Trail Version of Greg Minnaar's Tire Reviewed
Maxxis Assegai DD & EXO+ Tire Review
For much of 2018, I impatiently waited for Maxxis to release the more trail-friendly Assegai tires. Earlier this summer I finally got my hands on not only a set of Double Down Assegai's but also the new EXO+ version of the new tire. Needless to say, I’ve spent most of the summer riding Assegai tires – with a healthy dose of Minion DHF, Aggressor and DHRII tread as well.
Releasing the Assegai with only a DH carcass made sense, given the tire was designed by the winningest downhill racer of all time. Now you can get EXO, EXO+ and Double Down versions. Maxx Grip only is available in the DH and DD carcasses while the EXO and EXO+ options are available in Maxx Terra or Dual compound. I’d like to see a Maxx Grip version in the EXO+ casing though, for those who don’t need a burly casing like the DD up front but still want maximum traction. A Double Down in the longer wearing Maxx Terra would be good for rear tire use where the EXO+ casing isn't enough.
There is only 29 grams difference between the DD and the DH carcass, but the 120tpi casing has a more forgiving and comfortable ride in rough terrain. Compared with the classic DHF, the Assegai weighs an extra ~77 grams in the DD while the EXO+ of the DHF and Assegai weigh about the same. Tires with the same carcass, size and compound do vary from tire to tire, so consider the differences with room to wiggle.
The Assegai was developed with the G.O.A.T.; Greg Minnaar. Greg wanted his signature tire to perform in a broad range of conditions and terrain. It needed to fill the gap between a dry tire like the DHF and a wetter conditions tire like the Shorty. Side lug inspiration came from the original High Roller, with elements of the DHF, DHR II, and the Shorty also contributing. One night while on the road, Greg drew sketches and forwarded them over to the engineers at Maxxis. From there he let them work their magic.
An intermediate lug was added to the design to provide a more positive feeling when transitioning to the cornering lugs. Greg wanted to remove the moment of weightlessness in the transition in favour of gripping throughout. He left the design of the lug with the engineers at Maxxis, but Greg provided feedback for the rest. Looking at the Assegai, the influence of the DHF is clearly visible. Less visible is the influence of the cornering lugs from the original High Roller. This is mostly thanks to the updated siping and adjustments made to provide support with the taller lugs. All of the lugs on the Assegai are taller than those of the Minions or the High Roller II. The engineers at Maxxis needed to update the corner lugs to keep the profile of the tire in check.
The EXO+ casing fills the gap between EXO and Double Down. Most racers will still be better to reach for a Double Down or DH tire, but many trail users will benefit from the new EXO+ tire. In fact I won't be surprised if many 2020 trail bikes come spec'd with EXO+.
EXO+ tires still feature the EXO protection in each sidewall of the tire but have an additional layer of what Maxxis calls Silk Shield. This layer sits deeper in the construction layers of the tire than EXO and wraps the entire way around the tire, providing an additional protection layer at the sidewalls and throughout the tread.
Riding the Assegai Double Down and EXO+
Coming from the DHF and DHR II EXO setup I'd used through the winter, I started off on the EXO+ casing to minimize the change. The EXO+ offers a subtle increase in support, remaining comfortable while providing more protection. Jumping up to the Double Down, there’s less feel through the tire and the stiffer carcass transfers more feedback to the rider. As you might expect, moving to a DH tire takes this change a step further. With the EXO+ now in the lineup, Maxxis has a great, incremental change in feel throughout the range. Changing compounds affects the feel as well, and the slower rebound of the Maxx Grip tires further dampens trail feedback.
I reckon the EXO+ casing is ideal for heaps of trail riders in the PNW, or anywhere trails are rich with root and rock. It also offers better support on bermed trails, so riders who enjoy stuffing the back wheel into corners and pushing it hard may prefer the EXO+. For really aggressive riders, the Double Down is still the way to go. The level of protection it offers wheels and the added support can’t be achieved with the EXO+. They’re different horses for different courses.
Compound may be a deciding factor for riders who deal with wet roots and rock but moving to Maxx Grip means hoofing the heavier Double Down or DH tire about. Besides the obvious difference of the Maxx Grip being slower rolling, having a shorter lifespan and more traction, I found another difference. The firmer Maxx Terra compound combined with the taller lugs tended to get unpredictable on really rooty or rocky sections of trail regardless of whether it was dry or wet. This caused a few near misses but on another occasion, it bit me. Without warning, I lost control of the front wheel while barreling across a series of rock steps that narrowed between trees. It sent me into one of the trees, which proceeded to shoulder check me back to the rocks that continued down the trail. Trees can be jerks. When I've had that random experience before I got lucky and saved it, or had more room to get away with it.
I’ve never experienced the same unpredictability in these same sections of trail on the DHF or DHR II Maxx Terra tires. Heading back in on the Assegai DD with Maxx Grip also presented no issues. Initially, I thought perhaps the EXO+ carcass was bouncing around, making it unstable, but after spending time on DHF and DHR II tires with the same Maxx Terra compound and EXO+ casing, I don’t believe this is the case. It seems the taller lugs with the firmer compounds squirm on hard surfaces like rock and root beds.
In conditions where roots and rock were less prevalent, the Maxx Terra Assegai performed as I would expect and was predictable. Cornering in these situations was great with the tires rarely breaking loose. The side lugs combined with the transitional intermediate lugs give a great permagrip feel, where the Minions and others with a larger channel tend to take a moment before engaging the side lugs.
As I found with my first impressions of the Assegai, the level of stability is excellent. They grip so well in corners that it’s hard to break them loose and in the rear, it can be a bit much. Braking traction is also excellent and when dropping anchor, the Assegais bite in tenaciously while remaining composed and steady. A downside to the tire is the rolling speed; there’s heaps of rubber and especially in the case of the Maxx Grip, that makes them slow. Switching the rear to either a DHF or DHR II has been a good mix and in super dry conditions I’ve had good experiences with the Aggressor. Troy Brosnan’s new Dissector tire could be the perfect fit too, but I need more time on that before making that claim.
When considering tires several good options are available now. I find the Assegai similar in use and grip to the Schwalbe Magic Mary. They both serve a wide range of riding conditions and offer heaps of grip. The Magic Mary has never felt great in loose over hard conditions and for me, the Assegai takes the win here. In the wet, the Assegai doesn’t shed mud as well as the wider-spaced square blocks of the MM, and while the Maxx Grip compound provides plenty of grip in these situations, some will want a clearer tread. When the dirt has more clay content the MM may be the better option or even a Shorty.
The WTB Vigilante has a similar feel to the Assegai, thanks to its redesign shifting the intermediate lugs of the tire. It’s a great tire but I’ve found the Maxx Grip Assegai provides more grip in the wet. Placement and possibly the smaller size of the intermediate lugs make it feel more positive in the dry too. The Vigilante falls between the Minion DHF and the Assegai in terms of cornering feel and the Assegai is better under heavy braking. It’s a great tire too but if front wheel traction is priority number one, I’d sling a Maxx Grip Assegai on. I'm about to start testing the Verdict and Verdict Wet tires from WTB and will offer a similar comparison.
Concerning the previous version e*thirteen tires, I’ve found the Assegai can handle more aggressive cornering before breaking loose. The e*thirteen also features a large channel between the center and side lugs which created a noticeable moment of float before properly weighting the side lugs. Their height meant that they came into play earlier, but for aggressive riders, it also meant they broke out earlier. I haven’t spent any time with the new e*thirteen but if a suitable rear tire casing and compound is available, they could match well with an Assegai Maxx Grip out front.
The Maxxis Assegai is my new favourite multi-use front tire. There, I said it. I'll happily run the Double Down Maxx Grip on my front wheel for the foreseeable future. If I were to run a Maxx Terra compound, I’d lean toward the classic DHF over the Assegai. In the dry I had no issues with the DHF MT, it rolls well, grips well, and is predictable. The Assegai MT isn’t so predictable thanks to the taller lugs but the softer MG doesn’t suffer this problem.
I want the most grip possible from my front tire and the Assegai MG delivers. That extra grip means a slower rolling speed but it’s a trade-off I’ll happily take. Using the Assegai as a rear tire provides heaps of braking traction and cornering grip but it's slow. In the rear, I happily trade some traction in favour of greater rolling and durability. For that reason, I’ll stick with either the DHF or DHR II, or Aggressor in the dead of summer.
More info on the Assegai is available on the Maxxis website.