Maxxis Minion lineup explained: How to pick the right Maxxis Minion tire for your bike

I was recently looking for a new set of tires for my mountain bike. I asked around for recommendations and one name kept coming up – the Maxxis Minion. The Minion is one of the most popular all mountain tires out there. They offer a great combination of predictability, good breaking performance and low rolling resistance in their category.

After reading all the positive reviews, I was sold. So I went online and started looking for them only to realize the lineup is pretty complicated. A lot of sizes a lot of 3-letter words like EXO and 3C and two entirely different types, the Minion DHF and DHR II. So to save you from the hassle of researching all this, here’s a guide to picking the right Maxxis Minion tire for your bike.

What’s the difference between Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR II?

Depending on who you ask, DHF either stands for Downhill Front or Freeride and DHR for Downhill Rear or Race. Regardless of the naming convention, people have been running these tires both in the front and in the back of their bikes. So what’s the difference?

Both tires have the same L-shaped side knob design. Where they differ is in the design of the center knobs. The DHF’s center knobs are closer to each other and also closer to the side knobs, meaning they have outstanding traction in dry and semi-dry conditions. The downside is performance in muddy situations, because the dense center knobs do a worse job at clearing mud.

The center knobs on the DHR II have a more paddle-like design making the tire better at very steep techy climbs as well as giving it better breaking traction in steep terrain. It’s also a bit lighter than the DHF, it rolls faster and because the center knobs are more spread out, it clears mud better than the DHF. With that said, the DHF is a more precise directional tire.

Maxxis Minion DHF vs DHR II Tread Comparision

As for which one is better, that’s really hard to tell. It depends on your riding style, the type of terrain and conditions you find yourself riding most often. Both are great tires, both work well in the front and in the back. I’ve seen people run the DHF in the front and the DHR II in the back and swear by this combo. Greg Minnaar won the South Africa World Cup running the DHR II front and back, a lot of people run the DHF on both ends of their bike and are super happy with their setup. This just goes to show that there is no wrong answer here and the final decision will depend on your personal preference. It’s also worth noting that tiers are a very personal thing and people tend to feel a certain way about a certain tire. It’s very hard to prove the superiority of one over the other, especially with two tires that are so closely related.

Maxxis Minion DHF Tread Up Close
Maxxis Minion DHF Tread Up Close


The next big thing to consider is sizing. Obviously there is the wheel size. Maxxis makes both the DHF and DHR II in sizes 24, 26, 27.5 and 29. Where it gets tricky is in the second measurement – the width. That’s the second number next to the wheel size (for example 27.5×2.30). Minions come in a range of widths from 2.30 to 2.60.

The width of your tire is going to depend on two things. How much space your frame allows (if you pick a tire that’s too wide, it might not fit on your frame) and what performance you are looking for in the tire. Generally, narrower tires will roll faster but will provide less traction. Some people like to run a narrower tire in the back, that rolls nice and fast and a wider one in the front for better control. Wider tires allow you to run on lower tire pressures, which in certain situations, can improve handling and ride quality. A good rule of thumb is to stay close to the tire width that came originally with your bike.

Minion DHF
Minion DHF

Wide Trail (WT)

To make things a bit more complicated some Minions are also labeled as WT (for example 29×2.60WT). WT stands for Wide Trail and is meant for rims with an internal width of 30-35mm. In contrast a traditional rim will have a width of 21-29mm. WT rims have recently become popular because they allow for a wider tire profile which gives you better sidewall support and allows you to run lower tire pressures. However, this also means that running standard tires on a WT rim would result in a mishaped tire that does not engage well with the terrain. The diagram below shows a comparison:

Proper fitting of WT and Traditional Tires


A tire casing is the shell of the tire and protects it from punctures. Both Minion DHF and DHR II offer the following casing types:

  • EXO – compared to traditional single ply casings, it has an additional EXO layer that provides good puncture protection but isn’t too heavy
  • EXO+ is an upgrade to the EXO casing with an added Maxxis SilkShield protection layer. It’s meant for more aggressive riding, without adding too much extra weight.
  • Double Down is Maxxis newest casing that fills the gap between an EXO+ and a Downhill casing. It’s very durable, but not as heavy as the Downhill version.
  • Downhill is the toughest casing available for the Minion series. As the name indicates it’s meant for downhill racing. They feature reinforced dual ply sidewalls and a butyl insert for ultimate performance, but you’ll pay the price in weight.
A Maxxis Minion DHF, 27.5x2.30, EXO casing, 3C Maxx Terra compound, Tubeless Ready (TR) tire.
A Maxxis Minion DHF, 27.5×2.30, EXO casing, 3C Maxx Terra compound, Tubeless Ready (TR) tire.

Tire Bead

You will also find two different bead options. Beads are the edge of the tire, that sits on the wheel. Maxxis offers the Minion with a Foldable and a Wire bead. The foldable bead is made from a Kevlar compound and allows the tire to be folded when packaged making it lighter and easier to transport. The wire bead is just a wire that runs around the edge of the tire. Wire beads will be cheaper but heavier than foldable ones.

Tubeless Ready (TR)

When a tire is labeled TR it means that the casing has been constructed in such a way that it allows for a tubeless installation. Tubeless is very popular, because it allows the tire to run at lower pressures and the sealant that’s inside the tire heals up small punctures.


Besides the tread design, tire compounds are what makes or breaks a good tire. Thankfully Maxxis is pretty good at both treads and compounds. For the Minion series they offer a variety of compounds ranging from a single compound that offers a long lasting tire to complex 3 compound mixes. I’ll explain what is what below:

  • Single Compound is one compound throughout the tread that is long lasting but not as grippy as more sophisticated compounds
  • Dual Compound tires have a harder rubber towards the base of the tread and a softer one towards the top of the tire. This is great for hard wearing rear tires as it offers a good compromise between rolling resistance and longevity.
  • 3C Maxx Terra is a mix of 3 compounds commonly used on trail and enduro bikes that provides better treadwear and less rolling resistance than Maxx Grip.
  • 3C Maxx Grip is also a 3 compound mix that’s aimed at downhill usage. It offers the ultimate in grip and slow rebound properties for great traction.
  • Super Tacky is a very soft single compound tire meant for downhill action. It offers low rebound, high traction especially in dry conditions. It will however wear off faster than a 3C compound.

You can find all the specs of available DHF and DHR II tires on the Maxxis website.


Mountain Biking Around San Francisco

I wake up at 7 am, eat a quick breakfast, load up the rented car and head out to Fairfax, California. From San Francisco, it is a 30-minute drive. I meet Mark, from Mountain Bike SF in front of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. My rented Santa Cruz Hightower C is ready for today’s riding. Mark gives me a map of the Tamarancho trail system, a few quick tips and I set out to meet the trail entrance.

I have the bike until 6 pm and I intend to make full use of it. I climb the first meters to get to the trailhead. Climbing through the residential area, I meet a fellow rider heading the same direction. We exchange greetings and he quickly overtakes me climbing up. These locals are no joke. Then, why would they be – with more than 600 kilometers of trails in Marine County and a mountain biking heritage, going back to the very beginning of this sport, mountain biking is running in their blood.

The Birthplace of Mountain Biking

Mount Tamalpais and the surrounding trails in Marine County are widely considered the birthplace of mountain biking. This is where Gary Fisher, Otis Guy, Charlie Kelly, and Joe Breeze rode and raced in the early 1970s using bikes they assembled from junk found in bike shops.

It is crazy to think, that 50 years later mountain biking has become so popular around the whole world. I believe it is a place every mountain biker should make a pilgrimage to at some point in their life.

Camp Tamarancho Loop

I reach the Welcome Kiosk of Camp Tamarancho. An 18 kilometers long trail system maintained by Boy Scouts with about 70% of single tracks. The lowest point is 34 meters and the highest is at 292 meters.

Tamarancho Trail Welcome Kiosk

I climb the switchback on Alchemist trail and get to the first junction. Here I take a right – the loop is bi-directional, but most people do it clockwise heading up Goldman Trail. The climb is pretty steep but I’m enjoying the Hightower’s versatility. I’m quickly falling in love with it. Despite being a 29er, it is very nimble in the switchbacks and has a great balance allowing me to maneuver the more technical climb through roots and rock gardens that are out here.

I’ve reached the Wagonwheel Trail by now and I do a quick descent through the darkness of Redwood filled woods. I stop to take in these majestic trees. I’m climbing up to Mount Tamalpais (locally referred to as Mt. Tam). More rock gardens await, but the view starts to open up. The countryside varies from thick woods to green open spaces with views all the way to the Richmond–San Rafael Bridge.

Mt. Tam

Atop Mt. Tam, I take a small break, eating a Clif Bar (also a local brand from Emeryville). The sun is now high and I enjoy the warmth, after a rainy week. Rain has made some of the root sections especially challenging knocking me down a couple of times already.

I pack up and continue down the B-17 Trail. The decent takes me into a dark redwood forest through which curls a narrow single track. My wide handlebars are barely letting me pass through unobstructed. The trail crosses a few creeks and starts climbing up again. I reach an intersection. Here you can take the trail extension which leads to the Flow Trail section – the cherry on top of the pie. It’s fun but short. I get to the bottom and climb back up to the intersection, there’s a nice loop that lets you take as many runs on the flow trail as your heart (and legs) can handle.

The majestic redwoods

However, I’ve got a different plan in mind. Once back up, I take a left and start climbing up steeply. This fire road connects to the Pine Mountain Road that leads to my next destination – Repack DH.

Repack DH

The original Repack DH Race Map

I’ve read about this place when first researching biking around San Francisco. The downhill that started it all. I thought it would be an epic flow trail, with nicely packed berms. Nope. It’s a 3 km long fire road. You heard that right. A wide fire road. I soon realize, that its magic is not in the ride itself, but the stories it carries.

It all started in the early ’70s when a few friends discovered this road and decided to race it down on ‘40s ballooners. The bikes had hub coaster breaks that would get so hot on the downhill that all the grease would vaporize and they would need to re-grease, or “repack” the hub after a few rides.

The trail gained in popularity around the county and soon, two locals, Fred Wolf, and Charlie Kelly decided to organize a race, baring the same name. Their friend Gerry Fisher soon joined and to this day, holds the record at 4:22. After each race, they would talk about their rides, and about their bikes. Soon enough, mountain biking as a sport was born.

I think about all this as I race down the gravel road and struggle with sharp turns. The bay opens up and I pause to appreciate it all. The place, the spirit, the sport.

Beginning of Repack DH

The downhill ends with a triple creek crossing, that is going to get your shoes wet, no matter how hard you try – a good way to cool down after this epic ride. Right after the last creek, I reenter Fairfax and realize I no longer feel the Clif bar in my stomach, but rather a large void. I look for a place to stop for lunch.

There are 3 creeks you need to cross at the end of Repack DH and all three were pretty deep

Fairfax, California

Right next to the museum is Split Rock Tap & Wheel – a bike shop, restaurant and beer place, that lets me park my bike inside. I order a Chicken Katsu sandwich and a Bo Pils and start writing down my observations for further reference. Maybe it’s the beer, maybe it’s the people at Split Rock, maybe it’s the ride I just finished, but I’m genuinely starting to love this place.

In front of the Marin Museum of Bicycling and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

I finish my lunch and look at the clock. It’s 2 pm. I still have 4 hours. I could go to the museum, or I could go ride some more. I’ll go to the museum when I’m grey and old. Off to the trail.

My plan is to try the Porcupine trail, about 3 kilometers outside of Fairfax. I reach the trailhead and start climbing – this is a steep one. I reach a leveled section in the middle of the climb and decide to stop and enjoy being surrounded by nature. I find a nice spot and lay down. It was so nice, I fell asleep. I’m woken up by a fellow rider, sending it down the trail. Better go, I’ve been here for about 30 minutes.

As I make my way to the top, I find out that Porcupine trail is closed, due to floods. I take a peek at the map and realize I can connect back to the Tamarancho trail easily. I rejoin it right before the flow trail bit and get shredding a second time today.

As I’m crossing the Broken Dam Bridge I look up and see cowbells suspended over my head. I reach up with my right hand and ring the last 3. This kind of stuff just puts a smile on my face.

Ending the day with a smile

It’s 5:00 in the afternoon and I need to hurry back to Fairfax to meet up with Mark and return my bike. I speed up, down Broken Dam Trail and take in the last moments of this fabulous day.

Where to rent a bike

If you are staying in or around San Francisco, Fairfax is 30 minutes by car. You can rent a bike in San Francisco, but I would stay away from these, as they are really meant more for city exploration and their mountain bikes looked out of shape.

After a quick Google search, I found Mountain Bike SF – a service that is located right in Fairfax and offers Santa Cruz and Specialized mountain bikes (both hardtail and full suspension). My experience has been flawless, I’ve put the reservation just a day before coming out. The bike I wanted, a Santa Cruz Bronson was already taken, but Mark messaged me and hooked me up with their Hightower C. The bike was in great condition – no squeaky noises, drivetrain ran spot on, tires were almost brand new. You get a helmet and a toolkit with every rental as well.

My bike was a Santa Cruz Hightower C rented from Mountain Bike SF located in Fairfax, CA

Here’s a list of rentals in the area:

  1. Mountain Bike SF
  2. ACME Bikes
  3. StokedSF
  4. Sunshine Bicycles

10 Best European Towns for Mountain Biking with Low Cost of Living

I live in Bratislava, Slovakia. A city surrounded by forests with some nice singletracks and a vibrant mountain biking community. I’m grateful for where I live but when I travel I sometimes find myself dreaming about other places. I wonder if people ride a lot and if there are good trail systems. Eventually, I also think about how much it would cost to live there. So to satisfy my curiosity, I came up with a list. After analyzing over 30 towns and cities, I narrowed it down to 10 towns that have a low cost of living and are great mountain biking destinations.

If you are planing to visit a town in Europe or actually move to one, this list could help you figure out where to go!

How I came up with the list?

I started by looking up towns with good mountain biking trails in the radius of 40 kilometers (25 miles). This gave me a list of about 30 places. I purposefully excluded small villages, since there are plenty of well-known mountain villages like Leogang, that are amazing places to mountian bike. I was intereted in towns and cities with a population of at least 30,000.

To be as objective as possible, I set up 4 criteria to assess the quality of mountain biking and 3 to asses the cost of living. Once I had all this information, I was able to rank the cities and towns and come up with a final top 10 list.

A good place to mountain bike?

How do you define a good place to mountain bike? Rather than looking at popularity, I wanted to have an objective set of criteria. I decided to look at the following 4 things:

  1. Trails: the length of trails around towns, this includes trails that are further than the 40-kilometer radius, but are directly accessible by bike from the town center.
  2. Total vertical: the total vertical elevation in meters
  3. Total descent: the length of descents on trails
  4. Pollution index: it’s just nice not to inhale sh*** when you bike

The trail data was taken from Trailforks and the pollution index is from Numbeo.

Cost of living

Defining the cost of living is a bit tricky because statistics only tell you so much. I gave it my best shot and gathered my data from Numbeo. I looked at 3 statistics:

  1. Cost of groceries: this one is calculated as the minimum price to pay to get 2400 calories per day, every day, for 31 days
  2. m3 in town center: price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre
  3. 1 large beer: well, the price of 1 large local beer 🙂

Here are the top 10 towns and cities around Europe that are cheap to live in and have amazing mountain biking around:

10. Savona, Italy

Photo Matt Wragg/Pinkbike
? Trails: 135 km☝️ Total vertical: 807 m
? Total descent: 8,812 m?‍?‍?‍? Population: 61,345
? Pollution index: 35.95? m3 in town center: 4,000 €
? Groceries per month: 274.83 €? 1 large beer: 5.00 €

Savona on Trailforks

The seaport town of Savona was once home to Christopher Columbus, so the history chops are on point. But besides this, it’s also the gateway to the Ligurian Alps, and that’s the part I’m most interested in. You can bike 135km on 45 trails and with average temperatures of 19 °C (66 °F), it’s not a bad place to be at. The only downside, it the 5€ price you’ll have to pay for a beer after your ride.

9. Trento, Italy

Photo wolisphoto/Trailforks
? Trails: 969 km☝️ Total vertical: 1,083 m
? Total descent: 120,545 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:117,417
? Pollution index: 14.72? m3 in town center: 3,420 €
? Groceries per month: 292.31 €? 1 large beer: 4.50 €

Trento on Trailforks

Trento is the opening act to Lago Di Garda, a well-known mountain biking destination. It’s a city of 100K inhabitants and is one of the wealthiest parts of Italy. Besides the ridiculous 969km of trails in the vicinity of the town, it also has 8 bike parks nearby.

8. Palma de Mallorca, Spain

? Trails: 567 km☝️ Total vertical: 1,202 m
? Total descent: 26,896 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:402,949
? Pollution index: 32.06? m3 in town center: 3,392.50 €
? Groceries per month: 228.14 €? 1 large beer: 3.00 €

Palma on Trailforks

The capital of the island of Mallorca, this city is surrounded by spectacular nature with some of the best views out there. Palma has a Mediterranean climate, so you can bike most of the year. The best part is that you end your rides by the ocean which is great for a cool down dip.

7. Orebro, Sweden

PhotoThe Heart of Sweden
? Trails: 250 km☝️ Total vertical: 250 m
? Total descent: 3,731 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:107,038
? Pollution index: 13.94? m3 in town center: 3,159.96 €
? Groceries per month: 240.29 €? 1 large beer: 5.91 €

Orebro on Trailforks

So far, all our towns were in the south of Europe, but the north has lots to offer as well. Orebro is Sweden’s 7th largest city and also home to about 250km of trails. This is not alpine country, so you won’t be able to send it downhill, however with a pollution index at 13.94, it is the cleanest city on our list.

6. Gdansk, Poland

Photo kalafior66/Trailforks
? Trails: 95 km☝️ Total vertical: 127 m
? Total descent: 4,712 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:573,971
? Pollution index: 28.99? m3 in town center: 2,251.84 €
? Groceries per month: 135.73 €? 1 large beer: 1.86 €

Gdansk on Trailforks

The Polish city of Gdansk is not a typical biking destination, but with its low cost of living and plenty of nature right around the city, it is a good place to live as a mountain biker. There is a strong XC scene organizing the annual XC Gdansk competition.

5. Glasgow, UK

Photo jamesmcnairphoto/trailforks
? Trails: 213 km☝️ Total vertical: 487 m
? Total descent: 7,483 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:598,830
? Pollution index:30.00? m3 in town center: 2,895.05 €
? Groceries per month: 203.04 €? 1 large beer: 4.06 €

Glasgow on Trailforks

Even though Glasgow is more expensive to live in than Gdansk, it wins on the trail front in a big way and that’s why it takes 5th place on my list. With over 213km of trails around the city, it is a great place to live. The elevation is not massive, with 487m, but it makes this up with its stunning hills, glens, and forests. There’s a strong biking community that maintainse the trails and even organizes meetups.

4. Brno, Czech Republic

Photo TrailHunterCZ/Trailforks
? Trails: 177 km☝️ Total vertical: 383 m
? Total descent: 13,975 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:377,973
? Pollution index:44.56? m3 in town center: 2,536.03 €
? Groceries per month: 171.18 €? 1 large beer: 1.36 €

Brno on Trailforks

Brno has some amazing trails, including a bike park right next to the city. There’s a well-established biking community building and maintaining trails. As a bonus, you get some of the best beers in the world. Thanks to the university it’s a hip place to live in, with a lot of stuff to do, once you’re done riding.

3. Malaga, Spain

Photo dirtitmore/Trailforks
? Trails: 469 km☝️ Total vertical: 1,143 m
? Total descent: 20,491 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:569,009
? Pollution index:24.54? m3 in town center: 2,642.86 €
? Groceries per month: 187.07 €? 1 large beer: 2.00 €

Malaga on Trailforks

First inhabited some 2800 years ago, Malaga has been around for some time. I can’t say that people back then picked it because it was a great mountain biking spot, but I’m sure glad they did. It has 469 kilometers of trails with epic views and descends all the way to local beaches. Being a Spanish city, the food is on point and so is the wine and nightlife.

2. Banská Bystrica, Slovakia

Photo ANVILfilms/trailforks
? Trails: 385 km☝️ Total vertical: 1,255 m
? Total descent: 22,267 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:78,484
? Pollution index: 25.86? m3 in town center: 1,590 €
? Groceries per month: 169.69 €? 1 large beer: 1.20 €

Banska Bystrica on Trailforks

This one is a hidden gem. Located in the middle of Slovakia, Banska Bystrica is a small historic city that is surrounded by mountains. Ideal for mountain biking. This shows, in the number of trails that are in the immediate surrounding of the city. There’s a strong community of bikers associated in the local BBtrails organization. One of their biggest achievements is the complex of Laskomerske singletrails that were built on the basis of century-old ranger trails.

1. Rijeka, Croatia

Baška Island about 80 km from Rijeka (Photo
? Trails: 1077 km☝️ Total vertical: 1,370 m
? Total descent: 42,783 m?‍?‍?‍? Population:121,975
? Pollution index: 26.17? m3 in town center: 1,373.28 €
? Groceries per month: 183.79 €? 1 large beer: 2.02 €

Rijeka on Trailforks

The winner of our list is Rijeka. This city is better known as a summer beach destination, but mountain biking in the mountains right above Rijeka is even better than sunbathing all day by the sea. If you’d like to get recommendations from locals, hit up the fan page of the local mountain biking community – Team Rodeo.

Mountain biking around Rijeka, Croatian folk music included

8 Tips on Finding Great Deals on Mountain Biking Gear

Helmets, gloves, pads, shoes, lights, bags – you get the idea. Good mountain biking gear can get pretty expensive. And while you can get by with the cheap stuff for a while, eventually you will find yourself wanting to invest in quality gear. But where do you find deals that won’t ruin your wallet?

Here are my favorite ways to save money on mountain biking gear.

1. Buy when you find it, not when you need it

If I stumble on something that is on my wishlist and has a massive discount I try to buy it right away if I can. I’ve been banging my head against the wall so many times for having missed 60% off on something I had to purchase a few weeks later anyway. This is especially true of basics like tires, tubes, brake pads or tools I’ll need.

2. Find deals online

There’s a lot of online retailers that will have sales going on year round. They usually discount items that are one or two seasons old, which is usually no big deal. With clothing you will run into limited sizing and color options, so you will need to do some digging to find the perfect piece. Here are discount pages of the major mountain biking online retailers:

3. Subscribe to newsletters

A comfortable way to get offers in your inbox is to sign up to newsletters. They usually come out weekly and will list stuff that’s on sale across multiple retailers.

Shameless plug: I publish a weekly newsletter with 6 deals and I try to pick stuff that’s off by 50% or more.

You can sign up to MTB Weekly here.

Subscribe to the MTB Weekly Newsletter

Other newsletters that include deals are listed bellow:

4. Deal aggregators

If you want one place to search deals across multiple retailers, you can use a deal aggregators. Here’s a list of a few which aggregate solid deals:

5. Facebook groups & Subredits

A great way to find bargain prices on mountain biking gear is to look at Facebook groups. There’s a lot of them that specialize in mountain biking. They are run by local mountain bikers, I’m including a few bigger ones for the US and UK, but do a quick search on Facebook to find one in your local area.

6. Online Marketplaces

In recent years, the used gear market has grown significantly and this led to the creation of mountain biking specific market places. Some of them purchase gear from you and resell it, some are just a Craigslist for mountain biking.

7. Local bike sales

Local bike sales are a great way to get your hands on used bikes but also on bike tools, helmets and others. Make sure to thoroughly check the quality of anything you buy, especially with protective gear, like helmets. If you see scratches, I recommend staying clear of those. A helmet that has suffered any sort of impact will not protect you as well as a brand new one. Ask at your local bike shop or look around on facebook for bike sales events.

8. Don’t forget to support your local bike store

While it might be tempting to buy all your gear online, it’s good not to forget about your local bike store. A lot of times, these bike stores are supporting the local mountain biking community, building trails, helping new riders with skills workshops and much more. It’s a good idea to support them by purchasing some of your gear there. Singletracks has a nice list of local bike stores by region.


3 Innovations That are Changing Mountain Biking in 2019

The wireless tech boom stops at nothing and, for better or worse, it is coming to mountain biking in 2019 with a bang. We’ve seen early signs in the past years, but with the introduction of Sram’s AXS platform, things are about to speed up and we will probably see other manufactures follow suite with their wireless solutions.

What are the wireless innovations coming in 2019 and where are they going to take mountain biking?

1. Wireless drivetrains

Drivetrains are going through a bit of a revolution lately. I’ve already covered the 1x v 2x debate in a previous post. Now, there are more changes coming with Sram dropping its fully wireless AXS system. It’s a 1×12 drivetrain that looks just like any other, expect there are no wires and the actuation happened electronically at the press of a button. This is the first time, as far as I can tell, that a manufacturer is bringing a mass market ready wireless drivetrain system. We will have to see how others respond, but my hunch is that we will see more wireless systems come out soon.

Photo by Sram

Shimano does have the Di2 system, which is about 4 years old. It is electronic, but not wireless, so you have to run a physical wire between the shifter and derailleurs. Despite this, it brings innovation in a different way, with its Synchro Shift system — a 2×11 that combines the simplicity of a 1x system with the gear range of a 2x one, bringing the best of both worlds. It does this by automatically adjusting the front derailleur based on the gear you choose in the back.

2. Wireless dropper-posts

Dropper-posts are another obvious component that can be stripped of wires. I believe Magura eLect was the first to introduce a wireless dropper post and now Sram has added the RockShox Reverb to the AXS platform.

Photo by Sram

There are a few advantages to a wireless dropper post. First, it has a nearly instantaneous response. With a hydraulic dropper, like the RockShox Reverb, it’s also less prone to issues, since the hydraulic system is enclosed in the seat post. You can also swap these dropper posts between bikes easily, since there are no cables to guide through the frame.

3. Wireless fork & shock controls

Being able to remotely control your lockout on both fork and shock is very useful. There are plenty of cable solutions out there, so you’d think the logical next step would be to make these levers wireless. But Fox decided to skip that altogether and introduced the Live Valve system, which adjusts the damping on both your fork and shock automatically. It takes 3 milliseconds to unlock your suspension when it senses you are going to hit an obstacle for the first time. It then keeps the suspension unlocked for a defined amount of time. And this period changes depending on if you are climbing or going down. It uses a 3-way accelerometer to figure this out. If you are going down, it will keep everything open for a longer period of time, if you are climbing, on the other hand, it will lock out much faster, so you don’t lose momentum.

Cannondale had a similar prototype a few years back, but only for the fork and it was much more complicated than what Fox introduces. Still Live Valve is very expensive at the moment and probably only useful to performance riders.

What about wireless breaks?

This one is a bit tricky and apart from a really rough prototype that came out a few years ago I haven’t seen anyone taking this on. The obvious issue is, that breaks have to work at all times. Whereas a drivetrain that runs out of batteries is still bad, but allows you to get home in one piece, a break that simply stops working when it runs out of juice is a show stopper. The trick is to develop a failsafe that allows the break to operate in some limited mode at all times.

The second challenge is that we’ve become really accustomed to modularity in breaking with hydraulic breaks. A wireless system would have to have the same modularity in order to get adoption.

With that said, it’s not completely unthinkable, so let’s see if someone comes up with wireless breaks.

A fully integrated system?

I think there is a lot of potential in an integrated system. Imagine your seat post dropping, your fork lockout opening up and gears getting into a sweet spot for descends at the press of a button. Sure, some will say that there are situations when they need an unlocked suspension but the seat post up. All that should still be possible. I think it will come down to how well the interface is designed. It has to be simple enough to actually make riding better, and yet modular to work in edge cases. But the potential is there.

Sram is particularly well positioned, because it owns RockShox and other component manufacturers. The batteries on the new AXS system are actually the same for the drivetrain and the dropper post. Maybe it’s a sign of more to come.

Diagnostics and riding recommendations

Another benefit of a fully integrated electronic system is its ability to collect data and serve you with diagnostics and riding recommendations. For instance, it could tell you to adjust your shifting or give you suggestions on how to tweak your suspension based on your riding style much like Quarq’s ShockWiz. Since Quarq is owned by Sram, this could be the next addiotion to their AXS platform.

Still expensive, but prices will eventually drop

Wireless and electronic systems are still very expensive. The top of the line Sram AXS XX1 will set you back $2000 and the X01 sitting one level below is only $100 cheaper. Shimano’s Di2 is about the same price.

Dropper posts are expensive as well. The AXS Reverb is a whopping $800 easily making it one of the most expensive dropper posts.

You also have to factor in the cost of batteries, that will lose their capacity over time and will need to be replaced.

With that said, much like with any other tech that catches on, prices could drop. The question is, whether Sram or Shimano, will be able to persuade enough people to purchase the expensive early models and justify further development.

Security concerns

As with any other wireless tech, people have already voiced concerns around security. Besides reliability, there is also hacking. This can be a particular concern for pro race teams, with rivals hacking into the wireless systems of other riders. I know it sounds far fetched, but we thought mechanical motors hidden in the frames of bikes were far fetched before they became true. Hopefully all manufacturers are investing into the security of their solutions.

How will this change mountain biking?

Just like with other tech advances, you inevitably start thinking about how it’s going to change things. For me, mountain biking is about unplugging from tech. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor, I rarely track my trip on Strava and my bike has 0 electronics on it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a tech hater, it’s just that I need a place and time to disconnect, and mountain biking gives me just that.

And yet, when I was thinking about wireless components I found myself excited about the possibilities. Sure, you have to worry about additional batteries to charge, as if charging our phones, headphones, watches, computers, and tablets was not enough. But, there are obvious positives too. It declutters your bike, it’s easier to maintain and I believe that with time it will bring additional benefits, like a fully integrated experience across components and diagnostics. So the jury is still out for me. I’ll try to get my hands on a bike with wireless components, to fully experience it and I’ll report back.


Should You Get a 1X or 2X Drivetrain?

When I was buying my latest bike I had to chose between a 2x and 1x drivetrain. With almost all manufacturers offering both options in their lineup, it’s another hard choice you need to make. So which one is better a 1x or 2x drivetrain?

The short answer is – it depends. It comes down to the type of rider you are and the terrain you will be riding most. 2x gives you a wider range and makes it easier to tackle steep climbs, while the 1x is much easier to operate and is less prone to chain drops. Let’s look at both options up close to find out which one is right for you.

What does 1x and 2x mean?

The number refers to the number of gears you have. For example, a 1×11 drivetrain will have 1 gear in the front and 11 in the back.

A 1x drivetrain from Sram

Why chose a 1x drivetrain?

The main advantage of 1x can be summed up in one word — simplicity. Because you only have a rear derailleur, you can free up space on your handlebars and use it instead for a dropper post lever. You shift gears with one hand, leaving the other free to drop your post, break or just enjoy an energy bar.

The biggest advantage is probably how a 1x drivetrain lets you focus on your ride, instead of constantly adjusting gears. It’s also less likely that your chain will drop off the front since it’s fixed to one chain ring.

All this does come at a price. There is a noticeable drop between gears, meaning you might not be able to find the right gear every time. You also have less range on a 1x setup. This means that you might be riding on a harder gear up a steep hill then you’d like to.

Pros: weight and space savings, shifting with one hand, less prone to chain drops, easier for new riders

Cons: smaller range of gears making it harder to climb steep ascents, bigger drops between gears make it hard to find the optimal gear

Why is 1x so popular these days?

1x has gained a lot of popularity among riders in the last few years. Fueled by the rise of Enduro racing and technological advances making it possible to attain a working 1x setup. But the 2x system has still a lot of fans. In fact, Shimano did a survey recently and found out that it’s really 50/50 among riders.

However, I ran a small survey in the r/mountianbiking subreddit and the results were more in favor of 2x, again just showing there is no clear winner.

Redditors have spoken

Why chose 2x drivetrain?

A 2x drivetrain from Shimano
A 2x drivetrain from Shimano

If what you are after is better performance on climbs, a 2x is a better option. The main advantage of having a front derailleur is the wide gear range it offers and a smoother transition between gears. The end result is an easier climb on steep ascents. It’s also gives you more confidence to explore and tackle unknown terrain.

The disadvantage is the extra complexity that a front derailleur introduces. For starters you have an extra lever to think about and adjust. It also creates extra clutter and adds weight to your bike. You also run a higher risk of chain drops with this setup. This can be minimized with the addition of a chain guide, but again — that’s more weight and complexity. You also need to tune and maintain an additional derailleur.

Pros: Better gear range and smoother gear transitions resulting in better climbing performance.

Cons: Extra complexity with the maintenance of front derailleur, additional gear shifter on handlebars and a higher chance of chain drops. 

To get a better idea of the gear range a 2x offers, let’s compare it to popular 1x setups:

Range comparison between 1x and 2x
Range comparison between 1x and 2x

Which drivetrain manufacturer is better?

There’s a lot of drivetrain manufacturers, but the biggest by far are Sram and Shimano. If you are buying a mountain bike from any major brand, they will offer both Shimano and Sram options. So what’s the difference?

First off, I think it’s great we have two big names in the game. The end result is constant competition and pushing what’s technologically possible. We benefit every time.

There are a few differences between Sram and Shimano. Most noticeably in the shifting actuation, meaning the distance between shifts in relation to the lever index. 

Shimano has a 1:1 ratio — the cable and derailleur move further between each shift. The end result is crisper shifting with a better feel and sturdiness in muddy terrain.

Sram on the other hand has a 2:1 ratio which creates smoother shifts with less effort. 

The second difference is in the way you shift. Shimano lets you shift with both your thumb and your forefinger, whereas Sram is thumb-operated only. Sram also offers Gripshift with all their setups, letting you shift gears by turning the handlebar grip. It’s available throughout the range and is very popular with performance riders.

Sram is committed to the 1x setup and has only a few 2x options left in the low end spectrum of their lineup. Shimano still offers 2x setups in their high-end and flagship lineup. 

Day to day life with Sram & Shimano

There’s more to it than just ratio difference. I tried to outline a few differences that matter in day-to-day life:

  1. Sram is easier for unmounting the rear wheel: Sram has a unique system that allows you to lock the rear derailleur effectively removing all the tension from the chain and making it easy to unmount the rear wheel.
  2. Sram has a positive click: when you shift on a Sram system you will hear a loud click – some riders like the “positive” click sound giving them a better connection with their bike.
  3. Shimano allows you to shift 2 gears at a time: when going to a harder gear, Shimano lets you shift 2 gears at a time. Sram can only shift 1 gear at a time going to a harder gear. Both systems let you shift multiple gears when going down.
  4. Shimano makes it easier to change the derailleur cable: If you are doing your own cable maintenance, Shimano has easier access to the cable housing and is simpler to work on.

Don’t get me wrong — both systems are great. There are small nuances that make them different and it’s really up to you, which one hits closer to home. Let me know in the comments which is your favorite and why!

Understanding the lineup

Both manufacturers have a different approach to their lineups. Sram is usually the more progressive brand, bringing innovation to market sooner, while Shimano has more options on the higher end of the spectrum. 

Sram and Shimano lineups compared
Sram and Shimano lineups compared

What’s the future of drivetrains?

Technology is making its way into every part of mountain biking and drivetrains are no different. The two main manufacturers Shimano and Sram are fighting this one off with two different approaches to electronic drivetrains.

Synchro shifting from Shimano

Shimano’s approach is the Di2 system, which comes in 3 flavors: It can be a 1×11 setup which operates the rear derailleur electronically rather than with a cable-actuated system, or a 2×11 system with individual controls for the front and the rear derailleur. Shimano also offers their Synchro Shift system — a 2×11 that combines the simplicity of a 1x system with the range of a 2x one, bringing the best of both worlds. It does this by automatically adjusting the front derailleur based on the gear you choose in the back.

Wireless shifting from Sram

Sram has taken a different route with the just announced Eagle AXS system — a fully wireless electrical drivetrain. It’s a 1×12 setup that completely removes the clutter since there are no cables to run.


As with many other things in mountain biking (or life in general) it really comes down to your personal choice. If you are a rider that enjoys climbs and will seek steep hills to climb a 2x drivetrain is a better option for you. If you endure the climb up only to shred downhill, the 1x is a wiser choice. Whatever you pick, don’t forget to enjoy every ride, because that’s what it’s about!


How to find mountain biking trails for beginners

If you’re are just getting started with mountain biking you might be wondering what trails are right for you, and where to find them. Or maybe you’d like to take a friend or significant other that’s just getting started for their first ride. I was recently wondering the same, so I’ve put together a guide to find mountain biking trails for beginners.

I did some research and it turns out that there are already plenty of online and offline resources to find great trails for beginners. There are apps, websites as well as local riding groups that can help you out. Let’s look at what a trail for beginners looks like and where to find it.

What is a good beginner trail?

A beginner trail should be a trail that will introduce the rider to the thrills of mountain biking but won’t scare them off. This makes it a bit challenging to find them. Thankfully a lot of trails are color-coded, either right on the trail head, on maps or in apps that we will discuss bellow.

Look for trail color coding

A lot of trails are marked with pretty standardized color coding: Green, Blue, Red, and Black. We’ll cover Green and Blue trails, as these are best suited for beginners.

Green trails

Beginner trails are usually marked Green. They tend to be flatter and stay clear of steeper climbs or descends. You won’t find any sudden changes in the terrain, or trail features like drops, rock gardens, roll-downs etc.

In maintained trail networks, these trails are usually the intro trails, that lead to more sophisticated ones. The good think about this is, you won’t end up on a Black trail without a way back.

Blue trails

Blue trails are the next level and they are a little more challenging in terms of technique and skills, but usually should be fine for a beginner that has some prior cycling experience.

Using apps to find beginner trails

There’s a long list of apps that rely on local riders to mark and rate trails and have good coverage around the world. So you are very likely to find beginner trails. The most popular ones are listed bellow.


TrailForks App

TrailForks is my personal favorite. It has a lot of local trails and offers free topographic maps, so you will be able to check how challenging the climbs and descends will be. All trails are color-coded, following the system described earlier. It also has a detailed description of the trail, with a graph showing the trail profile. The content is user-generated and a lot of trails include pictures, videos as well as reports on trail conditions and incidents (such as a fallen tree).

MTB Project

MTB Project app

MTB Project is another great app, that has a lot of trails. North America seems to be better covered than Europe and other parts of the world. Trails are well described, color-coded, with topographic maps and pictures to get a good idea of what you will be riding.


Singletracks app

The Singletracks app is another option you can look at, but it gets minus points for a very poor user interface and for the fact that topographic maps are a paid extra. It is hard to justify the purchase, even at $3.99 with all the other great free options out there.


The last app to be mentioned here is the very popular fitness tracking app Strava. This is not a mountain biking app per se, but it has a very useful feature called Segment Explorer. Just go to the More section in the bottom menu, click on Segment Explorer and tap on the filter icon next to the search input. Here you can select Cycling and the Difficulty Range. Picking the first and second option will give you good beginner trails to look at.

Ask a local

Local riders are a great source of trail recommendations and they will also give you an honest account of what to expect. Looking for local mountain biking groups on Facebook is a good start.

Local trails are usually maintained by small non-profits and contacting them is also a great way to find out about trails. Plus you will make new friends that can teach you a lot about riding. Ask them if you can help out with maintaining or building their trails. Trail building is an awesome way to learn about the mechanics of riding.

Go to a bike park

If you are fortunate enough to live close to a bike park, this is another option you can consider. I recommend to research the bike park before your visit. Go to their website and look at the trails they offer. A lot of parks will be for advanced riders only, so keep those for later. If you are unsure, give them a phone call and ask them about options for beginners.

Look around on YouTube

A lot of riders will post videos of their rides on YouTube. This is a great resource to find out more about the trails you found on trail apps or someone recommended you. Or you can just search for the name of your area and a keyword like “mtb” or “riding”. This will give you a good sense of the general terrain and difficulty of trails.

How to prepare for your ride?

Ok, so you found a trail you like. What now?

Come prepaired

Helmet and gloves
Always bring a helmet and gloves

Besides having a bike with sound breaks, it’s also a good idea to bring a helmet. Actually, scratch that – it’s a must! Never ride without one. Not only because everyone else will laugh at you, but also because it’s a smart move.

Other basic protection should include gloves, to protect your palms from falls as well as knee guards. Elbow guards and back protectors are not a must have, but if they make you feel safer, go for it. Also make sure you stay hydrated and have a water bottle, or a hydration pack on you. Last but not least, bring a spare inner tube (or sealant if you are running tubeless) and a mini-tool, just in case something goes wrong.

Learn the trail code of conduct

Trails have a few basic rules, riders should go by to stay out of harms way and to keep from aggravating other riders.

  • Trail direction: Trails can be one direction, or both directions. This can be indicated by signs at the trailhead, or apps like TrailForks and MTB Project will show you this information as well.
  • Respect closed trails: Trails can be closed and while it might look like not much is going on, they are probably closed for a reason. Danger can be looming at a later section of the trail.
  • Help others out: If you find someone that is hurt or needs assistance, always stop and ask them if you can help. If you can’t help, find the quickest way to get assistance.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Trails are a for everyone. You will meet more advanced and less advanced riders. Be respectful of both. If someone wants to go faster, let them pass. If someone is slower, don’t pressure them and make sure both of you are clear on intentions if you wish to overtake them.
  • Respect nature: Don’t ride off trails, don’t damage trees and wildlife and don’t litter.
  • Be friendly to others: Riders usually greet each other, when they cross on trails and generally are very friendly. Just be nice to people.

Follow a few simple steps to gain confidence

Going up is usually more about your fitness than it is about technique. Using all your gears will make your climb much more enjoyable. If you hit a steeper climb it’s a good idea to lean forward so you keep your center of gravity over the rear wheel to maintain traction.

Going down requires a few more skills. Let’s go over them quickly.

Maintain the right posture

Riding down a hill is all about center of gravity. You want to keep it as low as possible. The best way to achieve this is to ride with legs wide like a cowboy (not kidding), push your butt to the back and off the saddle and keep your arms loose and bent to act as an extra shock absorber.

Stay loose while riding

Mountain bikes these days are pretty sophisticated machines that do a great job at going over terrain. The best thing you can do is get out of the way. The best way you can do it is to stay loose on your bike and don’t overcorrect the direction.

Look where you want to go

This might sound clear to everyone, but once you are on your bike you will see that you have a tendency to look right at your front wheel. That’s a recipe for disaster as you won’t have enough time to correct direction. Instead ride with your head straight up and looking far into the distance. Your bike will follow.

Go easy on breaks

Breaks are your friends, but only if you don’t over do it. It’s best to break sequentially, meaning on and off. This way you minimize the risk of falling over your handlebars and if you have disc breaks it will also make them more effective as they won’t overheat.

Maintain momentum

This can be a bit daunting – but going faster makes it easier to go through rougher terrain. Of course, go only as fast as you feel comfortable.

Have fun!

All these tips on finding trails and riding them are nice, but never forget that mountain biking is first and foremost about having fun. You won’t be a pro from day one, but I can guarantee you, you will enjoy it!