For the last five years I’ve been riding WTB Velociraptor tires on my mountain bike because they’re inexpensive and have the traction and durability of a tractor tire. Unfortunately they also have the weight and rolling resistance of a tractor tire. After riding in my first race last fall, I decided I wanted to find a tire that is lighter, faster and more XC-oriented, but also one that’s suitable for everyday trail riding. I decided to look into the Geax product line, and the AKA model specifically.
According to Geax, the AKA:
was designed to dominate in situations where the knob must penetrate the ground without digging, and offer exceptional grip without slowing the wheel down. Even adverse terrains like gravel, sand, and grass aren’t a match for this directional, well spaced, small blocked pattern. Gato-derived side knobs round out the profile, providing predictable cornering even when conditions get moist.
The 590 gram, 2.2″ AKA tires have a folding bead and they installed easily on my Easton XC One wheels without tools. The tread is a directional design and they can be mounted one way for speed or the other for traction. For my initial testing I mounted them in the speed direction.
For the first ride on a tire designed for XC racing, what better venue than the Falcon Trail, home to the annual 24 Hours of Colorado Springs race. The trail consists of hardpack, gravel over hardpack, and some rocks. The first thing I noticed about these tires is that they are fast. I mean really fast. I had become so accustomed to the rolling resistance of the WTB’s that by comparison these felt like slicks on asphalt. All of that speed does not mean a reduction in traction, however. I experimented with coming into corners fast as well as some “panic” braking on downhills and in both cases the grip was surefooted and predictable.
As a race tire, these should definitely be on your short list. But how are they for general trail riding?
With the tires still mounted in the speed direction, I headed to Mount Falcon, which is a steep climb with log water bars and rocks. The tires showed decent traction while climbing, and excellent braking and cornering on the way back down. I found that I could break the back tire loose if I worked at it, but overall the grip was decent on a variety of surfaces.
The AKA’s real test as a trail tire came at White Ranch, which is a very rough and rocky trail network. Still mounted for speed, the rear broke loose on me on several steep ledges that my WTB’s have always been able to claw their way over. I also had a flat that I think was a defective tube, as there was no evidence of a pinch nor any punctures in the tire itself.
To complete my evaluation of their trail-worthiness, I returned to Mount Falcon with the rear flipped to the traction direction. A slight increase in rolling resistance is evident if you really look for it, but these tires still rolled fast. However, the increase in traction was very noticeable. With my weight properly balanced on my bike, I had no trouble getting over normal trail obstacles. I currently have the front tire in the speed direction and the rear in the traction direction, which provides a good balance of speed and traction and a comfortable trail feel. This will be my trail setup going forward.
The rear tire mounted in the traction direction.
While the AKA’s aren’t really suited for freeride (Geax has other models for that), they are a fantastic race tire that also happens to perform well for day-to-day trail duty on a variety of surfaces. They are super fast rolling, offer great traction, and have held up well so far over roots, ledges, and sharp rocks.
If you are a racer and want one tire for both training rides and race day, or if you just want a lightweight trail tire with really low rolling resistance, then these are for you. The standard model in either 26″ or 29″ sells for $40 per tire at Huck n Roll, and there are also “tubeless ready” and wire bead versions of each. (A UST version is available on 26 x 2.0 only).
Thanks to the folks at Geax for sending over the AKA’s to test.