First Look: Maxxis DHF and DHR II ‘Wide Trail’ (WT)
Maxxis announced the new “Wide Trail” versions of a number of their most popular tires at Interbike. The “WT” option is currently available on the DHF, DHR II, and Shorty tires, but it will almost certainly be available on other Maxxis tires in the future.
We received the DHF and DHR II WT prior to Interbike, and have been getting time on the new rubber. That full review will come soon, but here is some initial info to chew on.
Wider Tires for Wider Rims
WT tires have the same basic tread pattern as the “traditional” versions of these tires, but they’re designed to work better on wider rims—according to Maxxis, Wide Trail tires are built with a 35mm internal rim width in mind.
It’s important to note that Wide Trail tires are an additional option. They’re not replacing anything, and Maxxis’ full standard line will still be available.
Admittedly, when I first heard that Maxxis was tinkering with the DHF and DHR2, I was nervous. Those are two of my favorite tires ever made, and I’d venture a guess that I’ve spent more time on DHFs than any other tire in existence. I was worried that this was some ill-conceived venture into making a hybrid between “regular” tires and the Plus sized tires that are currently all the rage.
A Little Background
Not long ago, it was pretty rare to find someone running 35mm-wide rims on a trail bike, in part because it was really hard to build such a wide rim that was strong enough and light enough to be viable for most riders. But as carbon rims became more prevalent and rim weights went down, a few companies (like Derby) started making extra wide rims that weighed about the same as rims that were half as wide.
Fast forward a few years, wide rims are now increasingly common, and some companies like Kona are starting to spec trail bikes with rims over 30mm wide. And while lightweight carbon rims may have started the wider trend, companies like WTB are now producing wide, relatively inexpensive, aluminum rims.
But as rims got wider, tires stayed the same. Some people seemed to be ok with that, since the reason they went to wide rims in the first place was to gain a squared-off tire profile and a bit more bite in corners.
Here’s a picture comparing a few 2.4” Maxxis tires. From left to right: Highroller II 2.4” (regular version) on a 35mm internal rim; DHR II 2.4” (Wide Trail) on a 35mm internal rim; Highroller II 2.4” (regular version) on a 25mm internal rim.
Note the more squared-off profile of the tires on the wider rims, but also note the shape of the cornering knobs on the WT tire in the middle. (More on that below.)
Most tires in the past have been designed around narrower rims, and the knobs are shaped accordingly. Even more DH-oriented tires like the DHF were originally designed with narrower rims in mind; when the DHF originally came out, even the widest commonly-available downhill rims had an internal width of around 32-33mm.
Enter the Wide Trail. They’ve got the same tread pattern, but the knob shape has been tweaked to give more support to the cornering knobs when mounted on a wide rim, and the spacing between the knobs has been tweaked a bit to dial things in for the wider rims.
The first thing I noticed with the Wide Trail tires is that the width of the tire itself stays essentially the same (or even slightly narrower) than the regular version of the tire. Here’s some measurements comparing the new Wide Trail tires to other Maxxis tires on an assortment of rim widths. All measurements are taken at the widest point of the side knobs.
The next thing I noticed is that, while the casing itself is the same, the side knobs are oriented in such a way that they’re supported a bit better.
In the picture below, you can see the difference: on the left is a DHF 2.5” Wide Trail. On the right is a regular DHF 2.5”. Both tires are on the same rim. You can see that the side knobs on the Wide Trail are much more vertical, whereas the side knobs on the regular tire hang out over the casing a bit more.
In a practical sense, this means that the Wide Trail tire should squirm a bit less under hard cornering, and initial riding impressions prove this to be the case. It’s not a hugely dramatic difference, but it’s an improvement.
Another difference (which is somewhat hard to see in the pictures), is that the side knobs are situated slightly closer to the center of the tread. The channel between the center knobs and the side knobs is reduced by around 2mm.
At first glance, it would seem that this would actually reduce cornering traction. Part of the beauty of the Minion series is that channel—that open space in there means that when you lean the tire over, all of your weight is driving those side knobs into the ground, and there aren’t any other knobs getting in the way that would be taking weight off of those cornering knobs. So it would seem that moving the side knobs inboard a bit would actually decrease the ability to really keep those knobs locked into a corner.
But on a wider rim, the tire has a much more squared-off profile. That square profile means that you don’t have to lean the bike over all that far before the center knobs aren’t really doing much, and the side knobs are the only things touching the ground. On a narrower rim with a more rounded tire profile, you’d have to lean a bit farther to get to that point. So it would seem that by bumping the side knobs in a smidge, Maxxis is trying to keep the lean angle at which the tire locks into a corner roughly the same as it was on the narrower rims.
Bottom Line (For Now)
My initial take from riding these a bit is that the Maxxis Wide Trail versions of the DHF and DHRII offer some minor but welcome tweaks to two of my favorite tread patterns. I’m currently getting more time on these—mounted to some WTB Asym rims (35mm internal rim width)—and I’ll be updating this review with a more in-depth discussion of their riding characteristics.