Many were surprised when Aaron Gwin signed for Onza, with plenty of talk about the move being ''all about the money,'' and even more so when Gwin spent most of that season riding tires from other brands with blacked-out logos. According to Onza, this was allowed as part of his deal while they cooperated to build the tires that the
world's fastest required – the first is the Aquila that's reviewed below. The tire was launched in 2017, and Gwin soon took his first race wins on the new rubber.
The Aquila is only available in a 2.4" width with a DHC downhill casing, and only in 27.5". There are two rubber compounds – GRP Visco 40a and the dual compound RC2 45a. The carcass uses a 40x40 TPI (threads per inch) casing and a steel, non-folding bead. They're available now for $80 - $85 USD.
• Aaron Gwin's signature DH tire
• Casing: DHC
• TPI: 40x40
• Bead steel/wire
• Size: 27.5'' x 2.40''
• ETRTO: 61-584
• Weight: 1,325 grams
• Price: $85 USD (GRP 40) / $80 (RC2 45a)
• Rubber: VISCO GRP 40 / RC2 45a
Only one diameter and width is available in the Aquila tread pattern. Onza is a small brand, but we'll see a few more size options in the near future.
Unsurprisingly, the Aquila shares some similarities to tires Gwin has previously won world cups upon, like the Specialized Butcher and Maxxis Minion. Currently, the Aquila is only available with a heavyweight downhill casing, in a single size, and two soft rubber compounds. The Aquila is a dry to medium loose conditions tire, but can be used for a biblically wet Mont Sainte Anne if you're Aaron Gwin.
The DHC carcass uses a 40x40 TPI casing which doesn't feel quite as flexible as a Specialized or Maxxis casing (60 TPI) but does offer more stiffness, thereby allowing a slightly lower pressure to be used to balance this out.
The tread pattern is similar to a Specialized Butcher and almost a cross between Maxxis Minion DHF and DHRII. It is clearly aimed at dry/medium conditions where fast rolling, strong braking, and edge control are needed.
The narrower center blocks of the tire use sipes that are in line with the rolling direction and should allow them to spread out, increase their area, and grip under braking. The wider center blocks already have more surface area for braking traction so have sipes that are perpendicular to the tire's direction to help the edge of the block spread as riders transition onto the side of the tire in a corner. All of the center blocks are angled on the leading edge to reduce rolling resistance.
The side blocks of the tire are lined up specifically with the center blocks which is said to give a more controlled and predictable feeling when transitioning. The inner edge of the side blocks are also shaped to create more surface area and 'teeth' to help bite into the dirt. The outer edge features horizontal bands to give a more consistent fold to the block and vertical bars to give a consistent twist.Performance
Seating the tires was an absolute nightmare as the non-folding bead arrived folded and creased in the parcel. After mounting the tires with tubes for a few days, things straightened out and then tubeless fitting was easier but still needed a compressor to get the job done.
With tubes installed on 25mm Hope rims, weighing in at 75kg I found 17/19psi to offer massive traction and great damping for what I would describe as trail riding. After setting up the tires sans tubes on some wider Mavic EX830 (30mm internal) rims and riding some higher speed and harder packed terrain, 21/23psi seemed like a good mix. I would expect to go a little higher during bike park laps in the summer on a downhill bike. I felt riding my alloy rims with softly tensioned spokes that lower pressures were possible and are more stable due to the added flex of the wheel, where riding with a stiffer wheel puts more pressure on to the sidewalls and creates more tire roll.
I opted for the GRP Visco 40a for the front and the RC2 45a for the rear. The two compounds sit on either side of Maxxis' classic Super Tacky compound in 42a durometer, but the Visco seems to outlast a Super Tacky, possibly due to the use of graphene in the rubber. The RC2 seems to last well, with no blocks tearing off and the edges of the tread slowly deteriorating but still maintaining the original shape. I've got around 150kms of asphalt road mixed with dirt climbs with dry and rocky descents, but the rear tire still has little signs of wear.
The Aquila seems to roll similarly on dirt to a Minion DHRII, but without a test lab, this is close to impossible to distinguish. Plus, it's a downhill tire and rolling speed probably isn't holding you back on testing tracks. The GRP 40a compound is super sticky and grips asphalt or hard packed trails like glue in warm temperatures – I would go for the RC2 compound front and rear in the future unless I really need more grip on hard surfaces.
The tread pattern doesn't seem to offer quite as much out-and-out edge traction as a Minion but is marginally more consistent when transitioning onto the side blocks, and when starting to break away from traction, they are more predictable. This could be due to the center and edge blocks being aligned differently and the narrower channel between them. The upside of less edge bite is that the tire doesn't try to claw or understeer itself against the edges of ruts and will settle to at the lowest point.
Under braking, there is less bite than a DHRII but more than a DHF, and there is consistent grip that builds, tracks straight, and is easy to feel when the tire starts to lock up and slide.
I didn't get chance to try the tires in wet conditions as it's rarely muddy on my current local sandy/rocky trails, and riding in the wet is now illegal (I'm serious, that's not a joke). That said, I suspect, given its shape, that mud clearing will be on par with the similar competition, and that grip and braking grip in deep conditions won't match that of a specific mud tire.Pinkbike's Take: