While the gravel segment of road riding is the newest member of the drop-bar family, the bikes and parts needed for taking on dirt, rocks and the road less traveled have come to fruition quickly. Tires like Maxxis's Rambler EXO TR 700 x 40c weren't even on the radar just a few years back.
One of the most important pieces of the all-road puzzle is the tire. Too skinny equals a puncture risk, too fat or knobby can be slow rolling; finding the right mix is a challenge.
Maxxis Rambler EXO TR features
- 700 x 40c
- 375 grams
- Gravel-specific tread pattern
- Dual compound for longevity
- Tubeless ready
- EXO Protection
- Max pressure 75psi
On hardpack gravel the Ramblers really cruised. With the 40mm tread pumped up to a luxurious 55psi or so, the resulting ride was cushy, comfortable and just about perfect for taking in the scenery while still maintaining a decent speed.
The tread pattern, while conveniently marketed as gravel specific, was a bit slow on pavement especially if you're used to nice road bike rubber. The tight file tread in the center did an okay job of minimizing rolling resistance, but there's little getting around the bulk of the Ramblers.
Even with the closely spaced middle tread, they were decently grippy when wet. Coming out of stream crossings, tires dripping with mud and water, torquing my way up the rocks I expected to spin the rear but somehow it held on and propelled me forward.
That said, there were limits to the traction. Going up steep, grinding climbs while standing and pressing all my weight through the forward pedal, the rear tire did slip and give before it found purchase or I let off the gas.
When the roads turned twisty, the Ramblers were nicely consistent. The overall profile is very round for a predictable lean. The side knobbies have a bit more spacing for a touch more bite, but laying them over hard isn't really on the cards as the knobs are pretty tiny.
Braking traction was decent as well, much better than the fast rolling Schwalbe G-One's with their file tread pattern.
I very much appreciated the EXO sidewall and tubeless compatibility. I took the Ramblers on some very rough forest roads with loads of sharp, square-edged rocks and made it through unscathed. In my opinion, all gravel tires should include sidewall protection to ward off punctures and pinches, as well as shrug off sidewall tears.
Bottom line: a gravel tire through and through
Maxxis labels the Rambler as a gravel bike tire and it hits the mark. They're cushy at 40mm wide, have excellent puncture protection, and roll quite well when ticking off the miles.