Specialized's Renegade Control tires don’t look like much, what with their ultra-low knob tread design but in reality, they're actually remarkably grippy in the right conditions. Specifically, they're right at home in hardpacked dirt, mild loose-over-hardpack, sand, and bare rock, making them a near-ideal desert tire.
Not surprisingly, the short blocks and relatively high-rebound 65a rubber compound make for incredibly low rolling resistance and a tangibly springy and fast feel. The round profile is quick to transition from edge to edge and as long as the ground is willing, you can also lean the Renegades way over without having to worry about overshooting the grip angle – no wonder they're a primary choice for Specialized's factory cross-country racers.
They're super light, too: our 29x1.95" test tires weighed just 528g apiece (with a variance of only +/-2g) and the 26x1.9" size is an ultra-feathery 442g each.
Cut resistance is quite good given the limited protection of the tiny knobs, especially when we barreled them through the endless fields of sharp rocks on our local test grounds - including the brutally bumpy Devil's Backbone area in Loveland, Colorado (on a hardtail that day, no less). The supple 2Bliss casing easily converts to tube-free running and makes for a very compliant ride. Exercise care not to run them too low – whereas we could reliably run as little as 25psi with more stoutly constructed tires, we had to run an extra 2-3psi to avoid feeling the rim several times a ride.
Wear resistance is surprisingly decent thanks to the harder rubber but since the knobs are so short to begin with, it doesn't take much to really start eating into these tires' sweet spot in terms of grip, especially once the textured tops are worn off.
Speaking of that sweet spot, there are of course conditions for which these tires are very poorly suited. They're not much better than a slick when the ground is covered in marbles and while it's nearly impossible to pack these tires with mud, there's also almost no grip in those conditions, either (though the Renegades are pleasantly capable on hardpacked snow).
You can also forget about making sudden movements on wet roots or rocks – the rubber's just too hard – and the tire's very round profile offers almost no shoulder to lean on if your cornering style needs one.
That all being said, it's hard to hold those faults against the Renegades as they're very, very good within their intended "Competitive XC" usage window – just be wary if your trail conditions occasionally include stuff that's well outside that window.
Our one real gripe is the limited size range. Currently the widest casing offered is just 2.1" – and only in the 26" diameter – limiting the Renegade's use to cross-country or light-duty trail bikes. A larger casing (say 2.2" or even 2.3") and its corresponding bigger footprint would go a long way towards offsetting the limitations of the small knobs while also providing a more generous cushion – and even Specialized's own testing proves that all other things being equal, wider tires roll faster, too.
Pros: Extremely fast rolling, surprisingly good grip on hardpack and similar conditions, decent wear and cut resistance
Cons: Excellent within its comfort zone but very sketchy outside of it, low knob height equates to limited lifespan