Maxxis have often been derided as the cheap, unglamourous alternative to leading, premium tyre brands but with the launch of their Supermaxx ST the huge Taiwanese manufacturer are determined to see that change. And on the strength of our test we’re in little doubt it will.
The ST is a sports-touring tyre designed for middle and heavyweight machines. It’s an all-new design that’s been five years in the making and features the latest tech such as a radical ‘Lightning Strike’ tread pattern, spiral steel belts and a high silica content compound, BSB veteran Chris Walker was one of the development riders.
The ST goes on sale from January with a suggested retail price of £197 a pair, undercutting better-known rivals by around £30.
What are they like?
The first indication of how ambitious Maxxis are about changing its image and taking on the ‘big boys’ came with the venue chosen for our test. There’s nothing ‘budget’ about the phenomenal Ascari racing complex near Ronda in Southern Spain, which Maxxis rented for the occasion. Ascari is a playboys’ motoring playground, a glorious 3.65–mile (the longest in Spain), 26-corner track commissioned by a Dutch oil tycoon Klaas Zwart and accompanied by swimming pool, restaurant, hotel, lavish changing rooms and a huge garage rammed with every kind of racing exotica. It’s like the Spyder Club on steroids. Membership can cost anything up to €200,000.
But, even though a sport-touring tyre rather than an out-and-out track hoop, the new Maxxis Supermaxx ST was in no way found wanting. An impressive variety of test bikes were available ranging from GSR750 and Z800 middleweight roadsters to 1000cc sportsbikes right up to ZZ-R1400 and Hayabusa hyperbikes and the STs impressed on them all.
The front, in particular, stood out, being both precise and stable while never lacking grip even under the most extreme riding conditions on whatever type of bike. That said, its firm rigidity, a result presumably of the spiral steel belts used for extra sidewall strength, marked it out as a sports-touring tyre, rather than as a softer pure sports one, but that’s in no way a criticism.
The rear impressed, too. On the bigger, more powerful machines, some movement, slight squirming and, at extremes, minimal, controllable slides were experienced but only when really pushing hard powering out of turns. The rest of the time it was impressively grippy, stable and predictable. But on the smaller, lighter bikes, such as the impressively nimble and taut Kawasaki Z800, there was none of that: the rear always tracking predictably, firmly and with more than enough grip. Not at all bad for a so-called ‘budget’, sport-touring tyre.
Maxxis-contracted tester/ambassador Chris Walker was present at Ascari and pushed most of the bikes to the very limit and even he couldn’t find them lacking. As he said: “I can honestly say they are up there with the best from the leading manufacturers” which, perhaps, he might be expected to say. But having also seen him scratch them to the limit, I’ve also no reason to doubt him.
The following day we sampled the new tyres on the fabulous Spanish roads surrounding Ascari near Ronda. An 150-mile ‘loop’ comprising everything from nadgy, bumpy and narrow, hairpin-strewn B-roads to fast and smooth A-roads had been concocted and, as expected (as the demands on the ST’s grip were nowhere near as intense as they had been around Ascari), Maxxis’ newcomer took it all in its stride. Stabilty was without criticism, whether aboard relatively sprightly Suzuki GSR750 or heavyweight blaster ZZ-R1400, ride was fine, grip was never found wanting.
Of course, in the process of a two-day test, however perfect the environment, questions inevitably remain unanswered – wear and durability being the obvious one. That said, on track, the ST’s never chewed up or even ‘blued’, the latter being due, according to Maxxis’ technicians, to the ST’s unusually high silica content. While, Maxxis themselves claim the ST’s durability to be at least the match of all rivals, however premium.
When you add all that lot up there’s no doubting the ST’s an impressive tyre and, at a £30 saving over those aforesaid rivals, a tempting choice. Maybe in a few years time Maxxis will be ‘up there with the big boys’ after all.
Maxxis Supermaxx ST, £197
For which bikes: 600cc-plus nakeds, sports tourers and sportsbikes.
Sizes available. Front: 120/60 x 17 and 120/70 x 17. Rear: 160/60 x 17; 180/55 x 17 and 190/50 x 17. Available at the beginning of 2016.
Pictures by Tim Keeton