Review: Maxxis Ikon 26 x 20.20 3C EXO
I love bicycles. And I love riding them. If I were a rich man, ya ba dibba dibba etc., I would probably own a lot of them. A sporty hybrid for the roads. A trekking bike for the long hauls. A trail bike or full suspension cross country number just for fun. But I am no man of means by no means, which means I can only afford one bike. One bike to do it all.
I guess I do about 60% of my bicycling on gravel roads. The other 40% are split rather evenly between tarmac and trails. I ride both for fun, for the exercise and for transportation. Now, if I were to let reason rule completely, I should probably have bought a sort of hybrid or trekking bike with a good load carrier and rather smooth tires with low rolling resistance.
For the love of trails!
But, like most humans, I am not a 100% rational being. While I spend most of my bicycle time on the gravel, it is the trails that I love. I love the hardpack. The dirt. The mud. The bumps and the turns. The ascents and descents. I even enjoy the occasional technical part, complete with rocks and roots.
Therefore, my one and only bike is a hardtail 26” cross country mountain bike. A decent compromise that allows for a bit of comfort and speed on the road and a lot of fun off road. And, of course, my one set of tires needs to be able to offer the same versatility. So, when the Continental X-Kings that came with the bike literally started falling apart, I went looking for a tire that could handle it all. I needed it to be secure and reliable on everything from rocks and roots to dirt and mud. On the other hand, I don’t want it to drag to badly on hardpack and tarmac. The guy in the local bicycle store recommended the Maxxis Ikon, so that is what I got.
I got the foldable version of the Ikons, and I run them with standard inner tubes. My Ikons came with Maxxis’ EXO protection that supposedly prevents tears and damage to the sidewalls. They also feature the 3C technology. As far as I know, this means that Maxxis has used a rather hard, durable rubber in the middle of the tire, and a softer, grippier rubber for the side knobs.
Hard and fast
The first thing I noticed about the Icons, was that the thin, somewhat floppy sidewalls made them a bit hard to install with inner tubes. The second thing I noticed was how fast they roll. Of course, I have no way of measuring rolling resistance, but based on noise levels and subjective “feel”, they roll noticeably better than the knobby X-kings. If I remember correctly, they seem to be just about on par with Maxxis’ own Crossmarks when it comes to rolling resistance.
While the Ikons are good on the tarmac, they really shine on gravel and hardpack. This is not very surprising, as the rather small, closely spaced knobs seem like they are made for gravel. The tread gives a firm purchase on anything from hardpacked dirt trails and well-kept gravel roads to rougher gravel and logging roads covered with twigs and pine needles.
The Ikons seem to handle hard climbs and steep descents equally well. On harder surfaces, these tires can be trusted both on straight stretches and in hairpin turns, and offer no nasty surprises. They even work quite well on loose over hard, such as badly kept gravel roads or sandy farm roads.
Rock and roll
When the Ikons do surprise, they do so in a positive way. As mentioned above, I had expected the tread to work well on gravel. However, I had not expected the short knobs to work very well on rocks and roots. But they do! As long as I don’t inflate the tires to much, the little knobs give a good grip on both round, ice-shaped rocks and slick, worn roots of all sizes. Granted, the rear tire can slip a bit on wet roots while climbing, but I have never lost control over the front tire, even when going downhill fast.
If the Ikons have a weakness, it must be the truly loose and deep stuff.
Not surprisingly, the short knobs do not give the best grip in deep, wet mud. They can handle wet dirt and a little bit of mud just fine, but slip and slide a bit when the mud gets to deep. The truly sticky stuff also tend to clog the tread. On the positive side, the Ikons shed the dirt quite easily after a short distance on a firmer surface. In fact, packing and clogging seem to be much less of a problem with the Ikons than with the Crossmarks.
Deep, loose sand also presents a challenge to the Ikons. Under such conditions, they tend to slip a bit on the climbs and sideslip a little in downhill turns. However, the high volume means they do not sink to deep into the ground.
All of this is to be expected from a tire with such low rolling resistance. I guess you cannot have your cake and eat it too.
In the long run
I have used the Ikons for almost one and a half year, and I have not been nice to them. I have used them for everything from a granfondo event on tarmac to numerous trail rides. I have subjected them to everything from rough, half finished gravel roads and logging roads strewn with broken twigs and branches to sharp rocks. And they have taken it all pretty well. The sidewalls are unscathed, and the tread looks almost like new.
Maxxis Ikon is a superb tire for gravel and hardpack. But it is more than that; it is a true omnivore. An all-rounder.
If you ride single tracks exclusively, and you frequently find yourself wallowing in bottomless mud, the Ikons may not be your cup of tea. But if you, like me, need a tire that can take you across everything from fresh, smooth tarmac to steep forest trails full of treacherous rocks and roots with a smile on your face, the Ikons will not let you down.
A long story short
- Excellent grip on hard surfaces, from rocks and roots to hard packed dirt and gravel.
- Low rolling resistance on tarmac and firm gravel.
- Sturdy, durable and able to withstand almost anything you can throw at it.
- Could have been better in mud and loose dirt.
In one sentence: A true all-round MTB tyre that can handle anything from smooth tarmac to rocks and roots.