I have long been a Maxxis fan, with countless hours spent on Crossmarks, Larson TTs, Ikons, Aspens… and of course the Detonator and Re-Fuse road tyres. Riding for the Subaru-MarathonMTB.com Team, I’m lucky to be able to race and train on Maxxis tyres, who are generous sponsors for our riders.
One of the new tyres from Maxxis is the Tread Lite. While it differs a lot from my favourite Ikon, and more from the Ardent Race which has become my front tyre of choice, it’s not without its place. The Ikon has a pretty narrow performance window. While the Exception/EXO model is tough, grippy, not too heavy, and a good volume at 2.2″ – it lacks serious edge knobs for rougher and looser terrain, and lacks conviction in the wet. So, while it might be an awesome tyre for races like the Convict 100, stage races in Alice Springs, the Cape Epic or Transalp – it suffers on the front a little at a muddy Wombat 100, or at Sudety MTB Challenge. At this point, the Ardent Race becomes a good option without really dragging along more open terrain too much.
But what about on terrain that is a bit faster? That’s where the new Tread Lite fits in. At 2.1″ inches, it has a smaller bag and an ever so slightly rounder profile. But most noticeably it’s a semi-slick, with a low profile tread in the centre with some larger edge knobs. The edge knobs are still pretty low profile, but they do sit up more than the centre pattern. It’s not too far off an updated Wormdrive, but with more edges in the centre.
The tyres are available in 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ – and all are 2.1″. All models are ‘TR’ (Tubeless Ready) and can either have the EXO casing or come without. I tested the 29″ versions, both in the straight TR model (590g) and the EXO/TR model (630g). As you can see, they’re not overly light for a semi-slick. The gains are meant to be made via lower rolling resistance.
Fitting them up wasn’t a real problem, and they went onto my Kappius KR-29 wheels with a tiny bit of assistance from a tyre lever. As I’ve often noticed, the EXO casing does create a stiffer tyre, but it also helps with inflation. I was able to use a track pump for the EXO models, but needed compressed air for the straight TR model. I used Stan’s sealant in them,as a matter of habit. The non-EXO model needed a few more top ups of air, the EXO model held from the first inflation.
The first thing I notice when riding them was lower resistance. Living at the bottom of a hill is an easy way to gain this sort of impression. But it carried on. Riding to the trails, and riding faster smoother firetrail was fast. While the tyre weight wasn’t overly different to my normal setup, the smaller bag and lower profile felt faster. It also felt sketchier when on classic Sydney terrain: loose sandstone. But on other trails, it felt nice and fast. Getting used to a slightly narrower tyre didn’t take long, and my bike even felt a little less sluggish.
I was a little concerned that there would be a pronounced change when cornering onto the edge knobs. But either there isn’t, or I don’t corner hard enough to notice. I wasn’t as comfortable cornering on them on looser surfaces, but I think that’s the volume as much as the tread pattern. On hardpack they were great – they felt really good, both under acceleration and braking. There are plenty of edges in contact with the ground after all.
With a few rides on the tyres since, I’m pretty sure they are a good set to have on hand. They’re nothing like the Maxxlite at 350g (29″) but then they have more tread and a much stronger casing. I ended up running the EXO models front and rear, as I don’t think 40g is such a massive saving for ease of inflation and puncture protection. But that’s a choice that you would need to make yourself. It’s not insignificant for an XCO race, but for a longer marathon in a place with sharp rocks… maybe the EXO is better. I’ve had such good luck with EXO tyres – probably 5 flats in about 4 years – that it’s a pretty big move to not use that casing.
If you’re after a good value fast rolling tyre, or just something that could take some mixed terrain training – this could be for you. They’re well priced at about $70 (check with your local shop) but compared to a top level race tyre they lack the really low weight. I’ll surely call on these for a couple of XCO races this year.