Review: Specialized Ground Control Control 26×2.3 and Fast Trak 26×2.2 Control trail tire combo

For over a year, we have known about the effort that Specialized have invested in their 2012 tire line.  Drawing on twenty-odd years of mountain bike tire design and making extensive use of cutting-edge Finite Element Analysis (FEA), the big red S have revived the classic Ground Control name and extensively revised the Fast Trak.  In their fatter 2.3in and 2.2in tubeless-ready “Control” casings, both 26in tires come in under 600g.  Having had a great experience with the Fast Trak during Project 24.2 and some good fall rides on the Ground Control–and with each tire selling for $55– I thought that I might have found the perfect lightweight trail combo.  How have the 1,150g of Special rubber treated me?  Cross the line to find out!

Performance-wise, I really have nothing bad to say about the Ground Control Control (front) and Fast Trak Control (rear).  On everything from Colorado Trail loam to Sedona slickrock, from boot-polished sandstone to loose New Mexico rubble, the duo have provided plenty of forward and braking traction, rolled well, and broken loose predictably and controllably.  The same could also be said about two Ground Controls, but a Fast Trak on the rear is a bit more planted on rocks while rolling a smidge faster and actually climbing better on loose-over-hard trails.  The Fast Trak will also break loose a bit earlier than a front Ground Control in corners, allowing for a recoverable rear wheel drift rather than a 2-wheeled slide.

Wear has been good as well- I’ve been riding the same Ground Control off and on since October, on several trail bikes and wheelsets,  The shoulder knobs are beginning to come away from the casing- but that’s unfortunately the way in which I tend to kill all brands of tires.  The tires’ weight is fantastic- mounted on Specialized’s Roval Control Trail SL wheelset, they can easily take a pound or even two off of most trail wheel & tire combinations.  Not bad for $55 apiece.

Where Specialized’s trail combination falls short is on in their sidewalls.  My first cut (a Fast Trak) may have been a fluke- desert riding is full of all sorts of sharp things that few tires can hope to survive indefinitely.  The second (during the first ride on a brand-new Ground Control) has me more worried.  Neither cut occurred on anything that couldn’t be expected in Colorado’s high country, so even those in greener areas should also take caution.  It’s possible that, when mounted to the 23mm wide Rovals, the tires’ shoulder knobs don’t extend out far enough, leaving the sidewalls vulnerable.  Even if so, it seems that Specialized would do well to beef the tires’ casings up a bit.

Both tires are available with Specialized’s UST-compatible “Grid” casing- but at a cost of $5 and over 200g per tire- not the most attractive proposition.  Riding conditions vary all over.  If Specialized could produce a sub-700g combination using their Armadillo Elite casing (which has worked extremely well for me in the past), they really would have a world-beating trail tire combination.  No other tread combination has worked as well for me in as many conditions as the Ground Control and Fast Trak.  Riders in kinder areas may do well to give them a go.  I will be crossing my fingers and hoping for a happy casing/weight balance for 2013…

marc

www.specialized.com

Comments

teester - 07/03/12 - 7:25pm

hey Specialized, nice rip-off of the Schwalbe Nobby Nic tread design … get real.

Jerome - 07/03/12 - 7:41pm

I won’t buy any light casing Specialized tires anymore. I’ve been trusting Specialized for bikes, parts and tires, but lately, the quality of the XC tires like the TheCaptain and GC are a letdown. I’ve experienced many “burps” with the S-Works versions and even the Control version of the GC got 4 “pinch flats” in a few weeks before I decided to give up on these tires. I still trust Specialized for the bigger “All-Mountain” tires (Purgatory, Eskar, Butcher, etc.) but if you are riding agressively, don’t buy the lighter casing version, unless you like changing/repairing tires often…

Curious George - 07/03/12 - 7:54pm

I agree with Jerome on the S-works, but I’ve never seen that issue on Control level tires. And by the way man, go tubeless. Less pinchflats.

halfwheeled - 07/04/12 - 10:56pm

I agree with curious george, good lord, go tubeless already! It’s 2012, not 1999! lol

Jerome - 07/05/12 - 12:27pm

@Curious George : I’ve been riding tubeless for 5 years, now. All my comments apply to tubeless tires.

Steve - 09/02/12 - 12:56am

Why are you wishing, when they already do make the: GROUND CONTROL ARMADILLO ELITE

I use two on my bike and nothing beats em!
700grams of perfection

Marc - 09/02/12 - 8:27am

Steve,

What you’re referring to is the previous version of the FastTrak, which I believe is no longer in production. I agree- the Armadillo Elite casing would be ideal.

marc

Ben - 10/12/12 - 12:59pm

4 pinch flats on tubeless? I’d say the fault is with the air pressure for weight/tyre size. They are relatively skinny tyres still but unless you are running tubes it’s pretty impossible to pinch flat a tyre on tubeless.

I ride mine pretty aggressively, but only weight 55-60kg, and run 20-25 psi wet-dry pressures, in 6 years I’ve not once punctured or burbed a spesh s-works or control.

Ridden:
S-works Captain 26 2.2
S-works Captain 26 2.0
S-works Fast Trak LK 26 2.0
S-works Sauserwind 26 1.8
S-works Storm 26 1.8
Control Renegade 29 1.95
S-works Fast Trak 2012 29 2.0
S-works Renegade 29 1.95

Currently Running S-works Fast Trak 2012 front and rear for over 1000 miles this year and will try S-works Ground Control 29 2.1 I’m that impressed with spesh. I’d grab captains but I wanna try the GC’s

As soon as they fail I’ll try another brand though, so I can see why people do that; Maxxis Medusas fell to shreds on me and never thought I would try Maxxis again but having seen their Ikon I would swap to that after a failure. Though, bang for buck, spesh are best price per performance.

Dru - 01/22/13 - 1:27pm

I like specialized tires, but I agree with the comment above that the lightweight casings are pretty much useless. I weigh 175 pounds and ride a 29” hard tail. I’ve blown the sidewall out of three control casings and one s-works casing that were mounted tubeless (1 control blown out on front wheel, the rest were on the back wheel). If you’re riding a similar setup and weigh as much as I do, I highly recommend sacrificing a few ounces for the added durability of the grid or armadillo casing. FYI I was running 31 psi in back and ~25 up front. I’m also from AZ where the rocks are unforgiving.

John - 11/13/13 - 6:00am

Lightweight tires from Specialized (and I like the Renegades) are like steroids. Make you far faster and the ride incredibly fun…….but then there are drawbacks aren’t there? Hahaha, perfectly obvious.

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