Two killer classic tires. The Maxxis Minion DHF and Schwalbe Magic Mary. Numerous riders have run one or the other, if not both, at some point in time. In this comparison, we will be diving in and looking at these two tires individually as well as comparing them back to back. While we already have a few reviews on the DHF, unfortunately, we cannot say the same about the Magic Mary.
Both tires are very similar in what they are designed to handle; everything from loose and dry and loose over hard, all the way to great loam dirt and light rain with mud. While I wouldn't use either of these for a full mud race, they do perform well in moderate mud. For the Maxxis DHF, we are on the 29” x 2.5” WT 3C EXO tire. For the Schwalbe, we went with the 29” x 2.35” Addix Soft Compound and Snakeskin protection. Generally speaking, Maxxis is known to be under the marked tire size whereas the Schwalbe tend to run a bit larger. However, there is still a noticeable difference in size. The Maxxis DHF looks a bit larger. Weight is also a big difference, the Maxxis DHF is 1,005g and the Schwalbe Magic Mary is much lighter weighing in at only 885g.
While both the tires we tested were the softer compound versions, the Schwalbe Magic Mary is by far much softer than the Maxxis DHF. The side cornering knobs on the Magic Mary roll well, since the rubber is so soft, as well as two sipes on the side cornering tread. While that offers a lot of compliance, it can also be weird when those start to give and roll away from grabbing the dirt. The Maxxis has a very different tread pattern, two large knobs in the center tread with a small gap; and then the classic Minion side cornering knobs, alternating square, and “L” shape, really seem to have great grip. While the rubber is also soft, the large knobs have enough support and do not have any roll or give while cornering those loose turns.
As mentioned previously, many riders including myself, have spent considerable amounts of time on the Maxxis DHF. While it's not the fastest or lightest, it offers very consistent grip and predictability in a variety of riding conditions. This is my go-to tire when I don't know what to run, or what the terrain will be like. At first, the Maxxis DHF has a very “grab, drift, grab” personality. When you transition from the center tread, you hit the slight gap in the tread and that is where the drift starts. Once leaned over enough, you then grab the cornering knobs and grab back into the traction you started with. Once you get used to this, controlled drifts become a thing of beauty. The side cornering knobs are very supportive and hold you up once you lean on them.
The Magic Mary has a very different personality from that of the DHF. While it has great, almost extreme traction through the center to transition, the side cornering tread is where it starts to fall off. With a very smooth center to middle transition, the tire grips the entire time. When I started to lean hard on the side cornering knobs, they became very flexible, leading me to believe they would be perfect on loose dirt and rocks/roots. However in SoCal, we are mostly loose over hard dirt and too much flex, or not enough support on the knobs can cause them to “fall away”. This was a difficult feeling to overcome for myself and my riding style.
Although the tire felt good in the center knobs, I felt as if the side knobs could benefit from a harder more supportive compound. Because of this, I found it hard to trust the Magic Mary in all conditions. It has tons of grip on the straights but tends to breakaway in the corners which did not help my confidence in hardpack conditions. When the dirt gets loose and like powder, the Magic Mary really shows its strength. While we do not have a lot of this dirt, and also no real “loam” to try, I will admit it's not the best overall impression.
Although both the Maxxis DHF and the Schwalbe Magic Mary are two very iconic tires, it was obvious which tire won in this showdown. The Maxxis DHF proved to be more versatile in our testing conditions and that its tread design was better and most efficient in the corners. The Schwalbe Magic Mary demonstrated itself to be a very soft and grippy tire for general riding, however, its design seemed almost flawed for the dry southern California dust and sand.
The amount of open space between the knobs and soft compound were self-destructive and resulted in a not so enjoyable ride. The DHF is tried and true, which explains why the design has been so consistent over the past couple of years and why it has been used as the parent to many of the newer Maxxis tires. Because of those reasons, we picked the Maxxis Minion DHF as the winning tire.