This supremely popular tire won our Editors' Choice Award for its confidence-inspiring cornering ability, trail tough EXO sidewall protection, and versatility in typical enduro mountain biking terrain. With an unyielding, aggressive knob pattern, this tire knows when to hold and straight up refuses to fold. Run it on the front, back, or both wheels. The 3C Maxx Terra compound offers softer, grippier rubber on the edges for predictable bite and control when dumping into a corner at speed and a harder rubber on the center tread to help you accelerate out the other end. Keep reading to see how this tire stacked up against the others in our test.
Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO Review
Cons: Not awesome on hardpack, high rolling resistance, moderately expensive, requires good technique
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Bestowed 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 our 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 conditions 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. Nary a tester uttered a complaint 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 at least 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 stick like a wet tongue to a frozen flagpole. 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 wandery if left to hang out in its transitional area too long. The Specialized Butcher has similar cornering characteristics at a lower price point and was awarded our Best Buy. The WTB Vigilante also railed corners but we didn't feel quite as confident on that tire as it's large side knobs got a little squirmy on firm ground. Our confidence was also hard to muster on the Continental Mountain King due to the extremely large dead spot that had to be conquered before the side knobs engaged. 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 seemed 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 lent 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 Michelin Wild Grip'r and the WTB Vigilante but we felt these tires performed well in fewer conditions whereas the Minion was a more consistent performer. Again, the Specialized Butcher mimicked the ride of the Minion with a similar lug pattern. The Continental Mountain King provided good traction in a straight line but we felt it fell short in anything but super dumped cornering.
When the woods are rapidly approaching as you struggle to remain rubber side down, 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 significant 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 is the tire we reached for. 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 firm surfaces. Many of our local rides feature steps covered in a layer of sand that provides 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 will seem a bit overkill.
The simple paddle lugs of the WTB Vigilante and the mixed rubber compound of the Specialized Butcher also made exceptional brakers. In suber-duper loose conditions like the ones we found at Mammoth Mountain, the Michelin Wild Grip'r and Hans Dampf were easy to control and never wandered under hard braking, but the large and soft knobs of the Michelin were sketchballs on hard ground.
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 kind of boring crap isn't typical enduro terrain. Among the tires we tested, the Minion lands right around the middle in terms of rolling resistance. It didn't feel as draggy as the Michelin Wild Grip'r or Continental Mountain King with their soft and big knobs. 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 others. It held its shape instead of flopping, rolling, and folding in our hands as we tried to ease it onto our wheels. The rubber was plenty grippy and we never broke out the tire levers. The sidewalls on Maxxis tires appeared to be a lot porous or permeable as we never noticed any wet spots or seepage and the tire held air reading the same air pressure the next day, as it did after initial installation.
Our Minion 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, fended off every type 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). Every front tire except our Michelin Wild Grip'r Advanced featured some type of sidewall protection and performed well enough in our testing. 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.
When things get all loosey-goosey, whether from a long summer drought or an abundance of rain as the seasons turn, nothing helps you keep the rubber side down like the Minion DHF. The open tread pattern helps facilitate mud clearing when things get sloppy. In the dry, the tire claws the surface in search of some, any traction. Rugged and raw trails feel a bit more tame and the renewed confidence in your riding will finally match that obnoxious neon kit you picked up so your Instagram photos pop a little more. More manicured, firmer terrain isn't as accepting of the ruckus the Minion prefers to bring though.
Consumers should be especially psyched 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, 78 bucks for a tire of this caliber is worth the loot. It's hard to put a price on something that makes doing what you love that much more fun.
The only valid reason that could possibly be keeping you from running out and buying this tire now is that you just broke yourself off trying to get rad on some other craptastic tire and now you're couch bound watching Red Bull Rampage videos while your shattered collarbone welds itself back together. Do yourself a favor. Put down the Pabst and drink some milk.
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Most recent review: December 13, 2016
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