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Specialized Butcher Grid Review
Cons: Soft rubber compound may wear quickly, tight installation
Bottom line: Soft, tacky rubber, big side knobs, and stout sidewalls in an affordable package. Why look anywhere else?
The Control version of this tire that we rode during our enduro mountain bike review continually glanced off rocks, turning trails into a real-life Price Is Right game of Plinko. In this test, we decided to give the Grid casing a fair shake and we're still getting over the shock. We had practically written this tire off as a contender, so having it take home our Best Buy Award left us looking over our results again and again, thinking "How could it be?"
The truth is, each version of this tire is so astoundingly different that the tread pattern is the only real similarity. It was like a case of identical twins where one turns out to be a degenerate, living at home into his 40s and the other goes on to cure some horrible disease and win the Nobel Peace Prize. The 42a rubber compound made sure we stayed rubber side down when encountering slippery rock features or wet roots. Added sidewall stiffness increased stability and an extra cap ply provided additional durability and puncture resistance. Keep reading to find out the details that set this tire apart from the competition.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Forget what your buddy told you about how that thousand-dollar, custom-tuned boutique shock completely changed the way his enduro bike rides and was worth every penny. Before you go down that road, probably the cheapest way to upgrade your bike's performance is by slapping this tire on your front wheel. You'll corner with confidence and the soft 42A rubber compound will stick to everything you roll your wheel over. The stiff sidewalls gave the tire support and stability and sharp rocks didn't stand a chance. We got to take this tire on its maiden voyage on the famed Butcher Ranch Trail in Downieville, CA. It seemed like the tire was made for that trail. The tire gripped the rocky, technical terrain and the big side knobs held strong in the flowy fast corners down lower.
After losing the Rochambeau atop our fast and rocky test trail, our lead tester begged to ride anything besides this tire. After blowing out of a berm and flying through white-thorn bushes on the first run of our enduro bike test and ping-ponging through rock gardens, he had been absolutely hacked to pieces by the Butcher Control tire. This time around, we found ourselves on the Grid casing version. Expecting him to be a bit hesitant, he was surprisingly all smiles at the bottom of the run. "Whoa! Super predictable. I didn't even come close to dying." Instead, he was straight-up flying, reporting minimal slippage even in the extremely loose and sandy conditions.
Leaning into corners on our figure-8 test course, we found the transition gap between the center knobs and cornering knobs to feel less pronounced compared to the Maxxis Minion DHF that shared a similar tread pattern. Looking closely at the tread block design, we noticed the knobs favor a more rounded profile over sharper angles that perhaps lend a hand at smoothing over the transition area. We couldn't quite achieve the same lean angle as some other tires like the Continental Mountain King, but the side knobs held tight through turns and were not so high-profile as to fold underneath us. Once the side knobs are maxed out on lean however, the grip is gone. But we quickly learned to stay within the sweet spot and there's plenty of room there for most everybody.
The uber-tacky 42A tread rubber sitting on a firm 70A base made it feel like a street sweeper had taken a pass down the trail ahead of us. The ever-present Tahoe boulders covered in a thin sand layer can thwart even the stickiest rubbers, but this tire clung to the sides of smooth sloping boulders stronger than a toupee in a convertible. We felt most confident on the Maxxis Minion DHF but the Specialized didn't come in far behind. Other tires like the Michelin Wild Grip'r Advanced felt out of place on firm ground where these tires excelled.
As the seasons changed and our parched trails finally started to see some rain and even snow, we discovered the versatility of this tire. The medium-sized knobs clawed at the soaking wet terra squirma and shed mud like a poo-flinging chimp at the zoo.
The wide C-shaped sipes that divide the angled center knobs allow the soft rubber to splay open and prevent slippage when the front brake is squeezed. Even on sandy rock slabs, these tires managed to find traction, instilling more and more confidence with each ride. Although plenty aggressive, this tire is a top contender for braking traction, scoring an 8 out of 10. The side knobs are well supported and effectively resisted folding or squirming on harder surfaces when brake pressure was applied.
With roots in downhill riding, we kept our expectations low regarding this tire's willingness to roll efficiently. We were impressed with how, despite the soft tread compound, the ramped center knobs appeared to do a good job of keeping things moving right along. The ramps appear more drawn-out and elongated, allowing the tire to ease into terrain better than more blunted knobs could. The center knobs are also lower profile, which we felt increased the versatility of this tire over knobbier offerings, making it suitable as both a front and rear tire. If you've got a little more money to burn, our Editors' Choice Maxxis Minion DHF shared a similar tread pattern and shines like a diamond in nearly every other category as well.
Though some riders will undoubtedly choose to run a matched pair of Butchers, we ran this tire solely on the front for our testing. Specialized contends that this tire possesses 23 percent improved cut-resistance over the Control model and our tire made it through testing without fail. The 42A rubber compound is certainly soft. However, as a front tire subjected to far fewer rubber ruining pedal forces, the enhanced grip makes the Grid casing the clear choice. For a tire combo with optimal longevity, consider the Maxxis Minion and Maxxis Aggressor.
This tire proved to be the most difficult tire to place onto our test rims. Tire levers and a significant amount of swearing were required. The tight fit allowed us to inflate the tire and snap the bead into place with only a track pump. If you flat out on the trail, we hope you don't have any pressing engagements. On one occasion when the author tried to inflate this tire tubed, it resulted in a full-on mental breakdown. The WTB Vigilante and WTB Trail Boss was the only combo to earn a 9 out of 10 in regards to installation; so, if easy installation is a necessity, combined with decent performance, consider checking out the WTB combo.
Aside from our Best Buy Award, we never used the word best to describe this tire. Instead, we said things like "pretty darn good," "surprising," "well-rounded." So while this tire may not have been the best at any one aspect of mountain biking, it was among the best at being a capable all-arounder.
Like the two tacos for 99 cents at Jack in the Box, Specialized tires are a ridiculous value. As we mentioned above, though, we found a huge performance difference in the Grid versus the Control version of this tire. The versatility of this tire will negate any desire to swap out tires if you're headed somewhere with different dirt than what you're accustomed to. The cornering ability, rolling resistance, durability, and versatility of this tire are on par with many higher-priced tires. Dare we call this tire a poor man's Minion?
With everything in mountain biking becoming so dang, well specialized, it's nice to have a tire that does pretty much everything well. Sure, there are nobbier tires, ones that corner better, and some that are faster rolling. There are also tires that are much more expensive. We could say the same thing about our local trails, too. Other places are more technical, smoother, steeper, and have better dirt. But as we all discovered the day the training wheels came off, riding a bike is all about balance.
— Sean Cronin
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