Maxxis Assegai tire review

More grip than a Minion

Pro Reviews Tires
Dropping into the loam, where the Assegai roam - All photos by: Forrest Arakawa and Maxxis

Dropping into the loam, where the Assegai roam – All photos by: Forrest Arakawa and Maxxis

Editor’s Note: An overview of the best Maxxis tires is available HERE.

What is it

Greg Minnaar worked with Maxxis during the past two years to create a tire of his exact specification. Its charter: mitigate “moments” on unsettling terrain. The initial product offering was pointed directly at downhill, using Maxxis’ robust DH casing, with other more weight conscious options to follow. MTBR has been able to crank out some laps in conditions that align with why the Assegai was conceived. If you like big traction and cannot deny, give the Assegai a try. And if that rhymed, you pronounced its name correctly.

Assegai, holding its line

Assegai, holding its line

The Story

The Assegai took about 1.5 years to develop, starting with Mr. Minnaar convincing Maxxis about the relevance of another tread layout. While sitting in the UCI World Cup pits during races, Greg put dreams onto paper, merging many of his favorite tread blocks into a single tire, emailing sketches to the Maxxis engineers. Once all were satisfied, a mold was created and the Assegai born. Once Greg rode the prototype tires, he gave the head nod and his tread pattern is now available for your quiver. Its name draws back to his home of South Africa; an assegai is a traditional Zulu fighting spear.

Why is yet another tread pattern needed? I mean, Maxxis has quite a few options already. Greg wanted a tire that, in his words, mitigated the scary bits – both loose over hardpack and blasting into woods with damp clay and roots. He found the existing solutions tended to break loose, which he wanted to dissipate. His requirements were massive support from the side lugs, excellent braking capability, reasonable rolling resistance and drama-free transition between the two sections.

Assegai tread pattern

Assegai tread pattern

The side lugs are reminiscent of the original High Rollers, adding horizontal and vertical siping for grip. Center lugs are similar to the DHR II and DHF, plus transition spikes to reduce the vague point DHF riders are experienced with.

Pluses
  • Big traction
  • Holds its line through roots
  • Smooth transition from sliding to hooking
  • Breaks and reengages smoothly
Minuses
  • Trail compounds not available until late summer
  • Rolls fairly slow (need trail compound to really compare)
  • Hard to break loose (as a rear tire)
  • $90???

Rating: 4 out of 5 4 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Price: $90


More Info: www.maxxis.com

Specs

Size
27.5×2.50 WT, 60TPI, 3C MAXX GRIP, DH Casing, 1,254 grams, $90
29×2.50 WT, 60TPI, 3C MAXX GRIP, DH Casing, 1,334 grams, $90

The Ride

MTBR had the fortune to test this tire on a variety of trails, both in Santa Cruz with the Maxxis and Syndicate crews and back home on familiar trails. Surfaces have included loamy wonder, rock gardens and off camber roots, loose over hardpack and slick dark clay with roots. We also took a few runs back to back with the Assegai and a popular combination of DHF/DHR II. It was interesting to feel the differences, though transitioning back to the DHF drew blood.

Greg spoke of wanting the tire to function well where he gets scared, going from loose over hardpack and greasy clay with roots. Honestly, I think his wording was to make us mortals feel better. Regardless, we have some trails just like that, going through full sun clear cuts and ducking into the woods with greasy dark brown chicanes. The Assegai did not flinch, held the high line and wondered why I wasn’t going faster.

More grip...when you touch down

More grip…when you touch down

Is more grip always good? It really depends on which end of the bike we’re talking about and your riding style. These tires hold. If cutty’s are your thing, running one in the back is not going to be a good choice. You’re trading off exceptional grip and braking ability for playfulness.

There were a few corners where the comparison with the DHF was stark, especially loose over hardpack turns. As it’s rolled over, the DHF has a channel where it drifts, then bites once the side lugs engage. The Assegai’s channel is much narrower with intermediate spikes, so it can transition to the massive side lugs without sliding. When it does break loose, it happens in a softer fashion. One particular day, I rode a few laps with the Assegai, then changed back to a DHF and blood was drawn. In a loose, decreasing radius corner, the Assegai held its line without issue, while the DHF stepped a half foot to the side when leaning the bike over and splat, rider down.

So the Assegai’s got grip, but how does it roll? At present, it’s difficult to compare directly with other offerings because trail casings are not yet available. The tires we tested are DH casings in Maxx Grip – basically: grippy, robust, heavy and slow. If trails are steep, no worries. When they flatten out, things definitely slow down. I’m looking forward to mounting up a lighter weight casing on the front. For rear usage, a Maxx Terra compound would be preferred.

So much confidence in the traction that you spend more time in the air

So much confidence in the traction that you spend more time in the air

Over the past month, local trail conditions have gone from wonderous dark chocolate to powder-over-hardpack, as moisture leaves the forests. On machine built and non-vertical trails, the Assegai was simply too slow to run front and rear. To get around this and create one of the most fun tire combinations I’ve ever ridden, I (still) have the Assegai in front and a semi-slick on the rear. Even in loose turns, adding weight to the bars absolutely hooks the front end as the rear tire slides around behind it, holding on for dear life.

MTBR has had some brief muddy conditions to try the Assegai and the experience was positive, though conditions were not super sloppy, so we’ll have to see how well it sheds later. Comments from Greg and his mechanic, Jason Marsh, state they can wait longer before changing over to mud spikes than with other tread patterns.

Tire wear after a dozen rides.

Tire wear after a dozen rides.

After a dozen rides, some of the side lugs have cracking on the inside edges. Given the DH casing and soft 3C Maxx Grip rubber, this is the worst possible scenario for knob survival. It will be interesting to see how they fare after more use.


Summary

If you want big and predictable traction and don’t mind a bit of weight, get the Assegai now. If lighter is needed, wait for the trail casing. Regardless, the Assegai is a tire you should try. My personal recommendation for enduro flavor rides is the Assegai in front and a semi slick or Aggressor in the rear, steeps preferring additional traction in back.
For more information visit https://www.maxxis.com/tires/bicycle/mountain


About the author: John Bennett

With 210 lbs of solid, descending mass, John is a good litmus test of what bikes and components will survive out there in the real world. And with a good engineering mind, John is able to make sense of it all as well. Or at least come up with fancy terms to impress the group.


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