Winner: Maxxis Minion
Tire preference can vary widely depending on local terrain and riding style. There is no one perfect tire. But when it comes to choosing No. 1, we fell back to an ongoing joke in the car world that the answer to every question is always Mazda Miata. Want something fun to drive? Miata. Rear wheel drive? Miata. Learn stick? Miata. It’s almost a reflex at this point. (M)iata (I)s (A)lways (T)he (A)nswer.
The Maxxis Minion occupies a similar place in our hearts. Want a tire that’s good in every condition? Minion. Trail riding? Minion. DH racing? Minion. Indeed, the Maxxis Minion is the gold standard by which all other gravity tires are measured.
The Minion isn’t just our favorite tire, it’s the tire of choice for many professionals, even if they’re sponsored by another brand. And it’s not just racers, take a look around and you’ll notice nearly every tire manufacturer now offers a Minion clone. To stay ahead of the curve, Maxxis launched several new versions of the Minion this year. You can now pick one up in fat or mid-fat widths, a stronger Double Down casing (if EXO wasn’t enough), and even a tan sidewall option.
Runner-up: Vittoria Morsa
Though arguably better known for its road tires, Vittoria has been manufacturing mountain bike tires under the Geax label for some three decades. That recently changed when they revamped the product line and re-launched it under the Vittoria name. In addition to fresh tread patterns, the new Vittoria tires are the first to use four separate rubber compounds. There are several brands who use up to three, but adding a fourth allows for even more fine tuning. Vittoria also added Graphene to the mix, a material that’s claimed to be 200 times stronger than steel and helps improve tire longevity, while also allowing for softer, grippier tread. The Morsa distils both of these technologies into a fast rolling gravity tire that’s quickly become one of our favorites for big rides that involve equal amounts of climbing and descending. For more info, check out our coverage here.
Honorable Mention: WTB Convict
The aptly named WTB Convict is a brute. It is overkill for virtually every scenario outside of pure gravity racing and we don’t care. With a massive 2.5” footprint and jackhammers for side knobs, it might be the grippiest tire we tested all year. Our only complaint? It’s only available in 27.5”. For more info, check out our first look here.
This post is part of the Mtbr Best of 2016 awards series. You can see all this year’s announced winners here.