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This Maxxis Rambler in a 50mm width – just under 2in in imperial – ups the volume of gravel tyres, taking it close to mountain bike territory. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it offers a comfortable ride, but it also manages to still be reasonably quick.
It doesn't seem like that long ago that a 2in tyre was considered 'normal' for mountain bikes. Why gravel tyres are always quoted in metric sizes whereas mountain bike tyres are imperial is a mystery to me... but anyway, the Maxxis Rambler in this size pushes the boundary of gravel tyres. Tyre clearance will almost certainly be an issue for most bikes, though, and unless you have a gravel bike with very generous clearance, it probably won't fit.
I fitted the Rambler to a Ritchey Outback which only just had enough clearance to fit them in safely. Installation was brilliant and so easy: easy to install on the rims and they pumped up with a basic track pump without a fuss. Bravo.
Jumping up from a 700x40 tyre, the difference and increased ride height was immediately noticeable. It shouldn't pose a big issue, although if you are tight on top tube clearance then it is something to be aware of.
After installing, first impressions are just how comfortable the tyre feels, with the extra volume undoubtedly having an effect. The extra volume means your tyre pressures might need to be adjusted if you are more used to smaller tyres. I am used to running 35-40psi in 40mm or 45mm width tyres, but started with pressures of just 30psi in the Ramblers. For the rear it was fine, but I ended up running a few PSI lower in the front, which was better at times and on certain tracks and trails. Of course, tyre pressures are personal, but as a guide you will probably want to drop several PSI compared to a 40mm tyre.
Do the increased volume and lower pressures affect the riding? On the road they are a little slower, although not as much as I initially expected, and unless you are racing or very competitive it doesn't hamper the ride much at all. I did notice the weight, though – at 645 and 650g, they are heavier than the majority of narrower tyres, and I did notice that when climbing.
Off-road and on rougher tracks they're really fast, with the extra volume giving them the ability to just roll over rocks and rough sections – it's most noticeable downhill, where the difference compared with narrower tyres really is huge.
While the volume might be the biggest benefit, the tread on the Rambler is key to its performance and control. The design has several different areas and overall the design is quite busy, but it seems to work. The central tread with near-continuous central section is part of the reason why it's so smooth and why road performance is decent.
Move out and there are much wider gaps in the tread and these help grip in softer and even reasonably muddy conditions. Through testing I found it got up climbs that looked far too muddy and steep; it gripped tenaciously and far beyond what the low profile looks might suggest, getting up tracks that I didn't expect it to. It isn't a specialist mud tyre, but as a gravel tyre for the occasional bit of mud, it copes.
On firmer trails the grip is really good, and although dry weather is almost now non-existent, on standard forest roads that drain well it gives confidence through the bends and has enough feel that you can get some feedback. This version of the Rambler, with the SilkShield, has a 60 threads per inch (TPI) carcass, which is lower than many similar performance gravel tyres; a higher TPI is likely to give an even better ride, although given the comfort already on offer here it isn't as big an issue as with smaller tyres, where tyre carcass will have a more noticeable effect.
If you like to head off forest tracks, which I assume many of you will do if you are able to run a 50mm tyre, the only real weakness in grip seemed to be wet tree roots, which to be honest are a nemesis to all tyres. The Rambler coped well with rocky tracks, dirt and loamy tracks and trails.
The SilkShield puncture protection is a full bead-to-bead material layer that gives more confidence when riding in rockier or puncture prone areas. I found I was riding much faster downhill, mostly because of the extra volume and comfort the tyres give, so the puncture protection is something worth having.
Tyres this big that are specifically designed for gravel bikes are still relatively rare, but WTB now makes the Venture in a 50mm width. The Hutchinson Touareg is a little smaller at 45mm, and also cheaper at just £33, although it doesn't offer nearly the same performance. Another reasonably wide tyre is the 43mm Panaracer GravelKing SK, but this lacks the all-conditions riding ability of the Rambler.
The Rambler is also available in smaller sizes, but neither the 38mm nor the 40mm I've ridden impressed me in the same way as this huge volume 700x50 does. It rolls well, grips well in all the conditions and trails I was able to test it, and gives big confidence downhill. It won't fit many gravel bikes, but if you have the clearance and want a big tyre, it is fantastic.
Comfortable, tenaciously grippy and still reasonably fast, so long as you have the clearance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Maxxis Rambler Folding SS TR tyre
Size tested: 700x50
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Maxxis' distributor Extra says: 'Maxxis' first gravel-specific tire, the Rambler is designed with the volume you need for comfort and the tread you need for speed and control. Tightly packed center knobs are ramped for rolling efficiency on hardpack roads, and spaced-out side knobs provide predictable cornering in varied terrain.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Gravel-specific tread pattern
Dual-compound for longevity
Conditions: Hardpack, Looser Over Hard
Cornering Control: 1 2 3 4
Rolling Efficiency: 1 2 3 4
TPI: 120 or 60
Ply Construction: Dual
Max PSI: 75
Tech: Tubeless Ready, SilkShield
No faults. Excellent performance in a range on conditions.
No issues seen. SilkShield should help against punctures and to date, no punctures while using.
While not light, this is a high volume tyre with full puncture protection so the weight is reasonable and acceptable.
High volume of the tyre gives fantastic comfort.
On a par with most other premium gravel tyres.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very little to fault. It installed easily, rode a full range of conditions with no problem, and gave extra confidence on rougher downhills.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The extra confidence given by the large volume.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Very few others to compare with that are the same size, although the WTB Venture is one at £44.99. Looking at tyres with a little less volume, the 45mm Hutchinson Touareg is good value at £33 but doesn't offer the same performance. Smaller again, and a similar fast paced tyre, the 43mm Panaracer GravelKing SK is also a little less at £44.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if tyre clearance wasn't going to be an issue.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Rambler in 50mm size is a brilliant tyre to use. I was really surprised that it did not take anything away from the previous, narrower and lighter tyres that were fitted. Overall grip is brilliant in the dry and better than expected in the wet. It gives extra performance and confidence to rides and, overall, delivered more than I would have expected with an extra 10mm of width on a tyre.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is: Cannondale SystemSix
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, sportives, mtb,
Matt is an endurance nut who loves big rides and big events. He's a former full-time racer and 24hr event specialist, but now is also happy riding off-road on gravel bikes or XC mountain bikes and exploring the mountains and hills of Mid Wales.