It seems like it's been ages since the Maxxis Minion DHF became people's front tire of choice, and for good reason. It performs great in pretty much all kinds of terrain and is one of the top picks among SoCal riders. However, it's time we make room for the new Maxxis King...the Maxxis Assegai. The Assegai tire was released last year and at the time, was only available in DH casing. Soon after, it became available in DD casing and now, we finally have the full range of Maxxis Assegai tires available.
While the internet had its fun with the Assegai name, it actually comes from a South African Zulu tribe and their sharp, iron-tipped spear. Being that this tire was designed by the GOAT of downhill mountain biking, Greg Minnaar, who was born, raised, and still lives in South Africa, it makes sense. The name is accurate once you start to ride and dissect this tire and its intended use. It's meant to cut into loose dirt while providing the confidence to hold lines like never before. Minnaar took all of his favorite tires (the High Roller II, the Minion DHR II and the Shorty) and formed them into the Assegai. The goal was to have the most grip possible; rolling speed was not a high priority when designing the tire. When a fast rolling tire is needed, Minnaar uses the DHR II. For wet sloppy mud, he goes with the Shorty. It's for all the between riding, and when you think about it, that is probably the vast majority of your riding depending on where you live.
The Maxxis Assegai is now available in the full range of casing options: EXO, EXO+, DD, and DH. With EXO being the lightest, and DH being the heaviest, there is an option to suit all trail and downhill riders. The Assegai is also only available in 27.5 and 29-inch wheel options and only in the 2.5WT width. We're not sure if they will ever expand to other options, but it seems like the 2.5 width is what all the EWS and DH riders are on, so we don't think it's likely.
As mentioned above, Minnaar wanted to take his favorite aspects of the Minion DHR II, High Roller II, and Shorty tires. By working with Maxxis and explaining what he liked about each, they were able to use DHRII side knobs, with a little Minion inspiration, and a taller knob similar to the Shorty, but a closer packed pattern for better traction and center to side knob transitions. The name of the game in EWS and DH racing is traction, and that is what the Assegai provides. From loose dust and loam to hard packed loose over hard, even into wet roots and slippery dirt, it's made for Minnaar as his go-to tire.
Riding the Assegai is, well, a damn good time. It does exactly what it is designed for, providing extreme traction and confidence in most conditions you could put it through. I've ridden casing combinations from DH front and rear, to DD front and rear, and eventually landed with EXO+ front for the time being. All of the casings have their place and for my riding, the DD or EXO+ makes the most sense.
No matter what conditions I rode the tires in, I felt a great amount of grip, control, and predictability. I would say the grip and predictability of the Assegai are what is most impressive. You can push this tire extremely hard in 90% of trail conditions while having the same breaking point every time. Luckily, Southern California had a pretty wet winter and I was able to ride Assegai front and rear through a lot of it. Most of the trails I ride when they are wet are just slippery and slimy. In those conditions when the dirt is wet but not like cake or peanut butter, the Assegai is amazing. The tall knobs help really dig into the dirt and they act like grippy fingers grabbing anything they can so you can focus on the trail.
Once the dirt dried out and became hard packed, I found a slight weakness in the Assegai, and mostly as a rear tire, not a front. The tall knobs over the hard-packed dirt started to have some knob squirm when leaning the bike over. It's not extreme and after a few runs, you get used to it as the tire is still predictive in these situations. But if the dirt is hard packed, I would go for an Aggressor or DHRII out back over the Assegai. Once that dirt gets a bit looser and blown out, the Assegai shines once again front and rear. The tall knobs punch through the dusty powder and that predictability is felt, allowing you to ride the lines you want to.
I would definitely say that the Assegai is best up front for an all-around trail bike, enduro bike, or DH bike. The Assegai has won its position at the front of my bike and is now my go-to tire for most conditions, especially now that the full range of Maxxis casings are available. For the rear, I would say it's a toss-up. It could be super legit in the rear and work great, and other times I think the Aggressor or DHRII work better, which have been designed specifically for the rear.
Greg Minnaar is the winningest DH racer of our time, and with his input along with some talented engineers, Maxxis has created the Assegai. Taking the best parts of top performing Maxxis tires, they merged them into one of the best all-around feeling front tires I have ever ridden. As a front tire, it really lives up to the meaning of Assegai, cutting through the dirt and delivering predictability to get you through any trail obstacle. Have you tried the Assegai? Does it, in fact, dethrone the Minion DHF as the front tire king? We seem to think so!