The Good: Long wearing
Excellent traction and durability for its weight
Surprisingly good in various conditions
The Bad: A little heavy for competitive XC racing
Limited width options
Not officially tubeless ready
The Ikon (29x2.2) is my favorite tire for SoCal riding. It's what you need when your trail's surface is more like concrete, with a dusting of kitty litter, in which the loose dusting acts like mini ball bearings between the flat tops of your tire's knobs and the super hard and dry hardpack. The knobs have just enough depth to pierce through the loose, allowing the numerous working edges bite into the hardpack, while the ramps allow it to roll quietly and smoothly. This is a tire you pick when you want to go fast, with the least amount effort, but still want traction to be able to maintain control when going fast. Compared to other XC tires that I've tried in its weight range, such as the Racing Ralph, Small Block Eight, XR1 Team, X-King, Captain, etc. I find the Ikon offers a balance of speed, toughness, tread life, sidewall cut resistance, rim fit, casing stiffness/resilience, rolling resistance, cornering, braking, and climbing traction that is, overall, well above average. It even punches a bit above its class, with me preferring it over an Ardent 2.4 up front for overall performance.
The high volume casing seems to help it keep its momentum when going through deep loose stuff and muck, while offering great suspension characteristics when run at a low pressure that's just high enough to prevent pinch flats and rim strikes. It's great for those times that you run into an unexpected deep pocket of sand, which might cause other tires to sink and bog down to the point that you lose speed and find your body being hurled forward. It doesn't seem undersized, despite people speaking poorly of Maxxis's sizing standards. I've found that it fits on a variety of rims easily, such as Stan's Flows, Easton UST, and DT rims, converting to tubeless with sealant reliably and popping onto the bead shelf with a snug fit. It also works adequately well with tubes, without frequent puncture and pinch flats being a problem. I haven't run into a case where the bead was blown off of the rim yet, in about 2 years of riding these tires.
Its durability has impressed me greatly, for such a lightweight and high performing tire. I've slashed lighter tires, such as Racing Ralphs and Small Block Eights, on the trails around me and I've heard stories of others slashing Ikon non-EXO sidewall in places like Sedona, so I have always opted for the model with the EXO option, which gives me peace of mind that's well worth the extra weight and cash. I haven't had any casing tears either, and the tire seems to spin straight and true without any wobbles. The few tires I weighed all seemed to be within claimed range, from 580g up to about 605g. These tires last me over 1000 trail miles on the rear, which is far more than I can say for other tires like Schwalbes, Kendas, and High Rollers, which might get 500 miles or so. It doesn't lose much of its performance when it wears either. I usually have Stans boogers bouncing around by the time I'm even a third of the way done wearing through its tread.
The tire does have its limits. I've tried it in Big Bear, where the dirt is dry and powdery and gets ripped up to the point that it's a sort of sand bog with rocks for land mines. For that, I prefer a tire with a bit more tread depth and bigger shoulder knobs. It's not designed for the wet, but does surprisingly well. It won't offer grip on slimy greasy muck covered roots and rocks, but I don't think anything does. What it does does do is do better in all these condition than any other XC tire I've tried, so good that I typically install it and never take it off, living with its limitations happily.
I never thought I'd use the word, "love", to describe my feeling for a tire, seriously, but this one earns it. I love this tire! Chances are good that I would even choose to buy them if I had a supply of *free* tires from some competing brand. I have about half a dozen of these in service in my garage, because I like them so much. I never thought I'd be happy to pay more than a Benjamin for a pair of tires, but I vehemently believe that these are worth it. Very highly recommended!
Props to the guys at Maxxis who were behind this tire, who wracked their minds over the smallest details of this tire's design in a comprehensive manner, producing the finest XC tire I have ever ridden. Not sure how they got all this grip without using a soft compound nor knob flex, nor am I sure how they seemingly got the casing resilience just right, with everything else, such as tire weight, volume, etc. in consideration; this tire seems to do the impossible, offering almost everything I realistically wanted in a tire in a fine balance. They really outdone themselves with this. I don't miss the days of tire selection angst, asking other riders which are the "best" tires for this and that.
54mm casing width, 35 psi tube, 19mm rim, new tire
Tire after about 500 miles (not mounted)
580g for 29x2.2 3C (triple compound) EXc (120 tpi casing) EXO (reinforced sidewall)