Specialized’s original Ground Control tyre was launched way back in 1986 when mountain biking was a younger sport, but it’s been brought bang up to date with this latest version.
The Ground Control is a versatile tyre that is fast for cross-country racing but also aggressive enough for more ambitious trail riding thanks to its tread pattern and Gripton compound.
Specialized Ground Control 29 x 2.3in details
The Ground Control is available in plenty of variants including an affordable wire bead option alongside the more expensive 2Bliss Ready (Specialized’s name for tubeless-ready) tyres.
Specialized offers three different casings including reinforced GRID for increased sidewall support, and the Control casing — tested here — which hits the sweet-spot between the weight penalty of the GRID tyre and the lightweight regular casing.
There are 26in, 27.5in and 29in versions in 2.1in and 2.3in widths. The 29 x 2.3in I tested weighs 791g. All tyres share the company’s Gripton tread compound and 60 TPI casing construction with easy tubeless installation.
- Using as a front or rear tyre
- All-round trail use or hardcore XC riding
Specialized Ground Control 29 x 2.3in performance
The Ground Control’s chunky tread pattern, with its arrangement of large shoulder blocks and broad centre blocks interspersed by smaller squares, provides impressive levels of grip in a wide range of conditions.
It’s fast-rolling in the dry and thanks to the tenacity of the tread compound sticks to slippery roots and rocks longer than many lighter XC tyres.
This means the Ground Control is versatile enough to be good for trail riding, especially if speed and weight are priorities alongside grip and reliability.
The Control casing gives more sidewall support than the lighter version without incurring the weight penalty of the GRID casing, and cut resistance is good. Generally, this a tough tyre that lets you push your limits on an XC bike.
The beefed-up casing doesn’t dent the suppleness either as the tread blocks and pattern find grip when you’re tackling tricky root-infested descents.
It performs well in a wide range of conditions, making it a good fit-and-forget option for people who don’t like to regularly change tyres.
The tread pattern has adequate open space to ensure it clears mud quickly when you encounter wetter sections and it continues to grip well, finding traction on slippery climbs and off-camber corners.
The weight is on the high side, so pure XC racers might find it overkill, but more extreme XC riders and lightweight trail riders will find it a suitable choice.
Tubeless installation on my DT Swiss XR1501 wheels was a breeze using just a floor pump.
Specialized Ground Control 29 x 2.3 Control bottom line
A fast and grippy tyre with good sidewall support that works in a range of conditions. A bit on the heavy side for XC racers but ideal for trail riding.
How we tested
We pitted 10 of the best cross-country-style tyres against each other to find out which we think is worth your time and money.
- Bontrager XR2 Team Issue TLR tyre
- Continental Race King BlackChili Protection tyre
- Maxxis Ardent EXO TR 29 x 2.25in
- Maxxis Crossmark II EXO TR
- Schwalbe Racing Ralph Evo TLE 29 x 2.25in
- Schwalbe Rocket Ron Super Ground SpeedGrip
- Schwalbe Racing Ray Addix Speed 29 x 2.25i
- Vittoria Barzo TNT tyre
- WTB Ranger TCS Light Fast Rolling