There was a time not long ago when the market wasn’t flooded with 150 and 160mm 650B bikes, a time also marked by a serious shortage of tire options in the mid-wheel size as the first of those bikes were becoming available. For most of 2013 the aftermarket had yet to catch up with what had become a flooded OEM for 27.5.
This was the heyday of the 2.3″ Maxxis High Roller II 3C EXO TR. When we found this tire on a test bike, we rejoiced, and conversely, when we didn’t find it, we found a way to make that happen. The biggest reason we loved this tire was the casing. Easy and reliable tubeless setup, good sidewall support, and puncture resistance without a serious weight penalty.
At the time, the HR2 was the only 27.5″ 2.3 EXO TR tire in the Maxxis lineup (and one of the only midweight tires available in all three wheel sizes, which is part of why Keith Scott chose it for his Educating the Debate comparisons). Since then, Maxxis has molded DHR2 and DHF tread on to the EXO TR casing, which in turn puts the HR2 under tighter scrutiny. The casing remains a favourite, but is the HR2 still the pick of the litter?
The HR2 2.3 has relatively small center tread blocks, spaced fairly wide, with not much in the way of transition knobs. When descending steeps or braking hard in a straight line, the tread helps to slow you down but not in a confidence inspiring manner. The side knobs provide decent hold but you have to get the tire sideways before they’re going to bite and even at that, they don’t grip like a Minion side knob. As a result, I find the HR2 to be a fairly drifty tire.
After running a variety of other tires, my impression of the HR2 has come to be that it rolls relatively slow for how little grip it actually provides. With the availability of the DHR2 and DHF, I now enjoy the HR2 as a rear tire. I tend to push my front end hard into corners and don’t mind the rear end getting squirrelly.
I enjoy riding tires that can be run at lower pressures without risk of burping, and the Maxxis EXO TR casings definitely fit into that category. Because of its squarer profile shape, the HR2 runs similarly on both wider and narrower rims, whereas the rounder DHR2 and DHF respond well to being mounted on wider rims such as the (25mm inside width) Flow EX.
It is worth mentioning that the 2.3 and the 2.4 are notably different tires. Maxxis historically has adjusted tread block size with different casing size. The 2.4 (seen in Tim Coleman’s review of the DH casing version HERE) is a heavier tire with deeper center tread blocks and beefier side knobs, and does provide quite a bit more grip – at the cost of weight.
I’ve personally come to prefer DHR2s front and rear if I had the choice, but there are others who really like the HR2 as a front tire. The bottom line is, the HR2 casing feels as good as ever, and now we’ve got a bunch more options for tread patterns. A year and a half ago I would have recommended the HR2 as a choice tire for aggressive riders on 650B wheels, and now it sits amongst a variety of excellent options. You can’t really go wrong with the 2.3″ EXO TR casing.
The HR2 looks to still be an EXOllent choice…