There are certain perks that come with having 75 World Cup DH podium appearances and three World Champs victories to your name, including the ability to design your own tire. That's what Greg Minnaar was able to do with the Assegai, a tire he raced on towards the end of last season, and which is now available in a DH casing for 27.5” and 29” wheels.
What exactly is an Assegai, other than being a name that'll probably light off a firestorm of middle-school level comments? According to Minnaar, it's “a traditional Zulu warrior spear, the Zulu being the traditional tribe of KwaZulu Natal, the region of South Africa where I was born and raised.” Got it.
Maxxis Assegai Details
• 29 x 2.5" and 27.5 x 2.5" options
• Wide Trail casing for 30-35mm rims
• Dual ply
• Folding bead
• 3C MaxxGrip rubber compound
• Weight (actual): 1340 grams (29 x 2.5")
• MSRP: $90 USD
The tire's tread pattern is a veritable smorgasbord of familiar looking shapes, and that was Minnaar's intent. He says, “My idea was to design a tire around some of Maxxis' iconic tread patterns. I started in the center by combining the Minion DHF and the Minion DHR II. The reasoning behind this was I felt the surface area of the DHF rolls well and gives you a good footprint on hardpack, greasy turns as well as confidence on wet roots and rocks. The DHR II added faster rolling speed and more aggressive braking. Then I worked on the extra tooth to give you more support when leaning the bike over so there's a consistent feel all the way onto the side knobs.
“And that leaves me talking about my all-time favorite tire, the High Roller. Maxxis' engineers and I came up with a remodeled High Roller side knob with very similar characteristics to the original. But with the support the extra tooth gives you, you have the ultimate wingman when cutting hard on a flat turn. Finally, I took the height of the knobs from the Shorty. The knobs are well-supported, so the extra height aggressively bites into loam and dry, dusty conditions.”
The Assegai will initially only be available in a folding bead DH casing in a 2.5” width for 27.5” and 29” wheels, but there are more trail-oriented options in the works that could debut late this season. Ride Impressions
The initial setup of the Assegai tires was a breeze – the days of wrestling with massive metal tires levers and giving yourself a hernia trying to get a tire to seat are hopefully a thing of the past now that folding bead DH tires are becoming more common. The tires were set up tubeless, and mounted to a set of rims that had an internal width of 31mm, with 19 psi in the front and 20 psi in the rear.
I've been able to get in a handful of big rides on them so far, with conditions ranging from wet and sloppy to even wetter and sloppier. Maxxis' 3C MaxxGrip compound is the ideal match for those type of conditions, and there was plenty of traction on the shiny roots, rocks, and greasy dirt that I came across. One of the nice things about the Assegai's tread pattern is how well the knobs are supported – it's a tall, aggressive pattern, but it delivers a very positive feel on rocks and roots, areas where the Shorty can get a little scary.
The mud that I've encountered so far with the Assegai has been more of a pine needle and dirt sludge, rather than the super sticky glop that can occur in other locales. In that loam soup the Assegai shone, digging in and providing plenty of traction without getting too packed up. In really nasty mud, something like a Shorty or a full-on spike will still be the choice, but I was impressed with just how well the Assegai handled the muck.
When it comes to cornering, the tires deliver a very good bite for pushing hard into a turn, but it's still easy to initiate a change of direction, even when you're really leaned over. The overall tire profile is more round than squared off, which helps make for a very smooth transition from the side to the center portion of the tread.
The rolling speed of a 1300 gram, super tacky tire isn't ever going to be something to write home about, but, all things considered, the Assegai does roll smoothly, albeit without much urgency. Don't forget, this is a DH tire - you won't be winning any XC races on it. I haven't had a chance to give it a try in dry conditions – that'll have to wait until the sun decides to make an appearance for more than a couple hours.