These tyres mounted extremely easily, with no issues over tubeless leaks. The Ramblers are a good choice for hard packed gravel roads, and they're light enough to perform well on hilly routes. On the road, these didn't impress us so much and on trails that might be considered more suitable for a hardtail mountain bike, we found them lacking - but there are more suitable options for this style of riding elsewhere in the Maxxis range.
Predictable grip from middle to shoulder of the tyre
Easy to mount
Feels slow on pavement and slippy on rocks
Possibly undersized on standard rims
By James Stout
Just like gravel bikes, gravel tyres are a hybrid between mountain bike and road products. There’s always a compromise to be struck between the speed of a slicker road tyre, and the traction of a knobby off-road tyre. All gravel tyres will fall somewhere on the spectrum between a full slick and a full-on gnarly mountain bike tyre. Generally, gravel tyre manufacturers fall somewhere in the middle with a tyre that has a slick central bead and then more aggressive knobs on the outside for cornering traction.
Maxxis’ Rambler is a stalwart of the gravel market, having been released in 2015. It definitely leans towards the off-road end of the spectrum with raised rectangular knobs and crosses in the middle of the tread and raised knobs on the shoulder of the carcass for better grip when you’re really getting stuck into a berm.
I found that the ramblers set up easily on Enve’s G23 gravel rims, I use a small home compressor and they seated on the first try and easily held pressure for a few days. They didn’t seep sealant through the sidewall as some tyres do nor did they require me to call two friends and provide them with beer and pizza to help me mount them. They slipped on easily without even using a tyre lever. As someone who tests and mounts a lot of tyres, I can’t tell you how pleasant and unusual that is.
If you ever puncture on a gravel ride, you should easily be able to slip in a tube and ride home. Tighter fitting tyres almost inevitably pinch tubes and have left me with a long walk to phone signal followed by a long wait for a mate with nothing better to do than pick up a muddy cyclist on a Tuesday afternoon.
On the subject of punctures, Maxxis offer the Rambler in a Silkshield and Exo option. Both have some puncture protection but the Silkshield is slightly heavier and has a lower thread count. My 38mm Ramblers weighed 424g, a reasonable weight for a tyre of this size. They seem reasonably puncture resistant although an errant cactus managed to puncture my rear Rambler on my second ride. It worked well with the Orange Seal sealant I was using and quickly sealed up.
Maxxis sent me a set of 38mm Ramblers and they measured exactly 38mm on the Enve rims, given the width of the G23s, they might measure smaller on a more traditional rim. The casing is notably compliant, even unboxing the tyres I could tell they were reasonably light and flexible.
I prefer to run a lower pressure on gravel tyres, but I really struggled to find the perfect pressure with the Ramblers. In the mid 20 PSI range they were fun on sandy dry trails, but felt very sluggish on the road. At 35 PSI (the stated minimum on the sidewall), they tended to slip on steep gravel climbs more than I would like and at the stated maximum of 60 PSI I felt like I might break a wrist. I ended up riding about 30 PSI most of the time but couldn’t help feeling like they were never quite right. Perhaps a slightly wider model would have felt better off-road, I tend to prefer 40-42mm gravel tyres for anything other than the “basically road racing but dirtier” conditions of some US gravel events.
The Ramblers do give a nice predictable lean as there isn’t a huge transition from the middle of the tyre to the shoulder. Some gravel tyres can give the strange sensation of suddenly and dramatically biting once you get off the slick central bead. Despite this I found myself puckering more than I would like to admit on dry rocky trails. Although to be honest, everyone else on those trails was riding a mountain bike and wearing baggy clothes so they are probably not what Maxxis designers had in mind for a gravel tyre. They do offer the Ravager for more trail focused gravel adventure.
For hard packed gravel roads, the Ramblers are a great choice. They feel great on high-speed descents on the dirt thanks to their fast rolling knobs and the easy transition across the tyre body when cornering. They’re light enough for hilly races and mount easily. If you are riding your gravel bike when you really should be on a mountain bike, or a road bike, they aren’t great and there are better tyres in the Maxxis line for those applications, but as a true gravel tyre these do a good job. Maxxis also offer a tan sidewall version, you should get that if you can find it.
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