Bloody Mar­vel­lous!


Bicycling (South Africa) - - Inside - By Myles Kelsey

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.

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