The Best XC / Trail Tires by Maxxis - Light & Fast (Proven to Make You Faster) [Video]


While XC tires might not get much love from us, we do ride most of them and also sell lots of them. Maxxis might have some of the most iconic XC/Trail tires like the Ikon and Ardent. While there are a huge number of choices from Maxxis, we have picked out our favorite models and the combinations that we love to ride them in. While true cross country racers will be looking for the best weight and rolling speed they can get, our tire choices tend to also have a heavy emphasis on traction. Pairing a slightly meatier tire up front with a faster rolling tire out back is normally how we roll with our XC-ish, light-trail setups, which some might describe as "down-county" bikes. 

I will start with the faster rolling, smaller tread tires and continue into the heavier, knobbier tires that tend to have more traction. As you would expect, with more tread comes more weight. While I wouldn't consider myself a weight weenie, I do look at the weight on tires and wheels. Wheels and tires are what make the most difference when it comes to weight and on a small travel bike, the best weight to traction ratio win the spots on my bikes. 

Maxxis Aspen: 

Let's start with the Maxxis Aspen Tires. I think it's the fastest rolling tire and has recently been adopted by most of the XC World Cup Maxxis riders. With riders from Nino Schurter winning many races on this tire to the more adventure marathon riders like Geoff Kabush also riding this tire for a wide range of events, it shows its speed with results alone. The Aspen recently got a bit of a revamp with a wider casing option, 29 x 2.25. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis - ASPEN

The Aspen has some small race size ramped knobs in the center with larger more aggressive side knobs. This allows the center of the tire to roll fast providing just enough traction when climbing and braking but not comprising any speed. Once leaned over, the slightly offset two rows of side knobs grab and keep your tires planted on the dirt. The Aspen also clears mud very well and while it might not have the overall height of some mud tires, the spaced-out tread allows more clearing when the dirt gets thick. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • Front and rear for fastest rolling and max speed. 
  • Aspen in the rear and slightly more tread up front like an Ikon or Ardent Race for dry
  • Aspen in the rear with a Forekaster up front for loose or wet conditions

Aspen Tire Weight: 

  • 27.5 x 2.25 EXO/TR = 607g
  • 29 x 2.25 TR = 585g
  • 29 x 2.25 EXO/TR = 645g

The Best XC / Trail Tires By Maxxis

Maxxis Ikon:

The Maxxis Ikon tire might be the most classic XC tire in most recent years and is still winning WC XC races. With a tightly packed set of small ramped knobs, the Ikon tire almost feels a bit like velcro in the traction department while rolling fast with ease. The Ikon excels in dry conditions with its 3C compound options and the small siping on each knob across the tire. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis - IKON

I would say the Ikon lends itself to be the most predictable XC tire in this lineup if your goal is going fast. It also makes a great rear tire when looking for speed in the back and some more tread up front like what you would get with the Ardent, Ardent Race or Forekaster. The number of options is a bit crazy to list as well, from different compounds, casing options, and widths, as well as the option to go non-tubeless. As I said, this tire is a classic and finds itself in its fair share of combinations, so we'll list some of the more common tire combinations and sizes/casing options. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • Front and rear for fast, predictable handling with matched sizes
  • Front 2.35 and rear 2.2 for volume to speed
  • Front with Aspen rear for speed
  • Rear with Ardent Race for dry
  • Rear with Ardent or Forekaster for loose or wet conditions

Ikon Tire Weights:

  • 27.5 x 2.2 3C/EXO/TR = 600g
  • 27.5 x 2.35 3C/EXO/TR = 705g
  • 27.5 x 2.35 3C/DD/TR = 935g
  • 29 x 2.2 3C = 530g
  • 29 x 2.2 3C/TR = 580g
  • 29 x 2.2 3C/EXO/TR = 640g
  • 29 x 2.35 3C/TR = 725g
  • 29 x 2.35 3C/EXO/TR = 740g
  • 29 x 2.35 3C/DD/TR = 995g

The Best XC / Trail Tires By Maxxis

Maxxis Ardent Race:

The Ardent Race is the faster, smaller knobbed brother of the classic Ardent tire. With more intermediate knobs than the Ardent tire, the Ardent Race looks more like an aggressive Ikon tire. Rolling fast while having some nice traction, I would say the Ardent Race is right in the middle of rolling speed, traction and weight, making it very versatile. With ramped center knobs and stepped alternating side knobs, the Ardent race has a great transition from the center to leaning the tire over. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis -  ARDENT RACE

To help with this tire’s versatility, Maxxis offers it in a 2.2 or 2.35 casing. It can find its spot on many bikes front or rear for whatever traction your bike needs. I personally really like to ride this tire out back, be it a 2.2 or 2.35. It strikes a balance between speed and traction for the rear when riding aggressively. It can also be used as a more aggressive front tire for XC racing when the terrain is technical or loose. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • Front and rear for speed with matched sizing
  • Front 2.35 and rear 2.2 for volume and speed
  • Front 2.35 with Ikon 2.35 rear
  • Front 2.35 with Aspen 2.25 rear
  • Rear 2.2 with Forekaster 2.35 up front
  • Rear 2.2 with DHR II 2.3 up front
  • Rear 2.35 with Ardent 2.4 up front

Ardent Race Tire Weights:

  • 27.5 x 2.2 3C/EXO = 635g
  • 27.5 x 2.2 3C/EXO/TR =680g
  • 27.5 x 2.35 3C/EXO/TR = 705g
  • 29 x 2.2 3C/TR = 670g
  • 29 x 2.2 3C/EXO/TR = 720g
  • 29 x 2.35 3C/EXO/TR = 740g

The Best XC / Trail Tires By Maxxis

Maxxis Rekon:

The Rekon Tire might be the most under the radar as it’s a new tire packed with some really awesome features. It might not be as classic as some of the other Maxxis XC tires, but it will surely create some great traction without the weight of some other tires. The Rekon is made to be a bit more aggressive than the Ikon but with some additional tire tech. When I first saw the Rekon, I thought it looked like an XC version of a Maxxis High Roller II and Maxxis Minion combined. The center tread looks like a slimmed-down version of the High Roller II and the side knobs mimic the Minion, creating a lot of control you wouldn't expect from an XC tire. Great control under braking with L shaped side knobs allow some confident riding for a tire that rolls this fast. The low profile tread also has ramped center knobs allowing the Rekon to roll similarly to other dry XC tires. Between the center knobs and the side knobs, there are small, square intermediate knobs with alternating slanted siping. I really dig tires with these intermediate transition knobs, and all of these small features is why the Rekon has become my favorite XC/Trail tire. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis - REKON

The Rekon comes in a few width options as well as two casing options, all with Maxxis 3C rubber to make sure you are getting the most traction from the rubber itself as possible. The 2.25 size is truly an XC tire with the low profile tread, while the 2.4 size lends itself to be more of a trail tire or a fast-rolling rear tire. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • Rekon front and rear, same size
  • Rekon 2.4 in the front and 2.25 in the rear
  • Rekon up front in with faster rolling Ikon or Ardent race out back
  • Rekon in the rear with Forekaster or Minion DHR II in the front

Rekon Tire Weights:

  • 27.5 x 2.4 3C/EXO/TR = 780g
  • 29 x 2.25 EXO/TR = 610g
  • 29 x 2.25 3C/EXO/TR = 670g
  • 29 x 2.4 EXO/TR = 800g
  • 29 x 2.4 3C/EXO/TR = 840g

The Best XC / Trail Tires By Maxxis

Maxxis Ardent:

The Ardent marks yet another classic XC/Trail tire for Maxxis, bridging the gap between super fast rolling but sometimes not enough tread, and something more like a Minion DHR II that moves into large tread territory. The Ardent is also decently fast-rolling considering the tread height and does decently well with clearing mud as well. The center tread is ramped but tightly packed to roll fast with side knobs that have an alternating stepped pattern to them. There are intermediate knobs but spaced out quite a bit more than the other tread, leaving a gap where there isn't an intermediate knob. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis - ARDENT

As with the other classic Maxxis tires, the Ardent is available in a huge range of sizes, casings and rubber options, so I will list our more common combinations and sizes that we see. The 2.25 width option is a great aggressive XC tire, and like the Rekon, the Ardent in a 2.4 width fits right into that trail category. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • Ardent front and rear same size comes stock on many bikes
  • Ardent 2.4 front with Ardent 2.25 rear
  • Ardent up front with Ikon or Ardent Race out back
  • Ardent in the rear with Forekaster in the front
  • Ardent in the rear with Minion DHR II up front

Ardent Tire Weights:

  • 27.5 x 2.25 EXO/TR = 760g
  • 27.5 x 2.4 EXO/TR = 775g
  • 29 x 2.25 EXO/TR = 800g
  • 29 x 2.4 EXO/TR = 864g

The Best XC / Trail Tires By Maxxis

Maxxis Forekaster:

The Maxxis Forekaster is a bit more of a rarity to see, being the go-to Maxxis XC tire for very loose soil or mud. While it doesn't get picked up as much as these other dry tires do, it holds its place in the Maxxis lineup for the XC/Trail mud tire. Having mid-height almost square knobs across the tire that is spaced out quite a bit, it's as close to an XC spike you can get. Along with a spike-like design, most of the knobs or spikes also have generous siping, making sure those tall knobs conform to anything they can grab onto when the dirt gets slippery. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis - Forekaster

Coming in a 2.2 or 2.35, it pairs nicely with the classic Ikon or Ardent Race tires as a front. I know Geoff Kabush will often run this tire up front for more alternative XC races where the soil might be loose and soft like in the Downieville Classic, or wet slippery and unpredictable like the BC Bike Race. It also happens to be pretty light for the amount of traction it provides, which I don't think anyone will complain about. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • Front and rear same size has to be really wet for this
  • Front with Ikon or Ardent race out back

Forekaster Tire Weights:

  • 27.5 x 2.35 EXO/TR = 690g
  • 29 x 2.2 EXO/TR = 690g
  • 29 x 2.35 EXO/TR = 735g

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis

Maxxis Minion DHR II:

While the Maxxis DHRII might be considered to be an all-mountain/enduro/downhill tire, it provides a great grip to weight ratio when it's in the 2.3 widths and EXO protection. I would not consider this the typical XC tire unless your typical XC race is the Downieville Classic where 3k feet of climbing is followed by 30mph+ descents. The DHRII has large ramped knobs in the center that take up most of the tread, and then transition to classic Minion side knobs. With amazing braking traction and generous siping, the grip and control from a Maxxis DHRII are off the charts compared to any other Maxxis XC tire.  The Maxxis DHRII is the most aggressive tire of this comparison and fits right into and at the top of the trail tire category, going slightly into the all-mountain/enduro tire realm. 

The Best XC / Trail Tires From Maxxis - DHR II

While the Maxxis DHRII comes in a vast array of widths, casings and rubber options, the only ones to look at here are the 2.3 and 2.4 widths with EXO protection. Anything more and that goes into the next category of tires. While the knobs are quite big compared to other XC/Trail tires, the rolling speed is pretty good when looking at the corners you will be able to take with this tire. 

Recommended Tire Combinations:

  • DHRII front and rear, same size
  • DHRII front 2.4 and DHRII 2.3 rear
  • DHRII front with Ikon, Ardent, Ardent Race, Rekon or Ikon in the rear in a smaller size

DHR II Tire Weights:

  • 27.5 x 2.3 3C/EXO/TR = 805g
  • 27.5 x 2.4 3C/EXO/TR = 900g
  • 29 x 2.3 3C/EXO/TR = 825g
  • 29 x 2.4 3C/EXO/TR = 955g

The Best XC / Trail Tires By Maxxis

Final Thoughts:

Hopefully, you’re not more confused now than before you read this comparison. Maxxis offers probably the widest range of tire options for any given discipline and XC/Trail is no different. With seven core tires that we looked at and with all of the tires coming with different widths, casings and rubber options, the possibilities really are endless. You can choose how much grip you want, how fast the tire rolls, and what wheel you want to put it on with Maxxis. Run the same tire front and rear, run the same tread but large volume up front, or what most of us at Worldwide do: run a more aggressive front tire with a faster rolling rear tire so you can let it slide out back while being in control up front. 


If you're one strange human and would like to read the transcript of the video above, continue reading below!

Howdy partners today we're going to talk about cross-country bike tires because if you ain't first you're last. so in front of me are our favorite Maxxis cross-country like trail tires there is a ridiculous amount of tires available on the market these days so it can be super confusing most the time on this channel we're talking about trail and enduro bikes so we've done a million videos on tires for that kind of thing but plenty of you guys out there are still riding cross-country bikes meaning four inch travel bikes or hard tails or rigid bikes and you want something a little bit more lightweight fast rolling and want to know which ones are good so that's what we're gonna dive into today these are our absolute favorites for that cross-country sort of light trail category and I'm gonna break down sort of how each one sort of makes sense what the use case might be then also give you some recommended setups dependent on your terrain so I'm gonna go from the most lightweight fast rolling tire to sort of the least a little bit more towards that trail bike end to start off with is the ikon so ikon is one of the most common cross-country maxxis tires it's a super lightweight tire super fast rolling low knobs packed and nice and tight this thing is really good for loose over hard pack in dry conditions it is not a good mud tire so if you're in dry conditions and you want a lightweight fast rolling tire this thing is amazing I've seen depending on what you're going for traction and speed and weight wise you can run this thing front and rear and it's gonna be incredibly fast if you're in dry conditions and you want to pair this thing with a little bit more traction up front my recommendation would be to do either an ardent race a little bit more grip right there and still pretty darn fast or you can go a little further this way do a recon or an ardent but if you're running this in the rear an ardent race in the front is a pretty good setup for like really fast dry conditions if you're in a little bit more wet conditions and your deal was sort of just more moist soil where you're riding that kind of tends to cling to your tires a bit more the Aspen killer rear tire it's similar to the icon in terms of weight and rolling resistance but the knobs are a lot more spaced out so it clears mud a lot better so again better in the wet and then pairing it with a forekaster forekaster again more spaced out knob so it's gonna work better in wet conditions and just clear mud better so this forecaster in the front and your Aspen in the rear is probably a great setup if you're riding in wetter conditions next up ardent race rekon ardent and minion DHR 2 so these things again now we're getting a little bit heavier a little bit more grip the way it works with tires the more knobs you add the wider that tire gets the beefier it gets the more durable it's gonna be the heavier it's gonna be the more traction it's gonna have but it's also gonna be slower right so definitely keep that in mind again we're talking more like the cross country light trail tires that was your lighter setups right there we're gonna go a little bit more into that like trail by key setup but also you know a lot of people again tires what makes them a little bit confusing is that you know you there's there's no there's no set zone rules here if you want to run something with a little bit more grip on your XC bike nobody's stopping you so you can totally do that a good setup that's a little bit more grippy and slightly heavier than what I just talked about ardent race in the back and an ardent in the front so again this is a pretty solid setup for drier conditions maybe a little bit of a moist condition but you probably won't want to run this in a muddy scenario or dn't race is similar to the ardent but it's just got more packed in Center knobs a little bit lower knobs a little bit faster rolling so a lot of times you're gonna see on a trail bike and ardent in the front and an ardent race in the back good setup right there recon is pretty similar kind of in between those two I really like this as a rear tire EXO casing I think is awesome that's what I have a mild bike here this is not a cross-country bike but I would call it a like trail bike it's a four and a half inch travel bike Yeti SB 4.5 I’m always running a rekon and a 2.4 in the back I love it I feel like it rolls fast it gets good climbing traction it's just like a good versatile tire so good rear tire in my opinion is a recon I pair it with a DHRII. DHR 2 is definitely not a cross-country tire it's more of a downhill enduro tire but they do make it in this size right here which is a 2.3 so it's a little bit it's probably unlike the very end of like a trail bike tire size before you get into that enduro bike which might be like 2.35 and up I like this setup DHR 2 in the front rekon in the back again this is probably more of like your trail bike but if you want to throw this on your cross-country bike or your hardtail for a little bit more added traction this is a killer setup so yeah hopefully that gives you guys a little bit more understanding of tires we're gonna probably dive into some more of these and look at all the different brands of course you got other brands out there like WTB and Schwalbe that are also making great cross-country tires but maxxis is a pretty huge brand it makes amazing stuff and has such a wide selection of tires so we want to keep it simple for this video to show you our favorite tires for cross-country and light trail from axis and sort of good combos right there check below in the video description if you want to see sort of these recommendations and pairs broken down and links and more imagery and weights and all that sort of stuff there's going to be an article that goes along with this it has a lot more details if you want to know more about Maxxis tires in the whole setup check out the Maxxis tire guide right there and hit that subscribe button and we'll see you in the next one.

July 21, 2019

Ardent › Ardent Race › Aspen › Employee Review › Forekaster › Ikon › Maxxis › Minion DHR II › product overview › product review › Rekon › Tire › Video ›

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