A tyres main purpose is to transfer all the power you put through the pedals to the ground, and keep you on your chosen line through the corners. In the beginnings of MTB over 20 years ago, there were OK tyres and bad tyres, but with the advent of heavy investment into tyre design and new hi-tech compounds, the modern mountain bike tyre is a triumph of design. There are now tyres for all purposes, mud, snow, summer, winter, XC, AM, DH, trail, road and many others, and it can be confusing when confronted with such an array of compounds to know what will be best. All the big hitters in the tyre market, Continental, Schwalbe, Michelin and Maxxis make generally great tyres and ‘bad’ tyres are becoming rarer. Tyre choice is always a personal thing and it pays to try a few out to get a feel for what you like and don’t like. There will always be an inverse relationship between low rolling resistance (a faster rolling tyre) and grip (a slower tyre) so it pays to think of the type of riding you do and which end of the scale would be most suitable
We have been spending time over the winter on 3 very different tyres from Maxxis, aimed at the XC, AM and DH rider, the Maxxis Aspen, Maxxis Ardent and Maxxis Minion.
Probably the most popular tyre on the current World Cup DH scene, the Minion has carried some awesome riders onto the top spot of the podium. The Minion DHF was designed for the often loose and muddy conditions of aggressive all-mountain terrain. The DHF (front specific version) incorporates ramped knobs for low rolling resistance and channel-cut knobs to increase gripping edges, giving straight-line control and precise cornering. The Minion comes in both front- and rear-specific designs, and is the arguably grippier, although slightly slower than its stable-mate the classic Highroller. The Minion comes in many forms, from the basic wire rimmed to the new Exo protect sidewalls, and is available in a range of compounds, Super Tacky 42a, more durable 60a and the very expensive but high tech 3C which uses three compounds – a hard 70a base layer (a solid base for less knob flex) combined with Super Tacky 42a for the top rolling knobs and Slow Reezaay 40a for the shoulder knobs. The effect is a super soft compound tyre that rolls slightly better than a standard Super Tacky or Slow Reezaay, and grips brilliantly, but will wear quickly. Most commonly used in 2.35 and 2.5 sizes the tyre comes up a little smaller, with the 2.5 being a similar size to competitors 2.35s.
We have been riding the 2.5, 60A, Exo version and have found the tyre to be nothing other than brilliant. There is so much grip when the tyre is cranked over, the transition between running on the central knobs and railing the edges is smooth and predictable with no noticeable flat spots. The tracking is pin sharp, you can lay the bike down in turns and hear the aggressive side knobs holding any line you are daft enough to choose. For a tyre designed for DH, it rolls pretty well and would make a good hardcore trail tyre or all mountain tyre for big runs in the hills. The DHR (rear specific version) is a bit disappointing, less predictable and does not have the same excellent tracking as the DHF (front specific version). We would highly recommend running this tyre with a DHF on both ends (like Sam Hill) or running a Highroller on the rear for slightly faster rolling.
Overall, a great tyre, we tested it in all conditions and the only weakness we found is that it can clog up in sticky mud, though if your riding is in very muddy areas, you can cut them down to make an epic wet mud tyre. Probably one of the best do it all tyres on the market at the moment, if you only ride XC then these are not the tyres for you, but if you like a bit of technical stuff, fitting these tyres will supercharge your confidence.
Amazing, tenacious grip in the corners
Excellent bite from the shoulders when leant over
At 835g in the 2.5 and 700g in the 2.35 its not the lightest of tyres.
The 60a compound is a little skittish on wet rocks
Struggles to shed thicker mud
This is Maxxis’s trail tyre designed to be used more as a spring summer tyre when the trails are dryer and fast. It features an aggressive tread in high-volume casing. The tyres feature large block-style side knobs for high-speed cornering. The center treads ramped knobs are designed to minimize rolling resistance, whilst still providing control for breaking and accelerating.
We tested the 2.4 and 2.25 version in 60A kevlar beaded compound. First things first, the 2.4 tyre is massive! huge volume and much more aggressive knobs that the 2.25 version. Fitting this tyre will make your 26 inch wheel more like a 27, the side walls are that tall. This proved to be a very fast rolling tyre, if you normally ride high rollers and the like you will notice an improvement in speed and acceleration immediately. On dry and hard packed trails this tyre is very quick, offering good grip and precise steering. There is however an issue with the tyre that some riders will not like, there is a large gap between the central rolling knobs and the outer shoulder knobs, which you can really sense on the trail. There is a noticeable vague zone between straight up and leaned over where it can feel a little precarious at first, however once the tyre is cranked over on its edge the grip is great, the side knobs are aggressive and angled to provide excellent grip. We found they were a little drifty on looser surfaces, coming hard into tight berms the back end would break out a little, but the slide was always controllable and would hold when the side knobs dug in. There is not a lot of grip on muddy and loose ground, the rear tyre would skip out a bit when under power on steep loose climbs, but that will always be the compromise if you are looking for a fast rolling tyre. This may put some riders off, but we think for a tyre that rolls so fast, as long as you are aggressive in the corners the Ardent is a great tyre for trail centre riding and AM duties. Just make sure the 2.4 will fit in your forks and frame.
We did have a few concerns about the durability of the thin sidewall casings, We rode the 2.25 version on the back and the 2.4 up front and in one big Alpine day, the 2.25 sidewall tore. This may have been unlucky as the trail was VERY rocky and we have put over 3 months on the 2.4 and it is still holding up well, but the sidewalls are thin and perhaps not suited for tough AM riding in single ply guise!.
Very fast rolling on hardpack
Huge volume makes for a great ride
Good grip when riding aggressively
A great trail centre tyre
Grip is limited in muddy and loose conditions
Tyre is vague at certain angle
Thin sidewalls good for keeping weight down, but do tear easily
Can be too big for some bikes
The new Maxxis Aspen pushes the limits of a lightweight XC tire designed to have minimal rolling resistance. The Aspen is designed with a high-volume casing to smooth out the roughest roots and rocks, while the dual compounds gives optimal traction in the corners.
Wow, they are fast…incredibly fast. The low center tread with the “Chevron” styled center knobs show literally no rolling resistance on the trail. These tires carry speed effortlessly. Like the Ardent, the Aspen is a very large tyre, we tested the 2.25 and it came up similar to a big 2.35 – 2.4. On the trail, the tire’s high volume benefits the rider by smoothing out trail chatter and reducing the likelihood of a buzz-killing pinch flat, while the rounded tire profile makes for predictable, stable cornering, as there isn’t a whole lot of unpredictability or slippage as you transition from the center to the relatively aggressive, if rather small, side lugs. I must admit that I really like this tyre, if you are looking for a marathon tyre or are riding trail centres in the summer, this tyre offers satisfactory grip and is extremely fast rolling. On the dry hard-pack the bike feels as though it has wings, flying up climbs and over flat pedally sections. You can feel the lightweight side walls, giving VERY impressive acceleration, and the large volume of the the 2.25 adds a layer of comfort. I used a pair of these to race the Relentless 24 and they handled the event perfectly. When run hard they have a tendency to skip about a bit on the rocks and can occasionally ping in unexpected directions, but it is a race tyre and there will always be a compromise. In the dry the tyres have a good amount of grip and offer a surprising amount of tenacity in the corners, when things get loose or wet, you have to tread on egg shells as the tyre will slide if pushed, the tyre will also spin out if trying to put too much power down on loose climbs. In the mud they are useless, but that is all you could expect from such a minimally treaded tyre.
In conclusion if you are looking for a do it all tyre, the Aspens are probably not the tyre for you, but if you are looking for a race tyre to give you the edge over the competition, and don’t mind caressing them through loose corners, the Aspen must be one of the best kept secret weapons on the circuit. I am going to run these tubeless on a 22lb hardtail and see how they go longer term.
Super lightweight so fast acceleration
Very fast rolling
Good volume for a race tyre
Limited grip over loose surfaces
Thin sidewalls may point to durability issues, we will see how they shape up over the next few months.