Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: EXO sidewall protection, excellent cornering grip, good on front or rear, dual compound increases longevity
Cons: Not the best for hardpack, high rolling resistance, requires good technique
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Bestowed with our prestigious Editors' Choice Award, we simply lost count of how many times this tire saved our chamois-padded butts. It has the ability to literally make trail conditions better. During a historic summer drought, the mountain bike trails got so beat up and sandy we started wishing we got assigned a rock climbing gear review instead. We were pretty much "over it." Then we rode the Minion DHF.
Suddenly, having fun on our bikes became a lot less condition dependent. Instead of feeling like toddlers fumbling around in a sandbox with a plastic shovel, we felt like bulldozer operators. As good as this tire was during our dry summer, our passion for it grew stronger as the seasons changed and moisture finally fell. It seemed like no matter what we threw at this tire, it welcomed it with open treads and begged for more.
Trying to get Salt-N-Peppa and Ice Cube lyrics out of our heads was the only thing we didn't really like when it came to cornering this tire. "P-push it real good" because no matter how much you "put your back in to it" you can't push this tire too hard. The EXO casing adds plenty of sidewall support while remaining supple enough to allow the tread to mold to the ground and stay seated on the rim. We never heard anyone complain about this tire squirming or folding beneath them. If you're lucky enough to call Moab home, the knobs might be a bit aggressive for slickrock. Same goes for exceptionally packed dirt. This tire does best when it has a little something to dig its teeth into.
The dual rubber compound of the 3C Maxx Terra version we tested uses a softer compound for the shoulder knobs. Once you hit the sweet spot, these knobs bite and hold in a predictable and confidence-inspiring fashion. Sitting atop the firmer rubber used for the base of the tire, we suspected the aggressive, alternating rectangular and L-shaped shoulder knobs might be a bit tippy when weighted or pushed into turns. We couldn't have been more wrong, as the knobs stood tall and refused to yield. The predominantly sandy conditions characteristic of Lake Tahoe during the heat of summer are a great match for this tire.
Don't hesitate to lean the bike over into corners with this tire, though. It can feel a bit wander-y if left to hang out in its transitional area too long. Other tires, like the Maxxis Assegai and the WTB Convict, share similarly aggressive side knobs and cornering ability, but both are intended for gravity-oriented riding and weigh significantly more. In contrast to the locked-in cornering feel of the DHF, the Schwalbe Hans Dampf provided a drifty cornering feel that was very different from the "locked in" feel of the above tires.
The Maxx Terra compound we tested seems to be a great balance between grip, wear, and rolling speed. It's a great compound that provides increased longevity over tires made of their Maxx Grip compound. Little concession in rolling resistance is felt compared to tires made with the firmer and longer-wearing Maxx Speed compound. When things get steep and your index finger is starting to cramp, the siped center tread seems to effectively splay itself across rocks, roots, and every trail medium in between. The support provided by the robust casing allows for lower tire pressure, whereby the amount of tire in contact with the ground increases to boost traction. You might notice a lot of people running this tire on the rear as well, and for good reason.
We'd compare the aggressive knobs of this tire to the WTB Vigilante but we felt these tires performed well in fewer conditions, whereas the Minion DHF was a more consistent performer. Again, the Specialized Butcher mimicks the ride of the DHF with a similar lug pattern.
When you find yourself in situations where you need to really to slow and stop, the Minion DHF is able to shut things down in a hurry. The sipes on the center tread are deep and wide and flared a bit at the leading edge. Under strong braking forces, the knobs are able to spread out and smear the terrain. Braking is particularly impressive on surfaces that allow the tall lugs to do some digging in. Maxxis states the tire is designed for loose and muddy conditions; on the rare occasions we were treated to rain during our California summer, this and the Schwalbe Magic Mary were our first choices. The other 99 percent of the time, loose is an appropriate descriptive term for our typical trail conditions and braking was just as impressive.
Of particular note is the braking traction on loose over hard surfaces. Many of our local rides feature rock steps covered in a layer of sand that makes for a challenging braking surface. The 3C Maxx Terra compound seemed to provide an exceptional amount of grip combining a harder durometer rubber for the base and two different hardness rubbers for the center and shoulder tread. If you're lucky enough to have local trails that are asphalt hard or you ride smooth, power-tamped flow trails most of the time, this tire might seem a bit overkill.
Ramped knobs help to keep this tire rolling right along despite being one of the more aggressive looking tires in our test. The 3C Maxx Terra is a nice combination of softer rubber for the shoulder knobs and firmer, longer-wearing rubber on the center tread. On paved surfaces, it's easy to swerve around and feel the difference in traction as the bike is angled into a turn and transitions from center tread outwards to the shoulder knobs.
The tire has a tendency to feel like it's quick to lose momentum once you stop pedaling on flat, firmer surfaces. Luckily, that's not why you buy a tire like this. Among the tires we tested, the Minion DHF lands right around the middle in terms of rolling resistance. It doesn't feel as draggy as some of the heavier and even more aggressive tires we tested. Blindfolded and cruising on asphalt (totally not recommended), we probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference in rolling resistance between this and the Specialized Butcher.
Thick-feeling sidewalls make managing this tire much easier than some others. It holds its shape instead of flopping, rolling, and folding in our hands as you ease it onto the rim. The rubber is plenty grippy and we never broke out the tire levers. Seating the bead was easy with our Booster pump. The sidewalls on Maxxis tires appeared to be a lot less porous or permeable as we never noticed any wet spots or seepage and the tire held air at the same air pressure the next day, as it did after initial installation.
Our Minion DHF is truly the loyal servant its name implies. It spent the majority of its time during our test mounted on the front wheel, leading us to do battle with sharp rocks, roots, stumps and broken glass. The thick feeling EXO sidewalls, with their extra layer of protection, fend off every type of trail debris we rolled it over, through, or straight into.
This tire never let us down, even during lift-served resort riding where many riders might reach for the "Double Down" downhill casing (not tested). We felt the EXO casing was more robust than the Protection casing on the Continental Mountain King and the Snakeskin on the Schwalbe Hans Dampf, allowing us to run traction maximizing lower pressures with less risk of flatting.
We like it when a product wins our Editors' Choice Award and isn't the most expensive thing in the test. The old saying, "You get what you pay for," often results in the best performing product putting the biggest hole in your wallet. Though Maxxis tires are far from what you might consider a steal, but the retail price of this tire is worth it in our book, plus you can usually find them on sale. Then again, we find it hard to put a price on something that makes doing what you love that much more fun.
The Minion DHF is the winner of our Editor's Choice Award for its outstanding on-trail performance due to its combination of cornering grip, pedaling and braking traction, and durability. This tire inspires confidence and can help you take your riding to another level. We can't say enough good things about the Minion DHF. Pair it with a Minion DHR II in the rear for aggressive trail riding.
The Minion DHF is available for 26" wheels in 2.3", 2.35", 2.5", and 2.5"WT widths. Its offered in EXO, EXO+, and Double Down casings and rubber compounds like Maxx Terra, Dual, and Super Tacky.
For 27.5" wheels, it is available in 2.3", 2.5"WT, and 2.6" widths. It is offered in Maxx Terra, Maxx Grip, and Dual rubber compounds.
In the 29" wheel size it is offered in 2.3" and 2.5" widths. It's available in Maxx Terra and Dual rubber compounds.
— Jeremy Benson