We have run a number of surveys over the past few years and in every survey that asks which tyres riders are currently using, or favour, Maxxis comes out tops. Our most recent survey had Maxxis tyres at 57.88% as the preferred choice, with the nearest competitor at 12.26%! Why are Maxxis tyres so damn popular in South Africa? Here’s why…

Most of Nino Schurter’s World Championships, World Cup, Olympic Games and Absa Cape Epic successes have been achieved with Maxxis tyres.

By Sean Badenhorst

Tyre choice is personal. Well, it should be. It should depend on what kind of riding you do, where you ride and what kind of rider you are. It can also depend on your budget and level of competitiveness and, to an extent, which brand/model you trust. In South Africa, where events/races are so popular, a tyre that’s more puncture resistant is, not surprisingly, revered.

In a TREAD survey we ran with KAP Sani2c participants in 2017 and 2018, we asked what the main factor was that influenced the buying of mountain bike tyres. Here’s the breakdown:

Very similar sentiment for both years. Considering Sani2c is the biggest stage race in South Africa (based on entry numbers) and that it’s considered an event that doesn’t only cater for the hardcore racer, this is a good reflection of the South African mountain bike market in general.

And it makes sense. Riders would rather have a slightly heavier, more robust tyre than risk running a lighter tyre and having to deal with tyre drama. These events are special occasions. They require both financial and time investment and nobody wants to see that spoiled by poor tyre choice.

While on the topic of the Sani2c participant base, here’s the tyre choice of the riders that took our survey in 2017 and 2018. Note the increased dominance by Maxxis from 2017 to 2018 – up more than 5%.

Since 2012 we have published rider survey statistics from the Absa Cape Epic, the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race, which takes place in South Africa each year (except in 2020, sigh). From the 2019 survey here’s the breakdown of tyre brand preference (top 5 only) from 2016-2019 – the four most recent editions:

Before we examine these stats, we need to mention that Specialized wasn’t a tyre brand option in this survey and would have fallen under ‘Other’ in the dropdown menu of choices. In 2019, ‘Other’ was 17% of the total. Bear in mind that this questionnaire was created some years back and was only updated (with help from TREAD) for the 2020 edition. Specialized tyres have won more editions (Elite men and women’s divisions) of the Cape Epic than any other tyre in the past 10 years. Specialized has also been the dominant bicycle brand at the event for at least the past eight years, with many Specialized riders choosing to ride with Specialized tyres.

So, the obvious omission here is Specialized, but it’s worth noting how Maxxis went from second, behind Schwalbe in 2016 to first in 2017 and then up by a substantial jump in 2018 with similar preference in 2019. This data includes both local and international rider answers. Local riders make up around 65% of the Absa Cape Epic field.

Our most recent survey was the 2019 SA MTB Race Survey, presented by Garmin. It was open to all mountain bikers in the country across the main disciplines of mountain bike racing in South Africa – Half-marathon, Marathon, Ultra-marathon, Ultra-Endurance, Short Stage Race and Long Stage Race. Here are the top 10 brands from those results:

A remarkable 57.88% of the respondents prefer Maxxis tyres for racing. That’s brand dominance for certain. Why is this? Why is Maxxis such a dominant brand in South African mountain biking?

We put the question to the two official importers of Maxxis to South Africa, SCOTT Sports Africa and Rush Sports:

“Reliability. Given the volume of Maxxis sold in aftermarket and supplied to OEM, the number of ‘issues’ isn’t even half a percent. Maxxis has proven for many years to be incredibly reliable in all sizes, options, casings, patterns etc,” said Andre van Aarde, Chief Operating Officer, Rush Sports.

“Then there is the consistency, particularly with tubeless tyres where the overall diameter of the tyre is critical to mounting and sealing the tyre on the rim. Maxxis proves time and again to be one of the most consistent in this regard from one model to the next and from one production batch to the next. The same is also true of other elements of Maxxis tyres, including rubber compound, casing, bead and general construction,” added Van Aarde.

This fit and performance consistency is incredibly valuable and often unnoticed. But think back to a time when you really struggled to seat a tyre on a rim. Chances are good that you remember exactly which tyre brand and model it was. Deep frustration like this can leave long-standing first-world-problem emotional scars…

Greg Minnaar helped Maxxis develop the Assegai model.

Range, availability and price are the other three key factors in favour of Maxxis in South Africa, according to Van Aarde.

“We offer over 50 Maxxis variants, which includes tyres (and tubes) I 20, 24, 26, 650b, 29 and 700C in various widths, casings rubber compounds and tread patterns. I don’t believe there is another tyre brand in South Africa that offers such an extensive range. In terms availability, we supply Maxxis to over 250 independent cycling retailers across southern Africa. Maxxis tyres are very widely available,” said Van Aarde.

“For a bicycle brand to spec a tyre as standard equipment on its bikes, the tyre must meet a number of criteria. The performance of the tyre has a direct impact on the ride and feel of the bike. Then of course durability is of utmost importance, if a tyre cannot withstand the demands of the sport it doesn’t just affect consumer confidence there is a safety consideration as well,” said Gary Lee, Sales Admin Manager at SCOTT Sports Africa.

“Maxxis tyres are used by Schurter, Minnaar, Cabirou and Van der Poel to name a few of the world’s best racers. Maxxis actively works with these athletes when developing new product. This means that the tyres available in store are not just developed in a lab but race proven by some of the best riders in every category. One of these projects was a tyre developed with South African Greg Minnaar, the Assegai DH tyre. Originally only available in a 29er option it is now available in 27.5” and 29er with Wide Trail construction, 3CG compound, EXO+ puncture protection and of course Tubeless ready.

“Maxxis is constantly innovating, adding new technologies and designs to its already extensive range. Maxxis doesn’t simply offer a Tubeless Ready tyre, it has various options per model such as Triple Compound tread, EXO and EXO+ Puncture protection, Wide Trail tyre construction and various Tpi offerings. This gives you a wide range of tyres that will suit whatever terrain you choose to ride on,” added Lee.

It’s unusual for a brand to have more than one distributor in a country, but Maxxis does in South Africa. This leads to even greater availability, consistent stock and competitive pricing, which gets passed on to the consumer. While Maxxis has two distributors in the country, other leading tyre brands, besides Specialized of course, have been with smaller distributors, although there have recently been some distributor changes for Continental and Schwalbe, which may see those two brands clawing back some market share in the future. But for now, Maxxis remains the undisputed leading tyre brand among mountain bikers in South Africa.

For more on Maxxis tyres in South Africa, check out the Rush Sports website