Maxxis Ikon EXO Review

On the Rumblefish, I’m currently running Maxxis Ikon EXO 29×2.2 tires–tubeless on a set of Easton Havens.  I run Stan’s sealant in them.

Over the past few years that I’ve had the ‘fish, I’ve run many tires on it.  I ran the Bontrager 29-3s that came stock on it…since I got the ‘fish in the winter, I found them to be woefully inadequate.  Fine on frozen bare ground, but terrible in snow, mud, or anything wet.  I then tried replacing the rear tire with a Bontrager FR3.  It was really aggressive and did a good job of pushing the bike through just about anything…but the 29-3 in the front still let me down.  When spring rolled around, I flipped the tires front to back.  The FR3 was great in front (albeit with a lot of rolling resistance) and the 29-3 performed acceptably.  I had also tried the 29-4 and Geax Saguaro, neither of which made my day.

I went tubeless with Bontrager rim strips in the stock Duster wheels, and loved it.  Lower pressure produced amazing dividends in terms of traction and feel.  When I decided to upgrade to the much lighter Havens, I wanted to bring tires to match.  After a TON of research, I settled on the Maxxis IKON Exos…largely due to posts like this on MTBR.  The IKON is available with and without the EXO sidewalls…the EXO are specially reinforced and more durable than the standard IKONs.  I’ve read that some have had problems with Stans causing bubbles and tread separation on the IKONS.  I haven’t had that problem at all.  They did mount up very easily, and while I have a compressor, they seated on the bead using a hand pump.  I did a 3 minute roll and swish with the Stan’s, and they sealed up tight.  I haven’t had any issues with them since.

Because Maxxis changes their designs so often, the labels on my two tires do not match.  This is the rear.

The tread design has small blocks down the center, with offset blocks in between the center blocks.  It’s a nice combination that delivers good traction in most conditions, and still allows for low rolling resistance on hardpack or gravel.  For instance, last night, I put in 20 miles on asphalt, pumped up to 45psi, and the efficiency was reasonable (for a full suspension 29er).

If you look closely, you can see that the center blocks are angled at a 45 degree on the “front” side (pointing up, in the picture above).  The very front of the center blocks are bevel cut, so the face is angled instead of straight.  The rear of the center blocks are straight across.

The side blocks on the tires, which don’t contact the ground unless you’re really turning, are nice and chunky.  They’re very reassuring in loose conditions, and really dig through to find something to rail corners on.

The tread is open enough that they do a surprisingly good job of shedding mud.  Because they’re designed to be lightweight (mine both weigh between 545 and 560 grams), the tread blocks aren’t very deep, but they do well in 95% of the conditions that are experienced in Illinois.  Great on hardpack, great on gravel, great on loose dirt, reasonably good in the sand, great on wet roots, and surprisingly acceptable in the mud.  I’ve put a lot of miles on these without a single issue.  No flats, no burping, nothing.  Completely trouble free.

Because of the tread design, I did switch the rear tire around and run it “backwards”.  I do think that it is a bit more aggressive backwards, and provides better traction pedaling in loose conditions (with an acceptable rolling resistance penalty).  If I were riding all gravel or hardpack, I’d flip it to the standard configuration…but for off-road use, I’m very happy with the change to running it backwards.  When I dismounted the rear to flip it, it mounted right back up nice and easy.  I did use tire levers, but in a pinch, it would have slipped on with a very firm grip.

I’m hovering between 145-150# right now…and I’m running 22psi up front and 25psi in the rear.  I could easily drop to 20 without burping or pinching, but I like the handling at this pressure…and when I shift my weight back to climb some gnarly roots or sharp rocks, I don’t have to worry about my rear tire.

As for long-term durability, I was pleased to see that the winner of the AZT 300 (riding a Salsa Spearfish) opted for an Ikon on the rear of his ride (in the EXO version that I use), and had nary a problem.  When these do eventually wear out, I’ll be hard pressed to find something better to replace them with.  On my 26er (previous bike), I tried a lot of tires and saw a lot of compromises.  I wouldn’t run these if I wanted something super wide or super high volume (the label dimensions are relatively accurate, on my Havens), nor if I was planning on riding a ton of mud and muck.  But otherwise, in conditions from sand to forest, I love ‘em, and wouldn’t change a thing about them.  I do wish the Havens were a bit less garish, but oh well.  I’ll review the Havens another day.  For now, I can say that for my Illinois conditions, the IKONs are excellent, and I’ve been nothing but impressed with them.

I rode them at Saw Wee Kee with GMatt today, and it was a great day for a great ride with a great friend.  80s and sunny, with a lot of shade.  Trails were moist but not wet…perfect conditions.  I cleaned a lot of obstacles that I hadn’t previously cleaned–the confidence gained riding in Sedona (and the willingness to devote speed and power to a climb or obstacle, instead of hitting things tentatively) made a huge difference in my game.  The Ikons were the cherry on top.

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9 thoughts on “Maxxis Ikon EXO Review

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