We tested the original Specialized Butcher tire on the brand’s Enduro enduro-bike this summer, and they later sent over a set with the new T9 rubber compound that increases the stickiness of this fast-feeling tread. Given their enhanced grip we’ll go ahead and recommend that Loïc Bruni mount up a set of these for the coming World Cup season. He may need a couple of sets to make it through all six races on the 2021 calendar.
This pair of Butcher test tires use the brand’s two-ply Grid Gravity casing, wrapped in an extra tacky T9 rubber compound for maximum downhill go-fast-ability. Despite their thick puncture-protecting sidewalls that tip the scale just under 1300g per circle, the beads seat easily with a floor pump and they have held air splendidly since.
On the subject of sidewalls, I tallied multiple stone strikes on the first few runs with these tires, despite pumping to the usual 21 and 22PSI that our local trails call for with gravity tires. After adding two PSI front and rear and slowing the fork’s low-speed rebound by a click their argument with the rocks has quieted. The dual-ply sidewalls do feel better the faster you ride, as intended, but they also have a more supple and less jittery sensation than some thick casings at slower speeds. For riders who appreciate the puncture insurance of a heavy casing that stands at attention in turns but doesn’t quite rattle the paint off the frame like some tough DH casings, the Grid Gravity is worth a try.
Let’s get sticky. The T9 rubber compound, paired with the Butcher’s blocky central tread lugs, offers exceptional grip characteristics that are of the forgettable sort. Cornering transitions with the Butcher tread feel seamless, with no tactile shift from center to shoulder lugs. They break loose and regain grip almost on command across our dry local clay, which can’t be said for some gravity rubber I’ve tested. A pair of Maxxis DHF tires with Double Down casings and Max Grip tread compound offers a very similar transition and grip quality when leaned sideways, placing the Butcher comfortably alongside some of the top competition.
When the trail tilts sideways the Butcher holds on a touch better than a Minion DHF, with a profile that’s neither quadratic nor XC-rounded on a Hope Fortus 30 rim with a 30mm internal measurement. Spacing between the central and shoulder knobs is wide enough that this tire won’t give up on off-camber tracks, so long as you ride with both eyes and brakes open.
As with most good things, there is a catch. These brute gravity tires take an extra spoonful of peanut butter to spin up the hill. Unlike their lug-transitions in corners, climbing with the widely-spaced knobbies is noticeable. Specialized does have harder tread compounds like the T7 and different tread patterns like their Eliminator to mount at the rudder end if you prefer a more efficient climbing setup. Alternatively, when you’re feeling fit enough to suffer the climb on this full-grip version the reward is well worth it.
In terms of braking traction, the same elements that slow the Butcher on ascents help it scrub speed on descents. The wider mud-shedding gaps between lugs give them a lot of space to bite the earth, and the siped tread feels well-supported under heavy braking. The knobs aren’t tall enough or soft enough to squirm in the turns, but they do maintain plenty of height for all-season speed control. These are by no means a mud tire, but they work well in the residual mud that lurks in winter shadows three days after a storm, clearing the slop rather quickly so they can get back to the gripping game. If it’s a true mud tire you’re after the brand’s spiked Hillbilly model is also available withT9 rubber.
Finally, the Butcher sits in the upper quarter of the full gravity tire spectrum for damp rock and root stickiness. Though there are tires that can hold a line slightly better in damp conditions, this one is by no means a pinball paddle. It’s been fairly wet in northern Italy throughout autumn and I’ve been happy with the amount of grip these circles create across the slippery stuff. Similar to their off-camber performance, as long as your eyes and brakes are open the T9 tread has got your back.
Popping with lugs in all the right places, the Specialized Butcher T9 is a sweet tread for most gravity riding conditions, and there’s a lighter Grid Trail version for trails that don’t require the thicker casing. If you enjoy how the top Minion DHF models roll this one shouldn’t disappoint. The remaining question is, what will Bruni do? Hopefully, we’ll find out at round one on April 24th.