Maxxis XC Tires Long Term Testing & Favorite Combos w/ Liam Woods

Words by: Liam Woods

What Happens When You Test All The Maxxis Tires?

I've always been a fan of Maxxis tires; they seem to have the perfect combination of grip, feel, and reliability. This is especially true for XC tire treads, where faster rolling or softer rubber can matter in certain situations. However, a tire that holds air, is consistent across various terrain, and can improve your confidence is paramount. This year, Maxxis graciously provided me with a handful of tires to test for some XC racing. These races require more than just the fastest XC tire; they are some of the most technical races on the West Coast, such as Moab Rocks, Grand Junction Ride & Vibes, The Great Descent, and the crown jewel, The Downieville Classic.

Maxxis XC Tires: Aspen, Rekon Race, Ikon, Rekon & Forekaster

From Left to Right: Aspen, Rekon Race, Ikon, Rekon & Forekaster

Maxxis sent over a few of the following: Aspen 2.4, Rekon Race 2.4, Ikon 2.35, Rekon 2.4, and Forekaster 2.4. At the time, this was pretty much the full Maxxis “cross country” and “light trail” tires. Later came the Aspen ST 2.4 in both standard 120 TPI EXO and Team Spec 170 TPI EXO, as well as the Aspen Team Spec 170 TPI casing. I'd previously ridden all of the first set of tires except the Aspen 2.4, which I initially thought would feel sketchy and would need to be replaced quickly. My goal with this testing was to keep an open mind and find tire combos that I felt good on, capable of handling the rough XC races I planned. I'm a big believer in larger volume tires, so I didn't test anything smaller than 2.35. I had been running the Rekon 2.4 front with an Ikon 2.35 rear when all the tires arrived, and I was already familiar with that setup, as well as having recently tested the Forekaster tire when it was new and raced it at the Downieville Classic in 2023 up front with the Ikon 2.35 out back. So, I went full speed and threw on dual Aspen 2.4s to start out the testing. 

Maxxis Aspen & Maxxis Ikon Tires


In all my testing, I used Tubolite inserts front and rear, starting on the Revel Ranger and later swapping to my new Yeti ASR. Maxxis did not pay for this article but provided the tires at my request. I typically choose to run and buy Maxxis tires. I weigh 150 lbs. and have a mostly smooth and light riding style, allowing me to use low pressures with inserts. Inserts are not new, and I haven't always been a fan, especially for trail or enduro bikes, as they can make the tire volume feel smaller. They help prevent rim dings, but I often opted for a Double Down or DH casing instead. In 2023, I tried the Vittoria Air Liner Light for a rear insert at Downieville, which worked well but didn't significantly improve the feel. At 55g, it has no weight penalty, but I found it didn't make a substantial difference. The Tubolite inserts, at 58g, are similar in weight but denser, providing sidewall support and rim protection at low pressures, and so far its allowed me to ride these tires harder than no insert. 

Revel Ranger V2 - Liam's Custom Build

Maxxis Aspen's on Liam's Revel Ranger V2

Maxxis Aspen

The Maxxis Aspen was the fastest XC tread pattern Maxxis made until the Aspen ST was released. The Aspen prioritizes speed with a low-profile tread pattern and massive casing volume, almost resembling slicks. Having seen many World Cup racers use these, including Geoff Kabush at Downieville, I wanted to give them a fair try, though I doubted they would stay on my bike long. Starting with low pressures (20 psi front and 22 psi rear), they felt fast but not very grippy. However, they were predictable, which is crucial. I gradually lowered the pressure to 18/20 psi, where the magic happened. Typically, I never run such low pressure, but with my new bike setup focused on smooth riding and speed, the Aspens excelled. They rolled fast and provided a predictable drift, with the open tread pattern offering grip and braking control. I ended up racing them at Moab Rocks for all three days without issues.

Maxxis Aspen Tire

Overall, the Maxxis Aspen is more than just a big slick tire. It's fast, predictable, and the large volume smooths out terrain while providing a large contact patch. No wonder many racers use this tire for World Cups and XC races. Available in 2.25 and 2.4 widths with 120 TPI and 170 TPI casing options.

Maxxis Aspen Tires

Maxxis Aspen ST

The Maxxis Aspen ST, a new addition, is already winning races. It features a file tread patch in the middle, alternating with “arrow” tread for a smoother center. Although faster than the Aspen, it loses some consistency and grip. Recently used by Payson McElveen for Unbound 200, this tire's versatility is proven. Available in 2.25 and 2.4 widths with 120 TPI and 170 TPI casing options.

Maxxis Aspen vs Maxxis Aspen ST Tires

Maxxis Aspen Left, Maxxis Aspen ST Right

Maxxis Rekon Race

The Maxxis Rekon Race, different from the Rekon, has a small knob pattern in the center with square blocks, similar to the Minion SS but for XC. Many like this tire for XC riding or rear use with a Rekon front. However, for my local terrain of hardpack with loose dirt and rocks, I felt it lacked consistency. Terrain plays a major role in tire preference. I tested the 2.35 and 2.4 versions but did not use this tire much.

Maxxis Rekon Race Tires

Maxxis Ikon

The Maxxis Ikon, a classic XC tire, provides consistent performance across various terrains. Though not as common in World Cup races, it's a great everyday tire. I tested the 2.35 and often ran it in the rear with a Rekon front or both front and rear. It offers a balance of grip and speed, making it suitable for XC riding and training.

Maxxis Ikon Tires

Maxxis Rekon

The Maxxis Rekon, with larger knobs and siped side knobs, is ideal for light trail riding. I've always liked the Rekon, mainly using it in the rear, but it also works well as a front tire. The 2.4 casing on 30mm rims provides substantial support and grip without significantly increasing weight. The 2.25 version feels more XC-oriented, but the 2.4 casing is the winner, with an EXO+ version offering added protection.

Maxxis Rekon Tires

Maxxis Forekaster

The Maxxis Forekaster, updated by Maxxis, is now a light trail tire with increased weight and traction. It offers excellent grip, making it ideal for steeper and looser terrain. I tested the 2.4 width, but it also comes in a 2.6 width with an EXO+ casing. This tire provides a great balance of speed, grip, and puncture protection.

Maxxis Forekaster Tires

What Tire Impressed Me the Most?

I'd have to say right off the bat, the Maxxis Aspen was the most surprising tire for me. When running the 2.4 widths with low pressures and an insert, I was able to get so much grip from this tire I couldn't believe it. I was riding my local trails at full gas without issue, pulling on my riding buddies who had more tire, and I was able to stay in control the whole time. Another addicting part of this tire is how fast it rolls. While it might drift a little more in corners, you immediately get back up to speed and hold that speed easier with the Aspen. It makes you never want to put on a slower-rolling tire after riding something so fast. As mentioned before, I chose to run this tire at Moab Rocks, which only a few months before, if you had asked me what I would run there, I would probably have said Rekon or Ikon at the minimum. With two casing options, you can get a really fast-rolling tire while having options for your specific terrain.

Maxxis Aspen Tires

Favorite Combos

Here is the real sauce: what setups will I actually find myself running? Quite a few, and I'll break them down to when and what type of riding I'll choose them for. First off, all-out speed. You can guess it at this point: Maxxis Aspen 2.4 in the 120 TPI casing front and rear. To me, running the Aspens as a combo feels the best. The way they brake and drift together feels consistent, and the profile of the tire is also a bit unique, so I find running them together is best for me. When would I choose this? For any typical XC race, I would jump to Aspens. They are fast, don't puncture easily, and have enough grip for your typical XC course. If I go back to Moab Rocks, I would still run Aspens. I didn't have any issues and needed all the help I could get from free  tire speed. I think the standard 2.4 casing is probably best for most riding; however, the new 170 TPI Team Spec casing could be a good front tire when the terrain is really quite smooth. I even think I could get away with that casing up front in Moab, as nothing there is too sharp but just rough, so the more supple and faster casing would theoretically provide more grip. Also, for a local XC race where the terrain isn’t that rowdy, I think the Aspen ST 2.4 in the 120 TPI EXO casing could make for a good rear with either Aspen 2.4 casing up front. The super fast combo that I have not tried but will soon would be Aspen 2.4 Team Spec 170 TPI front, and Aspen ST 2.4 120 TPI rear.

Maxxis Ikon Tires


Next, for everyday riding and training, I would choose Ikon 2.35 Maxx Speed front and rear. This just feels smooth and consistent. They don't wear too fast, and the block knob pattern provides a lot of flat protection and a solid feeling below you. They are fast enough to rip in an XC race but also don’t make you feel scared all the time with them. There is a reason it may be the oldest tread pattern in the Maxxis mountain bike lineup, and you still see them on racers' bikes for big races or training rides.

Maxxis Rekon & Maxxis Ikon Tires
My 95% sure Downieville Classic setup: Rekon 2.4 3C front with the Ikon 2.35 Maxx Speed rear. After all this testing, I found this to give me the best rolling speed, tire casing volume, grip on loose over hard or in softer sections, and enough flat protection (haven’t flatted these at all). For the most part, I am really just looking for a consistent tire that works well in a range of conditions and rolls as fast as possible. I also think these tires work well together. The two profiles are similar; they break loose and drift in a similar fashion, and the weight is pretty minimal. I don’t see myself changing from this unless something drastic happens, but I think this year should be pretty standard as far as trail conditions. Not too dry and powdery as it has been from a bad snow year, but also not wet or hero dirt where I could run something like an Aspen.


Late summer and post-XC training season, I'll probably run Rekon 2.4 3C front and rear. This setup gives me a little more volume and traction in the rear when the trails get looser and drier. The braking traction will be nice to have in these conditions. I also just think there is something to running the same tire front and rear on a shorter travel bike; having that consistent feeling on both tires is something I enjoy. The Rekon I think punches above it’s weight, rolling faster than the Forekaster but with the right pressure and rim profile, it’s super consistent. 

Maxxis Forekaster Tires


The last setup: the Forekaster 2.4 3C front with Forekaster 2.4 Dual compound rear. This is the mini trail bike setup and also will work well late summer into fall. If I need to ride some terrain that pushes the XC bike, this is my go-to combo. I have enough grip and control to really ride this bike over its head while still not on a Minion or Assegai tire. Similar to running the Rekon front and rear, the Forekaster front and rear have a really consistent drift and feel balanced on the bike. The Dual compound rubber in the rear helps roll a touch faster while the larger tread pattern digs into the loose soil. For added protection while riding these tires harder than one might suggest, The EXO+ version gives you that added protection without much weight increase. 

Final Thoughts

While there are a lot of tire brands out there doing amazing things, it's hard to get away from the Maxxis tire family. What good is a fast tire if it's going to flat in a race or big ride situation? Maxxis has been the pinnacle for mountain bike tires for 20+ years or more, and they are not stopping soon, showing they want to keep innovating with things like the Team Spec 170 TPI casing. When looking for a predictable tire that grips well and can handle the roughest terrain, Maxxis is my go-to. It was fun and nerdy being able to test all these tires and put them to the test in the real world. I found new combos I wouldn’t have tried myself and fell back in love with the fast-rolling tires.

Maxxis XC Tires

Liam Woods - Employee Spotlight

This article was written / authored by Liam Woods. Liam has been in the bicycle industry for over 10 years as a racer, professional mechanic, service manager and as of late, media and content creator. Liam has ridden thousands of different bikes, ridden countless components, tested endless MTB apparel of all kinds and written reviews on it all. He's a key piece to the Worldwide Cyclery "All Things MTB" content creation puzzle. He also makes consistent appearances on the Worldwide Cyclery YouTube channel and Instagram.

June 13, 2024

Aspen › Aspen ST › Forekaster › Ikon › Maxxis › Rekon › Rekon Race › Tire ›

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