Specialized
Tyres

Specialized_MTB_Reifen_T-Compounds_XL Header Desktop_02_DE.png
Specialized_MTB_Reifen_T-Compounds_XXL Header Mobile_02_DE.png

T7 & T9: the new MTB Tyre Compounds from Specialized

"Damping and grip are the key characteristics of the new rubber compounds from Specialized, with which the Butcher, Eliminator and Hillbilly MTB tyres start the next season. We have already tested the T7 and T9 compounds and are very excited with our results. The new tires will enable you to stick to the trail even when the going gets tough."

Christoph, Product Management
specialized-s-logo-red.png
With completely new rubber compounds developed in Germany, Specialized is sending its tried-and-tested MTB tyre models Eliminator and Butcher into the coming season. The ultimate goal was to develop compounds with balanced damping and outstanding grip to give you the secure feeling of never losing the trail under your tyres. The results of the painstaking search for the perfect rubber compounds are the Tread Compounds T7 and T9. The “T” stands for tread compound, and the number indicates the degree of damping and road grip on a scale of 1 to 10.
T7

T7 is a blend for trail biking of all styles, offering a very well-balanced ratio of rolling resistance and grip along with comfortable self-damping that filters high-frequency vibrations emanating from the trail, which enables a smooth ride.

T9

T9 is the super grip Gravity compound which offers exceptional traction reserves while absorbing all shocks from the trail so that the tyre literally sticks to the ground. Optimal for enduro and downhill racers looking for maximum damping and grip.

Road Tyres

More about Specialized

specialized-wordmark_white.png
The Specialized Tire Lab: The Search for the Perfect Rubber Compound
It all began with a bicycle tyre. Or, actually, in 1974, with the realisation that there were no high-quality tyres for cyclists. The desire to remedy this situation led to the birth of Specialized, which has since become one of the bicycle industry’s main trendsetters, thanks to its drive to seek out and bring forth innovative ideas and solutions. What’s less well-known is the fact that Specialized tyres are among the company's own developments. Did you know that the Specialized Tire Lab is located in Bielefeld, Germany? The company has been developing treads, assembling carcasses and formulating rubber compounds since 2012, constantly searching for the best grip and the highest performance. In other words, all the makings for the best mountain and racing bike tyres.

Specialized Test Laboratory for Bicycle Tyres

The tyre jumped off the rim with a surprisingly powerful "rumble," splashing water with enormous force against the glass through which we observed the burst pressure test. That is to say, we should have seen this, but of course we did not witness this crucial moment. In said moment, the building water pressure in the tube blows the tyre completely off the rim, and indicates how much pressure can be applied to the tyre before this happens. Oliver repeats the test for the camera, but the second attempt is far from spectacular, since this time the tube doesn't burst but is rather pushed out like a thick sausage.
Oliver Kiesel and Wolf vom Walde lead a team of five in the Specialized Tire Lab in Bielefeld, Germany. Over the past years they have gradually built out the test laboratory, which stands adjacent to their offices. They can now not only determine the burst pressure, but also measure the tyres’ rolling resistance and perform various tear and puncture tests.

The burst pressure test: The tyre is gradually inflated with water

The burst pressure test: The tyre is gradually inflated with water

The pressure at which the tyre flies off the rim is measured

The pressure at which the tyre flies off the rim is measured

Missing the decisive moment: The tyre jumped off the rim and the inner tube burst with enormous pressure

Missing the decisive moment: The tyre jumped off the rim and the inner tube burst with enormous pressure

The 2nd attempt was not quite so spectacular: the tube remained intact.

The 2nd attempt was not quite so spectacular: the tube remained intact.

The puncture test shows how much force is required to puncture the carcass with a sharp object

The puncture test shows how much force is required to puncture the carcass with a sharp object

Rolling resistance test in the Specialized Tire Lab

Rolling resistance test in the Specialized Tire Lab

Tread, Carcass, Rubber Compound: In-House Development at Specialized

The past years have led Oliver and Wolf to further develop and refine their in-depth knowledge of bicycle tyres. Together they share many years of experience in the bicycle industry, and their enthusiasm for working with tyres is clearly noticeable. Oliver is responsible for racing and gravel tyres, while MTB tyres are Wolf's speciality. From the development and sketching of various profiles, to the construction of the carcass and composition of the right rubber compounds, everything is in their hands.
"Tread development is certainly the most complex issue," says Wolf as he leads us through the rooms, as we come to a stop before a shelf filled with all kinds of samples and 3D printings of Specialized tyre treads. "But here we are, very far along on the basis of our experience, having broadly expanded our range of profiles for various applications with very satisfactory results."
Everything else, such as the optimal construction of the carcass and the composition of the best rubber compounds, is based above all on trial and error, experimentation and testing.

The fruits of meticulous labour: MTB tyres with new rubber compounds

The fruits of meticulous labour: MTB tyres with new rubber compounds

The development of the right profile for the respective application is a complicated matter

The development of the right profile for the respective application is a complicated matter

Wolf vorm Walde (left) leads us through the office and test laboratory of the Specialized Tire Lab in Bielefeld

Wolf vorm Walde (left) leads us through the office and test laboratory of the Specialized Tire Lab in Bielefeld

"The most exciting moment is when you order a fully-developed tyre for the first time and then, after months of work and waiting, finally get your hands on it."

"The most exciting moment is when you order a fully-developed tyre for the first time and then, after months of work and waiting, finally get your hands on it."

The Holy Grail of Rubber Compounds

The search for the perfect rubber compound has further driven the duo over the past five years. "We used to have one rubber compound for all our tyres, the GRIPTON® compound. However, we received feedback from our professional drivers that the tyre loses some grip in wet weather conditions", Wolf explains. This issue piqued their curiosity, and thus initiated a meticulous search into explaining “why” this happens “how” to address the problem. They found the perfect partner to join their quest for the holy grail of rubber compounds: QEW Engineered Rubber, a mid-sized compound manufacturer from the Netherlands, with an infectious enthusiasm and downright passion for flexible materials made of long-chain polymers. "We are star chefs here", says Peter Stello, Managing Director and owner of QEW, as he welcomed us during our visit to Hoogezand, Netherlands. This intriguing statement stays with us throughout the entire tour, coming together at the end as we watch machines knead the individual ingredients into a solid mass. Such a sight will never allow us to forget that good pasta and good rubber compounds have much more in common than one would imagine.

There are up to 500 different ingredients in the compound development

There are up to 500 different ingredients in the compound development

The right proportion of ingredients is essential to ensure that the rubber compound ultimately measures up to expectations

The right proportion of ingredients is essential to ensure that the rubber compound ultimately measures up to expectations

A wide assortment of rubber. Natural rubber exudes a subtle scent of beeswax - one of the less expected scents in a rubber factory...

A wide assortment of rubber. Natural rubber exudes a subtle scent of beeswax - one of the less expected scents in a rubber factory...

The mixing area in the test laboratory: every gram is accounted for

The mixing area in the test laboratory: every gram is accounted for

Ingredients for the test mixture

Ingredients for the test mixture

If the appropriate recipe is available, the scale is increased

If the appropriate recipe is available, the scale is increased

A glimpse into the future: research is currently underway on how to develop rubber from dandelion roots

A glimpse into the future: research is currently underway on how to develop rubber from dandelion roots

Fundamental Research: Of Rubber and Polymers

Around 3,000 compound recipes are stored in the manufacturing database, with more than 500 different ingredients which, depending on their application, prevent buildings from collapsing in earthquakes, ensure aircraft and automotive vehicles maintain optimum ground contact, or which protect tomatoes and peaches from being crushed in transit. Whether it’s doormats, kitchen utensils or rubber seals, the range of applications for the material we simply call “rubber” is nearly infinite, and the knowledge contained in this ever-expanding ingredients list is far from exhausted. Specialized is the first and so far the only partner to work with QEW in the realm of bicycle tyres. "This ensures exclusivity for our tyres," says Wolf with a smile. They have worked together on many recipes over the past five years, trying and testing again and again. "Finding the right compounds for bicycle tyres and their various applications is by no means a trivial issue," says Peter. "You want a lot of grip with relatively little weight on the tyres, but also little rolling resistance and weight in the end product. Without a doubt, the trick here is to search for an optimal compromise." Thus begins the process of stirring up new mixtures, testing and drawing the right conclusions from the data. "We've been conducting some absolutely fundamental research here," says Wolf, looking back on their joint work. They have also worked in cooperation with the Hanover-based German Institute for Rubber Technology, where they have, among other things, carried out "rubber eraser tests", also known as abrasion tests, in order to determine and describe the wear of certain compounds. "All the work was worth it!" claims Wolf. The T5, T7 and T9 compounds address every cyclist’s needs, from cross-country riders demand for speed and good grip even in wet conditions, to downhill riders seeking plenty of grip and shock absorption.

The dough... um... Rubber kneader in the test laboratory

The dough... um... Rubber kneader in the test laboratory

First the rubber is put into the machine

First the rubber is put into the machine

Little by little, the other ingredients are added

Little by little, the other ingredients are added

The kneading mechanism of the machine: two interlocking tumbling shafts mix the ingredients together by applying pressure

The kneading mechanism of the machine: two interlocking tumbling shafts mix the ingredients together by applying pressure

Everything is well mixed. Heat is generated during kneading, which supports the mixing process

Everything is well mixed. Heat is generated during kneading, which supports the mixing process

Compound raw mass

Compound raw mass

The rubber raw material is then repeatedly passed through two rollers

The rubber raw material is then repeatedly passed through two rollers

Elastic band

Elastic band

In between, the mass is weighed to ensure that there is no residue left in the machine that could ruin the next mixture

In between, the mass is weighed to ensure that there is no residue left in the machine that could ruin the next mixture

More kneading...

More kneading...

...until the rubber mass is evenly mixed

...until the rubber mass is evenly mixed

The abrasion test shows how quickly (or slowly) the material wears

The abrasion test shows how quickly (or slowly) the material wears

Why are bike tyres always black?

(Or: the parmesan in the pasta)
On average, a rubber compound for bicycle tyres is made up of about 15 different ingredients. With 500 potential ingredients to choose from, the number of possible combinations is seemingly endless. High absorption? Low rolling resistance? Lots of grip? Long mileage? Anything is possible. The only question is: How much of what and when? In the QEW laboratory, various compositions were first mixed together in small quantities and tested to determine their properties. We got a more thorough understanding of this process during the tour:
from the meticulous measuring of individual ingredients, kneading them all together, to measuring the absorption and compression capacity of the finished mixtures. The morning’s experience really showed us how much enthusiasm and care is put into every last detail. Indeed, the machines mixing the solid raw materials are reminiscent of oversized pasta kneaders. Soot is added as one of the final ingredients, which not only gives the rubber its signature black colouring, but also endows it with essential strength and permanent elasticity. The vulcanization process is triggered by heat input ranging from 120° to 180° C. "Think of this like the parmesan on your spaghetti," says Peter. "Without the carbon black that bonds and solidifies the long-chain polymers of natural or synthetic rubber, your tyre wouldn't hold together for 40 kilometres." It also makes the rubber more resilient to environmental ageing caused by UV radiation and various weather conditions.

Samples for the next series of tests in the compound manufacturing laboratory are prepared

Samples for the next series of tests in the compound manufacturing laboratory are prepared

The bounce test determines the the rubber compound’s degree of damping

The bounce test determines the the rubber compound’s degree of damping

The test is repeated 3 times per sample to ensure that results are correct

The test is repeated 3 times per sample to ensure that results are correct

Testing the deformation properties of the compounds: This determines how much force is required to compress the compound by 25%

Testing the deformation properties of the compounds: This determines how much force is required to compress the compound by 25%

From the test laboratory to the factory: the mixing machine has slightly different dimensions here and extends over three floors

From the test laboratory to the factory: the mixing machine has slightly different dimensions here and extends over three floors

Ingredients on a grand scale, seen here for an oil-resistant compound

Ingredients on a grand scale, seen here for an oil-resistant compound

Gradually, the components of this mixture are added to the kneader

Gradually, the components of this mixture are added to the kneader

After the first mixing process, the mass is passed through several rollers

After the first mixing process, the mass is passed through several rollers

With each pass the mixture becomes more homogeneous

With each pass the mixture becomes more homogeneous

And on we go to cool down

And on we go to cool down

Rubber sheets

Rubber sheets

Ready for delivery to the customer, who will give the compound its final shape

Ready for delivery to the customer, who will give the compound its final shape

Wolf (left) and Oliver with the fruits their labour: Butcher and Eliminator with the new T7 and T9 compounds

Wolf (left) and Oliver with the fruits their labour: Butcher and Eliminator with the new T7 and T9 compounds

The Fruits of Their Labour: T5, T7 and T9

Together with QEW, Wolf and Oliver have been perfecting recipes for new compounds for Specialized MTB tyres over the past few years. With great enthusiasm, they show us the damping properties of the three different compounds on various measuring devices, demonstrate the elasticity of the material and describe their influence on the riding feel of the finished tyres. "Our goal was to create compounds that give you the safe feeling of never losing contact with the ground and always having your bike under control on trails," Wolf explains. "The process was a long one, because we had to work meticulously to gain detailed knowledge about the correct composition of the materials and their influence on the tyre’s riding characteristics. Fortunately, we are extremely satisfied with the result!”
However, the new tyres were not only measured and tested in laboratories. Numerous test drivers, from amateurs to professionals, have put the tyres through their paces, providing the lab with feedback and thus advancing development further.
We at bike-components have also tested Butcher and Eliminator MTB tyres with the new T7 and T9 compounds for you in advance. Flo, Chris and Julian all rode with the tyres, and relate their impressions here.

Flo at the tyre test

Flo at the tyre test

Christian at the tyre test

Christian at the tyre test

Julian at the tyre test

Julian at the tyre test