The following graphic was released by Maxxis to explain a bit of the thinking behind all the redesigns. You can see the pointed braking edge on the old tire, and what they changed about the sideknobs on the new one. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
I’m not going to repeat what they’ve laid out, because I agree with all of it except for one point: Knob D.
Sideknobs work best for just plain old outright cornering when either neutral (flat with no real angle) or slightly angled outward toward the direction of travel. Neutral should be self-explanatory. The angle outward has existed in mountain bike tires for a long time, and with good reason. A sliding tire is caught by this type of angle, and it cups dirt while braking. Knob D does the opposite of this, and the logic is that it “reduces understeering.” What that amounts to is that there’s a set of “fuse” knobs, knobs that allow the tire to begin sliding—but only subtly—because the alternating set will still grab and support the turn. The fuse blows before the circuit, letting the rider know there’s some juice coming down the line.
In my opinion, however, if they wanted a predictable drift, they could have spaced the knobs more. My disagreement isn’t that it does not work, but rather that there is a better way to achieve it, and one that clears dirt better, too.
Plus, they’ve tinkered with a very solid cornering design, trying to do what seems like an attempt to duplicate what they already have in the Minion DHF. The DHF and the old High Rollers both corner quite well, but in very different ways. This approach on the new High Roller 2 seems a little redundant and sort of homogenizes the choices among the Maxxis lineup.
I’ve spent all this time boring the crap out of you with tire theory because the way this new tire behaves is perfectly laid out in the design. The comparisons with the old tread design are listed mostly just in case Maxxis ditches it. I don’t know whether they plan to, but I wanted to point out the differences / improvements in case they do.
For the most part, Maxxis has achieved what it seems they were after: a better braking tire and a tire that falls into a drift much more predictably. Or maybe they just took a stab at a tire and came up with the explanations after the fact. (Having read a bit about the development of this tire before it was released, I doubt it. These guys knew what they were doing.)
I’ve ridden these tires almost exclusively in dry, loose conditions. We had a little bit of mud as the snow melted off, but nothing compared to what riders in the Pacific Northwest see on a regular basis. But in the little mud we had here, the tires cleared themselves well. And you guys learned long ago that compound has as much or more to do with traction on wet roots and rocks than tread design.
But in the dry, dusty, loose and gravely terrain I’ve been in the most, these tires, in short, ride very, very well. There is absolutely none of the squirming and sliding under hard braking that the older design suffered.
In fact, there are no real surprises at all under braking. I think I only locked up my rear wheel once or twice during the entire time I’ve ridden them. That’s not a statement on my greasy brake pads, but rather a testament to how much braking traction these tires offer. They grab and slow you down, that’s all there is to it. That feature is not only better than the old High Roller (by miles), but better than most tires out there.
Maxxis didn’t fart around with the dumb guessing games on angled braking edges that seems to plague many other tires out there. There’s no reason for it. Go flat or cupped on a braking edge, and it will work. I could see these tires caking up a bit in some really sticky mud, but there’s a good bit of space between knobs all around so they should clear fairly well. But they still won’t be a mud spike, and that’s not their intention anyway. (I do know that when I get into some gloppy mud on these tires, I’ll be approaching cautiously at first, but I live in California, so I do that anyway.)
I’d like to say something profound about rolling resistance, but I don’t feel the vibrations of the centerknobs when rolling through a parking lot. So there. They roll fast and stuff.
Durability seems identical with every other Maxxis tire I’ve owned. The 3C compound grips really well, but wears a little fast. Sidewall durabililty is excellent, in that I haven’t even thought about it until typing this sentence.
The cornering ability of this tire is very, very good. The transition zone is fairly narrow and rolling the bike over goes very smoothly. There’s no overly shocking loose spot before getting to the sideknobs. It slides a tad getting there but not in any sort of alarming way.
Those of us used to just putting the bike into the angle we know we’re after won’t think a thing of it, but it is there, and one run will provide you with the information you need when the inevitable situation comes when you want to slide it quickly over to its side. It will slide, and it will catch, but you won’t scare the piss out of yourself doing it.
Now about those sideknobs. The “fuse” knob does what it’s supposed to. I’ve got a few hundred miles on the old High Roller and this new tread does, in fact, initiate a drift easier. The old High Roller gripped so well that it did have a bit of an all-or-nothing behavior. Personally, I got used to it, and never really thought that once the tire got to sliding, it was that catastrophic. I thought the sliding support was still sufficient enough to keep the bike under control. But this new one does slide easier and does provide a good amount of support after braking loose.
There is one glaring fault of this tread design, though, that I’ve come across multiple times now. Soft compound tires are by far the norm rather than the exception these days, especially on the front wheel of most of the downhilling population. After a good first day on these, I had the front wheel rip out from under me, putting me into the bushes. This was on a trail I know like the back of my hand and is outside of the chairlift and bike park zones. The trail was in good shape, and I can ride this corner almost blindfolded. Something gave that wasn’t what I expected. What it felt like was that the sideknobs just gave out. My fingers were nowhere near the brakes so that had nothing to do with it.
After making sure my handlebars hadn’t ruined my reproductive prospects, I looked at the sideknobs on the tire. On one side, the knobs were showing stretch marks. This happens somewhat quickly on all soft compound tires, but this was only in one section of the tire and only on one side. Plus, they’d only seen about six runs up to this point. I don’t know if I had this one solitary crash because of it, but I started bending the knobs of the 3C front tire over with my fingers. They definitely fold over easier than the 2.5 3C versions I’d had in the past. So just for fun, I busted out my calipers….
The width of the sideknobs on the new 2.4 High Roller 2 are about 6.4mm and 6.7mm at the center. The width of the knobs on the old 2.5 High Roller are about 5.7mm and 8.0mm. That 5.7mm knob on the old ones is supported by two ribs that measure about 9.5mm and 8.0mm. Look at the blue Knob C in the diagram. The ribs are much larger on the old tread. And the pink Knob D is much smaller on the new one.
I’m not dumb enough to go crazy about this just because I blew a turn, but the trend continued for the next few weeks of riding these things—not crashing, but certainly cutting completely loose far easier than on the old tread design. These sideknobs not only initiate a drift easier, they just give up sooner all together.
I sincerely wish that Maxxis had kept the thickness of the old sideknobs. The change in angles and the “fuse” knob would still achieve the more gradual drifting, but both the drift and the “normal” cornering would have been better supported.
Keep in mind that I do hold Maxxis to a higher standard because they are one of the few companies that don’t put out a whole lot of tires that have knob shapes working against one another. Literally every single tire company out there does something glaringly stupid even in the tires they sell the most. Maxxis, however, has done a good job the last few years of at least putting out tires that are consistent in their goals within an individual tread design (the old High Roller with its dumb braking edge is around 10 years old). The Minion DHR tires suck, but at least they don’t have knobs that send your tire in the opposite direction you’re leaning the bike.
I’d say the High Roller 2 corners and drifts better than 99% of what’s out there, and brakes with some of the best. But in a 3C compound, they could have made the sideknobs better. The thinner knob design has proven to accelerate sideknob wear and compromise the one single thing the old High Roller was so exceptional at: grabbing like a rail and holding your wheels there.
I’ll be putting the 60d/Maxxpro tire on the front of my bike fairly soon, with the expectation that the sideknob support will be better. But I know the braking will suffer, and the general compliance over rocks and other potentially slippery bits won’t be as good as the 3C version. I also know that I won’t be buying another 3C version for the front of my DH bike.
Maxxis has been pretty good about letting their better DH tread designs filter down to the smaller sizes, and I’ve happily run the old 2.35 tires on my trail bikes. I’d be surprised if they released a 60d compound smaller version that I didn’t like on my smaller bike. The tread is really good. The sideknobs in soft compounds could be better.