If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the designers behind the Maxxis Assegai must be positively blushing at this point due to the number of similar-looking tires that have been hitting the market in recent months. Of course, there are only so many ways to design a tread pattern, and a tire's casing construction and rubber compound also have a huge impact on its performance. How does that other saying go? If it ain't broke, don't fix it?
Cliched phrases aside, e*thirteen are joining the party with the new Grappler, which is aimed at enduro and DH riders looking for high levels of traction in steep terrain, especially when conditions are loose or wet.
Grappler DetailsWheel Sizes:
Enduro & DHCompound:
MoPo or EnduranceWeight:
1245 grams (29", Enduro casing, MoPo compound)Price:
$69.95 USDMore info: ethirteen.com
It's available in a 2.5” width for 27.5” or 29” wheels in either a DH or an Enduro casing, and with either e*thirteen's super-sticky MoPo compound or a firmer 'Endurance' compound. It's great to see that both rubber options are available in either casing – too often the sticky rubber is reserved for the DH tires, or the longer lasting rubber ends up only being available for the non-DH tires.
I've been testing a 29” Grappler with the enduro casing and MoPo rubber, a configuration that weighed 1245 grams on my scale, just slightly more than the claimed weight of 1225 grams.DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
The Grappler's tread pattern consists of a row of three or two center knobs paired with large rectangular side knobs. Those side knobs are siped at an angle, which decrease the stiffness slightly so that they can dig in for traction, especially while cornering. Additional siping is found on the center knobs, where it's intended to help increase braking traction by allowing the rubber to flex more than it would if it were just a solid rectangle or square.
As the story goes, e*thirteen's MoPo rubber compound was originally developed for competitors in Thailand's underground moped drag racing scene. It's a slow rebounding, 42 durometer rubber that's used across the entire tread for maximum grip. The Endurance rubber uses a 56 durometer rubber at the center knobs, and a 50 durometer rubber on the side knobs for a longer-lasting tread.
The DH version of the Grappler uses a 2-ply 72 TPI casing with e*thirteen's Apex DH inserts at the sidewall to help prevent pinch flats. A 2-ply 120 TPI casing is used for the Enduro version, with an Apex EN insert for sidewall protection. INSTALLATION
Installation didn't pose any unexpected hassles – the tire popped right into place, no swearing or frantic pumping required. However, once inflated it didn't quite measure up to the 2.5” width printed on the sidewall. Even after giving it plenty of time to grow it still measured 2.4” at the widest part of the tread when mounted on a rim with a 30mm inner width.
I typically ran between 20 – 22 psi depending on conditions, which tended to be on the softer and wetter side of things. TRACTION & CORNERING
The Grappler's MoPo rubber works as advertised, delivering predictable grip even on slimy roots and rain-soaked rocks. For how sticky it is I didn't find the rolling resistance to be a hindrance when climbing or on flatter bits of trail, although it's worth noting that I do typically run a front tire with as soft of a rubber compound as I can find, so I'm used to the speed that the lower durometer rubber provides (or doesn't). The knobs have enough flex to keep from getting pinballed around too much at slower speeds while retaining enough support for cornering.
The Grappler's profile is slightly more squared off than the Assegai due to the position of the side knobs, but that's more down to the variation in width, since the Assegai measures a true 2.5”. The Assegai does seem to provide a little more room for error – I found it easier to correct a line choice mistake with the Assegai. At times the Grappler had more of an on / off feel during quick direction changes, although it's a fairly subtle difference.
The Grappler excelled on the steeper, loose terrain that it was designed for, with good traction under heavy braking, and decent mud-shedding capabilities. It will pack up if conditions get especially dire, but it takes pretty sticky, wet mud for that to happen. DURABILITY
Not surprisingly, the soft, slow rebounding rubber isn't particularly long lasting. All of the knobs have remained in place so far, but there are chunks missing from a few of them, and the square edges are starting to lose their sharpness. The wear rate seems quicker than with Maxxis' MaxxGrip rubber, and while it's hard to say without riding the exact same trail the exact number of miles, when comparing the Grappler to a MaxxGrip Assegai that I've had in my rotation for a longer period of time there's less visible wear and fewer pockmarks in the tread on the Maxxis. PRICE & WEIGHT
The Grappler's $69.95 price tag is on the more reasonable end of the spectrum; it's $20 - $30 less expensive than comparable options from companies like Schwalbe, Michelin, or Maxxis. The weight is in line with this style of tire – it's within 40 grams of a DoubleDown Maxxis Assegai, or a Super Trail Schwalbe Magic Mary.
MoPo rubber provides lots of traction+
Predictable handling as a front or rear tire
Not as wide as advertised-
Rubber wears quickly (but there is a longer lasting version available)