The concept of a semi-slick mountain bike tire isn't exactly new - XC racers were using them over twenty years ago, and there were a number of DH oriented versions, including Maxxis' High Roller semi-slick in the early 2000s - but there's been a resurgence over the last few seasons, with the latest batch aimed at enduro racers, or anyone looking for a little extra speed. The idea is that the low profile center tread reduces rolling resistance, while the tall, aggressive side knobs provide cornering traction. Schwalbe's Rock Razor and Specialized's Slaughter have been the two most prominent options, and now Maxxis is entering the fray with their new Minion SS.
The Minion SS has the same alternating rectangular and L-shaped side knobs as the popular Minion DHF and DHR II, but the center tread is comprised of much smaller blocks, with ramped center knobs and a set of smaller L-shaped knobs. All of the folding bead models use Maxxis' dual rubber compound and include EXO sidewall protection, and for riders seeking extra puncture resistance Maxxis offers a version with their Silkworm protection. Silkworm uses an additional layer of material under the tread to help keep rocks and other pointy objects from poking through, and adds 20 grams of weight.
In addition to the 27.5" x 2.3" and 29" x 2.3" versions, there are also also two DH casing options that measure 27.5" x 2.5". What about a Minion SS for 26" wheels? Maxxis says they're on the way, and should be available in the spring of 2016. We tested the 27.5" x 2.3” non-Silkworm version, which weighs in at 740 grams and retails for $62 USD. www.maxxis.com
/ @Maxxis On the Trail
The Minion SS arrived just as the dry and sunny summer weather began to slip away, giving me the chance to try it in trail conditions ranging from bone dry to perfectly tacky and all the way to wet and greasy. Setting the Minion SS up tubeless didn't pose any problems, and I typically ran between 25 – 27 psi with it mounted to a 23mm internal width rim. I paired the Minion SS with the new Maxxis 2.5” Minion DHF in the front, creating the mullet of tire combos – business in the front and a party in the back. The more aggressive front tire ensured that the bike stayed on track in loose terrain, leaving the Minion SS free to shift and slide around when necessary. It's a very enjoyable tire combination, and even in the steeps there was more control and traction than I'd expected. The tall side knobs are what make the SS perform worlds better than a worn out 'regular' Minion would – they prevent it from breaking free too suddenly, and keep the wheel locked into the turns.
The most obvious benefit of a semi-slick tread pattern is the reduced rolling resistance, which was especially noticeable when spinning out the miles on a dirt road or smoother sections of singletrack. The Minion SS gets up to speed quickly and helps take the sting out of those long approaches, a welcome alternative to meatier tires that can make it feel like you're riding through molasses. I'd expected any shortcomings to arise on the descents, but it was actually on steeper climbs with loose dirt over hardpack that the Minion SS faltered slightly – that low profile center occasionally had trouble finding purchase, and it was easier to spin out compared to a tire with taller center knobs to dig in and grip the trail.
There are limits to the trail conditions that the Minion SS will perform well in, but even in slightly damp weather it was still reliable, as long as the mud didn't get too thick. That's when the tire's performance drops off, since the minimalist center tread can no longer grip when filled to the brim with glop, but deep mud is well out of the realm of its suggested usage.
As far as durability goes, even after a couple months of regular use the small center knobs, the area I expected to see the most signs of wear, are still holding their shape, and there hasn't been any cracking or tearing of the side knobs. The Minion SS's total lifespan will depend on terrain and riding style, but it doesn't seem as if it will be drastically shorter than that of a fully treaded tire. Pinkbike's Take:
|The Minion is a specialty tire, but it's also one that's usable in a wider range of conditions than its appearance might suggest. Paired with an aggressive front tire it's an excellent option for riders looking for additional speed without sacrificing much in the way of control. - Mike Kazimer|
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