Proponents on the clincher side of the perennial tubular vs clincher debate have a new and supremely potent argument in the new Specialized S-Works Turbo Cotton.
While it's not the most durable or long-lasting option around, it's exceptionally fast, grippy, and light – plus it rides like an absolute dream.
- Highs: Awesomely fast, copious grip, truly sublime ride quality, very light
- Lows: Cotton casing is best kept dry, limited flat protection, relatively quick wear
- Buy if: You value performance and ride quality above all else
Specialized says that the S-Works Turbo Cotton produces the lowest rolling resistance of any road tire the company has ever offered. Such bold claims are oftentimes ultimately written off as little more than marketing hyperbole but this one is wholly believable. Not only did we find that they genuinely felt faster on the road than our usual staples, independent testing has verified that claim as well.
The new S-Works Turbo Cotton isn't just fast - it also rides incredibly well and is extremely grippy
Several factors contribute to the tire's outstanding efficiency. One is the use of an ultra-supple 320tpi 'polycotton' casing – likely similar, if not identical, to what Vittoria uses for its high-end open tubulars, given that these are made in the same factory. Also helping out are the 24mm width (testing by Wheel Energy in Finland concludes that wider casings generally less rolling resistance) and Specialized's 'Gripton' proprietary synthetic dual-compound rubber.
Never mind all of the boring scientific stuff, though; what most people will notice is that these feel utterly fantastic to ride.
In addition to producing very low rolling resistance, the supple construction yields a gloriously silky-smooth ride quality that we would argue rivals the best tubulars (at least when paired with similarly high-performance inner tubes). It glides across rough pavement and yet serves up incredibly tactile road feel. Grip is prodigious and the labeling is spot-on. We measured our test set at exactly 24mm on an old-school 15mm-wide Mavic rim, and the actual weight of 216g is 14g less than claimed.
Keen-eyed readers will undoubtedly notice the tiny "For the Connoisseur" markings on the hot stamps and it's a suggestion that should be heeded. As much as we love the S-Works Turbo Cotton's performance credentials, it's not a tire for everyday use unless you like spending a lot of money on rubber.
Specialized says that these are "For the Connoisseur" and it'd be wise to heed that warning
Two months of regular testing on both dirt and asphalt has shown that the grippy tread wears fairly quickly and although we didn't suffer any flats during that period, even Specialized admits that the Blackbelt woven nylon belt tucked beneath the tread is rather minimal. The casing's natural fiber content isn't well suited for regular use in wet conditions, either, plus the raw sidewalls are more susceptible to sidewall cuts than on a vulcanized tire.
Those nuisances strike us as rather minor in comparison to the tire's fantastic performance, however. If speed, grip, and ride quality are at the top of your list for a clincher tire, look no further. Internet trolls can hate on Specialized all they want but we have no qualms admitting that we're totally smitten.