What is it:
The original High Roller has proven itself to be both a top contender and a great all-around tire, having numerous World Cup and World Champ victories to its name, but Maxxis has been working hard on a new version, aptly named the High Roller II, that builds on the original design. Maxxis claims that they have improved both braking and cornering traction, as well as created a tire that rolls faster. There will initially be just two versions available: both using the same 2.4" wide, 2-ply casing, but one utilizing their 3C triple compound, and the other their longer lasting 60a rubber - although you can be sure that smaller volume options will be added in the near future. The 3C compound High Roller II tested here retails for $93 USD, similar to their other 3C offerings, although you'll likely be able to find it for less at your local shop.
The new High Roller II takes the best attributes of the original design and builds on them, with Maxxis claiming that the new model rolls faster, brakes better and corners more predictably.
Maxxis High Roller II details:
- Initially available in two versions: 2.4'' wide, 2-ply, 3C compound/2.4'' wide, 2-ply 60a compound
- Weight: 1290 grams (3C version, actual)
- MSRP $93.00 USD (3C model)
Maxxis hit a home run with their original High Roller, one of the most successful tires ever made, but riders are going faster and further than in the past and it was time to look for more performance from an old favorite. The High Roller II uses the same basic arrangement as the original design, and even the same casing, but knob shape and layout have been altered in an effort to find more braking traction and corning bite while also looking to improve rolling speed. The chevron shaped crown lugs have been reversed and feature a much more pronounced braking edge to them, along with a sipe from left to right to allow for more knob flex. One of the few complaints about the original High Roller was an uncertain feel from the tire when transitioning from the crown to the shoulder knobs, something that Maxxis have claimed to address with the added vertical sipe to the braking lugs that span the tire's center section. A tire is judged greatly upon its cornering abilities and while the original High Roller is known to be among the best, Maxxis wanted to take it to the next level without losing the attributes that made the first design popular to begin with. The cornering knobs were altered with this in mind, angling them slightly for more bite and adding a vertical sipe, again for added knob flex to allow them to conform to the ground better than a solid knob. Changes were also made to have the cornering lugs bite sooner than on the previous design.
The High Roller II uses a revised cornering knob layout (left) that have been designed to engage sooner in an effort to provide a more positive turn-in feel. Sipes have also been added to the side knobs that allow them to flex and conform to the ground better. The crown knobs feature far more prominent braking edges, and also see sipes incorporated.
Given that a tire's width will vary depending on the width of the rim, size is always a tricky thing to discuss, but it is universally agreed upon that the original High Roller is slightly undersized compared to the advertised width. The new High Roller II uses the exact same casing as its predecessor, which Maxxis says uses a 2.4" volume, but also employs taller shoulder knobs that give the tire a wider footprint than the original High Roller. The difference is clear to see with both versions mounted to the same DT 2350 wheel (24.8mm internal rim width
): the original High Roller measures up at 2.28"/58.1mm wide, while the new High Roller II comes in at 2.32"/59.1mm wide. Again, because the casing is the same, this difference is solely down to taller shoulder knobs. This is slightly slimmer than the claimed width, but keep in mind that tire size is a function of rim width and it will vary accordingly.
While it's easy to see where the High Roller II came from, there are also some clear differences between the two that should create a tire with a different personality. Beyond changes to knob shape, the new High Roller II is also slightly wider due to taller shoulder knobs - 2.32'' wide compared to the old versions 2.28'' wide, measured on the same DT Swiss rim.
I tested the High Rollers II's on a 2011 Intense M9, mounted on an MTX 31 rim in the back and a Mavic 521 rim up front. After some experimenting I settled on running 25psi in the front, paired with 29psi out back with XC weight tubes. One of the first things I noticed on the High Roller II was how much more I had to lean the bike into corners compared to the original High Roller. The old High Roller had a fast, almost harsh transition when going from the center to the corning knobs, where the High Roller II takes a bit more energy to get on the side knobs, but provides a much smoother and predictable setup into corners. Once I got used to leaning the bike more I was blown away by how far I could push and lean the new tire's shoulder knobs and my confidence in them quickly skyrocketed. When the knobs did start to break loose, it was a lot more predictable than the original High Roller. Overall, the High Roller II provides a smoother and more predictable feel throughout the corner. One thing to note was that on some of the harder packed corners in the Whistler Bike Park I could feel the longer, angular corner knobs of the High Roller II starting to fold over, causing the tire to lose traction. Do keep in mind that it's not designated as a hard pack tire, and those same long cornering knobs are what enables the tire to find its impressive traction in the slop and loam.
A predictable feel and more control when braking make the High Roller II an improvement over the original design.
To be honest, I didn't notice a massive difference between the old High Roller and the new High Roller II when it came to straight line braking. The High Roller II still offered the same great braking power that made the original such a popular choice for a rear tire, but the High Roller II excels in braking control while cornering. I found that the old High Roller could make the rear end hard to place on the steeps when on the brakes hard, but the new version feels like it now has a touch of the Minion DHF braking control in it, turning the rear end of the bike into a rudder on the steep stuff that can still be easily moved around. However, the High Roller II offers more outright stopping power than the Minion DHF due to its large paddle-like center knobs.
Given that conditions can vary so much on the same trail, rolling speed can be hard to gauge, but the High Roller II does feel like it rolls a touch slower than the old version. This is probably due to the increased contact patch from the center knobs being flattened out, along with the fact that the tire is slightly wider and has increased spacing between the knobs. That increased spacing may slow down the tire a bit, but it created great mud clearing performance that I was impressed by. One race in particular was under horrendous conditions that saw the usually fast rolling course transformed into a series of swamps and muddy ruts. Many riders made the switch to full-on mud tires, but I decided to stick with the High Roller II's to see how they would handle the nasty weather. Every time I would stop during practice I was blown away by how there was next to no mud packed into my knobs, while other riders around me had Minions that resembled semi-slicks. The High Roller II cleared great in the sloppy conditions and found tons of traction where I thought that they may struggle.
The 3C compound High Roller II (left) after nine days of solid riding, including time in the Whistler Bike Park. The updated High Roller managed to stay remarkably clear in muddy conditions (right)
When it comes to durability you need to keep in mind that this is a performance tire that offers superior traction, and therefore it sadly does not always last as long as some of its harder compound competitors. I put a total of nine days of solid riding and racing on the 3C compound High Roller II's, but this included full days in the Whistler Bike Park that can easily count for a week of riding in other locations, and would likely replace at least the rear tire around the twenty day point. After feeling the cornering knobs fold in some of the harder packed corners in Whistler, I was worried that the thin and long side knobs of the High Roller II were going to start tearing at the base, and although there was a small amount of tearing beginning to show, they did hold up better than expected. During my time in the Whistler Bike Park I pushed the limits of my wheels, putting a couple flat spots in my rim without suffering any flats. I would by no means say that these tires are more resistant than any previous 2-ply Maxxis tire though, as I have always found that the rubber and sidewalls on the Maxxis' offers great flat protection. One thing to note is that on some of the high speed, hard packed corners the wider flanged and thinner side knobs sometimes will fold over causing the tire to lose traction. Pinkbike's take:
We loved the improved predictability during cornering and were impressed by how well the tire performed in the sloppiest of conditions. The new High Roller II is a step away from a comprehensive dry tire, and a step towards a true all-conditions option that can be used in more settings. It slots in between the Minion, a dry tire, and the Wet Screams. The original High Roller was, and still is, a great tire, but I think it's the same as the comparison between the original Knight Rider to the new Knight Rider. David Hasselhoff might now be an alcoholic, and who cares that he might only be popular in Germany, he is still a timeless classic who will never be forgotten. For those who don't understand my bad analogy, I'd still use the first generation High Roller, but the new version is an improvement in nearly every regard.
- Adam MantleIntense Bikes Dunbar Cycles
Check out the Maxxis website
to see their entire lineup.Have you ridden the new High Roller II's? Agree with Adam's impressions? Let's hear what you think - put those thoughts down below!