A Quick History of Maxxis
Cast your mind way back to 2001; Greg Minnaar had just turned pro, a 14yr old Kyle Strait competed in his first Red Bull Rampage and Maxxis released what would go on to become an iconic gravity tyre, the Minion DHF. In the years to follow the Minion DHF would be raced at the highest level and is still used on the World Cup circuit today. Loved for its versatility across wet or dry conditions, cornering grip and rolling speed, the Minion DHF has become a perennial favourite for racers and recreational riders alike.
Incredibly, it would take a full 17 years for Maxxis to create another aggressive front tyre to rival the DHF, such was the quality of the original design. Launched in 2018, the new Assegai tyre was developed in collaboration with Greg Minnaar, combining elements from all the existing DH tread patterns. Intended to provide an all round high grip option for gravity and enduro racers alike, the Assegai quickly became the go to front tyre for many riders and racers in all but the worst conditions on everything from world cup downhill to enduro and trail bikes.
But how does this newcomer stack up against the super classic Minion DHF? With similar intended use cases is there an appreciable difference between the two, or is it a case of evolution rather than revolution? Tom, our MTB Guide and Dirt School Coach, has spent the past few months comparing these two well established tyres to find out.
The Minion DHF is the first tyre I can remember actually seeking out, I’d only been riding for a few years and up until that point hadn’t given much thought to what tyres were on my bike. After I’d used, and totally worn out my first pair, I was hooked on their cornering grip which was a huge step up over other tyres I had been using at the time. Fast forward a few years to working as a Guide in the Whistler Bike Park. Our company issued Minion DHFs to all our hill staff as the default tyre, so I’ve spent a lot of time riding the tread in all sorts of conditions.
For the past few years the Maxxis Assegai has been my go to front tyre, they’ve become so popular on the world scene that I was initially curious to find out how they performed. Safe to say I was not disappointed, since I first fitted one to my bike I think I’ve always had an Assegai ready to go as a staple choice for the Tweed Valley.
For this “test” I would swap between the Assegai and DHF on the front wheel and keep the same tread pattern on the rear, the Minion DHRII. Both test tyres were Maxxis’ enduro focused DoubleDown casing in their softest MaxxGrip rubber compound to give as much traction as possible. I was mindful to use the same pressures across both tyres and, although my pressures varied ride to ride, I didn’t add or remove pressure based on which tyre was fitted. Both tyres were set up tubeless with front tyre pressures ranging from 18-21psi and rear 22-25psi.
On the Trail
Looking down the bars onto the tops of the tyres what is immediately apparent is the difference in profiles between the two; the Assegai is very round with no real channels running the length of the tyre, a factor of the extra ‘transfer’ knob between the centre and side tread. By comparison the Minion DHF, with its clearly defined channels either side of the centre tread, looks a little squarer than the Assegai but not so much as the rear optimised DHRII.
In dry and mixed conditions this extra ‘transfer’ knob on the Assegai gives a totally consistent feel to the tyre across all lean angles, it also makes it very easy to initiate a turn thanks to that slightly rounder profile. This makes for an extremely confidence inspiring front tyre in the drier months here in the Tweed Valley, with the large footprint of the tyre giving incredible grip at any lean angle and great braking performance. As the trails get wetter and the mud gets thicker, the lack of a clearly defined channel on the Assegai can make it prone to packing up with mud, reducing the level of traction available.
By contrast, while the Minion DHF grips fantastically in dry and mixed turns, it lacks that feeling of complete predictability across all lean angles that the Assegai has in spades. Where it has the edge over the Assegai is in the wetter conditions that would cause the Assegai to pack with mud. The more widely spaced tread and clearly defined channels make it much more difficult for mud to cling to the tyre, leaving it free to do its job through a wider range of conditions than the Assegai. It also rolls just a little quicker, so helps a little when trying to maintain speed across flatter sections during a descent.
After spending time on both of these tyres in varying conditions, my preferred setup would be an Assegai through the summer while the trails are hard packed and dry, then as things get softer going into winter I would swap to the Minion DHF for more better mud clearing. I’d argue that the Minion DHF is the more versatile tyre of the two; offering a very similar dry performance to the Assegai, with the exception of the edge to edge consistency, and outperforming it in the wet. However, the dry and hard packed performance of the Assegai makes it almost impossible to look past for ultimate front wheel traction, in a wide range of conditions.
Pop in to our shop in Innerleithen, check out our Maxxis range and we’ll be happy to chat further about different tyre options, casings and compounds, or read more about Maxxis technology here.
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