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Specialized Slaughter Grid Review
Cons: Harder to install, fair braking performance, okay climber
Bottom line: A high-performance, low cost semi-slick tire designed for rear use.
Weight (g): 908
Casing Options: Grid
Our Best Buy Award Winner, the Slaughter Grid 2Bliss, was a surprisingly killer tire. Locally, these tires fly off the shelves at one of the busiest bike shops in town. But after riding the Slaughter Control previously with lackluster results, we were left scratching our heads and wondering why. It took one run to change our minds. The fast rolling, knocked down center tread is 60a for durability and the big Butcheresque side knobs are a little softer 50a to rip around corners. The sidewalls are stiffer and there's an extra cap ply for durability. At 60 dollars, this tire is worth its 933 grams weight in gold.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We had lots of reservations about even putting this tire in our test, but boy are we glad we did. After lackluster experience with the Control version of this tire, we felt it still deserved a spot in this test based on sales volume and the fact that Specialized, one of the largest bike companies in the world, was spec'ing it on their complete enduro bikes. For the record, our opinions are changed for the better. This was one of our favorite tires in the test and the recipient of our Best Buy Award. The Slaughter murders corners and torches downhills. It doesn't stop on a dime, nor will it provide the best traction on loose or wet climbs. What it will do is deliver you to the bottom of the hill quickly and with air still inside.
Cornering is where this tire really turned our expectations around. Our recent enduro bike test had our testers shaking in their clipless SPDs just thinking about rallying this tire into corners again. We had flashbacks of sliding off-trail into the woods and blowing out of berms. For that test, we rode the Control casing version of this tire and found the nomenclature to be anything but accurate. It only took one ride to leave us questioning whether our initial Slaughter was a knock-off obtained from a street vendor in Chinatown. The difference we experienced this time around with the Grid version of this tire was remarkable and it's still one we struggle to comprehend. This tire went from universally detested to unanimously heralded.
Be that as it may, riders that are hesitant to lean the bike into a turn are still going to think this tire is pretty sketchy. The edge knobs don't bite until they're ummm on edge. Hesitation will be punished, as attempting to keep the bike upright in turns makes this tire feel skatey. The Schwalbe Rock Razor shares this trait. But we can't fault the tire for that as that's the way it's engineered to perform and it will perform best guided by a skilled pilot who can really haul ass. With an emphasis placed on rolling speed and going straight, these tires can still mob a corner when asked to do so.
Alternating rectangular and "L" shaped knobs ride high along the shoulder of the tire and are quick to grab dirt once engaged. Transitioning from the crown tread to the edges knobs is best done with little hesitation and favors a dynamic riding style with subtly exaggerated, dynamic handling. The Grid casing seemed especially up to task as we experienced very little casing roll and were able to confidently run lower pressures (25 psi) that even fell within the recommended range on the sidewall.
It's all about compromise when choosing a tire design like the Slaughter. Enduro riders need a tire that's light and grippy enough to get them to the top of each timed downhill segment without tapping out their energy stores. On the descent, they want a fast rolling tire that gives them the confidence and control to go all-out for the podium. The tightly spaced center tread grips well on firm hardpack surfaces and rock; where it's not so great is in especially loose and gravelly substrates.
The slightly softer 50A compound of the Butcher-esque shoulder knobs provide sufficient grip for loose climbs within the context of enduro riding, but outside of the race arena it's climbing grip is pretty "meh." We suspect more discerning climbers might opt for a matched pair of Specialized Butchers, sacrificing a small amount of rolling resistance in order to combat slippage on the up. The WTB Trail Boss is a step up in pedal traction and may be a good choice for those not ready to fully commit to a semi-slick.
Like most other semi-slicks, look ahead. Novice mountain bikers that focus their gaze directly ahead of their front tire are probably better served with a more aggressive tread pattern. Emergency braking when an obstacle comes "out of nowhere" is not going to be very effective. However, we want to know what the best enduro tire is. A quick perusal of videos from any winning run at an enduro race will show that coming to a stop doesn't land anyone on a podium. For optimal braking traction, all scoring an 8 out of 10, consider the Maxxis Minion, Schwalbe Hans Dampf, Specialized Butcher, Continental Mountain King, or Michelin Wild Grip'r2 Advanced; each contender might be more equipped for a front or rear set up, so pay special attention during each individual review.
This tire looks like someone that loves to skid was running a Butcher on the rear and wore down the middle part of the tread. And that's just fine with us because our eyes have been opened to this semi-slick, new-school tire design of beefed up carcasses and pared down treads. If you're still on the fence and want to try something that resembles more of a hybrid, check out the Maxxis Aggressor or WTB Trail Boss.
Straightline bombing couldn't be faster as the Grid 2BR version we tested uses a 60A rubber compound for the center tread. This tread compound isn't super soft so it doesn't feel overly gummy or sticky. That audible "vvmmmmpffff vvmmmmpffff" with every pedal stroke that is ever-present with larger knobbed tires is thankfully absent. We especially liked this tire while climbing chip-seal Forest Service roads en route to a downhill trail. In these situations, we often feel like they're being dragged uphill, amplifying the force of gravity. The extra support from the Grid casing also let us feel confident to run this tire at a pressure (26 psi) that we felt maximized contact and grip while also minimizing the risk of destroying our rims.
By design, this tire probably wont get you more than a season worth of use if you ride a lot. Eventually, the low-profile center tread will wear to the point that the small siping slits are lost and the side knobs will start to round. The sidewall of this tire felt stiff in our hands and it resisted a barrage of abuse during testing, especially on the Butcher Ranch "Downieville Downhill" test day. For longer longevity, look to our Editors' Choice winners, the Maxxis Minion or Maxxis Aggressor, both scoring an 8 out of 10s. For specialized riding preferences, check out each individual review for important considerations, as well as pros and cons.
This tire was the tightest fit and the most difficult to install onto our wheels. We needed to use a tire lever but the tire seated on the first try. Each morning, this tire seemed to be significantly softer than the day before, requiring additional air before each ride. We found that the WTB Vigilante and WTB Trail Boss scored the highest, earning a 9 out of 10 in regards to installation. However, it's important to keep in mind other pros and cons when searching for a bike tire combination that will best suit your needs.
If you put the majority of miles riding hard and dry conditions, you could start to notice seconds falling off your watch. Low rolling resistance will leave you with some energy at the top of your climb to enjoy the down; this will make a great training tire, as the small center tread allows you to tick off the miles while chugging unimpeded up mountainous terrain. Staunch sidewalls should hold up to daily training abuse or the rigors of racing. A great price tag means you shouldn't hesitate to ride from home and hit some pavement on the way to your rides for some additional mileage.
This tire was our Best Buy Award winner, sharing many top performance characteristics with the Schwalbe Rock Razor at a considerable cost savings. High cornering and rolling resistance scores make this tire a steal for those looking for a fast tire that rails berms. For those that are exploring the semi-slick tire category for the first time, 60 dollars is a cheaper experiment than the 92 dollars you'll shell out for the Schwalbe. Honestly, once the miles start to pile up, these type of tires simply don't have a ton of tread, save for the side knobs, to wear through. For something that might just last a summer depending on how much you ride, spend the extra 30 bucks toasting a round of suds with your buds after blasting dusty, hot singletrack all day.
If you've been underwhelmed by Specialized tires in the past like we experienced during our enduro bike review, we urge you to reconsider and try out the Slaughter. We had a completely different experience with the Grid casing versus the Control version, so make sure you're looking at the packaging closely or we make no guarantees. This tire was fast-rolling, affordable, and had immense cornering grip. For the budget-minded enduro bro paying their own entry fees, this tire checks some important boxes.
— Sean Cronin
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