SPECIALIZED’S BUTCHER MTB TYRE HAS ALWAYS BEEN A DAMN GOOD PRODUCT AT A REASONABLE PRICE. CAN THERE STILL BE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
Taking a good tyre, and making it better.
We saw spy shots of the new Specialized Butcher towards the end of last year, and were interested to see how this update of an already great tyre would alter its performance. Though the original’s roots are in the downhill discipline, this tyre is now available in a variety of wheel sizes, casings and volume options, which cover the trail riding, enduro and e-Bike rider’s needs.
For our test we opted for the 29 x 2.6 Grid version; and on opening the box, we immediately noticed many subtle updates on the older model, including marginally taller lugs, a ‘sawtooth’ finish on the leading edges, and bolder centre knobs with multi-directional sipes. It’s an aggressive-looking tyre.
Not so visible to the naked eye is the proprietary Gripton compound, which Specialized say improves both low- and high-frequency damping, for better bump absorption and rolling speed.
ON THE WHEEL We mounted the tyre to a 25mm-inner-diameter rim for this test, and the resulting profile was slightly more rounded than a wider-rim option (if square profiles are your thing, then go for a 28mm or wider rim). With a dash of sealant, the tyre seated on the first attempt with a floor pump – testament to a well-designed and -sized beading, with a good rubber compound to match.
For bike geeks like us, mounting fresh, aggressive rubber and inflating it is perhaps akin to what cognac aficionados experience when examining the colour and aroma of a glass of the finest – it’s a highly enjoyable process!
ON THE TRAIL We tested this tyre on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, on the very rocky trails of Lion’s Head, and down my favourite gravity run in Tokai, to provide a good mix of conditions covering everything from tar liaisons, loose-overhardpack surfaces, off cambers, ruts, roots, rocks, high-speed bermed turns – you name it, we tried it.
For this tester’s weight (73kg) and speed, we found using 24psi up front and 28psi in the rear tyre ensured a good balance of directional stability, traction and comfort, while preserving rim integrity.
The Grid casing carries a couple of extra grams, yet significantly improves durability, cornering performance and rider confidence. The added strength of the casing was evident in high-speed turns, and I never felt the tyre collapse. Additionally, the notoriously tyre-hungry Pat’s Track trail never cut or pinched the Butchers – even when pushing hard into the square edges.
The revised design and layout of the lugs or knobblies was what impressed me a lot with this new Butcher: bolder shoulder knobs bite harder and cut into the trail when the bike is cranked over into a turn, and the transition from the centre to shoulder knobs, at the beginning of a corner, is smooth and seamless. Other, similarly shaped tyres often have a vague spot, creating an early drift when leaning into the turn, which can unsettle the rider.
That’s not the case with these Butchers, which we’d say is down to the sawtoothstyle edging, the multi-directional sipes, the profile, and the proximity of the shoulder to the centre knobs. The slightly boxy centre knobs gave solid braking performance on the front and rear of the bike.
The harder centre knobs definitely increase rolling speed, whether on trail or tar; and despite the shoulder knobs feeling rather soft to the touch, they hold up and bite in nicely on the turns, for confident fullgas rails.
FRONT VS REAR The Butcher works really well for gravity and trail riders, whether it’s run up front or on the rear.
THE TAKE OUT Offering trail- and gravityorientated riders and racers an all-round performer that works so well in 95% of the conditions we ride in, Specialized really have a winner here. The new Butcher is fast, aggressive, versatile, smooth and affordable.
In the thickest of peanut-butter-type mud you’d be better off moving to a mud-specific option such as the Hillbilly; but considering its performance, durability, versatility, availability and pricing, I think this tyre might just be the cognac equivalent of Louis Royer XO: unrivalled.