Review: Maxxis High Roller II DH Tyres
October 20th, 2012
By Olly Forster
If you asked a group of experienced downhill riders to name an iconic tyre from the last ten years, the Maxxis High Roller would almost certainly pop up more times than any other tyre, and for good reason. Since it’s inception, the High Roller has played a pivotal role in the sport while also influencing many other tyre designs in the process. The ramped knobs and wide spacing have also helped the High Roller become a tyre for almost any condition and almost a jack of all trades. In this review we take a closer look at the High Roller’s next evolutionary step, aptly called the High Roller II.
Words: Olly Forster | Photos: Eyesdown Films & Olly Forster
I’ve lost count of how many pairs of High Rollers I’ve had over the years and it’s certainly been a tyre I’ve spent more time on than any other and one I hope I know rather well. Designed as a loose conditions tyre, the new edition thankfully takes up from where the last one left off. I always feel that a tyre’s strengths lie in their ability to translate their strengths and weaknesses directly back to the rider and as quickly and as easily as possible. Every tyre, no matter how special, has a point where it will let go and introduce you to the dirt below, but if you know where that point is, you can become the master of it and that’s always been something great about the High Roller; predictability.
Hitting the Dirt.
The High Roller II’s have been out for a while now and I’ve been running them on and off for nearly a year, but after a week in the Alps this summer for some proper testing, I did everything I could to push limits of the High Roller II. The trip consisted of 6 days of riding rough and rougher still, beaten up dry-as-a-bone trails, and all the way to mushy, boggy and downright slow, steep trails. I kept the High Rollers on for the whole time, partly for testing purposes and partly because I couldn’t be bothered to swap them over…
This is the front tyre after a long week of riding in the Alps – not bad wear I’d say? Riding a mixture of terrain and conditions, I felt comfortable enough to not bother switching to some of the other, more specific tyres I had with me. There may have been a few instances where another tyre would have performed better, but sometimes you just got to “run what ya brung” and that’s exactly the kind of tyre the High Roller is and always has been.
And the rear tyre after one long week in the Alps and looking a little worse for wear and even though it does look pretty bad in the photo, this tyre’s got a lot of life in it yet. As far as wear and tear goes, I’d say these have held up pretty well considering, but then I have found that the 3C option, although more expensive, does offer a prolonged life over their single compound counterparts. Regular week-end riding back in the UK and you’ll get bags of use before this become a hindrance.
Out with Old and in with the New?
So, without further a do, lets break out the old High Rollers and take a look at where the new ones are different and why. Although the similarities are right there from the off, it doesn’t take long for the new mods to jump out at you as soon as you get your eyes around the two tyres along side one another. The first thing that jumps out at you are the angled chevron shaped central knobs, which are almost entirely the other way round.
Flipping the centre knobs around is intended to help the transferal of traction when cornering – tyres with large amounts of space between knobs (which are great for keeping the mud where it should be and not stuck on the tyre) can take away traction for a split second when moving from an upright forward position, to an angled cornering position. From turning them around, the designers have effectively increased the transferal of forces out from the centre and out to the shoulder knobs, ultimately helping to eliminate some of the cornering in-balances common on the original model. But this isn’t the main reason…
The main reason for this change in direction, is of course braking. With the centre knobs being ramped to decrease resistance (hence High Roller…) and increase rolling speed, they also have large upright areas that deflect forces when the tyres stop spinning, helping to slow the bike down under braking. The new shape and direction not only improves the amount of rearward grip under braking, but also helps the tyres to move under braking forces in a far more predictable manor. The other big change has to be all the sipes – small grooves designed to helps knobs conform and flex over obstacles and increase grip. Another change, which has also made a big change to their ride characteristics, is the increasing height of the shoulder knobs. Increasing these allows the new High Roller to bite further when cornering, while also giving the tyre a squarer profile and further aiding you in the corners.
Building on such a tried and tested product, such as the original High Roller, was never going to be easy, but I feel it is one that Maxxis have stepped up to and in doing so, delivered another quality tyre to their range. At £58.99, these are in no way a cheap option as far as DH rubber goes, but bare in mind that these are 3C and will outlast, to an extent, single compound options.
On the trails and going for it, the High Roller II’s felt pretty similar to their predecessor and the familiarity was a welcome one, without any period of learning how and where to put my weight. On hardpack, I found the new High Rollers to be as inconsistent as the old ones, but these are designed to bite and if there’s nothing to bite into? On tracks with loose terrain, wet, dry and littered with roots and rocks, the High Roller II’s were solid and above all else, predictable. In the corners, there was still an element of surprise, where the grip would sometimes feel inconsistent, but in all honesty, I never lost the bike or felt I had reason to be concerned. Another aspect of the High Roller is of course in the braking department and this where I felt the new ones had the old ones over a barrel and certainly an improvement.
Overall, the High Roller II is a great tyre, but at a steep price that I think puts it out of reach for many riders looking to get maximum bang for their buck. Is it better than the old model? Yes and no. Having spoken to a few pro riders, it seems that opinions are split, but many riders with experience on both models, still choose the original. This is interesting, but also says a lot about how much you come to rely on the tyres you know and trust. For me, these represent a modern take on a classic and one that I’d recommend to a rider with the cash and the want for tyre that can handle itself, no matter what’s put in front of it.
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