I decided to run a group comparison of tires from six leading brands. The idea of the test was simple: to compare the different rear-wheel options offered that have a sensible level of protection. Personally, when I think about tires, I tend to choose something that has grip as the utmost priority on the front, often combined with a slightly lighter casing. The more problematic choice can often be what to choose on the rear.
In this comparison, I used a Maxxis Assegai 2.5 EXO+ tire on the front and only changed rear tires. I did this to hopefully better isolate the ride characteristics of the rear tires. But what did I lay out as the criteria for these rear tires? And what is a reasonable expectation in terms of performance?
The first characteristic I thought of was weight. I set a target weight of 1200g. This isn’t obscenely heavy, nor is it particularly light. I wanted a tire that rolled well, but not so fast that it undermined traction, and I wanted something that was going to offer good and consistent performance in a variety of conditions over the Portuguese winter. I wasn’t looking for a mud plugger, but rather something that held its own in the wet and wasn’t a death warrant should I ride in sodden conditions.
In all testing, I ran a small sized Vittoria Airliner in the rear. I ran this because I wanted an insert that would hopefully protect my rim as I experimented with pressures and also to stop any potential slicing on any of the sharp rocks that lie on the trails. It’s a piece of equipment I’ve used before for these very reasons. It’s also not particularly large, which I consider a bonus. I didn’t want to put a large insert in there that would potentially alter the ride characteristics of a tire and then have to present my findings with the caveat of - "you also need to spend X amount of dollars on this insert". All testing was done on a set of SILT Alloy 30mm internal wheels.
The test was conducted in Lousa, Portugal, which has a large array of riding but in general, at least in my mind, is unmitigatedly hard on bikes. There is a great selection of fast natural trails where the loose dirt is soft enough for good rubber to bite in and give you a huge amount of purchase, but conversely there are rocks and square edges to brutalise tires and wheels in equal measure. To give you an idea of the terrain, in my first 3 days here I put large slices in two 'trail' casing tires from two different brands.
In this test, I’ll largely discuss descending performance. These mountains are blessed with some amazing riding but you do winch up a road, a mixture of tarmac and gravel, before coming back down the trails. Sadly there just isn’t much in the way of technical climbing here. That being said, it probably isn’t too difficult to draw your own conclusions from my findings.
I conducted my comparison by riding 4,000m of vert over three days on each tire. In this period I made observations and experimented with setup. I rode largely the same trails. After this initial process, I then did back to back testing on the same day to fine tune, as well as challenge, my observations. I included photos after this initial 4,000m to show different wear rates between brands.
I consider the Aggressor as near-synonymous with "fast rolling rear enduro tire". I did consider the Dissector, but the Aggressor offers a more well-known benchmark for the other tires.
The tire was very easy to install and went up without so much as needing the valve core removed, any swearing or a booster tank, but more on this later. Riding along the climbs it does roll well and I even went as far as including in my notes that it ‘zipped along’. High praise indeed. I think that the profile given by my 30mm internal rim width suited the tire perfectly and enabled it to keep on the fast rolling centre knobs. In terms of efficiency, it was definitely one of the stronger performing tires on test.
• Casing - DoubleDown
• Compound - Dual Compound
• Size - 29 x 2.5 WT
• Pressure - 25PSI
• Claimed / Actual Weight - 1185g / 1172g
• Width on 30mm Rim - 59mm
When descending it was good, and showed why it’s such a popular option, but it did tend to give that scraping sensation when initially applying the brakes. This isn’t surprising in some ways, this isn’t a particularly soft or aggressively treaded tire, but compared to some of the other tires on test it was slightly inferior in this regard. Once you leaned the tire in it would then pick up more traction. It is worth noting that this tire does offer an ever-so-slightly vague sensation when transitioning between the centre and edge knobs.
Sometimes, a rear tire, in this transition, can feel like a little bit of free fall as you commit to moving onto the edge. The best way I can explain this is if you placed a rope around a lamppost and fell backwards. This tire would catch you, but before the slack is taken up it’s going to feel something like freefall. The characteristic I look for is something like having an elastic cord already under tension that you can gradually lean into as it’s going to give you a consistent feeling. It’s not totally dissimilar from using wider skis on groomed trails and transitioning from edge to edge. It wasn't bad, by any means, but it wasn't class leading, either.
Across roots and rocks, particularly if you had to apply the brakes, it did give a slight shifting feeling as it tried to settle. It did provide good grip, but it sometimes felt like it was threatening to step out.
On looser terrain it was good, and this will be something of a trend in this test, and a topic I’ll revisit later. When the ground was soft, considering how well it rolls it gave pleasantly surprising and consistent braking traction. I think its relatively hard compound sometimes struggled to find purchase when the surface it was trying to grip to is harder still but when the terrain was softer it felt like the harder compound wasn’t so much of a hindrance and it could dig in and the ground conform to the shape of the tire, as opposed to the other way around.
One of the areas this tire impressed me the most was the way it stayed so secure on the rim. Of all the tires on test, it was the only tire never to burp in rougher terrain. This is such a fantastic trait and I put it down to the tolerance of the bead and how it mated up to the wheels. It just seems like such an easy win for the rider - it doesn’t have a weight penalty to offer this security but does have huge implications in terms of performance.
Another thing to make the end user happy is durability. After the initial testing period, this tire still looked pretty much fresh out of the factory. Overall, I would say this is quite a versatile tire that will offer good value over the duration of the tires life and will suit somebody who will happily exchange a little bit of grip for a large amount of durability and a good dollop of rolling efficiency.