Tire: Maxxis High Roller 2, 2.4″ DH
Compound: 3C front, 60d MaxxPro rear
Bike: 2011 Turner DHR, typical DH build, RockShox air suspension, front and rear
Trails Ridden: Northstar bike park, Sol Vista bike park, local Tahoe trails
Days Ridden: 20+
Favorite tires for similar riding: Maxxis High Roller, Maxxis Minion DHF
I was pretty excited when I first saw some pics of this new tire. The original Maxxis High Roller is still one of the best cornering tires ever made, and its popularity is undeniable—especially among downhillers (the group that consistently pushes tires the hardest, in my opinion).
I’d always had one fairly significant gripe, however, with the centerknob pattern on the original High Roller design. When taking the rolling direction of a tread into consideration, centerknobs will have a “braking edge” and what’s typically called a “climbing edge.”
Braking Edge vs. Climbing Edge
The braking edge is the side of the knob that is engaged and provides resistance while braking (the front of the knob when the tire is on the ground).
The climbing edge is the side that digs in and provides traction while pedaling (rearward edge on the tire patch once on the ground).
The braking edges on the old High Roller essentially formed an arrow, so it tends to pierce through dirt rather than grab it. When riding in a straight line and under controlled braking, this isn’t that big of a deal. But when the bike is leaned at any sort of an angle, one of the sides of that arrow comes into play.
Picture the tire on the ground with the tip of that arrow matching the direction of travel. You now have what amounts to two snowplow blades, one on each side facing outward. Put some resistance on that tire with your brakes, and that snowplow wants to push the tire in exactly the opposite direction from the way the bike is leaned. E.g., with the bike leaned to the right, the tire wants to slide to the left.
This is exactly the opposite of what a tire should do.
On the old High Roller, complaints about the braking characteristics were somewhat common, and with good reason. Hard braking created drift in the wrong direction, and a locked up wheel could put you on your ass.
After using these tires for years on both trail and long travel bikes, I learned to become very aware of when I had a High Roller on the front. It cornered so well that I and many others just dealt with the braking behavior. (And no, I don’t need to hear any lectures about braking while turning. I’ve watched some of the best racers in the world do it. Sometimes trails have surprises. Trails change, lines change, sometimes we screw up sections before a turn, get off line, whatever. Everyone does it at some point. Everyone.)
That bastard braking edge. This is the orientation of that braking edge when on the dirt. Under braking loads, the red arrow indicates the direction of the dirt sliding (even on a minuscule scale), blue indicates the direction in which the tire is pushed. This is more exaggerated when the bike is leaned to the right, and only the right side of that knob is engaged. Brilliant, huh? This is most of the reason why I run only the old High Roller on the rear.
The good news is that the new High Roller 2 eliminates this drawback and replaces that snowplow knob with a complete series of very well designed centerknobs that provide either flat or slightly cupped braking surfaces. It’s a successful all-around result on the braking front.
The sideknobs on the Maxxis High Roller 2 got a bit of a redesign as well. This worried me at first. There was very little wrong with the cornering characteristics of the original HR, in my opinion. It doesn’t drift quite as readily as some other treads, but unless you just flat out override the tire, it’s one of the most solidly biting cornering treads out there. I often say that standing hard on the sideknobs of a High Roller is like standing up against a wall, especially on the rear.