Specialized Butcher Grid Gravity T9 compound tyre test

Test: Specialized MTB tyres with new compounds

Christian , Florian & Julian 17. September 2020

Flo, Chris and Julian tested out the new Specialized Butcher & Eliminator MTB tyres with the new T7 & T9 compounds. The results: unbelievable grip!

In recent years, the bike manufacturer that makes its own tyres has Specialized developed into a full-fledged contender when it comes to traction and control. On a par with experts such as Schwalbe, Maxxis or Continental (to name only a few), the Morgan Hill-based company has successfully established itself among the field of contenders. Indeed, some are already murmuring about a “hidden gem” in the world of bicycle tyres.

 

Three Brand-New Rubber Compounds

For the beginning of the 2021 season, the Californians have completely revamped their selection of mountain bike tyres. Not only were we able to get an extensive look behind the scenes of their development and production processes - we were also lucky enough to get our hands on both trail and enduro models, the Eliminator and the Butcher, in advance to better test their capabilities. (For your benefit, of course.)
At the heart of the range are three brand-new rubber compounds: the T5, T7 and T9, all of which are used on the popular Eliminator, Butcher and Hillbilly models (depending on their use), and which also form the basis of the Grid, Grid Trail and new Grid Gravity carcasses. (The “T,” by the way, stands for "Tread Compound.")

Specialized Butcher Grid Gravity T9 Compound

Florian: The Fast All-Rounder

Specialized Butcher Grid Gravity T9 Compound

Julian: The All-Mountain Biker

Specialized Butcher Grid Gravity T9 Compound

Christian: The Endurist

The Right Compound for Every Application

Specialized differentiates its new compounds according to their intended usage. T5 is the compound for cross-country cycling, especially the aggressive kind: fast rolling, agile steering and low wear. T7 is the compound for all types of trail biking, and is already gaining influence in the Enduro sector. Its particularly well-balanced ratio of rolling resistance and grip makes this compound an all-rounder, and its smooth self-damping reduces rider fatigue. Finally,T9 is the Gravity compound with infinite traction reserves and further enhanced self-damping, ensuring that the tyre literally sticks to the ground instead of careening out of control. This compound is intended primarily for enduro and downhill riders and racers.

The Right Carcass for the New Compounds

Not every compound can be paired with every carcass. After all, who wants a lightweight S-Works tyre with a gravity compound? (Seriously: who?) Specialized, however, offers almost every tyre model in at least two carcasses and compound types. They make it so that everyone can find the right tyre to create their dream front and rear combination-- you know, just like us! Our testers Chris, Flo and Julian rode with a Butcher T9 on the front wheel and Eliminator T7 on the rear, each measuring 29 x 2.3 inches.

Perfect scenery for big tyres: Flo was on the road for a week in the Alps, and was able to test the Specialized MTB tyres extensively.

Perfect scenery for big tyres: Flo was on the road for a week in the Alps, and was able to test the Specialized MTB tyres extensively.

Specialized Butcher with T9 Compound and Grid Gravity carcass: plenty of grip and puncture protection for the front wheel

Specialized Butcher with T9 Compound and Grid Gravity carcass: plenty of grip and puncture protection for the front wheel

Specialized Eliminator with T7 Compound on the tread, T9 on the shoulder knobs: the perfect rear wheel combination for fast-yet-grippy cycling

Specialized Eliminator with T7 Compound on the tread, T9 on the shoulder knobs: the perfect rear wheel combination for fast-yet-grippy cycling

Flo: The Fast All-Rounder

"Fast and pretty rough on materials" is how our social media colleague Flo describes his riding style. All the more surprising is that he did not go for the virtually indestructible Grid Gravity carcass, but opted instead for the lighter Grid Trail carcass, which the manufacturer recommends for all-purpose use with reinforcements on the sidewall and tyre bed. The do-it-all concept is a perfect fit for his bike, a Santa Cruz Megatower with lightweight bc original Loamer wheelset. Flo says he is not what one would call a professionally tyre tester, mainly because he has remained faithful to only a handful of models so far. He was understandably sceptical as to whether he would perceive any difference. His expectations, however, seem to have been exceeded: "After the first few descents, I had already developed the distinct impression of having more grip and stability. I trusted the tyre almost immediately, and really pushed it to see how much traction it could build up.” Flo indicated that the front-mounted Butcher’s high-traction T9 compound, with its structurally stable-yet-soft outer knobs, allowed him to push the wheel aggressively into extreme corners. Grip, grip, grip - Flo repeats this over and over, and in his expression you can see a real admiration for these new compounds. If you are looking for maximum traction with reasonable weight and rolling resistance, you should definitely consider a Butcher-Eliminator combination. (By the way, Flo had zero issues with durability.)

Flo: "I trusted the tyre almost immediately, and really pushed it to see how much traction it could build up.”

Flo: "I trusted the tyre almost immediately, and really pushed it to see how much traction it could build up.”

Grip, grip, grip: the central argument for the new rubber compounds

Grip, grip, grip: the central argument for the new rubber compounds

Chris: The Endurist

Chris, more professionally known as Christian Derkum, works in Product Management. You may recognise from our riding technique videos. But Chris is not only a product manager and technique coach--he is also an Enduro World Series participant. Simply put, our friend has a lot of experience behind the wheel. He mounted the new Specialized compounds with the Grid Gravity carcass on a Yeti SB150 and on 30 mm-wide DT Swiss rims. As far as preferences go, he prioritises feedback, grip and puncture resistance over other aspects such as weight. To get a clearer overall picture of their capabilities, Chris took the new tyres out for a spin on the familiar trails of his home town, which he describes as being dry, dusty and littered with a fair amount of roots and rocks. His impression? "These tyres are round! Perhaps you’re thinking I could be a little more specific, but I mean exactly that: these tyres are round. They are unnoticeable in the best possible way, very predictable and stick well to the trail. Basically, they perform the way they’re supposed to." That being said, Chris also mentions that the tyre can easily be pushed into curves and follow the rider’s intended path with increased stability. He attributes this mainly to the knob pattern which, together with the knob strength and new compounds, means that the shoulder knobs can take on a lot in terms of load and traction. As an added bonus, the tyre is also very easy to mount tubeless, particularly when it comes to the stable gravity carcass. At the same time, Chris points out that the 29-inch is already punching above its weight, and so recommends it especially for enduro and downhill riders or those who value maximum puncture protection, including e-mountain bikers in search of a stable and high-traction tyre. Chris laughs as he says "If you’re at all a weight-conscious rider, don’t look at the scale.” For him, tyres are always a matter of personal taste. For those in the know, however, the new Specialized tyres are worth more than just a quick recommendation.

For Chris, feedback, grip and puncture resistance are more important than the lowest possible weight.

For Chris, feedback, grip and puncture resistance are more important than the lowest possible weight.

Tyres with the new rubber compound can be easily pushed into curves and follow the chosen path with stability.

Tyres with the new rubber compound can be easily pushed into curves and follow the chosen path with stability.

Julian: All-Mountain

Like Flo, brand manager Julian used the versatile Grid Trail carcass for his test. He mounted a Butcher up front and an Eliminator on the back of his Santa Cruz Hightower V1 - the lightest bike with the lowest travel in its class. Julian primarily rides on all-mountain and enduro tours; in addition to traction and puncture protection, low rolling resistance is also a priority for him, regardless if he’s doing long stretches across the gruelling terrain of the Ardennes or the Eifel, or just mixing it up on the familiar trails near his Aachen home.
It was in this latter location where the new compounds’ advantages really stood out to him: "My first impression was very positive. As I live in the middle of Aachen, I have to go across nearly five kilometres of asphalt and gravel roads before I’m able to get on the trail. In regards to rolling resistance and noise, the tyres made for a very pleasant ride.” Julian is not only enthusiastic about their efficiency--he’s happy to extol their virtues in terms of traction, too. (Honestly, what good are the lightest rolling tyres if they don’t have decent grip?) In the late summer season, Julian has taken to traversing sandy and dusty paths as well as wet and muddy root systems, all of which make for perfect conditions to test the tyres’ all-round capabilities. "I had an overall safe riding experience,” he says. “Both tyres offered sufficient grip and lateral stability, and despite all the bumps here and there I never got the feeling that punctures could be an issue."
Easy tubeless mounting, Julian emphasises, further improves puncture protection. Whether you’re using an affordable Schwalbe Tire Booster, or a special Tubeless-Pump with a high pressure reservoir such as the stylish Crankbrothers Klic, you’ll find that an expensive and noisy compressor is not necessary. Those who prefer slightly higher pressure for more feedback (regardless of tubeless) will also be rewarded with the self-damping properties of the new Specialized tyres, which are quite remarkable for such a light and well-rolling tyre. Out-of-control jumps and bouncing are a thing of the past. "All in all, they’re great tyres,” Julian concludes. “They’re perfect for All-Mountain to Enduro cycling. I had never ridden Specialized tires before this, so I couldn’t comment on or judge their performance. The first few go-rounds, however, have been utterly eye-opening. The workmanship is fantastic and the tyres get the job done without issue. I can definitely imagine riding with Specialized tyres in the long run."

Low rolling resistance is important to Julian: "I have to go across nearly 5 km of asphalt and gravel roads before I’m able to get on the trail.” In regards to rolling resistance and noise, the tyres made for a very pleasant ride."

Low rolling resistance is important to Julian: "I have to go across nearly 5 km of asphalt and gravel roads before I’m able to get on the trail.” In regards to rolling resistance and noise, the tyres made for a very pleasant ride."

"I had never ridden on Specialized tyres before this, so I couldn’t comment on or judge their performance. Testing them has shown me that the workmanship is fantastic and these tyres can get the job done flawlessly."

"I had never ridden on Specialized tyres before this, so I couldn’t comment on or judge their performance. Testing them has shown me that the workmanship is fantastic and these tyres can get the job done flawlessly."