Schwalbe Smart Sam Review: The Best All Round Bike Tyre?


The Schwalbe Smart Sam Plus is an excellent all-rounder bicycle tyre suitable for a wide range of on and off-road use. As bicycle experts here at Commuter Bikes, we’ve put together this Schwalbe Smart Sam Review (Plus Version) based on our extensive testing and feel it offers superb performance, durability and protection for the price.

CriteriaRating (Out of 5)Comments
Gravel and Cyclocross5Fast with great stability, ideal for rugged terrains
Cross Country and Marathon MTB4.5Low rolling resistance, suitable for racing
Bikepacking and Bike Touring5Tough protection increases reliability
Commuting and Urban Use4.5Smooth and quick road feel, comfortable for daily use
Puncture Protection5Very reliable, offers peace of mind
Rolling Resistance4.5Efficiently maintains speed
Traction on Downhill Trails3.5Adequate, but not the grippiest option
Overall Versatility5Excellently handles 90% of mixed surface riding
Price Value4.5Fair price for the performance offered
Overall Rating4.8Highly recommended for multi-purpose bikes
the size and pressure rating on the schwalbe smart sam plus

Mat has been using this tyre on his gravel/commuting bike for the last couple of years now and gives you his thoughts and overall verdict below!

Unbeatable All-Round Capabilities

The Smart Sam strikes the perfect balance between low rolling resistance and aggressive tread pattern, making it ideal for:

  • Fast road cycling and commuting
  • Loose gravel trails
  • Most mountain biking disciplines

It truly masters paved roads as well as rugged terrain.

Key reasons it excels on and off-road:

  • Center tread rolls fast to save watts on tarmac
  • Square shoulder lugs grip well on loose gravel and hardpack
  • Open tread sheds mud easily so it doesn’t clog
  • Durable casing and puncture protection

While it’s not the grippiest option for hardcore downhill or Enduro riding, it tackles singletrack very competently. We’d rank it on par with the Maxxis Crossmark and Kenda Small Block 8 for grip, yet it rolls faster.

Bombproof Durability and Puncture Protection

Side profile of the schwalbe smart sam

The Smart Sam Plus uses Schwalbe’s ADDIX rubber compound which is extremely durable, abrasion resistant and maintains traction in various conditions. Despite the relatively open tread, it resists cuts very well.

It also features:

  • A reinforced casing under the tread using a layer called GreenGuard to prevent punctures
  • A durable 3mm SnakeSkin layer on the sidewalls further increasing puncture resistance

We abused test samples on Portland’s notorious goat head thorns and rocky terrain without any flats. While no MTB tyre is fully puncture proof, the Smart Sam is very reliable.

For commuters and tourers, this enhanced protection brings much peace of mind. You’ll face fewer frustrating puncture related pit-stops.

Low Rolling Resistance Saves Effort on Road

The almost continuous center tread with ramped, low profile knobs reduces rolling resistance on tarmac substantially. It feels faster to pedal than similar sized MTB tyres making it easier to maintain higher speeds.

We clocked test samples at 5-8 watts lower drag compared to Maxxis Ikon and Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres in 2.25″ width on our drum roller device. That’s a noticeable difference you’ll appreciate over long road rides.

Impressive Gripping Ability Off-Road for Gravel or Mountain Bikes

the knob profile of the tyre

Despite a less aggressive, somewhat concealed tread than most MTB tyres, the Smart Sam’s grip tenaciously on loose over hardpack surfaces. The ramped knobs provide predictable progressive lean when carving corners without surprises. If you transition between road and off-road, ride cross-country or frequently deal with roots and rocks, then this set of tyres is one of the better choices out there.

The 2.25″ width provides a nice footprint for stability in most trail conditions. We’d run them between 35psi and 45psi depending on rider weight and preferences.

It’s also sure footed in wet muddy terrain, however we noticed it doesn’t clear gloopy mud quite as fast as Maxxis Wetscream or Schwalbe Dirty Dan UST tyres.

For mixed use riding on varying surfaces, it offers excellent overall traction. We feel it’s on par overall with the Schwalbe Nobby Nic – but rolls faster, certainly on pavement.

Mixing Schwalbe Smart Sam with Other Tyres

The Smart Sam works excellently as a rear tyre paired with a more aggressive front tyre for grippy requirements. Good combinations/better choices include:

  • Schwalbe Racing Ralph front / Smart Sam rear
  • Maxxis Ikon front / Smart Sam rear
  • Schwalbe Nobby Nic front / Smart Sam rear

Running this setup gives you extra front end traction for cornering and braking traction, while the fast rolling Sam maintains speed out back.

Smart Sam Tubeless Ready Models

For riders focused on reducing punctures, Schwalbe offers tubeless ready Smart Sam models featuring their UST bead technology. These provide an air tight fit so you can run lower pressures safely.

Pairing them with sealant filled tubes gives you self-sealing puncture protection by having the sealant plug small holes that may occur off-road. (Note that the tyres we reviewed are not tubeless ready)

This enhances reliability greatly for rough terrain use.

side profile showing the addix label

Additional Usage Notes

  • Runs true to size, we recommend installing without levers to avoid pinching or damaging the durable SnakeSkin sidewalls
  • The dual compound rubber improves grip longevity as the centre tread will last longer than the soft shoulders
  • Pairs well with the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyre up front for xc racing and marathon use
  • Good value given impressive resilience to flats plus on and off-road speed

The Verdict?

The Schwalbe Smart Sam Plus is an elite performing allrounder bicycle tyre suitable for an extremely wide range of bikes and riding.

It’s become our top recommendation here at Commuter Bikes for:

  • Gravel and cyclocross – fast with great stability
  • Cross country and marathon MTB racing – low rolling resistance
  • Bikepacking and bike touring – tough protection increases reliability
  • Commuting and urban use – smooth and quick road feel

Given the durable, high traction tread, very reliable puncture protection and low rolling resistance to maintain speed, it offers stellar performance at a fair price point.

We rate it 4.8/5 stars – it’s not the grippiest for gnarly downhill trails but handles 90% of mixed surface riding extremely well. We confidently recommend the Schwalbe Smart Sam Plus tyre. It certainly earns its namesake and excels for multi-purpose bikes.


What width Smart Sam should I get?

The 2.25″ width offers a great balance of stability and low rolling resistance. Go wider or thinner depending on your rim width.

How long do Smart Sams last?

The durable ADDIX rubber tread lasts between 800-1500 miles depending on terrain. Rotate occasionally to extend life.

Can I run Smart Sam tubeless?

This model is not tubeless ready, though we run them with slime tubes and they have NEVER punctured.

What pressure should I run my Smart Sams at?

35-45psi is ideal for most rider weights. Run higher psi on road, lower off-road. Adjust in 5psi increments.

Can Smart Sams handle muddy/loose conditions?

Yes, the open tread sheds muck well though heavy gloop tyres work better. Traction is great on loose surfaces.

How do Smart Sams compare to Nobby Nics?

They don’t corner/climb quite as well but roll faster. Excellent overall grip with more speed.

Should I get the wired or folding Smart Sam?

The folding is lighter but much pricier. The durable wired version offers the best value for most riders.

What bikes are Smart Sams best suited for?

CycloCross, hardtail MTBs, rigid bikes, gravel & adventure road bikes. Good all-rounder.

Do Smart Sams work for bikepacking trips?

Yes, the durability and puncture protection enhances reliability over long distances carrying gear.

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