Maxxis Ikon Tyres
6x2.2 714g £27.99 (each) Mid-term (3month) Test
The Maxxis Ikon 26x2.2 tyres have been around for a good while now and in my experience still deliver an excellent blend of speed and dependability. Arguably at the best on dry trails and loose surfaces, I’ve found them very compliant and predictable along unmade roads. They’re better than might be expected through moderate mud, too.
Pros: Quick, Compliant and dependable in dry to moderate trail contexts.
Cons: 26-inch version not tubeless ready.
Ours were the entry level 26x2.2, so we’re talking tried and tested, rather than exotic. Wire beads, no puncture repelling belts, or tubeless compatibility. Others in the family feature these refinements, but if this hasn’t turned you off, read on. Tipping the scales at 714g they sport 60tpi casings and are designed to be run between 30 and 65psi, higher than tubeless permits but still caters for a decent spread of trail biased contexts. Oh, and 90 kilos is the maximum payload (per tyre), not an obvious concern perhaps, but reassuring to know.
Aside from compliance and grip on the trails, lower pressures give greater contact with metaled roads and wintry lanes. A definite plus if you’re riding home from the trails or press a cross country mtb into workhorse mode during the slippery months.
The closely spaced blocky tread is reminiscent of a cyclo cross tyre yet contrasted by a subtle v shaped centre strip. Characteristics that along with a dual compound casing promise a responsive, grippy persona over dry trails, stones and other loose surfaces, while still cutting through milder gloop.
I’ve mounted ours to Ryde Andra 40 and Sputnik rims, which have 25 and 19mm inner diameter, respectively. Little surprise that the Ikon slipped aboard with minimal effort and no tooling-just thumbs holding the bead in situ while I worked round.
A single, bog-standard composite tyre lever comes in handy, should you need to scoop them off, mind. As a precaution, given the absence of puncture repelling beads, I filled the front tube with sealant and left the rear without to offer some peace of mind, while still evaluating their real world, off the shelf resistance to flats and sharps.
Ursula is my rough stuff go anywhere tourer cum four seasons workhorse and based around a cross country mtb frameset. 26 years old, still relevant, especially since the old girl’s trail flavoured makeover, exploiting its raw off-road potential. Rigid, save for the Kinekt 2.1 Suspension Seatpost , it sports a straight blade eXotic carbon fork for some added compliance.
Though not raced, the bike enjoys a perpetual diet of asphalt, green lanes, forest, bridle path and dirt roads. A minor point (but worth mentioning), I’ve needed to raise the Mud Hugger Evo by a few millimetres, coming from the Maxxis Overdrive Excel Talking of which, I wasn’t expecting the bigger volume to have the impact it did during inflation. I started by running ours at the upper end of the scale-65psi.
From flat, I was surprised by how much effort was needed at the upper end and that’s using the SKS Air-X-Plorer Digi Floor Pump 10.0 . This was most obvious beyond 50-psi, but I made it all the way. I repeated this with the Topeak Gravel 2 Stage Mini Pump to decide whether I’d pack Co2 cartridges as first-line rescue. Zero to 50 in 483 strokes, prioritising the high-volume setting up to 35psi.
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Ride Quality/Handling 3.5/5
The Ikon are relatively quick off the mark and require little effort to keep on the boil-especially at 50psi plus, even on asphalt. Ok, so not their natural habitat but welcome if there’s a bit of tarmac between the trails.
In this context, road noise and rolling resistance are more obvious compared with Kenda’s Small Block Eight but not majorly so. Indeed, it’s also worth noting the small block eight can be run up to 80psi.
Hit the first patch of dirt road, or dry bridlepath and whoosh, an instant transformation. Responsive, grippy and dependable. Interestingly, along lose dirt roads and trails, the close tread pattern didn’t attract small stones, or sharps like more aggressive tread patterns (and indeed ‘cross rubber) can.
Yes, the odd one got lodged, complimented by an audible tickly patter before it was spat out. Conditions allowing, I’ve been able to blast along fire roads, green lanes and dry bridlepaths at a steady 20-23mph.
Their generous pocket of air offering a magic carpet ride across the lumps, dips and bumps. Characteristics that were similarly welcome through some brutally battle-scarred tarmac- the sort that would send my senses screaming with alarm on a road biased build. With the Ikon, I could just laugh and float through them.
Back on the trails the big sections also help iron out unexpected trail hazards-tree roots and similar slimy, bumpy stuff. For me and my 70kilos 50psi seemed the sweet spot for most contexts, although I’ve run them at 60 when sticking solely to hardpack trails and dry, dirt roads.
Little changed when the rains came, so long as singletrack wasn’t too soggy, the Ikon’s tread bit and we just powered through, the tread shedding light mud better than I’d expected. No squirm through the twisties, just big grins a plenty and oodles of traction. Typical of the genre, boggy, churned bridle path will turn them to slicks but again, slower than some and if the gloop’s localised, sheds better than small blocks suggest.
Climbing prowess is also surprisingly good, given their 714g girth and on those occasions where I’ve misjudged a gradient, traction has rescued me, long enough to find bottom gear and winch my way to safety. They inspire similar confidence on the way down, plenty of poke, reassuring traction and again that big pocket of air when you’ve missed a rut, root, or similar. I've had ours up to 26mph plus in dry to moderate conditions and just enjoyed the ride knowing they’d bite when I needed them to.
For the most part, they corner very reliably. However, some including Schwalbe Smart Sam (review to follow) grip more dependably in comparable contexts. I’ve experienced some minor squirm when turning sharply across some very wet concrete sections along a disused airfield. Ditto pulling the odd sharp right along country roads, but ample and consistent feedback meant easy correction. Dropping the pressure (40-45psi) also improved traction in these contexts, so I’d probably stick there through winter.
Puncture Resistance & Durability 3.5/5
1000 miles on the clock, no flats, which was a pleasant surprise, given the lack of aramid belt and the usual, inevitable encounters with sharp flints and foliage. No cuts, or wear damage in the blocked, or centre tread, for that matter. Some have suggested the sidewalls might be vulnerable to cuts and similar damage but no hint of that, thus far. Run between 40 and the full 65psi, depending on context and having served roughly 30% of their time on paved roads, nominal signs of wear thus far.
£27.99 apiece is competitive. In this instance, I’m comparing the Ikon with brands offering a 26-inch model in their lineup. The 60tpi versions of Kenda Small Block Eight are slightly narrower at 1.95, have operating pressures between 30 and 80psi and boast folding beads.
However, they’re also a fair bit dearer at £39.90 each (rrp) Arguably the Ikon’s closest rivals are Panaracer Comet Hard Pack are another direct rival to the Ikon. 26x2.1 they are another small block design intended for three seasons’ cross-country duties. Folding beads save a few grams too. £29.99 rrp.
WTB Trail Boss Comp at £29.99 for the 26x2.25 are another model that might give the Ikon a good run for your hard-earned. These also feature a close block tread and wire beads. WTB reckon they’re ideal for cross county and enduro mountain biking duties. On paper, this suggests they might win by a nose if you’re looking for absolute all-rounders. Then of course, there’s Schwalbe Smart Sam boasting 67tpi casings, folding beads, puncture resistant belt and tipping the scales at 570g apiece. However, they’re also a bit pricier at £37.99 each.
The base model Ikon are pleasantly capable all-rounders, with a bias towards three seasons cross country riding. For my money and competitive duties, I’d probably plump for their folding or tubeless siblings. That said; the base models qualities make them particularly worthy choices for older mountain bikes living new leases of life as gravel grinders/monster crossers or indeed, non-purist retro builds.
Verdict: 3.5/5 Capable base model cross-country tyres. However, folding or tubeless versions better choices for those looking to future proof.
PUBLISHED SEPT 2023