For our bike park road trip through Eastern Tennessee, we hooked up with Onza tires to supply the rubber. We needed something that could handle multiple surface types, from rock to loose dirt to hardpack, natural terrain and groomed flow trail, and work regardless of what the weather dished out.
So, we chose the Aquila with their 60tpi enduro casing and dual rubber compound in a 29×2.4 size. It only got a little wet on one of the three days, but the variety of terrain on the trip proved these aggressive tires can work just about anywhere…
Hold up, what’s an Aquila?
Quick background: Before Aaron Gwin jumped over to a competing brand, he helped Swiss bicycle tire brand Onza develop the Aquila DH tire. Then, they lightened it up a bit with a more flexible casing to work for Enduro racers – all the grip, but less weight and a more pliable casing without giving up too much protection.
They have a folding bead, come in 27.5 and 29″ (tested) sizes, use Onza’s RC2 55a/65a dual compound, and a tubeless-ready 60tpi FRC (Free Ride Casing). Retail is $69 (€55), available at JensonUSA and others, U.S. bike shops can order through BikeFettish.
Designed to excel in gravity-fueled riding, the Aquila FRC shares the same tread pattern as the DH version. All knobs have a single sipe to help them deform with the ground, holding their grip just a bit longer. The channel between the center knobs and side knobs runs uninterrupted. But unlike some other tires with this feature, the Aquila’s channel isn’t so wide that it causes a noticeable “slip” before recapturing the grip when leaning hard into a corner. And this is a good thing for the average rider. Personally, I find tires with wider gaps from center to side transitions to be disconcerting, forcing me to lean in abruptly or mentally plan for the grip/slip/grip feeling. That takes compute cycles away from just enjoying the ride and trusting the tire. Fortunately, the Onza uses the design to great effect – it still gives it two effective knob rows to dig into the ground, but without any transitional loss of grip. Well done.
Onza Aquila FRC actual weights
Keep reading. If there’s a downside, it’s that number on the scale. But don’t let that totally throw them off your list. These are meant to be aggressive, everything-proof race tires that keep you rolling for the full enduro race. I’m as weight weenie as anyone, and I wasn’t stoked when I saw their 1030g, 1046g, 1038g and 1023g weights (all are 29×2.4″).
By the end of the road trip, I’d forgotten all about and just been grateful they’d held up to three huge days of riding (with tons of uphill pedaling!) with zero issues. They even setup tubeless easily, with only a floor pump (as tested on Industry Nine alloy enduro rims, on which they measured right about the claimed 2.4″ width).
How do they ride?
Really good. I’ve been a fan of Onza’s tires for a few years now, thinking they really don’t get the attention they deserve. But Watts hadn’t ridden them, so he was a little more cautious at first. In his words:
“Initially I wasn’t super stoked. I felt them break loose once or twice in corners and that sapped some confidence. But they were BRAND NEW at that point. Not even a parking lot test ride. As we rode more over the week, they seemed to break in and the rubber became tackier.”
Shown above, the center knobs aren’t too tall, and they’re ramped. So they roll smoothly, and pedal easily. Which is great, because you don’t want to have to continually spool up tires this heavy when you’re just coasting through singletrack.
Traction was consistent throughout the lean angles. And it was very consistent throughout the different types of dirt and rock we rode, too. The only area where it seemed a little challenged was on wet rock faces after it started raining on our last full lap at Windrock Bike Park. To be fair, most tires have a hard time with wet rocks. However they managed surprisingly well with wet roots and dirt.
Mounted to the I9 Enduro rims, they formed a well-rounded profile that further improved predictability and smooth cornering transitions.
OK, so is the Aquila a killa’ enduro tire?
Traction good, rolling feel good, cornering good. What else? So far, they seem to be holding up well, there’s no undue signs of wear. I intentionally smashed through a few rock gardens and tried to land hard on several jumps, just to see if the sidewalls would take it. They did. And they seem to offer decent protection for the rim’s bead wall, too.
One thing that’s impressed me over the past few years is Onza’s ability to hold air in a tubeless setup, and these are no different. Once setup and adjusted to our desired pressures (about 23psi for Watts, around 24-26psi for me), we never had to touch them for the remainder of the trip. Or for weeks afterward. They just keep holding air. It’s seriously impressive.
If you’re looking for a grippy, durable, tough tire to handle rough, rocky terrain but still climb smoothly, the Onza Aquila is worth a look.