In this blog, we decided to check in with Steve Mokan who runs a top-notch MTB operation called Chasing Epic MTB. Steve has logged plenty of hours on A LOT of different tires and decided to share his input on the Double Down casing found on a variety of different Maxxis tires. Let's dive into it!
With Chasing Epic, we run mountain bike trips to some pretty desolate and rugged locations: places like Moab, Sedona, Fruita, and St. George. As you can probably guess, most of the time our bikes take a beating - we go through derailleur hangers and tires like nobody's business. For a large majority of the 2017 season, we've been running Maxxis EXO-grade tires on our demo bikes, and for the most part we've had pretty good luck, averaging 3-4 flat tires per trip (among 10-12 riders) to these destinations. That might not sound like much, but it adds up financially over the course of a 15-trip season.
That's where the crew at Worldwide Cyclery comes in: last year we hosted Jeff and Andy as clients on our Fruita, Colorado trip and since then we've formed a solid partnership. I was recently talking with Andy on how to improve our Chasing Epic trips, and he recommended the Double-Down casing tires from Maxxis. I had obviously heard of them, but we never used them because they weren't spec'ed on the bikes we carry. That was about to change.
What are "Double Down" tires, you might ask? Essentially, they're Maxxis' downhill-grade tire, with an extra layer of protection to help save you from sidewall gashes and tire pinches: they come in 120 tpi with a folding kevlar bead and a butyl insert. OK, but what does that mean in the real world? In essence, these tires are burly and can withstand a lot of punishment.
On the recommendation of the WWC crew, we picked up a few different Double Down tires to run on the rear wheels of our demo bikes before we hit a stretch of five consecutive trips to Moab and St. George, where they were surely put to the test:
High Roller II 29" x 2.30: 1135g w/ MaxxTerra
Minion DHR II 27.5" x 2.3": 1005g w/ MaxxTerra
Tomahawk 29" x 2.3": 1070g w/ MaxxTerra
There's no way around it - installing these tires is a bitch. Before we got the hang of it, we broke three tire levers and were ready to go Tasmanian Devil on our garage workshop. The tire beads are stiff, there's not much give in the sidewalls, and they're a tight fit. Exacerbating the problem were the rims we use on our bikes - 34mm internal width Ibis 738 wheels.
That said, once the tires were on the rims, they seated with a floor pump no issue; pretty standard practice with Maxxis tires, in our experience. But be prepared for some frustration and a forearm workout, just a warning.
The important part of the review, right? When it comes to switching over to the Double-Down tires, the most pressing issue for us was durability...and the tires delivered. As mentioned above, we had three different Maxxis tires on the bikes, and they were tested over five straight 4-day trips in Moab and St. George, UT. And you know how many flat tires our customers had? Zero. That's right, none. There was one burped tire, but that was likely a result of low pressure versus a weakness in the tire itself.
Obviously this is a fairly small sample size, but at the same time it's a significant departure from what we typically see on our Moab and St. George trips. I can't remember the last time we got through one trip - much less five - without a flat tire. This was a huge savings in both cost and time; no one likes when a ride is delayed 20 minutes while three guys try to fix a flat tire on the side of the trail.
Additionally, these tires wear really, really well. Over the course of five 4-day trips, you'd expect to see some tire wear; especially considering we were riding the super-grippy and sandpaper-esque slickrock of Moab and St. George. Not so. The tires barely showed any signs of wearing down, especially versus the non-DD casing tires that we observed. The hard compound not only helps with protection, but also helps with tread wear.
It's not all peaches and cream with the Maxxis Double Down tires, however; there are certainly some drawbacks to running them on your personal bike. First is weight: on average, a DD tire adds about 200-250g over what you see with their EXO lineup. That can be significant, especially when it's added to the rolling mass of the rear wheel. The weight penalty alone is reason enough for a lot of folks to turn a blind eye. Throw in a difficult installation process, and plenty of people won't even consider rolling Double Down on their bike. To each their own, of course.
The pros? How about durability, performance, and peace of mind? The DD tires help with protection from flats, but they also help protect your wheel rim from damage as they're stiffer and thicker, allowing you to absorb harder rock and root hits. If you're OK with a slight weight penalty, then there's a good chance you should take a look at the Double Down casing; at least on the rear wheel to start.
Our only true complaint with the Double Down tire options is that they're not yet available in the "Wide Trail" tire sizes such as the Minion DHF 2.5" WT. Maxxis did recently announce these tires are in the pipeline, so we're anxiously awaiting them being publicly available. You can bet you'll see them on the rear wheel of our demo bikes next year.