The new Specialized Ground Control tire

The original Specialized Ground Control, designed back in the day by Wilderness Trail Bikes, lived in an era when we rode one mountain bike for all situations, and a good tire was one that worked everywhere. Heck, I don’t think we gave our tires much thought.

The new Ground Control appears to share that go-everywhere mission.

I’ve ridden the new Ground Control on a Camber 29, Stumpjumper 29 and Stumpjumper 26 on a wide range of surfaces from hardpack to loose to mud to snow to ice.

Salient features

Photo of Ground Control tire courtesy of Specialized.

The Ground Control has center knobs, two (2!) rows of shoulder knobs and some side knobs.

• The center knobs are wide and paddle-like. Ramped for quickness, siped for grabbiness. Clearly made for speeding up and slowing down.

• The inner shoulder knobs are square and recessed. This creates extra edges that face all points of the compass. Whether you’re pedaling, braking or turning, it seems like the recess will give you a little extra bite.

• The outer shoulder knobs are tripping me out. The inner surface appears to be an early-engaging side knob: perfect for people who don’t lean into corners. The little L section that points outward is siped in the longitudinal direction. Hmm, why? Maybe it’s optimized for trail braking into corners (Nico Vouilloz style) and sprinting while cornering (Shaun Palmer style).

• The side knobs. Ah yes the side knobs. Squared, supported and siped in all the ways you’d expect from a Specialized tire.

The overall profile is quite round, with working edges at every lean angle. This tends to give you a predictable, easy-to-ride tire.

The spacing is moderate. There’s enough openness to let the knobs grab looseness, but the knobs aren’t so far apart you’re riding a washboard.

The 60A rubber compound is moderate. Pretty sticky, pretty durable.

Choose from various widths and diameters. 26 x 1.9, 2.1 and 2.3; 29 x 1.9 and 2.1. I’ve ridden the 26 x 2.3 and 29 x 2.1 in the durable Control and GRID casings.

This tire makes sense to me. Since confidence is the limiting factor for a skilled, strong stud like me, this is important.

How it rides

• The Ground Control feels a lot faster than it looks.

• It gets plenty of driving and braking traction in a range of conditions. It clears mud pretty well. It’s useless on sheets of ice.

• It holds well in the corners. Credit the good spacing and multitudinous edges. Also, it makes logical sense, so you’re more likely to trust it.

Run this tire if

• You want a pretty quick rear tire to go with a meaty front tire. For today’s 26er dirt/mud/snow/ice mission I rolled a 2.3 Butcher in front and the 2.3 Ground Control in back, and it was awesome. Nothing wrong with a little rear drifty-poo.

If the Butcher/Renegade combo was the Odd Couple, the Butcher/ground Control is that big, quiet guy and petite, loud girl who get along great.

• You want a grippier, more confidence-inspiring front tire to go with a fast rear tire. Seems like a good idea for long XC rides, XC racing and mixed-surface pump/jump.

• You want a versatile, easy-to-ride tire on both ends of your bike. Mount ’em up, air ’em up and don’t give them a thought.

Know more. Have more fun!

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4 replies
  1. tomis916 says:

    What do you recommend for pump tracks? I’m running Specialized Rhythms and they are fast, but they don’t have any sidegrip when you get in the marbles.

    Sorry if you have previously addressed this question. Also, I should have noticed what you were using when I took your excellent class at Valmont. Thanks.

  2. leelikesbikes says:

    Here’s an old post:

    Rhythms are super fast, but they deliver very little love on loose surfaces. I’m digging the Renegade 2.3. It’s very fast and stable (not squirmy), yet is has some grip in the loose. I think a Renegade rear, Ground Control front would would work well at Valmont Bike Park. The Renegade is crazy fast, and the Ground Control will find traction when the tracks get dusty.

  3. Alex says:

    That looks a great combo! My bike is wearing 2.35 Swampthings (42a front, 60a rear) to deal with the British winter mud but I’m looking forward to putting the three season tyres back on. Last year I rode Bontrager XR4 2.2 but had Specialised Purgatory 2.2 on the back previously (both are real 2.2″ so like Maxxis 2.35) – great tyres but I wonder if there was way more rear grip than I needed and thus unwanted rolling resistance and ability to pick up sticky annoying mud to clog up the frame when it’s wet but not wet enough?

    Was thinking of taking a similar approach to this with knobbly XR4 2.2 front and fast XR2 2.1 rear – ever tried them? Would like to try the Butcher Control 2.3 and Ground Control 2.3 pairing but have heard rumours of Specialized UK not bringing the Butcher Control into the UK in 2012? Specialized 2bliss and Bontrager TLR seem to work much better tubeless than most whilst hitting the right balance of carcass strength/weight for typical riding. But I like that Specialized tell you the durometer and trust your reviews!

    Am thinking grippier front, faster rear makes particular sense with a long-forked hardtail as the back end isn’t exactly planted on the ground much of the time and quick rolling pumpability is so valuable for flow around our less steep hills in SE England.

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