We take grip seriously around here, testing all of the tread patterns we can get our grubby mitts on to share the good word. Our review team managed to ride a variety of trail, enduro, fat bike, XC, and gravel tires throughout the 2021 season, and we’ve collected them here to help readers find the appropriate traction tools for their local trails.
Did we need a tread that rolls faster than the Maxxis Minion? Troy Brosnan thought so, and he worked with Maxxis to develop this faster rippin’ DH tread.
“Given the massive number of tread patterns in the Maxxis lineup, I would argue that they could scrap the Aggressor model and replace it with the Dissector. With a similar feel at high speeds, better overall grip, and a wider range of usability, the Dissector seems the superior pattern all around. It can also be used as a front tread, where the Aggressor is a rear-only design, placing it a full step above the brand’s other fast and dry gravity options.”
Maxxis occasionally updates its mainstays, and this new version of the Shorty includes a few welcome shifts.
“If you ride in deep mud or billowing dust, you’re most likely a committed mountain biker with some level of fitness. A pair of Shorty tires will not be the best for climbing and long, valley-floor rides, as they are heavy and take some work to get rolling. However, folks who are buying these tires are prepared to go ride no matter how hard the going is, and they will be handsomely rewarded on the fast and loose bits. At just 1286g for the toughest and grippiest 29″ model, they are a fair bit lighter than a similarly-spiked Michelin DH22.”
Michelin Force AM2
What’s an all-mountain tire anyway? Matt Miller checked out these tires from Michelin to answer that question.
“The ‘all-mountain’ moniker still seems ambitious for the Force AM2, and it’s hard to say who the tire is for as it’s on the heavy side for serious cross-country riders. But, for someone who categorizes himself as an aggressive trail rider, I like it more than I thought I would. Oftentimes, tires that prioritize efficiency aren’t durable enough to withstand more force, but the Force AM2 blends durability, a quick (not fast) rolling speed, and confidence beyond hardpack quite well.”
Michelin Wild AM2
Maybe the burlier Wild AM2 is more all-mountain?
“The wear has been acceptable on the Wild AM2 and my tire has held up well over the past few months of moderate riding. The center knobs haven’t started to round yet, but they do show that they’ve been ridden. I haven’t had any issues with punctures on this tire and they are keeping the air pressure between the rubber and rim. Michelin has brought a great tire to market with the Wild AM2. It’s far from too heavy for a tire as capable as it is, and the Wild AM2 feels at home earning its turns and grinding uphill. Riders should easily forget that they have a chunky tire on the rear, and will appreciate its confidence on loose trails.”
Onza Porcupine RC
The Porcupine RC isn’t a fat bike tire, but you can definitely play in the snow with these grippy spikes. I tested it in a variety of conditions last spring and was stoked with its season-extending grip.
“As a lifelong mud lover, I was pumped when these tires showed up to test. We have some positively rocky descents nearby that are perfect when the weather isn’t, and the slimy dirt between those stones has been a solid proving ground for the Porcupine RC tread. Spacing between the mid-height lugs is massive, similar to that of a newly redesigned Maxxis Shorty in both shape and spacing. The massive amount of open air between lugs helps them shed mud quickly so they can be ready to collect and shed anew.”
Vee Attack HPL
Chris Scheiffer and I both tested the Attack HPL tires from Vee this season, and our assessment is reflected in the familiar tread pattern: “it’s basically an Assagai.”
Scheiffer says, “I was positively amazed at the performance of these tires on the descents. It was almost impossible to break traction with their seemingly endless amount of grip. On dusty corners where I’d normally drift a bit, the Vee Attack tires did not break traction. I intentionally tried to slide these around and it was virtually impossible. You can drive them as hard as you want in corners and they won’t budge, slide, or fold. I even spent some time in the snow and was pleasantly surprised at the grip. They are not that slippery when wet. True to their claims, the traction is bar-none and my initial frown face on the uphills turned to a really big smiley face on the downhills.”
You can find the Vee Attack VPL tires at Amazon for $80.
Fast rolling tires
On the much skinnier end of things, Matt Miller reviewed a set of Hutchison Touareg gravel tires this past spring and found them notably fast and durable.
“The Hutchinson Touaregs combine a few different properties to make for an excellent gravel tire. They grip up and roll fast across dirt. They are also reliable, and a decent weight – although they are not the lightest option. For a few extra grams though, I will gladly accept the Touaregs as a trusty, performance-minded tire, ready for multi-terrain adventures.”
The set Miller tested weighed around 500g each, and they sell for about $50 each at Chain Reaction Cycles.
Specialized Fast Track and Ground Control
To change things up a bit, we tested these XC/trail tires on a bikepacking expedition that included some fun singletrack and rough military roads.
“This pair isn’t the lightest option for bikepacking, or mass-start racing, but if you like traction and hate punctures these tires are pretty sweet. The Fast Track we tested weighs 782g, and the Ground Control hits the scale at 869g. They roll fast enough and stick to most dry surfaces while providing cornering support that matches their intentions. Specialized has a few lighter weight options available for folks who prefer a more supple ride.”
Our Editor-in-Chief had a chance to check out the Vittoria Syerra tread ahead of the product launch, and he really liked the way it grips — despite the “downcountry” moniker.
“The Vittoria Syerra is a great tire, one that excels at rolling through technical terrain without slowing riders down when it’s time to pedal (and yes, all of us pedal at some point). This isn’t a tire that goes on a certain type of bike; it’s an all-conditions tire that fits a fairly wide range of riding styles from XC to trail. My advice is to peel off the downcountry label and just ride.”
Fat bike tires
45NRTH Dillinger 5
Our resident fat biker, Chris Hrenko, pedaled around on four different fat tires last winter and sent the full report ahead of the snow this fall. He rated the Dillinger 5 as the best all-around studded tread in the bunch.
Hrenko says that this tire is for “Those who gravitate toward blue-chip “best in test” kind of gear. Someone who just wants to ride packed and groomed trails all winter and not worry about ice or think about tires too much. Someone who wants to float over anything floatable, but still has grip on the glazed-up stuff. If you want to get weird, there are plenty of weird tires out there. If you want something trustworthy, proven, and rock-solid, this is the tire for you.”
“Best max grip tire” was Hrenko’s rating for the Wrathlorde. If you will be hitting some bright ice this might be the tread for you.
“Wrathlorde is a compelling option for anyone who rides a slower-climbing, ripping-descending enduro bike in the summer and wants to extend that vibe as much as possible into the winter. It’s also excellent for rugged trails that are only “groomed” by walkers and snowshoers. All studded tires are good for ice, but with 300 MAX TRACTION CONCAVE STUDS, the Wrathlorde is an extremely formidable ice tire.”
At 26×3.8″, Hrenko rates the Bontrager Gnarwhal as the best narrow fatbike option.
“With the shortest, stiffest sidewall in the test, the Gnarwhal feels super stable and planted while cornering, with very little of the bouncy sensation that tends to accompany big-volume tires running low pressures. The Gnarwhals are also toothier than they look, coming through with the little bit of extra traction that you need to make it up steep switchbacks.”
Terrene Cake Eater
The Terrene Cake Eater that Hrenko slid through the slop on is a fast option for folks who want to best their times on trail.
“We tested the 26×4.0″ flat-tip studded tire with a 33tpi casing.” He continues, “We will call these a ‘quiver tire’ is because most testing was conducted in hilly, steep terrain, and the braking performance left us feeling less than full-send confident on steeper downhills.”
Cake Eaters are available at Amazon for about $200.