It was a tire that first introduced the big S to the world – the Specialized Touring Tire, launched in 1976 – so news that they'll make three cyclo-cross specific tubulars for next season should please racers.
The three-tire line is made up of the Trigger file tread, with a progressive diamond tread pattern that increases from center to edge; the Tracer, a general tire that’s modeled after the Renegade mountain bike tire; and the Terra, a mud tire that Todd Wells used interchangeably with Dugast’s Rhino to win his US cyclo-cross national title in Bend, Oregon this year.
The prototype sample tires that BikeRadar has in for testing measure roughly 32mm wide (save for the Trigger at just over 30mm), with an average weight of around 400g; the Trigger is the lightest at 392g and the Tracer is the heaviest at 410g.
The Trigger has been designed for fast courses and grass courses
“The tires are well within the 33mm maximum width that the UCI demands for cyclo-cross tires this winter," said Nic Sims, of Specialized's global marketing team. "The feedback of racers in the Benelux countries and our own factory team has been very good. The rule change effects everyone; after a grace the narrow sizes will be the new standard. For serial production we see to adjust the casings and use all the volume and cushion we can get for 33mm.”
The tires sport a 260tpi poly-cotton casing, latex tube, traditional glued-on 62a durometer tread and cotton base tape. Construction quality is high, and the tires run reasonably true. The Tracer general tread is like nothing currently on the market and the Terra mud tire looks to compete with Dugast’s Rhino.
Of course, Specialized have one big advantage over boutique tire makers like Dugast – they're much more capable of meeting rider demand. This year, the US experienced a shortage of Dugast’s Rhino mud tire from mid-September until the beginning of December.
The Terra has been designed for muddy conditions
A new perspective
Specialized know how to make a good tire – after all, they're one of the world’s largest bicycle tire developers. While they won’t divulge which manufacturers are making their new ’cross tires, it's known that they frequently partner with technological leaders to put their own stamp on a niche product.
Examples include their partnerships with Hutchinson for road tubeless products and French tire artisans FMB for special ProTour team needs, like Paris-Roubaix tires. “All we can say is we work with the best companies for all our tires,” said Sims. “We're not a manufacturer, we're a developer. What that allows us to do is to cherrypick tire manufacturers so that we always go with the best people for the intended purpose.”
Specialized have one other major advantage when it comes to producing 'cross tubulars: a fresh perspective. Most tubular tire manufacturers come from road backgrounds and rely on tread patterns that have been passed down for decades. This means they depend on their tubular casings for performance. Specialized, however, have experience of designing tires that work well and win off-road races.
The Tracer is undoubtedly influenced by mountain bike tire design
Look for a full review of Specialized’s cyclo-cross tire line on BikeRadar once production models are available in July.