Maxxis Severe tire review – hyper fast for wet racing, sketchy for trail

Maxxis Severe is a blisteringly fast tire for wet racing but it’s not a wet trail all rounder

Maxxis Severe MTB tire being ridden
(Image: © Maxxis)

BikePerfect Verdict

Blisteringly fast race/fast trail rubber with impressive wet ground grip, instant self cleaning and decent durability. Still needs care on roots and rocks though and pricing is likely premium.

Pros

  • +

    Superfast roll whatever the conditions

  • +

    Cuts better into slop than a typical race slick

  • +

    Relatively tough and long lived

  • +

    Easy tubeless fit

Cons

  • -

    Only one size

  • -

    Very limited wet root/rock grip

  • -

    Aggressive lean angles need a lot of care

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Recent updates

We originally gave the Maxxis Severe a 4.5 star rating, but have downgraded it to 3.5 stars and updated this review after long term testing.

The Maxxis Severe tyre is one of the fastest XC MTB tires we’ve used. Compared to a slick style race tire it adds noticeable extra bite when tracks are soft and wet. It’s way off the bite and control levels of most fast trail tires (including the old Maxxis Forekaster) though and suffers from the usual high Maxxis pricing as well.

Design and specification

Maxxis have stuck with their usual 120tpi EXO casing (only Nino Schurter and pro friends get the ultra expensive 170tpi version) but in a 2.25in width rather than the theoretically 2.3-2.4in widths of most Maxxis XC tires. All Maxxis race tires (Ikon, Aspen, Rekon Race) are switching from a multi compound MaxxSpeed mix to a new single compound recipe with a much higher silica content than previously. Maxxis say the tech comes from their road race tires but we’re seeing a lot of brands using a similar approach now.

The tread pattern is totally new for Maxxis too, with alternating, slightly angled siped cleats (they look a lot like tiny versions of the paired cleats on a DHF) along the centreline. A sparse population of intermediate sideways siped blocks dots the shoulder and small inline siped rhombus blocks sit just above the outer edge of the carcass.

Close up of the tred on the Maxxis Severe mtb tire

The Severe tread is new for Maxxis but looks a lot like the legendary Dugast Rhino cyclocross mud tire  (Image credit: Maxxis)

Performance

Inflation is typically easy for a Maxxis tire and they popped up tubeless on several different rims with casual track pump use. That’s particularly useful for privateer racers as it means your arms and nerves won’t be trashed if you decide to switch rubber after a course check. The 57mm width (at 19psi on a 28mm internal rim) makes it as wide as a lot of tires – including Maxxis own Forekaster – that claim to be 2.35/2.4in. Both tires came in at exactly 750g too which is heavier than pure race rubber, but is reassuring both in terms of accurate quality control but also rocky impact survival. That’s been played out true over the past six months where I’ve regularly hit the rim without inserts in and the sidewalls are still fine. There’s been no burping or pressure loss so you can run them reasonably soft even on rooty/rocky trails. 

While carcass size is relatively small, ride feel is the familiar Maxxis XC blend between encouragingly energetic and controlled enough not to flick, skid or bounce off in weird directions. The new silica compound is also conspicuously quick and combined with the centreline style tread means the Severe’s roll a lot faster than a lot of much slicker looking rubber. Maxxis claim 30 percent lower rolling resistance on a drum – which equates to a minute gain over a ninety minute cross country race – and they also claim better durability too.

The wide open tread (it looks a lot like the legendary Dugast Rhino cyclo cross tire) means they clean instantly rather than clogging too so sticky grass slogs or bottomless swamps are a lot cleaner and quicker than normal too. Unsurprisingly there’s more bite than a slicker XC tire, so if you’re wanting more grip in without dropping gears then they’re a winner. They’ve kept a good cutting edge through a full summer of riding and single compound means you’ll get consistent performance in terms of grip as they wear.

Compared to old ‘fast + wet’ Maxxis tires – like the original Forekaster and the very skinny but remarkably tenacious Beaver (if you remember that far back) – overall grip levels are a lot lower. Simply put, there’s just enough intermediate tread to give consistent contact at the kind of intermediate lean angles that feel extreme in wet conditions. The inline centre tread lacks any paddle effect for braking or drive. The super hard silicon compound slides and slips on hard edges like rocks and roots too. 

Maxxis Severe MTB tire in deep mud

The Severe is crazy quick in all conditions and refuses to clog up even in clay. Hard silicon compound and wide spacing undermine all round grip and control though. (Image credit: Roo Fowler Bike Connection Agency)

Verdict

If you want to attack wet and soggy, old school / cyclo cross-style XC courses without suffering any loss of speed compared to a slick, then the new Severe is a blisteringly fast tire. The MaxxSpeed compound and EXO carcass means it lasts well enough to offset the premium cost. 

To be honest I probably let the psychosomatic Maxxis effect (they make very few bad tires) get in the way of my optimistic original review assessment too. The more I’ve ridden them through a soggy summer and into a wet winter, the more I’ve become increasingly frustrated at the sudden slips and tire spins on the trail. As a result they came off the front of my test bikes a while ago in favor of the original Forekaster tire when I’ve needed speed and the new Forekaster when I’ve needed trail style grip. I’ve actually returned to slicker tread but softer rubber options like the previous generation Recon Race for more consistent mixed surface grip on the rear too, though for pure slop it still has a place.

Tech specs: Maxxis Severe tire

  • Price: $93.00 / £69.99
  • Sizes: 29 x 2.25in only
  • Options: MaxxSpeed single compound only
  • Weight: 750g
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy has been working on Bike Perfect since launch in 2019. He started writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg