prototype pro-only Maxxis Aspen 170tpi race tires

The good news is, there’s a new 29×2.25 Maxxis Aspen, which is a slight increase from the 29×2.20 currently offered. The bad news? The best version of it is reserved for their sponsored riders. Both sizes will remain in the line, along with the 2.10 width in 27.5. Yes, narrow by today’s standards, but the is the tire of choice for their elite XC tires.

One twentieth of an inch may not seem like much, but there’s more to the new size than that. Maxxis’ rep told us prior to the Olympics, the Swiss athletic federation did a lot of rolling resistance testing and found that the Aspen was the fastest tire. Not just from Maxxis, but across multiple brands. So they wanted it for Nino Schurter to use in the Rio Summer Olympics, but they wanted a few tweaks made. The center knobs were made slightly shallower, and the side knobs were made slightly taller. The change in the center knobs was to make it roll even faster, and the side knobs gave him better cornering traction.

prototype pro-only Maxxis Aspen 170tpi race tires

prototype pro-only Maxxis Aspen 170tpi race tires

Technically, it’s that slight 0.5-1.0mm side knob height increase that gives them the 2.25 width, the tire casing itself isn’t really any wider.

prototype pro-only Maxxis Aspen 170tpi race tires

The casing Nino used was a new, race-only 170tpi version, a huge increase from the commercially available 120tpi, that makes the tire even more supple and dropped 40g off the tire weight. As you can see above, the tire literally flops and folds around like a soft noodle. Soooooo supple.

Unfortunately, the 170tpi version won’t go into production, they’re only for sponsored athletes. The Aspen is very much a hardpack conditions tire, which is a pretty limited use, so that pro-only idea makes some sense. The other reasons are that a) they’re hard to produce, which means b) they’re expensive and would cost about $150 per tire, and c) even with EXO protection, they’re much easier to damage. Even so, they also made some without the EXO sidewall protection for Nino, and those came in about 30-40g lighter still. Based on current claimed production weights, that would put the 29×2.25 around or just under 500g.

prototype pro-only Maxxis Ikon 170tpi race tires

They’re also making the Ikon in a 170tpi version, and I rode it, and it’s freakin’ amazing. But it’s also only for their pros. (sad face)

prototype pro-only Maxxis Ikon 170tpi race tires

It’s a shame because it’s absolutely amazing. Sure, I was coming off a weekend of riding their bigger, tougher DHF/DHR and Aggressor tires, but the sensitivity to terrain these Ikon 170tpi tires offered was unreal. They melted over rocks and roots and provided surprisingly good traction on leaf-covered trails that challenged even the deeply knobbed DH tires others were riding.

So, what’s so special about a 170tpi casing? Let’s start with their lowest thread count option and work our way up. Above, left to right are the 27tpi, 60tpi, 120tpi and 170tpi fabrics they use.

The 27tpi is only used in low-end, cheap tires and pretty much not on anything you or I are likely to buy aftermarket. The threads, all of which are nylon for all of their tires (they don’t do cotton casings, for various reasons but chiefly durability), are thicker and more widely spaced. This means they’re heavier and more rubber gets between them, which is also heavier.

The 60tpi casing is used on their base level tires. Threads are slightly thinner, but there’s still plenty of space between them for more rubber to fill in. So, not as thick or heavy as 27tpi, but they’re not going to be nearly as supple as the higher thread count tires. The upside is they will offer better puncture protection.

The 120tpi casing uses much thinner threads that are more tightly packed. Thinner threads mean they bend easier, and less rubber can fill in between them, which equates to a more flexible tire. This means better traction and a smoother ride, but it loses some inherent puncture protection.

The new 170tpi gets the thinnest threads and lots more of them. The progression is what you’d expect: less rubber infill, softer feel and more supple ride. And because the threads are thinner and less rubber is used, the tires end up significantly lighter.

To reinforce their tires, whether all the around from bead to bead, just under the tread or only on the sidewalls, they use woven layers made with materials they didn’t want to talk about. However, you can see two of their different options here, and closeups below show just how tight the knit is to keep things from poking through or, depending on the application, tearing the sidewall.

 

These casings and layers are used across their range in various combinations. Check this post for more on their new DH and Wide Trail “plus” tires.

Maxxis.com

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33 Comments
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denniswebb2
denniswebb2
5 years ago

I am still waiting for the Ikon 29×2.8 (patiently)

TheKaiser
TheKaiser
5 years ago
Reply to  denniswebb2

Agreed. Icon 2.8 would be a sweet tire, and could be paired with a DHF 2.8 or 3.0 for a great mullet combo.

Woody
Woody
5 years ago
Reply to  denniswebb2

Surely the Chronicle 3.0″ fills that void, no?

gringo
gringo
5 years ago
Reply to  Woody

possibly from a carcass size or damping prespective, but from a traction viewpoint, not even close.

Denis
Denis
5 years ago
Reply to  Woody

Not even close. The chronicle is a pig. Heavy and WAY too many knobs. The Ikon profile would be PERFECT.

Maxxis
5 years ago
Reply to  Denis

Hey Dennis, not sure if you caught any of the coverage from the Taipei Show but we announced a 29×2.60WT Rekon that might be of interest to you. We should be seeing them in the US in July.

Ryan S.
Ryan S.
5 years ago

170tpi

wow.

fiddlestixob
5 years ago

This seems to be one of the first “pro only” things in the bike world (correct me if i’m wrong).

People always say cycling is great because you can ride what the pro ride (maybe after a year if they’re testing it). In this case, nope, they will ride it and we wont.

JNH
JNH
5 years ago
Reply to  fiddlestixob

There are masses of pro only parts out there, but companies tend to want it kept quiet. It isn’t good for sales when the machinery on the podium isn’t what the guy in the shop can ride.

The most extreme example I can remember was Sam Hill’s old Iron Horse Sunday, beside the head tube and lower link not a single part of that frame was a production part. Custom drawn (thinner) tubes, 73bb, 135mm back end (83/150 on production), custom geometry (longer reach, shorter chainstays, slacker angles), longer stroke shock (itself a Rockshox Blackbox part) and race team only upper link. It even had a different diameter seat tube! It can’t have been a cheap machine to make, but then maybe that’s why IH went bust.

sad
sad
5 years ago
Reply to  JNH

Man it sounds like a good topic for pinkbike. I would be interested to hear more!

captain derp
captain derp
5 years ago
Reply to  JNH

also the SSO (sam sea otter). basically a 6 pt / sunday hybrid – 6″ travel but with travel almost the same as sam’s sunday. designed around a single crown (160/170mm) fork. IIRC IH only ever made 4 of them. i think 1 or 2 of them made it into public hands when IH folded.

bearcol
bearcol
5 years ago
Reply to  fiddlestixob

You’re wrong. You probably don’t want to ride a lot of the pro only custom stuff anyways. Dampers too stiff, geo too specific for any given race/event, custom rear ends to allow for 26″ wheels…. That last one is a real bummer since I like small wheels. There’s been a number of pro only 26″ stuff since its death.

knarc
knarc
5 years ago
Reply to  fiddlestixob

I ask an specialized dealer about an s-works epic for the pro team, He says is full custom and not only in geometry but in the complete stucture. Estimating the price of this bike about 50.000 euro.

lop
lop
5 years ago
Reply to  knarc

That’s crap. Pros mostly ride production bikes, occasionally with a few tweaks, here and there. Specialized doesn’t drop €50,000 to make a mould because some guy on the podium of an XC race that only 150 people care about wants a top tube 2cm longer.

Greg
Greg
5 years ago

On the road, Continental Competition Pro Ltd tubulars, with latex tubes inside, are annoyingly pro only.

Duncan
Duncan
5 years ago

Thanks for coming out and riding bikes with us this past weekend, Tyler! There is some fantastic information here on our Maxxis casing constructions, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to discuss the 170tpi tires with you. Some of the information about the new Aspen didn’t get explained correctly it seems.

The Aspen has been around for ages and was a popular XC race tire back when we were still on 26″ wheels and narrow casings. Over the past handful of years the Aspen had fallen out of popularity with all but the best bike handlers among us(Kabush, 3 Rox, etc.) who still preferred if for it’s super low rolling resistance in the right conditions. As rims have trended wider and tires have followed, it was inevitable that this would find it’s way back into the XC scene as well. When we started working with Nino and the Scott team late last year, they were deep into testing rim widths and casing widths and came to us with a very specific request for what they had determined to be the optimal configuration for the lowest rolling resistance for modern World Cup XC racing. After testing our various tread options, they decided that the Aspen was the fastest tread option.

That being said, we started with a 29×2.10 Aspen. The new 29×2.25 aspen is a wider casing and optimized for a wider rim (24mm inner). Your explanation of the adjustments to the tread layout is correct, which was what they had requested based on Nino’s feedback in testing the 29×2.10 version to give it faster rolling and more predictable cornering. So…the 120tpi 29×2.25 Aspen that consumers can purchase is the exact same updated design that we developed to help win Olympic gold and the world championships with Nino, without the indicated hefty price tag and slightly more supple(and fragile) casing.

While the 170tpi is noticeably more supple, it isn’t likely the best construction for the majority of consumers, so we focused on getting the tread layout and casing size dialed to the champ’s specs and then moved that over to a casing that will give the rest of us better durability and a tire that lasts more than a couple races. As the 170tpi construction is still a fairly new process on the MTB side for us, there is hope that after more development, we will eventually be able to offer this option as a race day option for the rest of us.

ronshev
ronshev
5 years ago
Reply to  Duncan

^thanks for that!

TheKaiser
TheKaiser
5 years ago

Nino’s swap from tubulars to Aspens right before the Olympics was quite surprising, and I had wondered what the motivation was. I wouldn’t have guessed that the Aspen would have been at the top of the heap of the Swiss federation’s tests. Granted, a smoothish metal drum in the lab isn’t totally reflective of dirt, but none of the German mag tests nor bicyclerollingresistance have shown Maxxis tires to be particularly good in that department.

Thesteve4761@yahoo.con
Thesteve4761@yahoo.con
5 years ago
Reply to  TheKaiser

He switched before worlds, not Rio. He Went from tubular to tubeless. His trade team made (Jenny Risveds) didn’t swap out her 27.5 tubulars. Both won double gold.

Marty
Marty
5 years ago

Where’s my 2.6″ Minions!!?!?!?

bearcol
bearcol
5 years ago
Reply to  Marty

You can still find them on ebay they are just labeled 2.7.

Maxxis
5 years ago
Reply to  Marty

Hey Marty, the 27.5×2.60WT Minion DHFs are readily available in North America now. Please let us know if you need a hand tracking down a set.

Jay
Jay
5 years ago

But faster then their maxlites… I thought these were the holy grail for the ultimate race day only tire!!!

Jack Moore
Jack Moore
5 years ago

Excellent feature. I’ve read about the differences in casing thread counts for years, but the pictures and explanations here provide much more clarity on how the TPI counts affect the construction and durability.

I just mounted an Ardent / Ikon set on my ride for the new season and I’m very happy with the first few rides. Good going Maxxis!

Marko
Marko
5 years ago

new specialized gripton s works xc tires are pro only, now even maxxis.. what is going on?

Markus
Markus
5 years ago

I know many people who refuse riding Maxxis tires because of the poor rolling resistance reported in these German bike mags. Perhaps Maxxis can “put this into context”? This Suisse testing sounds interesting. Did they test on a steel drum as well?

Furthermore, what I didn’t get from the article, is there a new, updated consumer version for 2017?

Duncan(Maxxis)
Duncan(Maxxis)
5 years ago
Reply to  Markus

Markus, at the time of the resistance testing, we had no official relationship with the team. My understanding is that with Scott working on the new Spark and Nino thinking about making the switch to 29″ wheels, they set about testing rim and tire combinations to determine what was the fastest. While common thinking has been that tubulars could safely be run at lower pressures and thus offer faster rolling resistance, better grip, etc., their testing proved otherwise. When they decided to move to tubeless, they had other obvious OE relationships through Scott, but approached us about developing a tire specifically for the team.

Since at the time we were not an official team partner, we were not privy to the testing data, and for obvious reasons they have kept it pretty guarded. My hope is that as the relationship becomes more official and his tire selection becomes more common knowledge, that we will at some point gain access to that data, so we can tell the full story behind the tire’s development process.

In the meantime though, yes, the new consumer model of this tire is the exact same tread update, casing size, and optimized for wider modern XC rims. We just opted to produce the consumer model on our more proven and more “consumer durable” 120tpi casing. The 170tpi tires are more difficult to produce, more expensive materials, etc. and we don’t feel that a $120-$150 tire that may only last a few races is a viable consumer option presently. As we perfect the production process, there is possibility that they could be a race day option for consumers in the future, but the current consumer model does derive almost all the benefits of the updates and brings the once cherished Aspen back to the top of the XC race tire lineup. More information and availability will be up on the Maxxis website very soon.

xc-fr
xc-fr
5 years ago

question:
was the standard 120tpi aspen the fastest tire when the swiss team tested, or just the 170tpi version?

Maxxis
5 years ago
Reply to  xc-fr

Hi XC-FR, the Scott team performed all of their initial testing on 120 TPI Aspen models, then requested that we make them with our lightest weight casing so we pulled the 170 TPI option from our fastest road tires.

We’re still evaluating the feasibility of bringing these tires to market. They will be expensive to the consumer but the most discerning riders will notice an increase in performance.

Tiki
Tiki
5 years ago

good question xc-fr. And, what pressure did Nino run those at? How much does pressure change rolling resistance?

Benjamin Brindle
4 years ago

I’m a complete tyre wh*re. Ridden them all now and maxxis was one of the last to try. I’ve just been running some dual coumpound 29×2.1 aspens and they are not TR rated and not exo but they’re 500 g each and woweee. Fast as the Rocket Ron but without knob squirm. Had my first wet (really, really wet) last night on them. I did our local no-dab-challenge slick rooted big of a technical climb and they’re proper deceptive. I’m just REALLY annoyed I cannot find the 2.25 in any version nor a 2.1 in tubeless ready without the exo. Fantastic value though compared to the ikon (hurts in price and weight).

Craig
Craig
4 years ago

I really rate the Aspen 27.5 on my Scott Scale, run it on the rear and despite the slimness of the tyre it gives good grip – I’ve passed people on soft climbs who are running chunkier rubber. It get’s a bit sketchy in thick mud – I know it’s not intended for those conditions – the weather got gradually worse during the event.
I’ve been using them for about 2 years, the one i’ve got now is getting tired now, but I’m struggling to find stock in the UK.