Specialized Renegade S-Works Tire Review: XC Yes, DC Maybe

The lightweight Specialized Renegade S-Works mountain bike tire is optimized for winning races. It may be worth a look for downcountry riders too.

Specialized says the Renegade features their fastest rolling XC tread with elevated side knobs for cornering. It’s lightweight, supple, and optimized for speed. My question: Is this just a race tire or could it be a good choice for downcountry or light trail riding? After putting the Specialized Renegade to the test I have to say… maybe.

Specialized Renegade tire specs

  • Sizes: 29×2.2, 29×2.35
  • Weight: 615g as tested (29×2.35)
  • Price: $70
  • Buy from Specialized.

I installed the Renegade S-Works T5/T7 on a set of Roval Traverse SL II 350 wheels, first in the rear wheel position. Despite its supple feel, the Renegade is a tight fit with the Traverse SL II rim. The upshot is it aired up instantly using just a simple floor pump.

On 30mm internal width rims, the Specialized Renegade 29×2.35″ tire measures 60mm (2.36″) wide with a nice round profile. That’s pretty much spot on and I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise given that Specialized designed both the tire and rim. However I am curious to know how the tire measures on the more XC-oriented Roval Control wheels which have 29mm rims. The Renegade tire width is probably pretty dang close to 2.35″ on that rim as well, though perhaps not as spot on as it is on the more trail-oriented Traverse rims. Plus one in favor of the Renegade fitting in as a light duty trail tire.

With the Renegade as a rear tire I was hoping to take advantage of its fast-rolling nature while running a heavier and more bitey, controlled tire in the front. Specialized positions this as a tire for hardpack conditions and I found it just doesn’t grip well enough for me on climbs that are anything but.

And while the supple, 120TPI casing handles turns comfortably, I dinged my rim on more than a few rocks and roots during casual trail rides. The tire is so supple it almost feels like a rubbery swim cap, though the folding bead is clearly very strong and has little stretch. It’s been a while since I’ve run such a lightweight and supple tire on my trail bike, and while I was able to get away with it on the rear, I decided it’s not worth the risk.

While the Renegade isn’t marketed as a rear-specific tire, a quick look at Specialized bike builds suggests they’re exclusively speccing it in the rear, and only on the higher-end Epic cross-country race bikes. The Epic EVO, a more-downcountry version of the Epic, generally comes with Fast Trak tires front and rear.

Still, I wondered if I might like the Renegade as a front tire. In fact I found this to be a much better fit for downcountry-level trail rides. The Specialized Renegade actually does corner surprisingly well, thanks to the medium-tall and reinforced side knobs, but also the dual-compound construction. On this version of the Renegade, a longer-lasting T5 rubber compound is used for the center tread with a stickier, grippier T7 compound on the sides.

Specialized employs their Block-in-Block design on the Renegade which allows the blocks to deform and grab onto the terrain in a very controlled and predictable fashion. In some ways it’s a similar tire to the Maxxis Ikon, though the Renegade knobs appear to be more tightly packed. That became clear after rolling through some thin, sticky mud that needed a few miles of riding to fully work loose and return to full grip.

On hardpack, leaf-blown trails however, the Renegade sails and carves. Its fast-rolling nature is especially apparent up front, and I’m convinced that running a pair of Renegades would be ridiculously fast as long as conditions allow it.

I’ve watched enough World Cup level mountain bike races in person and on television to know that today’s XC race courses are anything but tame. It’s as if course designers really want to see more than a few crashes and flat tires. Clearly the Renegade is effective threading the fine line between rolling race-winningly fast and holding up to varying course conditions and technical features.

So is the Specialized Renegade, particularly the S-Works 29×2.35″ version, a good choice for downcountry or short-travel trail riding? My take is it can be for some riders, at least in the proper hardpack conditions. For my local trails and style of riding, I like it better as a front tire than in the rear.

Pros and cons of the Specialized Renegade tire


  • Lightweight and supple construction
  • Corners well as a front tire in hardpack conditions
  • Dual compound design optimizes wear and performance


  • Tight fit for installation/repair
  • More of a race tire than an everyday tire

Bottom line

The lightweight Specialized Renegade S-Works tire is optimized for winning races, though it may be worth a look for some downcountry riders too.