Maxxis gave us a set of their new 29er-specific mud tyres a few weeks ago, the only problem was that none of us ride 29ers, unless you count road bikes of course. So who better to test them for us than Jack Peterson of the Burlycross website, and various other websites which have been going probably longer than the internet itself. Here's his review:
Thanks to JRA for letting me roll around on these prototype Maxis Beavers, to check them out I used them on my Singular Pegasus. I was particularly interested in how they would match up with a few thinner rims, so one went on a Stans Alpha on the front, and the other on a Sun Ringle Equalizer 21mm on the rear.
Initial impressions on fitting them were that these tyres are very rubbery to the touch, very light and with a deep tread pattern. The sidewalls in particular have the consistency of a giant rubber band, rather than the usual Kevlar cloth impregnated with rubber feel of most lightweight tyres. This obviously helped with the sealing, instant and with only the slightest sidewall leakage. There were some bits of excessive mould rubber sticking out the bead which I had to cut off first, this might be due to them being early models though. The tread is quite deep and very soft, dual rubber compound so I guess the centre is a bit harder, three rows of main knobbles with the centre row slightly ramped. Oh yes and these babies are light, 495 grams as weighed by me.
I've being running Maxxis Aspen/Crossmark 2.1s almost exclusively for the past year and a 2.0 mud tyre was just what I wanted as a race alternative, so I set off for a lap of my local singletrack wood for a bit of race simulation. They appeared to roll well, very buzzy on tarmac and left a really noticeable bold tread pattern on the mud. It wouldn't have taken Tonto to track my route that day.
In the wood I upped the pace and was quickly impressed, the track is tight but there was no slippage or incidents despite a fair leaf covering. I realised I was riding in what could be termed 29er mode. It's one of the attributes of the bigger tyres and longer contact patch that you really can get away with what might be termed XC specific tyres in a variety of conditions. I was still riding in that fast smooth but no risk style so I started to attack the corners more. Then the slides started, very predictable and easily caught. You could feel the limits, pass them and just when the tyre was letting go, shift weight and stand it up to regain grip. It was like squaring off the corner on a motocrosser, I found myself deliberately sliding into then firing out of corners, great fun, and very rarely did I dab they were that predictable.
Climbing up a steep mud bank with slight grass cover the grip wasn't out of the ordinary, not that this was a fault of the tyre, it's just that 29er tyres really do offer great all round grip. Switching to the Aspen-shod Crest wheel later, showed that a shallow tread can grip just as well. I haven't put the Beavers on the wider Crest rims yet but looking at the tread pattern in the mud on the thinner rims there's no shortage of contact patch. Braking coming down the slope is a different story though, the Beaver wins hands down there.
I was out with a teammate on his 26" wheel Pace and Bontrager mud tyres, and I could easily out distance him up the climb on grip. This was a good chance to try a rolling resistance test too. He's been moaning tons lately that even though he's heavier than both me and a mate on a Singular swift, we leave him for dead on freewheel sessions (we're all running singlespeed so it happens a lot). So we set off downhill, both off and on road, and this time we were pretty even, which I suppose taking his extra weight in consideration was a slight win to the Beavers.....or is that just a 29 advantage? Anyway it wasn't the white wash it normally is, so I guess they roll well, but obviously slower than an XC race tyre.
For me I'd be happy to leave these on all winter, and have them standing by for downpours at races. They offer a little bit more clearance, don't drag, and clear very fast. Most importantly though they allow you to attack the trail and ride fast with a smile on your face, sure many XC specific 29er tyres will cope admirably but they wont be as much fun. Thetford racing at the weekend, umm just how muddy is it going to be?