As many of you may know, I used to work for WTB, managing international sales for three years, and have been riding their tires ever since my first bike came with them back in 1998! Recently, I was lucky enough to have Jenson USA reach out and ask if I would test out some modern Maxxis tires. After hearing so many good things about these tires over the years, this would be a great time to see if the hype was indeed earned. I purchased three different models for this: the Maxxis Assegai , Aggressor, and Minion DHR II. All are Double Down casing, the Assegai and Aggressor are both 2.5WT, and the DHR II is a 2.4WT. All Assegai and DHRII are the MaxxGrip compound, and the Aggressor a MaxxTerra.
note: While I purchased all the Maxxis tires mentioned in this article, I did not pay full retail, as I’m working with support from Jenson USA. Speaking of Jenson, they sponsored this article, and are a huge part of how I can make the content that I do. Any purchases from the links within this article will earn me a small commission, and at no extra cost to you.
Where are we with tires? Some context.
Before you yell at your keyboard that “ThESe TIRes ARE ToO eXPenS1Ve!” we really need to establish a little MTB tire context. Tires in the early days of mountain biking sucked! Constant flats, along with inconsistent grip at best, meant desperate need for advancement. Maxxis has not always been seen as a high end brand, in fact, the company has worked very hard to ditch their previous image. Maxxis has been making tires for over 50 years, and began manufacturing bike tires in 1967 under the company Cheng Shin Rubber. Today Maxxis is the 9th largest tire manufacture in the world. Maxxis doesn’t just do bike tires- they make tires for everything from cars to heavy machinery. Maxxis now produces tires in factories all over the world, from Taiwan to their newest factory in Gujarat, India.
On the topic of “back in the day,” another forgotten brand is IRC. Back when the Japanese brand entered the scene, they were much more respected than Maxxis. Maxxis’s ties to Cheng Shin made people assume that their tires were low quality and cheap. IRC is owned by Inoue Rubber Company, and the Japanese manufacture first started producing bicycle tires in 1926- nearly 100 years ago. By the 1980s, IRC was looking to create a mountain bike specific tire. Working with Tom Ritchey, IRC developed a high pressure, lightweight tires. IRC was famous for the X-1 cross country tires, the first product DH specific tire- the IRC Missle, and finally, the first “pinchflat resistant” tire, the Kujo. These tires were high quality and a big step from the previous tires produced for MTB. I had some Kujo’s back in my earliest racing days and loved them for trials riding of all things. IRC is still making tires today, however their popularity in the MTB scene has fallen off- and in no small part that’s a result of the efforts of the brand that inspired this whole article.
Maxxis was up against more than IRC, as a couple other popular brands at the time were Michelin and Intense Tire Systems. Michelin, who is currently the world’s second largest tire manufacturer (that’s MASSIVE) first started making bike tires in 1889 in France. After seeing a local cyclist struggle to repair his tubular tire, the company invented something with a lower repair time. That was the clincher tire, and that technology is generally what we are still using today. We can thank Michelin for not needing glue and a respirator to change a tire! Michelin is still making tires today, although not the most popular brand in the high end MTB space. They do still have a pro team and plenty of sponsored riders, and are visibly making a push to regain their lost ground. Even though Maxxis is a smaller company than Michelin, they have a huge focus on MTB, and are by far the most popular tire brand within mountain biking in 2021.
Just how bad were mountain bike tires in the 2000s? A great example comes from Intense Tire Systems. Intense (yes, the bike brand) used to make their own tires, and surprisingly, they were pretty good compared to what else was available at the time. Old MTB tires were constantly flatting. Intense created their own tire molds and started producing them under the name Intense Tire Systems. Labeled as purpose built for racing, the main goal of these meats were to be bomb proof. This led to much more reliable tires that could actually make it down a decent race run without flatting! I spent a significant amount of time riding an Intense “2.35” MTB tire (actually measuring around 2.6″) during my seasons of 2003 – 2004. ITS is currently owned by Vee Rubber Co. and is still making bike tires under this name.
20 years later, and tires have come A LONG way. $100 for a tire is a chunk of change, but when you consider that it took nearly 15 years to develop rubber this good, I personally don’t mind spending a few extra dollars for improved reliability, performance, and weight. Specifically, tire casing matters more than even the tread pattern. All 3 of these tires here use Double Down casing, which is Maxxis’s toughest enduro casing. Each tire has two 120 TPI casing layers, reinforced with a butyl insert, to provide what Maxxis claims to be “the protection of DH tire with the weight of an enduro tire.”
The rubber compound also matters a ton. The Aggressor tires use Maxxis’s MaxTerra compound, which is a nice middle ground between the MaxSpeed and MaxGrip. The Assegai and DHR II both use the soft, stickier MaxxGrip compound. The difference between these compounds on both wet roots and wet rocks is noticeable. There is a subtle amount of added drag with the MaxxGrip rear tire, but from my years of experience with tires, the tread pattern dictates far more of the drag than does the rubber compound.
So yeah, these thick Double Down tires are heavy. So are WTB Tough tires. But you know what? They are indeed lighter than Downhill casing tires, which is my other acceptable option for aggressive backcountry riding, and offer a similar level of security to the DH tires. Factor in the time saved with not having to repair constant flats, and I think the weight is worth it beyond EXO+ or Light tires. Furthermore, the thicker casings mean you can safely run a complaint tire pressure. I’m generally running 24/26 psi front/rear in the summer, then going down to 22/25 psi in the wet. That’s pretty soft, and grabs off camber trail nicely, but with the thicker casings I don’t bottom out or burp my tires often at all. I also rarely smash my rims. These thicker casings allow me to generally not use tire inserts, but to still have many of the same benefits. I DO use CushCore on my hardtail, but that’s a different topic for a different time.
Front tire: Assegai
My previous front tire setup was a 2.6 WTB Vigilante with the Tough casing and High Grip compound. To match that, in the back I had a 2.6 WTB Trailboss with the Tough casing and Fast Rolling compound. I have ridden this combo for a few years and love it, especially for my favorite, backcountry style riding. Going from the 2.6 WTB to the 2.5 Assegai up front, I was thinking the cornering grip would be less. But I was pleasantly surprised by the Assegai, as it hooked up really well in the soft corners despite being narrower. The Assegai is Greg Minaar’s signature tire, a combination of his 4 favorite tires, the DHR II, the DHF, the Shorty and the High roller. He wanted to design the tire around Maxxis’s most iconic tread patterns and ended up creating an amazing tire with seemingly endless cornering and braking grip. In case it’s not obvious, the Assegai is designed to be as aggressive as possible.
Braking traction compared to the WTB tires is similar. In loose and soft conditions, the wider WTB is a little better, but I have no regrets putting the Assegai up front. It has stayed predictable in a wide variety of situations, and is very dependable. The rubber on the Maxxis feels a touch stickier, and I feel it has a little better braking on harder surfaces like roots and rocks, but it’s a slight difference.
When it comest to bermed turns and bike park style riding, the smaller 2.5 casing of the Assegai is really good. That smaller volume means less tire squirm on the higher G-force scenarios, like steep berms or very abrupt jumps. The 2.6 Tough tires did well in those scenarios, but I’d say the Assegai has a slight advantage simply due to the smaller size. I know it’s not apples-to-apples, as WTB offers a 2.5 size as well, but the 2.5WT feels a tad wider than the WTB 2.5. The Assegai demands slightly more attention to line choice and braking compared to the 2.6 WTB combo, but it’s not a massive difference there.
I do not have plans to test the Assegai (I’ll skip the innuendo and puns there) in the rear, but I really enjoy running a wider tire in the front and something a little skinnier in the rear. The reason for this? If both tires are the same width, the front tire, which carries less of a rider’s weight bias, will begin to drift before the rear. This a terrifying experience known as “understeer”, and I have the scars to show its effect. It’s nice to have something wider in the front, and narrower in the rear, so the back end drifts well before the front. Al praise “oversteer”!
With Assegai front tires currently on three bikes, it’s safe to say that I’m a fan and can recommend them. If you’d like some for yourself, do me a solid and hit this link over to Jenson USA: https://bit.ly/MaxxisAssegaiJKW and if you’d like to try my other favorite tires, from WTB, check these out: https://bit.ly/WTBmountaintiresJKW.
Rear Tire: DHR II and Aggressor
For a slightly narrower and faster rear tire setup, ideal for drier conditions, I generally ride a WTB Trailboss. A very comparable tire from Maxxis is the Aggressor. Well suited for dusty PNW summer conditions, it rolls well and was easy to keep speed up on the trail. Cornering in my leaned over style, this tire hooked up very well. I would put it neck and neck with the WTB Trailboss, with a touch more leaned over consistency from the Aggressor.
The main place where the Aggressor has some downfalls is on steep stuff. On steep climbs, the Trailboss just barely wins over with deeper, more aggressive knobs. But who am I kidding we live in the PNW, 80% of our climbing is on logging roads anyway! And when it comes to braking traction, the Aggressor does give up just a little bit to the Trailboss, but not enough to be a deal breaker. Although the Aggressor does best in loose and dry conditions, it’s been raining for about 2 months and I’m still riding it with good results. This tire surprised me, I figured it would only do good in the dry, but it’s been better than that. I do prefer the DHRII for the steep stuff, but that does come at a rolling resistance penalty.
Overall I would say I just barely prefer the Trailboss on rough and natural terrain. Whereas the Aggressor excel’s on jump and flow trails. It’s a very close competition, none of the tires blew any of their counterparts out of the water, so either choice will be good. The wider (2.6 vs 2.5) Trailboss just barely edged out the Aggressor on burly natural terrain, and has the advantage of lifting the bike with its higher section height. I like this on low BB bikes like the Evil Offering.
For more aggressive riding rear tires, I would generally use the WTB Judge 2.4, and this tire is comparable to the Maxxis Minion DHR II. The famous minion DHF was originally designed by Colin Bailey in 2001, and that tire has remained virtually unchanged (other than different size knobs for different wheel sizes, see more here). The counterpart to the DHF is the DHRII, and ironically enough, I never got along with the DHF that well, but I’ve been LOVIGN the DHRII! The DHR II has far more braking traction compared to the Aggressor, although it is noticeably slower rolling. The grip and confidence the DHRII gives in wet conditions is really good, and honestly felt a little better than the Judge. The DHRII had me very impressed. Great braking traction, great cornering traction, and on those steep climbs it could really dig in and get that grip for some #TechClimbChallenges on Instagram. Big shoutout to Jenson USA for giving me the chance to ride and review these tires- Maxxis rubber definitely lives up to the hype!