't know if that's because of their width or their not inconsiderable weight, but they're almost as good as doing a track-stand without the need for all of that pesky balancing.
The Big Apple tires for the Xootr Swift are 2" across, which is considerably bigger than the 1.5" of the stock Kwests. The front fork has no problem with the added size, but not all Swifts are going to be happy with something this big in the rear. Mine has taken some coaxing to make it work properly, but fortunately the horizontal dropouts let the entire rear wheel move back a half-inch or so. That has given me the extra clearance that I need, even though it hasn't made the derailleur all that happy. Buy the Big Apple through a dealer with a good return policy, and make sure you try it on the back of the Swift before opening both packages.
The other consideration with the Big Apples is that they should use different inner tubes from the ones that came with the bike. I have to admit that I managed to irreparably puncture one of my new bigger tubes during installation, so the front wheel is using the undersized original one with no ill effects. I inflate the rear tire to its maximum of 70psi, but leave the front at 60psi or so. When I eventually replace the tube with the proper size I may increase the pressure, but its current setup gives better shock absorption. After all, I didn't pick these tires for their speed.
Finally, I really like that the Big Apples have reflective rings on their sidewalls. It's almost as if Schwalbe knew that they were going to be put on a bike – a nice touch and a good design.
A little update: it's been over six months since I put the Big Apples on my Swift, and I remain completely happy with them. I'm not usually a winter cyclist, but I have biked through a snow storm with these tires. I deflated them somewhat – still well within their generous pressure range – and took it easy when I was playing in traffic, but I just tend to be cautious when drivers aren't expecting bikes to be out. Yes, I did lock up my back wheel once, which is pretty minor, but I couldn't break traction by accelerating no matter how hard I cranked. Not that I'm particularly strong, but it was still enough to impress me.
last updated 11 feb 2012