Finding a good gravel tire can be just as hard as finding a good mountain bike tire these days. With the gravel segment raging for a few years as of now, several brands have their own version of a dirt road tire on the market, which might even be broken up into a handful of varieties.
Maxxis has seven choices under their ‘gravel/adventure bike’ tab, though only two of them would fall under consideration for most grinders. The Rambler is their go-to gravel tire, best suited for gravel, hardpack, and loose over hard. Maxxis also has the Ravager, which steps up the game and is their “aggressive gravel tire,” for riders who find themselves on an equal amounts of singletrack and dirt road.
As a dedicated “gravel tire” the Rambler features low, closely packed and ramped knobs. The center knobs are tightly packed, with an open center, and there is a transition knob that leans into the subtle corner knobs. Maxxis makes the Rambler in three diameters — 27.5″, a 650B, and 700c — and multiple widths including 38c, 40c, 45c, 47c, and 50c. The 27.5″ tire comes in a 1.5″ width. There is also a gumwall version of the Rambler, in 700x40c.
All of the Ramblers are dual compound, tubeless ready, and come in either a 60TPI or 120TPI option. The 60TPI SilkShield option is basically a more aggressive, weighty version of the tire and more resistant to punctures and pinches. However, neither of the options is all that heavy. The 700x38c SilkShield Rambler that Maxxis sent rings in at 423g, just under a pound. This only adds about 30g over an EXO version of the same diameter and width, so it’s a pretty small penalty to pay for the added strength.
The SilkShields were also much easier to seat on the rim than the EXO version. I installed the SilkShield Ramblers with a floor pump, while the EXO tires took an air compressor to get the beads to snap in place. This was pretty surprising to me, since these are much smaller and thinner tires than the mountain bike tires I’m usually fussing with.
The EXO tires also needed a heavy internal dousing of sealant in order to hold air. The SilkShields held air better, but still deflate over time if they sit in place for a while.
Gravel tires have an interesting place in the bike world right now. The widths are closer to most road bike tires, so riders still want a lightweight and fast-rolling tire, but it must bite in when things get loose.
The Maxxis Rambler balances these traits very well. Maxxis, as a whole, does a great job at keeping tires as light as possible, while maintaining durability and capability, and the Rambler is no different.
The short, ramped knobs on the Rambler allow the tire to roll with ease down hardpack surface and keep their momentum with pleasure, even on pavement. They, of course, shine on dirt and gravel roads and have a considerable amount of grip punching through gravel and loose dirt and rock. I have pushed the tires through buff trail also and they feel like any solid XC tire; fast and grippy on the right terrain.
Even at higher speeds, the Ramblers gave me confidence from the center, and leaned all the way to the side knobs. The transition knobs offer a seamless movement from center to the side, and have yet to feel sketchy, at least in most conditions.
That isn’t to say that the Ramblers don’t have their limits, but Maxxis has them appropriately categorized as tires for hardpack and loose over hard. Hard-packed dirt is fair game. Gravelly, loose over hard conditions are definitely fair game. The tires do lose their capability when things get wet, if it isn’t easy enough to tell by the short, clustered knobs. In very loose over hard conditions, or when rocks go from lentil to marble sized, you should probably be riding a mountain bike anyway.
The Maxxis Ramblers are a lightweight gravel bike tire, capable of conquering loose dirt roads and packed singletrack. If you’re in need of something with a little bit more punch, try the Ravager, but for the best balance of speed and durability that suits a wide gravel spectrum, the Rambler is up to the task.