The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 138 - Maxxis' Aaron Chamberlain on Pro-Only Rubber, All the Minions, & Tires Prices

Aug 13, 2022
by Mike Levy  
Pinkbike Podcast
Art by Taj Mihelich

Mountain bike tires are pretty good these days, and we have near-endless choices when it comes to tread pattern, casing type, and weight. Actually, many brands offer what feels like dozens (it's often more) of options for just a single model, so finding the best version for you can be pretty confusing if you don't have your acronym dictionary handy. Maxxis' Aaron Chamberlain sat down with me while at Crankworx to talk about exactly that, as well as how many Minions they sell in a year (a crazy number), why some of their racers get tires that won't ever be for sale, and also why they can cost so damn much.

Got a question for Aaron? Post it in the comment section below and you might get an answer.

August 13th, 2022

Why don't more tire companies make their own inserts?

Featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.

This week's Pinkbike Podcast is presented by Yakima.


Previous Pinkbike Podcasts
Episode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?
Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?
Episode 3 - Pond Beaver Tech
Episode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?
Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?
Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?
Episode 7 - Wild Project Bikes
Episode 8 - Do We Need an Even Larger Wheel Size?
Episode 9 - Why Are We Doing a Cross-Country Field Test?
Episode 10 - Getting Nerdy About Bike Setup
Episode 11 - Are We Going Racing This Year?
Episode 12 - What's the Future of Bike Shops?
Episode 13 - Are Bikes Too Regular Now?
Episode 14 - What Bikes Would Pinkbike Editors Buy?
Episode 15 - What's Holding Mountain Biking Back?
Episode 16 - Who's Your Mountain Biking Hero?
Episode 17 - XC Field Test Insider
Episode 18 - Electronics on your Mountain Bike: Good or Bad?
Episode 19 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 20 - MTB Conspiracy Theories
Episode 21 - Stuff We Were Wrong About
Episode 22 - Does Your Riding Style Match Your Personality?
Episode 23 - Grim Donut 2 is Live!
Episode 24 - Why Even Buy a DH Bike?
Episode 25 - Fall Field Test Preview
Episode 26 - The Three Most Important Mountain Bikes
Episode 27 - The World Champs Special
Episode 28 - All About Women's Bikes
Episode 29 - Freeride or Die
Episode 30 - Would You Rather?
Episode 31 - Wet Weather Riding Tips & Tricks
Episode 32 - What Needs to Change in the Bike Industry?
Episode 33 - Behind the Scenes at Pinkbike Academy
Episode 34 - Grilling Levy About Field Test Trail Bikes (and His Bonspiel)
Episode 35 - Story Time - Stranger Than Fiction
Episode 36 - Grilling Kazimer about Field Test Enduro Bikes
Episode 37 - The 2020 Privateer Season with Ben Cathro
Episode 38 - Editors Defend Their 2020 Best-Of Picks
Episode 39 - Predicting the Future of Mountain Biking
Episode 40 - The Pinkbike Awards!
Episode 41 - Racing Rumours and Team Changes
Episode 42 - Mountain Biking's Guilty Pleasures
Episode 43 - Dangerholm's Wildest Custom Mountain Bikes
Episode 44 - Mountain Bike Suspension Decoded
Episode 45 - What Makes a Good Riding Buddy
Episode 46 - The RockShox Zeb vs Fox 38 Deep Dive
Episode 47 - High Pivot Bikes: The Good, The Bad, and The Why?
Episode 48 - Rides That Went Horribly Wrong... & Why That Made Them So Good
Episode 49 - What's the Best DH Bike?
Episode 50 - Are Bikes Actually Getting Less Expensive? (Value Bike Field Test Preview)
Episode 51 - Should MTB Media Post Spy Shots?
Episode 52 - Our Most Embarrassing MTB Moments
Episode 53 - Should Climbers Still Have the Right of Way?
Episode 54 - Best and Worst MTB Product Marketing
Episode 55 - Big Dumb Rides & Staying Motivated
Episode 56 - What Were the Most Important Inventions in Mountain Biking?
Episode 57 - What Were the Best (and Worst) Trends in Mountain Biking?
Episode 58 - Debunking Mountain Biking's Biggest Myths
Episode 59 - Value Bike Field Trip Surprises & Spoilers
Episode 60 - What Kind of Mountain Biker Do You Want to Be?
Episode 61 - Athlete Pay, Lycra, Equality and More from the State of the Sport Survey
Episode 62 - Editor Preferences and Why They Matter
Episode 63 - Our Best (And Worst) Bike Buying Advice
Episode 64 - Who's On Your MTB Mount Rushmore?
Episode 65 - The Hardtail Episode
Episode 66 - The Best and Worst of Repairing Bikes
Episode 67 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham
Episode 68 - Who Are Mountain Biking's Unsung Heroes?
Episode 69 - The Good, Bad, and Strange Bikes We've Owned - Part 1
Episode 70 - The Good, Bad, and Strange Bikes We've Owned - Part 2
Episode 71 - The Story of Mountain Biking's Most Interesting Man: Richard Cunningham - A Pinkbike Podcast Special, Part 2
Episode 72 - Hey Outers!
Episode 73 - The Details That Matter... and Some That Shouldn't
Episode 74 - The Best Trails We've Ridden and What Makes Them So Special
Episode 75 - Things MTB Brands Waste Money On
Episode 76 - MTB Originals and Copycats
Episode 77 - Interview with Outside CEO, Robin Thurston
Episode 78 - Modern Geometry Explained
Episode 79 - What's the Future of eMTBs?
Episode 80 - The Best Vehicles for Mountain Bikers
Episode 81 - You've Got Questions, We've (Maybe) Got Answers
Episode 82 - Behind the Scenes at Field Test
Episode 83 - Does Carbon Fiber Belong On Your Mountain Bike?
Episode 84 - Explaining RockShox's Computer Controlled Suspension
Episode 85 - Is the Red Bull Rampage Too Slopestyle?
Episode 86 - Greg Minnaar on the Honda DH Bike, World Cup Racing, and Staying Fast Forever
Episode 87 - How to Love Riding When it's Cold and Wet
Episode 88 - Mountain Biking on a Budget
Episode 89 - The Derailleur Pickle
Episode 90 - Is Supre the Future of Trouble-Free Drivetrains? (with Cedric Eveleigh of Lal Bikes)
Episode 91 - Riding Every Double Black in the Whistler Bike Park with Christina Chappetta
Episode 92 - Does Bike Weight Really Matter?
Episode 93 - Staying Motivated and Overcoming Burnout
Episode 94 - PBA Contestant Tori Wood on Her First Race and Finding the Right Mindset
Episode 95 - Field Test Down-Country Bike Debrief
Episode 96 - PBA Contestant Israel Carrillo on Riding in Mexico and Why It's Not Always About Speed
Episode 97 - Can We Predict the Future of Mountain Biking?
Episode 98 - Field Test Trail Bike Debrief
Episode 99 - New Year, New You?
Episode 100 - Q&A with the PB Editors
Episode 101 - MTB Tradeshows Explained
Episode 102 - Should MTB Media Be Going to Press Camps?
Episode 103 - Secrets from the World Cup Pits with Henry Quinney
Episode 104 - Lachlan Morton on How to be a Happy Bike Racer and the World's Longest Climb
Episode 105 - The 3 Bike Budget Challenge
Episode 106 - What's Your Ideal Ride Look Like?
Episode 107 - How (And Why) Did You Start Mountain Biking?
Episode 108 - Behind the Scenes at the Value Bike Field Test
Episode 109 - Berm Peak's Seth Alvo on Making Videos 24/7, Soul Rides, and Building a Bike Park
Episode 110 - Trying (and Failing) to Reinvent the Mountain Bike
Episode 111 - The Pinkbike Racing Podcast: Episode #1 - It's All Downhill From Here
Episode 112 - The Pinkbike Racing Podcast: Episode #2 - The Lourdes World Cup Post-Race Wrap-Up
Episode 113 - PB Editors Answer Your Questions (again)
Episode 114 - The Placebo Effect and Your New Mountain Bike
Episode 115 - We Are One's CEO Talks Future DH Bike, E-Bikes, & Domestic Manufacturing
Episode 116 - New Bikes and Gear from Sea Otter
Episode 117 - Mountain Biking's Worst (or Best) Cliché Crimes
Episode 118 - Music and Mountain Biking
Episode 119 - Road Trips Gone Horribly Wrong
Episode 120 - Gee Atherton on Titanium Additive Manufacturing, Million Dollar Machines, and 3 New Bikes
Episode 121 - How To Film Rampage & Field Tests with the PB Team
Episode 122 - Do Social Media & Mountain Biking Go Together?
Episode 123 - The Pinkbike Racing Podcast: Episode #3 - Fort William World Cup Wrap-Up
Episode 124 - Bike Parks or E-Bikes?
Episode 125 - Nino Schurter's Mechanic on Prepping Race Bikes & His Favorite Tools
Episode 126 - "One More Run" and Other MTB Superstitions
Episode 127 - The Pinkbike Racing Podcast: Episode #4 - Leogang World Cup Wrap-Up
Episode 128 - Summer Solstice Adventures
Episode 129 - Are There Too Many MTB Videos? Interview w/ IFHT's Jason Lucas
Episode 130 - Aaron Gwin on High-Pivot DH Bikes, Riding with Eli Tomac, and Chasing the Money
Episode 131 - PB Editor Seb Stott on Geometry, Lock-Outs, Fickle Brakes, & Physics in Bike Reviews
Episode 132 - How To Survive the Wildest Multi-Day Enduro Race
Episode 133 - The Pinkbike Racing Podcast: Episode #5 - Lenzerheide World Cup DH Post-Race Wrap-Up
Episode 134 - Racing Controversy, Prototype DH Bikes, & Drivetrains From The Future
Episode 135 - Jesse Melamed on Data Acquisition, EWS Doping, & Training for Enduros
Episode 136 - The Pinkbike Racing Podcast: Episode #6 - MSA World Cup DH Post-Race Wrap-Up

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 24 0
 Have to say that this guy is a great rep for Maxxis. Knowledgeable, informative, articulate, honest and transparent. Makes me respect a company a lot when they have solid people.
  • 7 0
 Take away comment - ride the tyres that are appropriate to your riding. I've had way less issues on heavier casings.
  • 6 0
 @Samo831 I really appreciate your comment, I'm going to print it out and put it up in my office!
  • 23 0
 Well that settles it. Even Maxxis thinks the Ardent is the worst tire ever.
  • 6 1
 Can’t stand it!
  • 3 0
 Ar-donts need to be sacrificed to the tire gods.
  • 3 0
 I actually ran Ardents for a whole season just because it drove my friends crazy lol
  • 2 0
 ^This! Thank you, Maxxis, for setting the record straight. Now please make the Ardent go away. Forever.
  • 3 0
 Someone I know just posted a picture of their bike and I saw an Ardent. I am buying her a new tire.
  • 1 0
 It amazes me that the Ardent is so bad, yet the Ardent Race is so good.
  • 2 0
 @mrkumro: It's because the Ardent Race is just a more aggressive Ikon, and the Ikon is a fantastic all-around XC/light trail tire.
  • 1 0
 @cgreaseman: Agreed! I still love the Ardent Race! It's my favorite front tire. I'll run either an Ikon or Rekon Race in the back.
  • 1 0
 @mrkumro: Wish they would bump the 2.35 up to the 2.4WT like they did to the Rekon Race and Aspen. That would be fantastic.
  • 1 0
 @rusty904: Yes! That would be great! Aaron said it's unlikely in another post though.
  • 17 0
 Another great podcast. Interesting to learn about the sides of the industry that aren't so visible to us average consumers. Thanks and keep up the great work.
  • 10 0
 There are a lot of Minions out there, but my guess was about 1/10th of the actual number - holy crap.
  • 8 1
 Thanks for the kind words! It was a fun chat!
  • 6 0
 @ARonBurgundy: Enjoyed the transparacy. Talking with someone involved in car develpment a while back, he mentioned that a bunch of manufacturers in the premium sports car sector agreed to supply each other with their new cars when they were available, as they'd all be buying them anyway, and it saves the cost / hassle. Do tyre companies do the same?
  • 8 0
 @PawnSacrifice: thank you for listening. There is a bit of that with certain brands but for the most part we purchase what we need since it's not a huge cost - at least compared to sports cars.
  • 4 0
 Wow this was really incredible insight! Good questions from Levy and thank you @ARonBurgundy for all the informations you shared.

Aaron, what is your opinion on different casing front and rear?
Usually to save some weight, many people use lighter casing in front and thicker in rear. I am the rare weirdo who always put the thicker one in front and lighter in back. Mostly because of better damping is important for me on front wheel and also in case of going flat, its a bit more safe to ride bike with flat rear tire than the front. Also there is a lower pressure in front and the front wheel so I think it needs more protection.
What is your take on this?
  • 5 0
 Thank you!

Running different tires front to back is super common. We often see a wider, more aggressive tread on the front with something slightly narrower and faster rolling on the rear.

When using different casings we mostly see riders using the heavier duty casing on the rear with something one step lighter on the front. Common configurations would be: DH casing rear with DoubleDown (DD) front, DD rear with EXO+ front, or EXO+ rear with EXO front.

Your setup is less common but it sounds like it's working for your terrain and riding style. I'm not sure what the exact breakdown is but rear flats happen much more often than front flats since more of the rider's weight and energy is going into the rear wheel. Of course saying this I've probably jinxed myself and will have front flats on my next three rides.
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy: Hehe, thanks and keep it flats free Big Grin
  • 5 0
 Looking forward to this one! love tire talk. Mike how's the shiba doing, had to put mine down a couple months ago (sucks)
  • 14 0
 Oh shit, so sorry to hear that. We lost our Bulldog in the winter and it was brutal. Worst.

Sherpy the Shiba is doing pretty well! Old AF, blind, and 100% deaf but probably the most well-behaved Shiba out there now haha
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy: great to hear Sherpy is doing well
  • 2 0
 Interesting listen. Since reading Henry’s article on inserts, I’ve been riding Rimpact pros with trail casing tires and have been enjoying them a lot.

But now I’m curious about going to a double down / super gravity / more enduro casing without inserts for the simplicity of set up. Weight nets out to about the same between both set ups.
  • 6 0
 Thanks for listening! One thing I forgot to mention and I’m kicking myself for is to talk about tire pressure. A couple extra PSI can go a long way towards protecting both your tire and rim. Again there’s a balance to be struck since higher pressures will impact traction and comfort, but experimenting with tire pressure is a great (and free) place to start.
  • 2 0
 Ironically I was listening to this podcast riding my gravel bike on a bike path (bone conducting headphones and I turn it off in busy areas) when i thought my rear wheel went out of true. Found that the sidewall of my 2 month old Maxxis Re-Fuse developed a massive bulge. Glad I was listening or I would have just chucked it, now I get to see how the Maxxis warranty department works.
  • 2 0
 Hey @mikelevy & @ARonBurgundy, I hate to be that guy but I gotta ask….is it technical or marketing reasons that you guys don’t make tan wall Double Downs? For the record, I’d be happier than a pig in sh!y for DD Assegai’s !
  • 2 0
 I believe it’s technically possible as we offered a tanwall Minion in a downhill casing in 26”. I think it’s more a case of not introducing another SKU.
  • 4 0
 I've felt some hard feelings about it, but I'd like to personally forgive you for discontinuing the 26+ Minions.
  • 4 0
 Come on Maxxis, you really should be making that DHR2 2.5 available to the masses. It'd be really popular.
  • 3 0
 Great work guys, a fascinating discussion ! I am very curious about how the prototype tyres are made.....obviously no mold available at that point.
  • 2 0
 For new tread patterns we do indeed have to cut a mold to produce rideable samples. That’s why we spend a lot of time on the 2D drawings and then 3D printouts first. We can always remove additional material from a mold if needed but if we go too deep initially the mold is useless.

If we’re working on prototype constructions or compounds, we can use existing molds.
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy Great podcast. I was surprised Levy didn't get to one of the more pervasive rumors I've heard - are the white label OEM(?) spec tires actually any different from the aftermarket(?) yellow label tires?
  • 5 0
 I appreciate you taking the time to listen and ask a question. Spec for spec there is no difference between an OEM (white label tire) and an aftermarket (yellow label tire). The Maxxis yellow can clash with certain paint and graphics chosen by bike brands which is why we offer the white hot patch. For example, let’s say you bought a new bike with 29x2.5 Assegai in EXO+ casing with 3C MaxxTerra compound. Other than the hot patch (logo) color on the sidewall, there’s no difference between that and a yellow label tire you would find in a bike shop with the same specs.

Keeping that in mind… OE customers could theoretically order a spec that we don’t offer in the aftermarket. But that’s not very common and it’s usually on more entry level bikes.
  • 1 0
 @ARonBurgundy: my after market tires with yellow patch clash with the paint and the graphics. :-)
Can I get a white patch tire in aftermarket?
  • 3 0
 @ARonBurgundy Rise were really great explanations of those topics! Any chance the Ardent Race will get a 2.4WT casing to go in the lineup with the Aspen and Rekon Race?
  • 3 0
 Thanks! I would say it’s unlikely that the Ardent Race in particular will be available in 2.4 but there will be more speedy 2.4 options in the future.
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy: Good to hear! I had to ask. The Ardent Race is one of my favorite front tires!
  • 1 0
 @ARonBurgundy I have a question on the maxxterra or maxxgrip compound. The base layer is the hardest but on a knob (example a central knob of a minion) where the top soft compound end and where the hard layer starts? To know when it's time to change the tire because you're riding only on the hard compound.
  • 5 0
 So where's #137? :o
  • 6 0
 The mystery of the lost pod 137... I miscounted and doubled up at some point, so this one is 138 and we're back on track. Until I need to count again.
  • 6 0
 #137 the F1 podcast you'll never hear!?
  • 15 0
 @theboypanda: It's just @henryquinney and I making fun of Alpine for three hours haha
  • 4 0
 @mikelevy: Albon managed take care of business in one brilliant/brutal tweet.
  • 4 0
 @PawnSacrifice: tweet of the year for sure
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: only 3? That’s awfully kind of you guys.
  • 1 1
 A few Qs that @mikelevy neglected to ask @ARonBurgundy ...
- So what's the score with the "Maxxis wobble" that many of us have experienced?
- What's the High Roller 2 really for? How about a version with higher edge knobs to fill the "a bit muddy but not too bad" gap in your line-up?
- Why not just make more of the popular SKUs? e.g. I can only ever find DoubleDown Dissectors in MaxxGrip in the UK, not ideal for a rear tyre. We want the MaxxTerra or even DC versions please.
  • 7 0
 Thanks for the questions. Wobbles can be caused by a production issue or from mounting, particularly when using inserts. If a new tire has a wobble Maxxis will replace it under warranty. The process can vary a bit country to country but I would suggest contacting the point of purchase as a first step.

The High Roller II is for Jill Kintner and Bryn Atkinson. You won’t find bigger fans of that tread anywhere. Seriously though, it works pretty well in a broad range of conditions but really excels in loose/wet. It’s still one of our top sellers in the UK.

We make what our customers order and we don’t make just mountain bike tires. Also our production capacity is huge but not infinite so there’s a lot to balance. Thankfully, that’s not my job . That said - and I mentioned it in the podcast - we can and need to do a better job providing a clear product line.
  • 1 0
 @ARonBurgundy sorry this is a few days late
- I've been told by a bike shop that Maxxis advise against running inserts (notably cushcore) it creates friction which can delaminate the tire, particularly at the point where the tread pattern adheres to the sidewall of the tire which I've had happen on one occasion with Maxxis (wasn't an actual problem riding, just looked weird). Is there any truth to this?
- The same shop also said Maxxis also advised against inserts because of the wobble issue, and they also advised against using tire levers to install tires for the same reason. I've not seen this documented anywhere apart from your above comments saying that it's a contributing factor
  • 2 0
 @roberthavill: inserts can complicate mounting for sure. If you choose to use inserts we recommend using dish soap or something similar to coat the insert before mounting. This will help the insert slide against the inside of the tire and allow the tire bead to seat properly.

We also recommend only using tire levers if absolutely necessary, especially when an insert is involved. If you need to use tire levers, take your time and only work on a small section of the bead at a time to avoid putting too much stress on the bead.
  • 3 0
 @ARonBurgundy: High Roller 3 in the making? Remember an "what would you like to see in a updated HR2"-post on instagram from Bryn Atkinson a while back. Smile
  • 4 0
 We are 138!
  • 2 0
 When it comes to picking rubber for the special day - less is more …
I like to take some risks here and there.
  • 2 0
 @ARonBurgundy great listen bro! Hope to see you out there at the Ranger trail one day.
  • 1 0
 Thank you! The Ranger stuff is sooooo good, eh? I try to make it up there at least a couple time a month.
  • 1 0
 Are we waiting until Sea Otter for the new Aspen as well as the Severe? I thought it might be here earlier than that?
  • 1 0
 Manufacturing tyres in China is still cheaper than in other countries EVEN WITH the x7 more expensive shipping costs? Wow.
  • 6 0
 Maxxis production happens in Taiwan. But to your point, that’s pretty much our only option as you can’t just pick up and move a factory easily. Also, many of the raw materials for our tires are sourced from Southeast Asia so even if we had factories elsewhere we’d face higher shipping costs to get those materials.
  • 2 0
 Knob squirm
  • 1 0
 Hi, I need a Forekaster in 27.5' exo+ please.
  • 1 1
 How many tyres for those of us who won't listen

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