Specialized is saying its XC tire overhaul isn’t an update, but an upgrade. It certainly is a change, with the tire names about the only feature remaining the same as last year. There’s three new tread designs, two new rubber compounds and all-new casings. Together, today’s tire roll-out cover everything from World Cup short track to more aggressive trail riding that match Specialized’ EVO-branded XC bikes.
Renegade for hardpack speed
Fast Track for all-round XC versatility
Ground Control for when XC meets Trail riding
The tires: Fast Track, Renegade, Ground Control
The three new tires are the hardpack Renegade, all-rounder Fast Trak and more trail-focused Ground Control. Each have a completely redesigned tread pattern from previous years.
The new knobs are built around what Specialized is calling block-in-block design, which it says is inspired by motocross tires. The larger base block provides support while the smaller inner blocks fine tune grip and add stability. These details range from rather simple shapes on the Renegade to intricate layers on the Ground Control.
Light, fast and all about acceleration and speed on hardpack trails and tarmac. Simple and closely-spaced lugs mix grip and good rolling speed.
When traction is more questionable, or conditions less than ideal, the Fast Trak is the all-rounder XC tire for racing and everyday riding. Added grip for control on technical features, more puncture protection and taller, more spaced out lugs for grip in loose conditions and mud-shedding capabilities. Fast, as the name implies, but with more control.
Any trail, all year. The Ground Control takes XC grip up another notch with taller lugs, and more intricate block-in-block designs to find grip in sketchy, slippery conditions. For extra-wet race days or all season shredding, all year long.
S-Works and Control casing prioritize weight
While Grid casing adds a layer of protection
Fast Trak Control T5 sidewalls, vs. ...
You can see the added layer of protection on the sidewall of a Fast Trak Grid T7
There are three new casings, providing options in each tread design for race day weight to puncture protection. The S-Works casing is the lightest, most supple casing. Like other S-Works branded offerings, this is about the lightest possible weight for race days.
Control casing uses a similar casing design, but with a bit more puncture protection. It is still race-light, but better on more technical courses when flat tires are a real threat, or just a little more confidence to charge the climbs and descents.
Grid casing is still cross country light, but with more sidewall protection for tough trails and rugged terrain. Great for when XC blends into “trail” riding, or marathon races where encountering the unexpected is a regular occurrence.
Specialized’s had success in the gravity crowd with its new sticky T9 rubber. Now, the XC tires get a make-over with T5, T7 and a special T5/T7 race-day combo. Specialized’s T-system of compound grading refers to the level of damping from the rubber – or how soft it is. More damping equals more grip, but less rolling speed and faster wear.
For XC racing and riding, Specialized sticks to T5 and T7. T5 offers faster rolling speed and excellent wear resistance. T7 adds more grip and more damping when conditions are less-ideal, or on more challenging terrain.
The S-Works exclusive T5/T7 combo uses both compounds for the race-ready combination of T5’s rolling speed on center lugs with T7 on the side lugs for smoother cornering and better grip on the edge.
"Block in Block" details on the lugs
Fast centre lugs are ramped for rolling speed
While mid- and side-lugs grow taller for consistent traction as the tire rolls into corners
This gives the Fast Track a nice, round profile in the 2.35" width for predictable traction
Fast Trak in less fast conditions
Fast rolling centre with space to the side lugs sheds mud fast
First Impressions – Fast Trak T5 and T7.
After a few rides on the new Fast Trak, I’ve come away impressed. I’ve been running the T7 Grid casing up front, for more support and the added grip of the softer compound, and T5 Control casing for faster rolling and improved wear.
Fast Traks live up to their name and roll fast. They’re also consistent in a solid range of riding situations. Conditions have ranged from loose and dusty dry trails to wet dirt. On dusty trails, where the dirt is loose enough that traction starts to be questionable, the Fast Track performs admirably for a fast tire. The raised mid- and side-lugs help here as they continue biting as the tire rolls and dig into loose trail. This adds confidence cornering, as grip is more predictable. When the Fast Trak does break free, it’s predictable and the lugs hook up with the trail again quickly. Braking is similarly controlled and consistent. I had less time on wet dirt but, on the one damp ride I did have, the well spaced lugs seem adept at shedding dirt quickly.
While the Renegade may be Specialized’s go-to for the fastest hardpack race courses, the Fast Track is adept at taking a wide range of conditions in stride. The more aggressive Ground Control will be more capable for riders looking to blur the line between XC and trail riding. We’ll be testing a set of those as well shortly. But for all-round XC, the one tire that you can bring to any race and roll fast without losing grip, the Fast Trak feels like a solid choice so far.
Pricing: Specialized Renegade, Fast Trak and Ground Control
Specialized offers its trio of tires in two price points. The S-Works casing with T5/T7 mixed compound runs USD$70.00, in all three tread patterns. Control and Grid casing tires are USD$60.00, in either T5 or T7 compound and in various combinations with different tread designs. The full list of tread/compound/casing options is below.
Renegade and Fast Trak are only available in 29″ diameters, with 2.2″ and 2.35″ width options. The Ground Control offers the same 29″ options, but also comes in 27.5″ in 2.2″, 2.35″ and a wider 2.6″ option.