Getting aboard these ‘blast from the past’ tyres was like a reunion with an old friend. Back in the 90s Z-Maxes were popular all-rounders and it’s easy to see why: they grip well across a range of surfaces and when they let go they do so gradually and predictably.
Unlike tyres intended for specific conditions they’re not fantastic in any particular department but they’re good across a wide enough range of situations that if you don’t know what you’re likely to encounter they’re a solid choice.
At 760g each they’re not going to win any awards for light weight, but the tread rolls nice and quickly on hard-packed surfaces so they feel lighter.
In this UST tubeless incarnation, The Z-Maxes benefit from stiffer sidewalls which means you can run them at lower pressures than the standard version would tolerate. The very thin carcass was always a bit of a weakness of the very light originals. We got plenty of grip at 25-30 psi without feeling like the sidewalls wanted to fold.
The ability of tubeless tyres to ward off pinch punctures is a boon in rocky conditions like the trails around Sydney.
The one place the Z-Max tread really fails is in thick, sticky, clay-based mud. If you ride in that stuff regularly then you already know you need very specific mud tyres, and you won’t be adding Z-Maxes to your shopping list.
The biggest problem we had was that the Z-Maxes were extraordinarily hard to fit to our Bontrager tubeless wheels. UST tyres have to be a snug fit, but we can usually persuade them on to the rim with bare hands and maybe a little help from a plastic tyre lever to finish the last few inches. There’s now a rattle in one wheel where a plastic tyre lever tip snapped off in the Z-Maxes and we resorted to steel-core tyre levers to force them into place.
As usual you pay a premium for UST, which seems a bit unreasonable on a tyre whose tread pattern has been around since the early 90s. They are made in Japan though, which is a mark of quality and pretty uncommon in tyres these days.
In case you’re confused – we were – this is a tyre with two names. Richey lists them as Z-Max Classic Pro Tubeless but marks the sidewall Ritchey ZMax Millennium Pro UST. Same thing.
Australian price: AU$89