Words by: Liam Woods
This article is here to help you better understand all of the available mountain bike tires available from Maxxis. You’ll find a breakdown of the different casing designs and rubber compounds, along with other helpful information on Maxxis mountain bike tires.
The mountain bike tire is the only contact point between the rider and the ground, and therefore it’s crucial in finding the correct tire for the job. Before picking the right tire to fit your needs, first think about the different terrains you may be riding on and what type of bike the tire will be going on. Varying trail conditions, tire life longevity, maximum grip, and minimum rolling resistance are all important features for understanding all of the tire options from Maxxis.
Within the different tire categories of XC, Trail, Enduro, and Downhill, there will be some mixing, overlapping, and even some completely wrong but oh soo good and too much tire for the bike. The common XC tires are really now only being found on pure XC racer bikes, as the average rider has slowly transitioned to running a bit more tire as it doesn't hurt them but only helps them in the areas they need.
We will be breaking down each part of the tire from the casing, to the rubber compound, to the tread pattern. Within the tread pattern, we will be looking at what sets it apart, and why some tires have risen to the top as Maxxis favorites.
Worldwide Cyclery rider Max Morgan piloting the Maxxis High Roller II 3C Maxx Grip at the Mountain Creek Spring Classic.
The tire casing is the main body of the tire, not including the tread of the tire. The casing may sometimes be referred to as the sidewall and provides the puncture protection for the tire. Varying casing options use different constructions with different thicknesses and rubber durometers for their intended use. The bead of the tire is the part of the tire that physically hooks on to the rim and can be made from different materials, changing its strength, durability, and weight. Let’s break down the different Maxxis tire casings below, to watcha video on this topic check it out here: MTB Tires Casings Explained: Thicker Casing Sidewall
SINGLE PLY - A single ply casing is one layer of nylon that joins to the bead.
DUAL PLY - A dual ply casing uses two layers of nylon material.
EXO PROTECTION - Exo protection is a casing option that offers additional cut and abrasion resistance to select mountain bike tires.
EXO+ PROTECTION - EXO+ protection is going to be similar to EXO but with an added layer of Maxxis SilkShield protection. Running from bead to bead, the SilkShield layer is going to help puncture protection while still remaining on the lighter side with the added benefit of EXO sidewall protection
DOUBLE DOWN - Double Down is Maxxis’ newest casing offering that is aimed to suit the needs of enduro riding and racing.
DOWNHILL - The downhill casing provides the ultimate tire stiffness and toughness.
Choosing the correct rubber compound is a crucial part of the design process when trying to create the most efficient tire possible. The different rubber compound offerings can be broken down into two subcategories; single compound and dual compound. A single compound tire is suited for those riders looking to maximize the longevity of their tires. A dual compound tire places harder or softer durometer rubber throughout specific areas on the tire to achieve the desired characteristic. Listed below are some of the popular compound offerings from Maxxis.
Dual Compound - for Maxxis, dual compounds might not be the main rubber offering in most tires, but it's found in tires where you are looking to minimize wear. This has the added benefit of decreasing rolling resistance. With having a harder rubber on the base of the tread, and a softer rubber at the top, dual compound rubber offers a great compromise for hard-wearing rear tires. Available on tires like the Aggressor and Minion DHR II for longer-lasting rear tires, it pairs great with a softer 3c compound up front.
3C TRIPLE COMPOUND - 3C technology is the most popular compound from Maxxis. 3C uses a harder base layer and two different softer compounds on the center knobs and cornering knobs.
SUPER TACKY - Super tacky tires is a single compound tire that is most commonly paired with a downhill casing from Maxxis.
While finding the correct tread pattern is very dependent on the terrain and the given trail conditions, it comes down to personal preference. Listed below are some of the most popular tread options from Maxxis. I would say there are 3 major categories to choose from, while some overlap, sometimes the smaller width rides different than the wider version. You have XC/Trail, Trail/Enduro and Downhill. XC/Trail will be fastest rolling with low amount of grip and only lightweight casing options. Trail/Enduro will be your intermediate tires, available in a few different casings and compounds. And Downhill will be your burliest tire and available in DH casing. Many of the Enduro and DH tires will feature the same tread pattern, but the casing and compound will change to suit the aggressiveness of the terrain. Check out our video specifically on the Best XC/Trail Tire By Maxxis: HERE
Let's start with the Maxxis Aspen. 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 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.
The Maxxis Ikon tire might be the most classic XC tire in most recent years and is still winning World Cup XC races. With a set of tightly packed, 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.
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 upfront 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 suggest pairing with something unique if you’re looking for just the right tire combo.
The Ardent Race is the faster, smaller knobbed brother of the classic Ardent tire. With more intermediate knobs than the Ardent, 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 great transition from the center to leaning the tire over.
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.
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 for some confident riding in 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 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.
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. 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.
As with the other classic Maxxis tires, the Ardent is available in a huge range of sizes, casings and rubber options. 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.
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 the 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.
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 upfront 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.
The Maxxis Aggressor is possibly the most popular tire in this category for good reason, it works well in ALMOST all conditions. If it's not super muddy or super dry and blown out, the Aggressor excels. It has all three traits a rear tire should have: good rolling speed, climbing and braking traction, and good cornering traction, with what I would call the best transition from center to side knobs.
It's also available in both EXO and DD casing, and 2.3 and 2.5 width options. It’s a solid rear tire to pair with any front tire you choose. I normally run the 2.3 DD, but might be moving up to the 2.5 DD this summer. Check out our Maxxis Aggressor tire video review here: [Video] Maxxis Aggressor Tire Review: Is This Your Next Tire?
The High Roller II might be one of Maxxis longest lasting tires in the trail, enduro, downhill line. With wins in World Cup downhill races, to enduro and many others, this tire is proven and the go to for many riders and pros. An open and spaced out center tread allows for the knobs to really dig into the soil while the aggressive square backside of knobs help stop you when needed. The side knobs feature an alternating square knob with one sipe on every other knob.
Coming in a huge range of sizes, the High Roller II can be bought in 26, 27.5, and 29 inch tires in sizes from 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6. Also, there are plenty of different casings to choose from as well, from Tubeless-ready, to EXO, DD and DH casings. This might have the most options out of any Maxxis tire and they are still growing. While the High Roller II might not be the fastest rolling tire out there, if you have some soil or dirt for these knobs to bite into, you and the tire will be grinning from ear to ear.
It’s almost impossible to not like Maxxis Minion DHF, 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 amazingly, 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+ upfront with something a bit more protective in the back. Available in 2.3, 2.5WT, and 2.6WT options! Check out what our Employees think about the Maxxis DHF and Maxxis DHRII tires here: [Video] Maxxis Minion DHF vs Minion DHR II (Which Tire Is Best?)
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 oversell it. The 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 upfront, 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 DHRII 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 upfront 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. Check out what our Employees think about the Maxxis DHF and Maxxis DHR II tires here: [Video] Maxxis Minion DHF vs Minion DHR II (Which Tire Is Best?)
The Maxxis Minion SS is Maxxis’ semi slick option, providing great speed with its low center tread design. As mentioned above, this is a great tire for fast hard packed trails that do not require a ton of braking power. Utilizing the classic Minion side knobs, once leaned over they grab and hold traction. The Minion SS is available in 3 casing options: EXO, SilkWork/EXO, and DD, all in a 2.3 width option.
I mentioned Greg Minnaar above with the DHRII, but he’s really worth mentioning here. The Maxxis Assegai is the culmination of Minnaar’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, 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. Check out our video Review on the Maxxis Assegai tire here: [Video] Maxxis Assegai Review - The Grippiest MTB Tire On The Planet?
The Maxxis Dissector tire is the newest Trail/Enduro & Downhill tire released from Maxxis to date. The Dissector is pro Downhill racer Troy Brosnan signature tire and looks like a mix of an Assegai, Minion DHRII and Aggressor to me. Rolling a bit faster than a Minion DHRII while still braking the same and having very similar side knobs to the Assegai. This tire is only currently available in an EXO casing and DH casing both in 3c compound. The tire is also available in both 27.5 and 29" variants and a 2.4WT or 2.6 widths. I think the Dissector excels at being an aggressive rear tire with grip between an Agressor and DHRII. It would be a great rear tire to a Minion DHF, Minion DHRII or Assegai up front. Check out our first impressions video on the Maxxis Dissector tire here: [Video] Maxxis Dissector - The BRAND NEW Tire From Maxxis (First Ride & Overview)
The Maxxis Shorty, well, there isn’t too much short about it. This is Maxxis’ mid-level mud tire, and mostly what you will see on any Maxxis rider’s bike when the conditions get sloppy. It also gets used when the brown pow levels are off the charts and the dirt is blown out into 6-inch deep dust. This spike will help really dig into the ground while also clearing mud from the tread as well. A widespread, tall knob pattern spreads across the tire, allowing each knob to really grab the ground. A perpendicular sipe across each knob helps the tire get braking traction wherever possible. This tire comes in 26, 27.5 and 29 in sizes, and in 2.3 and 2.5 widths. You have two choices of casings: EXO or DH. If you’re rocking a Shorty, you’re pretty much riding trail bikes or DH bikes in mud, and if you’re riding in mud, there’s a good chance your bike is covered in mud. if your bike is covered in mud, I don’t think the weight will really matter much.
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.
Words by: Liam Woods