Over the past couple of years there has been an increase in fast rolling but durable tyres great for enduro racing or use in rocky terrain. Whilst not the first , Schwalbes Rock Razor became an instant hit when it was released in 2014. Maxxis shortly followed up with their Minion SS in 2015. On paper they look very similar, but how do they compare back to back?
Both tyres went up nice and easily tubeless, with little force or effort required to seat them or get them to stay inflated. The Maxxis may have been slightly easier to get the bead over due to the thinner sidewalls, but there wasn't much in it. We tested both tyres on a 35mm internal rim as well as 24mm internal ones.
The version tested here is the 27.5 2.35" Evo Snakeskin in Pacestar compound. These RRP at £58.99, but deals are not hard to find. We covered around 1000 miles on the Rock Razor, in all conditions and terrain types.
Once seated the Rock Razor gives a nice rounded profile, with the rows of small centre knobs staying in contact with the ground when the bike is stood up, and the side knobs only coming fully into play during cornering or in soft conditions.
We measured the Rock Razor to be 58mm wide from knob to knob, and 50mm tall from bead to top knob.
The version tested was the 27.5 , 2.30 Silkworm EXO which RRP at £49.99, but again, deals are easy to find. We only covered a few hundred miles on the Minion, in mainly dry conditions.
We measured the SS at 54 mm wide from knob to knob with a height of 47mm bead to top of knob.
The Maxxis has a much more squared off profile, with the chunky L shaped knobs sitting much more upright. The centre knobs are also slightly taller than the Rock Razor when new (the photos were taken when the Rock Razor had covered significantly more miles), and are spaced closer together. The sidewall on the Minion also feels much thinner than the Snakeskin on the Schwable, but weights are very similar.
The first thing you notice when putting on a semi slick is just how slow fully knobby tyres are. The difference in pace, especially on hard pack is very surprising, and going back to a standard mountain bike tyre feels like you've got the handbrake on.
People often assume that a semi slick is slidey in the corners, but we found both tyres to be very grippy when leaned over, very similar to how a Hans Dampf or High Roller performs on the rear.
Even in muddy conditions they do work quite well, as the small centre knobs don't have enough height to really clog up, and the side knobs are spaced enough apart to shed mud easily.
Semi slicks real weak point is braking traction, you instantly notice that you need to brake a little earlier into corners, and the rear is much easier to lock up. This issue is exasperated on loose and steep descents, and care needs to be taken when dropping into muddy chutes.
Looking at the 2 tyres it's clear that the Rock Razor has a much more rounded profile and is noticeably wider. We found that even on the 24mm internal rims the Minion SS side knobs were in constant contact with the ground, it's possible that it was psychological, but it did seem like the Minion rolled a little slower. On the 35mm internal rims, the Minon was so square that it lost grip very quickly when leaned over at extreme angles. Ultimately, with the trend being for wider rims, the 2.35" Rock Razor is by far the better choice, unless you are riding very narrow wheels.
When it comes to longevity we'd also have to hand it to the Schwalbe. The Rock Razor is showing signs of wear and abuse, but is still totally rideable, and likely to carry on for a good while. The Minion however got a large slash down the sidewall after just a couple of hundred miles. Whilst this may be bad luck, it was on a descent with only a few rocks that we have ridden hundreds of times before and not punctured or seen anyone puncture before.
When it comes down to performance, cornering wise on the 24mm rims there isn't much in it, but the Rock Razor feels like it's a little quicker rolling. On 35mm rims, the Minion doesn't really work at all feeling slow and lacking corner grip.
There is a clear winner for us in this shoot out, the Rock Razor easily takes the crown due to it's more modern width, profile and volume along with the thicker sidewalls.