I get giddy when new gravity tires come my way, like a kid with a fresh slingshot and a heavy pocket of marbles. When Maxxis introduced their new Assegai downhill tread in 2018, backed by testing and research with legendary South African DH champ Greg Minnaar, I immediately added my name to the list to test a set.
After a few months of riding with the Assegai up front, paired with an Aggressor on the rudder end, I am happy to report that the tire set performs up to its touted reputation. Have a look at the details of both of these newly iconic treads individually.
Assegai death grip
I rode the 29×2.5″, Wide Trail, Maxxis Assegai with a hulking 1,305g Double Down casing, and 3C MaxGrip compound. The tread was originally designed for downhill racing, but the tire is now available in four casing configurations optimized for trail to DH riding. The Double Down casing version I tested is one step below the full DH casing, making it ideal for enduro.
I mounted these tires on a spare set of wheels, each with a 30mm internal rim measurement. The tubeless installation took all of a few minutes, and the tires went on with a regular plastic lever and a floor pump. The Assegai has yet to weep or burp any fluid and holds air well, needing just a few pumps of fresh basement-breath about once per week. I recently checked the latex level inside, and it has plenty to keep plugging along for another month or two.
The Maxxis Assegai tire is named after the iron-tipped spear used by the Zulu people of South Africa. Greg Minnaar, a native of South Africa, thought it was a fitting name for a tire ready to do battle on the mountain. -Maxxis
Riding steep and loose summer dust has been a blast with the Assegai directing the bow of my long travel gravity boat. The tire’s fortress-like sidewalls help it to stand tall through rough turns, even with a scant 20-22psi inside. Additional material near the bead makes it nearly impossible to pinch-flat in that unrepairable space where the tire interacts with the rim. This added protection eliminated the need for a front foam insert, further justifying the Assegai’s overall heft.
Throw this tire down and at whatever you like, and it will grab traction with the best of them. The taller shoulder knobs dig deep into mud, sand, and dust to find the grip you need. I suspected that the hard casing wouldn’t mingle well with roots and rocks, but I was pleasantly surprised to find traction on all but a few saturated rock gardens. The slow rebounding properties of the MaxGrip compound help the Assegai track the trail admirably, giving me a confidence boost in rough corners. If you have ever felt like you want a little more grip than a Minion DHF for the loose stuff, the Assegai offers precisely that.
The tread and casing of this tire are entirely designed to improve your overall downhill traction and control, and they do so very well, though the rubber also rolls reasonably well without gravity. Given the riding position of modern long-travel bikes, we place very little weight on the front tire while climbing, and the Assegai’s added tread isn’t super noticeable on the way up. I have a friend in Scotland who rides with an Assegai front and rear for added protection and grip on their consistently wet rocks. While he swears by their rock-steady reliability, I would bet that the 2,610 grams of rotational weight is forcing his overall fatigue level up a bit.
Priced around $90, depending on configuration. Check prices and specs here.
Aggressor rear tread
The Maxxis Aggressor is an all-around solid rear tire that Maxxis says “is designed for high-speed modern mountain bike trails.” They don’t recommend the tread for wet riding, and I wouldn’t either, but when things are hot and dirty the Aggressor is a great choice for folks who want to spread the edges of their personal velocity. The tire’s fast rolling characteristics are promptly apparent.
The 29×2.3″ Aggressor I mounted came with the hefty Double Down casing and 3C MaxGrip, just like the Assegai. I went with the narrower option because my bike doesn’t have a lot of mud clearance, and I don’t want to dig a hole in the frame when it rains. I mounted the tire with a foam insert and proceeded to bang it into loads of stones and jump faces throughout the test.
The Aggressor’s thick casing is sturdy just like its partner up front, with completely different grip characteristics. Under hard braking, the Aggressor reminds me of a Continental Kaiser, but with slightly less braking traction. While the soft knobs dig into hard-packed tread well, the Aggressor traction on looser trail surfaces felt a little underpowered when paired with the Assegai. If you like to ride steeper and messier trails I would recommend mounting a minion DHR or possibly a second Assegai on the back of your bike to add braking bite.
In its 2.3-inch iteration, the Aggressor brakes lose predictably, drifting when you want it to in most cases. The catch is that it doesn’t regain traction quite as easily as some other rear tire offerings from Maxxis. When I needed to skid the tire loose under emergency braking or super steep rudder-steering, I often had to look for some grass or roots that it could catch on. This full-drift sensation took some time to adjust to, and I wouldn’t say that I grew to love it.
The tire’s tread held up fairly well, and after countless hours of riding the sidewalls are largely in good shape. I noticed a long gash in one sidewall while racing Enduro2 in western France, but the underlying material held strong and I finished the three-day race without a flat. I am very impressed with the Double Down sidewalls on both of these tires, and will select this casing for future Maxxis gravity tread.
The Assegai’s well-spaced, deep lugs grip hard, making the tire a good choice for all manner of gravity riding, in nearly any weather conditions. Paired with the appropriate rear tire for your local tracks, this front rubber lives up to its Zulu name. If you largely shred fast and packed trails, the Aggressor is a fantastic way to rip. If you are in search of a more all-around gravity tire, Maxxis has a number of tread alternatives to suit the dirt variety in your hood.
We would like to thank Maxxis for providing this set of rubber for review.