There is always talk, fuss, and opinions about what tires you or friends are riding, so we are going to dive into the top performing enduro and trail tires for your bike. This will be a two part series, first will be front tires, and second will be rear tires. When talking about tires in general, there are lots of opinions on how you should choose a tire from how you ride, to the terrain, and to the type of dirt that is local to you. Some tires perform better in loose soil or offer better braking if your trails are super steep. At the end of this, you will either know exactly what tire you like or be more confused about everything. I will say, I often find myself over analyzing tire choice, and for good reason. Tires will make a bike ride differently and could adapt to certain trails or terrain much better. Whether I'm going on a trip, or the seasons are changing, I think tires are my favorite part on a bike, and trying them all to find your personal favorite isn’t a bad thing.
Starting with the Maxxis Minion DHF is not a mistake, as it is commonly the most spec’d front tire on all heavy duty trail bikes, enduro bikes, and DH bikes. With its many widths, casings, and rubber options, there really is a DHF to fit just about any bike in those categories. This tire really just works great in almost all conditions. If you get along with this tire, you could run it just about year round. It works in mud, not amazing, but it works. When it comes to loose soil or hard pack, the DHF has a great tread pattern with an alternating center and cornering knobs. The Minion DHF is now offered in lots of different casings: EXO (trail), EXO+ (heavy trail, light enduro), DD (enduro), and folding DH (enduro/DH). Between these four options, there is something for everyone. Recently our riders have been loving the EXO+ up front with something a bit more protective in the back. But let’s stick to front tires here. Available in a 2.3, 2.5WT, and 2.6WT options!
While we wouldn’t consider any of our reviews or blogs biased, this is one of my all time favorite tires, so I won’t try to over sell it. The Maxxis Minion DHR II was designed to be typically run as a rear we think, and the Maxxis website suggests to pair it with a DHF up front, so it sounds like this is a “rear” tire. But that is all subjective, and we have found the DHR II to perform amazingly in the front. It has a very similar tread design to the DHF, but with a widened center tread. I feel you really get a great transition from center to side knobs. It could also be suggested, not proven, that the DHR II has a bit less rolling resistance than the DHF. One of the best DH racers, Greg Minnaar, raced the DHR II front and rear to a World Championship win, so I guess it can perform up front pretty well… While it is offered in all the same casings, EXO (trail), EXO+ (heavy trail, light enduro), DD (enduro), and folding DH (enduro/DH), not all are available in every size. DD casing only comes in a 2.3 width version, for example. The 2.3, 2.4 and 2.6 width options are available in the rest of the casings and have the option of different rubber compounds as well. Rubber compounds alone are an entire video/blog, so I won’t go into that. We do have a funny video on DHF vs DHR II where we ask the shop guys what they prefer, and the results are a variety. Some couldn’t even keep their answers straight. To sum up, they are both amazing tires.
I mentioned Greg Minnaar above with the DHRII, but he’s really worth mentioning here. The Maxxis Assegai is the culmination of Minnarr’s desires in a tire. It’s something that will perform in just about all conditions no matter the dirt or weather. With tall knobs poking out like spikes, the Assegai lives up to its name. It’s named after the iron-tipped spear used by the Zulu people of South Africa. While this tire was only available in a folding DH casing to start, it is now offered in Maxxis DD casing, and will soon be available in both EXO and EXO+, so there are sure to be options for everyone. There is only one width at this time (2.5), and I think it will stay like that as it’s a tire made for racing. This is a tire I am extremely excited about because I love the tread pattern. I rode it a bit in the DH casing, but as I’m not a DH rider and I do a fair amount of climbing, a DH casing is overkill for me. I took it off to save some weight and rolling speed on my bike. Even though I decided not to keep it on my bike, the traction I had on the bike while going downhill was second to none. This tire really bites the dirt all the time. From corners to braking and anything between, the Assegai can help keep you glued to the trail. I have a feeling this tire will really catch on once it’s fully available in all options and be some riders “go to” tire for all conditions.
Next up is one of our favorite brands: Wilderness Trail Bikes, or WTB. These are some of our employees go-to tires. They are not new to making tires by any means, and in fact have some of the earliest mountain bike tires ever. Most recently their Vigilante tire is proving to be an amazing choice for many riders. Our shop rider and product tester Troydon will only ride the WTB Vigilante 2.3 tire with the tough casing and high grip for the front. No matter the bike, there is a Vigilante option that will suit the bike nicely. Offered in 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6 widths, a light or tough casing (really easy to understand those), and Fast Rolling or High Grip rubber options. With all those options, you can really get a good combination that works best for your bike. I personally agree with Troydon as I think the 2.3 Vigilante High Grip is my favorite, but I also rode the 2.5 for a while and that tire was also really good. The Vigilante tire does great in all conditions of hard pack, loose soil, or mud. It’s a versatile option that you could run all the time.
Now for a tire from a brand that is newer to the game, the E13 TRS tires. E13 recently took their swing at the tire game, and on their first try came up with a great option. With two versions of the TRS tire, it has been hard to keep these in stock. This tire has a slightly different tread pattern than most as the center knobs are a bit smaller, allowing it to roll very fast, but once you lean it over the side knobs hold you up like no other. There are a few different versions of this tire, the TRSr or TRS+, with the r version standing for race, and offering a bit more sidewall protection than the +. Having ridden both tires, in lots of conditions, these tires work great in loose over hard packed. They also do well in loose soil, but might not be the best option when going out for a muddy day. The short knobs in the center do not offer great mud traction and clearance. Other than that, the TRS tire could change the way you corner; the side knobs are really that solid! Available only in the 2.35 width version, there are fewer options, but sometimes that makes it easier.
Ah, the classic Magic Mary. This has been a go-to tire for many DH and enduro style bikes for a while now. With the alternating and spaced out tread pattern, the Magic Mary makes itself useful in so many conditions, specifically loose soil or light mud. We found the the soft rubber and taller knobs really like the softer dirt types and if I lived where the dirt wasn’t like concrete most of the year, I would most likely have a Magic Mary up front all the time. It’s available in two casing options, Snakeskin TL or Super Gravity TL. Snakeskin is a lighter option, while Super Gravity would be the more tough option. With Schwalbe’s proprietary Addix rubber compound, you could be sure this rubber is going to stick to everything. Our most popular size is the 2.35, however they do make a 2.25 and a 2.6 in this tire.
Last, but certainly not the least, is Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic. The Nobby Nic is a bit lighter on the tread pattern and is mostly a great front tire for trail riders. While it shares many things with the Magic Mary, we really like how the Nobby Nic mixes the combination of speed and traction. It rolls very fast, but you end up with some amazing traction as well. While only available in one casing version, the Snakeskin (lighter casing), it has three width options, 2.25, 2.35 and 2.6. This should give you enough sizes to fit the trail tire you need on the front of your bike.
Well, there it is. We broke down why we love some of these tires for the front of our trail or enduro bikes. With the all time classic like the Maxxis Minion DHF, Schwalbe Magic Mary or the WTB Vigilante, or some of our newer favorites like the Maxxis Assegai, choosing a tire really comes down to your own preference. Take a look at your home terrain. Do you have soft soil and no rocks? Or maybe it’s more like our Southern California dirt, hard packed with marbles and big sharp rocks, in which case you would need to choose a tire that will survive its life riding in those conditions. Reviews and friends opinions can help narrow the search for your best performing tire, but it really comes down to trying them out and seeing what you got along with best. And with that, we say good luck and feel free to ask our customer service wizards what their favorite tires are, because you never know what they might say.