The Syndicate Lab
After returning to the hotel from our brief outing we were told to meet outside of the Santa Cruz HQ for a special treat. Joey from Maxxis guided me up through a back door and into an industrial building next to the Santa Cruz HQ. The inside that was once the Wrigley chewing gum factory had been converted into an art gallery and music space. It wasn’t the type of thing I expected.
As we rounded a corner in the hall, I was greeted by two sliding red doors, and a collection of vintage motorcycles. I admired them as I walked up, but I was still confused as to exactly what was going on. The only cue to give away the secret lab was a Santa Cruz floor mat that had been placed out front to welcome us. Inside those sliding doors however, sits the mad laboratory that breeds bikes for some of the best DH riders in the world.
The Syndicate Lab is where the team mechanic, Doug “Dougie Fresh” Hatfield has his workshop and preps for the season. Inside are stacks of parts, tools and of course the team’s bikes. Two V10’s belonging to Minnaar and one for Ratboy sat ready to be ridden. Even better, Luca Shaw and Greg Minnaar were there to tell us about the tires in person and ride with us the next day. Who better to talk to than the man that inspired the new tire? Oh, and there was also pizza, which after our ride was far more enticing to me than anything else.
The Man Himself
According to Minnaar, the tires started as a drawing some two years ago. After a lifetime of experience on the track, Minnaar wanted to make a tire that perfectly suited his needs. Most keen observers will notice that the Assegai tires look like a lot of other Maxxis designs. That was intentional. Instead of starting completely from scratch, Minnaar and the Maxxis team took the best traits from different tires in the Maxxis line up and put them together. Think of the Assegai as a “greatest hits remix” of the Maxxis gravity line.
The knobs on the Assegai are tall, falling right between the height of the DHR II and the Shorty. The similarities to the DHF are clear with the familiar parallel lugs to the left and right of center. In between and down the centerline are ramped and siped center lug to increase traction under braking and pedaling. In between the center lugs and the side lugs is a pair of extra lugs. Minnaar said that these are to aid in traction when transitioning from the center lugs over to the side lugs, which are triple and single siped in an alternating pattern and borrowed from the High Roller II. The side lugs are thick to offer support on hard corners.
The Assegai is offered in both 27.5” and 29” wheel sizes but is currently only offered in a dual ply DH casing. Given the intended market of these tires, Maxxis’ ultra-sticky 3C MaxxGrip rubber was the compound of choice. Though no dates were given, the team hinted that the tire will also be available in less aggressive casings and compounds later this year. That’s good news for the weight weenies in the crowd because the 27.5 Assegai tires I was on weighed 1,254 grams each.
You’ll notice that despite playing a large role in the design of the tire, Greg Minnaar’s name is absent from the sidewall. Instead, he chose to name the tire “Assegai” as a nod to his homeland of South Africa and the iron-tipped spear used by the Zulu people.