Based on previous tests and borrowed review bikes, I’ve been a sceptic and curmudgeon about plus tyres before. As soon as most plus tyres hit the mud around here, they tend to skate over it – often in a very unpredictable and dramatic fashion.
I’d heard rumours of 26+ well over a year ago and was curious though, particularly as I suspected they’d work in most 27.5in frames, rather than needing a heap of new standards and geometry. Just like 27.5+ tyres being able to fit in a lot of existing 29er frames and forks, the idea would be that you could get a bigger high volume 26+ tyre, and slot it into your existing 27.5in bike. That being the case, when someone offered me a Minion DHF and a Minion DHR II in a 26×2.8in size, I just about bit their arm off.
Due to receiving them about four months ago, the tyres we’ve been testing are unlabelled as they’re pre-production prototypes. Production versions will be labelled (conveniently), and like the 27.5×2.8in and 29×3.0in versions of these same tyres, the 26+ models will be available in two options; dual compound, and 3C triple compound. Our test tyres are the dual compound version, and they feature a tubeless ready folding bead with EXO reinforced sidewalls with a 60tpi casing. Weight for each tyre was 980g (DHF) and 1004g (DHR II).
At this point I’ll possibly save you a bit of time by briefly mentioning what, and who, these tyres are NOT for:
- People who enjoy climbing more than descending
- Road miles
- XC racing
- Saving weight
- Riding with a massive hangover
The first four never apply to me, and that fifth point is, to be fair, beyond the design specifications of any tyre.
I don’t build hardtails to save weight, I build them to be bulletproof and sturdy, so these tyres seemed like a natural match. I put them on my personal Stif Morf, which would normally take 27.5in wheels and tyres up to 2.4in wide. These 26×2.8in ones fitted fine with plenty of mud clearance, both front and back. The fork was a Formula 35, so non-Boost 100x15mm, and likewise the frame spacing was a non-Boost 142x12mm.
The wheels were the last pair of 26in ones I had around, made with Spank Subrosa rims, which at 24.5mm internal width are much narrower than the 30mm minimum Maxxis recommend for plus tyres. As a result, I did end up running them at slightly higher pressures than I wanted, but all told by the end of this test I was still on around 15psi without them feeling squirmy.
I set them up tubeless, which saw them go straight up and seal easily with just a track pump and soapy water. Partly because I was worried about burping them, and partly because I have a reputation for smashing wheels into stuff, I also put Procore in (the same 26″ set I tested years ago – it’s still going strong). The wheels were already heavy, so I figured in for a penny, in for a lb.
Taking some measurements after installing them, I found on these rims the tyres came up to a diameter of 27.4in, and a width of just over 2.6in, depending on tyre pressure. Increasing pressure made no difference to the diameter, but 22psi resulted in a width measurement of 2.684in. 15psi gave a width of 2.651in (for comparison on diameter, a 27.5×2.4in DHRII came up at 27.8in, and a 26×2.4in Ardent inflated to a hair over 27in).
Compared to the 27.5in wheels I was running before, 26+ lowered the bottom bracket by a further 9.5 millimetres (I stood the bike up and measured this in both configurations – 290mm and 280.5mm BB heights).
I’m keen to run these tyres on wider wheels, but options right now are pretty limited. In terms of 26+, it’s basically Stans No Tubes Baron or Sentry for complete wheelsets (neither of which seem to have UK distribution yet), or alternatively you can source WTB Asym i35, Scraper i40 or i45 rims, carbon rims direct from China, or Velocity Blunt 35’s and build your own wheels. These plus tyres aren’t really designed to use the old wheels you have lying around, and because of that, running 26+ optimally isn’t going to be as straightforward and cheap as just swapping tyres.
In case you haven’t guessed by now, the thing these have mostly been good for is descending. They’re heavy, burly, knobbly rubber and as such definitely not a climber’s tyre.
The first thing I noticed on hitting rocky double-track was how much trail buzz larger volume tyres get rid of – bigger tyre volumes mean you can run lower pressures, and that’s basically like a high freqeuncy noise filter for your bike. In this respect they’re quite comfortable, but if you’re the kind of rider that runs firm suspension and likes a lot of trail feedback, they might not suit you.
The DHF was on the front wheel for that first ride, and as I expected it packed out with mud easily and started to slide around. While they’re great in the right conditions, I’ve never reckoned much to DHFs in British weather, there’s just too much mud year-round. As a result, I much prefer the DHR II as an all rounder tyre, and quickly swapped them around, because if one end of my bike is going to lose traction a lot, I’d prefer it was the back.
I was glad I did, as the second ride was just after some apocalyptic rain. Most trails up on the moors had turned into rivers, and further down they were covered in slippery wet mud. One trail in particular has a small wall ride out of a corner, quickly followed by a small hip with a flat landing. On most tyres, popping off either of those in the rain means you’ll land then skate sideways across the trail; these being plus tyres I expected no less. Imagine my delight as they landed, bit the mud, immediately found a line and carved the bend. Same on the next landing, and every one after that. I suspect some of that was the weight of the landing pushing down to something firmer, but these are very confidence inspiring tyres.
They’re the first plus tyres I’ve liked. They’re not infallible; if you panic brake in mud you’ll still wash the front out, but the DHR II in particular is a decent mud tyre – something I never expected to say about a 2.8in wide tyre! They can still fishtail a bit in the mud, but it’s easy to control and bring back.
Despite the narrow rims giving them a somewhat rounded profiles, I’ve not had any problems leaning them over. Minion side knobs are trusted by many riders, and have made their way onto plenty of Maxxis’ range with good reason. The assumption I had on getting hold of these was that they’d be summer fun tyres for a hardtail, but like most plus tyres not worth it for winter mud. This ride made me re-evaluate that, and for the past four months I’ve mostly been picking the Morf up as soon as it rains.
Where these tyres really shine is on descents, particularly steep and rocky ones. That’s not just because of the grip they have, but also the mass. While rotating mass generates more gyroscopic force and is harder to accelerate and muscle about, it also makes it harder for any obstacles to sap momentum head on. These tyres eat choppy sections of trail for breakfast. If I were taking a hardtail somewhere with uplift, they would absolutely be my first choice for razzing over braking bumps.
At such high volumes and low PSI, they’re exceptionally plush, though one side effect of that (and most plus tyres I’ve tried) is slightly vague line choices. Often, I’d look down at the front tyre and find it was a few centimetres off where I expected it to be, which wasn’t ever catastrophic but did make it slightly more difficult to, for instance, ride edges or grassy spines between water filled ruts.
They’re really not suited to deft subtlety, and are more for ploughing over and off things. Once you get them up to speed on a descent, it feels like cheating, as if you’ve got a rocket engine strapped to your bike. They make it so easy to carry speed, and I had so much confidence in their grip, that occasionally I was catching up and nipping at the heels of faster friends I normally wouldn’t.
Of course, those friends also dropped me easily on every climb, and as I already mentioned, if you’ve been at the tequila the night before you’ll feel and resent every gram these add to your bike. On technical, low speed climbs, the low pressure and large contact patches do give a lot of traction, though anything you get hung up on can also stop them very abruptly. The weight also means that under those circumstances, they’re that little bit harder to get turning again. If you did high mileage technical riding on these, they’d be exhausting.
I’m not an XC rider though, and I’m not fussed about faster climbing. I chug up steep hills slowly then hoon down them as fast as I can for fun, and it feels like that’s what these tyres are for. They’re hooligan rubber and they absolutely excel at it.
One last thing about the ride: because they’re enormous, in wet weather you’re going to end up absolutely plastered in filth, head to foot. Even with one of those little fork brace fenders on, the front will fling enough stuff up that plenty still heads directly for your face, and combined with skinny steel frame tubes, it only gets worse. You have to make your peace with muck to run these tyres.
Maxxis 26+ tyres were not quite what I expected. I thought they’d be for playing out in dry weather when there’s plenty of traction, but they have so much innate traction (and drag) that I’ve ended up using the 26+ Morf specifically as a wet weather bike. Unlike most years, as autumn’s leafy grip strangles summer, I find myself a little less resentful of the turn in the weather.
The DHR II has a great all-round tread pattern, and I’d happily run a pair in plus size. I’m tempted to snip some tread blocks down on the DHF, for better mud shedding and maybe to make it a faster rolling back tyre, but I’m not sure I will. As long as the front stays planted, I’ve never been one to mind a slippery back end.
The darkest moment of this test was, after an exhausting muddy climb that made me deeply regret not taking a lighter bike out, hitting a descent and immediately going over the bars. I spent a full minute lying still, face down in the rain, tangled up with the bike and a hangover, thinking “Why did I mix wheat beer and spirits?”. Even then, it never crossed my mind to take the plus tyres off. They’re too much fun for the stuff I like the most.
I’m not going to sell my 27.5in wheels just yet, but these tyres have been a lot of fun to ride. If you like to thunder down things rather than finesse them, and want a playful but heavy option for the 27.5in bike in your life, 26+ might be a good shout.
Note: We’ll be getting in a specific 26+ wheelset soon for testing to see how the 2.8in Maxxis tyres feel when mounted to a properly wide rim. Stay tuned for updates.
|Product:||Minion DHF 26x2.8in & Minion DHR II 26x2.8in|
|Tested:||by David Hayward for 3 months|