The Maxxis Forekaster used to sit squarely in the aggressive cross-country category, a tire with enough tread for slipperier conditions, but with a fairly low weight. That's changed a bit with the new version. The tread has been beefed up a little, and Maxxis now says it's designed for modern short travel trail bikes.
The numbers on the scale have gone up as well, and where the previous version weighed 735 grams, the new version comes in at 915 grams. That'll get the weight weenies in a tizzy, but focusing solely on the weight would be selling the new Forekaster short.
• Size: 29 x 2.4" or 29 x 2.6"
• EXO casing
• Dual or MaxxTerra rubber compounds
• Weight: 915 grams (actual, 29 x 2.4", MaxxTerra)
• Price: $93 USD
The biggest change to the Forekaster has to do with the positioning of the side knobs. On the previous version, every other knob was offset towards the center of the tire, and on the new one those side knobs line up for improved cornering traction.
The center tread still uses a pattern that has a row of two blocks followed by a row of three with an offset center block. The heights have grown slightly, and there are now deeper horizontal sipes – the subtle diagonal siping found on the previous version is gone. There are also small raised portions that look like little rubber sprinkles occupying the spaces between the tread. The idea is that those nubbins willl make it harder for mud to stick to the tire, keeping it from packing up in wet conditions.
At the moment there are only two versions of the Forekaster available, but that'll likely change as time goes on. Both options are 29 x 2.4” (a 2.6" version is on the way) and use Maxxis' EXO casing. The only difference is the tread compound – one uses a dual compound design, and the other uses Maxxis' MaxxTerra compound, which uses a hard compound as a base later, a medium compound on top of the center tread, and a softer compound for the shoulder knobs. ACTUAL WIDTH
It's no secret that not all tires measure up to what the markings on the sidewall indicate. One of the reasons is that many companies, Maxxis included, measure tire widths at the maximum pressure, and take the reading from whichever part of the tire is wider, the casing or the tread.
On heavier duty tires with thicker casings the width at 20 psi isn't going to change that much at max pressure, but it's a different story with a thinner casing tire – that casing expands more as the pressure is increased. Still, even at 50 psi on a 29mm internal width rim the Forekasters I was testing measured 2.36” at the widest part of the casing. The tread was slightly narrower, at 2.35”.
Dropping the pressure down to 23 psi, a pressure that's actually usable in real life, the Forekaster measured 2.28” at its widest – it's a bit of a stretch to call it a 2.4” tire, at least in my book. PERFORMANCE
Installation was drama-free, and both tires popped into place without requiring any trickery on a set of Roval Control wheels, which have an inner rim width of 29mm, and on a set of Silt XC wheels, which have a 27mm inner rim width. ROLLING SPEED
The Forekasters will feel speedy if you're coming from something like a Minion DHF, but they're not as lightning fast as a true XC tire. I'd classify them as neutrally quick – I never had any “holy crap, these are fast” moments, but I also never felt like they were sluggish or too heavy. Running a Maxxis Rekon or Ikon as a rear tire would be a good way to maintain traction up front with a little less rolling resistance out back.
Another possible pairing would be to run a Dissector up front and the Forekaster in the rear; that'd be a good combination for riders looking for more grip without resorting to heavier, more full-on trail tires. TRACTION
I've been able to subject the Forekasters to the full gamut of Pacific Northwest trail conditions, everything from extra-slippery and slimy winter days to the marbly moon dust that mid-summer brings. In the wet, they do a good job of contouring to the ground, keeping the number of unexpected slide outs to a minimum. All that siping combined with running fairly low pressures (20 psi up front and 22 in the rear for my 160 lb weight) made it possible to put a lot of trust in the Forekaster's ability to hold a line.
That traction carries over to drier dustier conditions too; these tires have an impressive amount of bite considering the lower profile tread pattern. I bumped up my pressures a pound or two as the ground hardened, but the grip still stayed predictable and consistent while climbing and descending. More than once I dropped into an extra-steep section of trail curious if the Forekasters would be able to provide enough braking traction for me to remain in control, and each time I ended up at the bottom unscathed and even more impressed with how well they handled the loose terrain.
Those taller side knobs create a nice sharp edge to push into, especially compared to tires with a slightly rounder profile. DURABILITY
I haven't experience and flats or sidewall slashes during the test period. The tread wear has been even, and the MaxxTerra compound has been holding up well. Some of the knobs are starting to show some rounding and pitting, but all of the wear is on par with the amount of use and terrain. HOW DO THEY COMPARE?
Schwalbe's Wicked Will and Specialized's Ground Control tires both sit in a similar category to the Forekaster, straddling that middle ground between XC and trail tires. The Forekaster is the most aggressive of the three, with more all-round grip for slippery conditions or pushing hard into corners. It's also heavier, and unlike with the Wicked Will or Ground Control there currently isn't any lighter, more race-oriented version.
Personally, I found the Wicked Will to be the most unpredictable out of these three options, at least when running it as a front tire. It was the most likely to break traction, and the SuperGround casing required more pressure in order to keep it from folding over in corners. The Ground Control's performance was more consistent than the Wicked Will, and its rolling speed was noticeably faster than the Forekaster. Realistically, the Ground Control is more like a beefed up XC tire, and the Forekaster is a slimmed down trail tire. That may seem like splitting hairs, but the difference is noticeable on the trail.
If I was placing more of a priority on speed, and didn't mind slightly reduced traction I'd pick the Ground Control, and if I was looking for a tire that I could run year round in all conditions I'd go with the Forekaster. When it comes to price, the Ground Control tires are the hands down winners.Weights & Prices:
Schwalbe Wicked Will Super Ground: 892 grams, $94.99 USD
Specialized Ground Control Grid T7: 880 grams, $60 USD
Maxxis Forekaster EXO MaxxTerra: 915 grams, $93 USD
Excellent traction in wide range of conditions+
Great all-round trail tire
Measures narrower than expected-
Heavier than the previous version