Review: Tires from Specialized and Michelin


Our reviews of the (L-R) Specialized Butcher Control, Michelin Wild Mud and Specialized Purgatory Control.

Specialized Butcher Control – $55

By Karen Brooks

As you might guess from its aggressive name, the Butcher tire line spans from DH racing with the Sam Hill model to all-mountain use with this 810 gram Control. The meaty 29” x 2.3” Control shares the same basic tread shape as its big brothers, with ramped blocks in the middle and deeper side knobs. It has a folding bead and is tubeless ready (2Bliss) with a fairly stiff sidewall to keep up with the gnarly stuff.

This tire rolls smoothly and can be cornered aggressively, true to the knob’s promise, with a nice, smooth transition into turns. In big rocks the grip feels a little stiff until you get up to a good speed. Loose stuff—especially wet leaves—is where the tires shine most, digging in as if it’s their last meal, although they’re not great in deeper mud. With a tread that continues to be wearing well, these are perfect for railing magazine-cover berms.

Michelin Wild Mud 29 x 2.0 – $70

By Adam Newman

Michelin got into the 29er game a little late, but has since gone full bore with a collection of tires for all types of terrain. The Wild Mud falls at the extreme end of this spectrum, with widely spaced knobs specifically designed to—naturally—shed mud.

Before we get to those knobs, the Wild Muds use Michelin’s Advanced series bead, which is tubeless compatible, and they sealed up nicely on the Shimano XT wheels also reviewed in this issue. The idea behind a smaller, 2.0 volume is that it helps slice through muck, rather than floating and skidding over it, and allows for a bit more clearance when mud builds up between the tire and your bike chassis. The rubber compound is what Michelin calls Gum-X, a high-end, mountain bike-specific compound in a 60TPI casing. At a measured 660g each, they are pretty lightweight for such a design.

Now those knobs: the stepped design allows them to penetrate soft surfaces for traction. When rolling, the angled blocks squirm to break free any clogged material. Normally, squirming is a bad thing, but in this case they work amazingly well at flinging mud. Most of it ended up all over me, but it’s better than stuck to my tires. No mud rubber can perform miracles; the Wild Muds still get clogged on really nasty trails. Then again, if you can’t ride a wet or soft trail with these tires, you probably shouldn’t be out there anyway. Where they do shine is in mud shedding.

Only a few rotations on dry trail or pavement is enough to clear most of the packed- in material. If you ride year long where the rain often falls, Wild Muds will go a long way toward expanding your riding opportunities.

Specialized Purgatory Control – $55

By Justin Steiner

With a true 2.3-inch width, sturdy casing, 2Bliss Ready bead, soft rubber compound (60a center, 50a shoulder) and reasonable 795 grams weight, the 29” Purgatory delivers an impressive spec sheet for the price.

Set up tubeless, these tires snapped into place, leaking almost no sealant—and held air impressively throughout the test period. These tires further impressed with their considerable and predictable traction, regardless of trail conditions. Driving grip was stellar, while cornering and braking traction were even better. I personally like the small amount of drift these tires allow as you transition between the center and side knobs. Once you’ve cranked the bike over to engage the side knobs, they grip tenaciously.

Thanks to Finite Element Analysis, subtle changes to the tread design for 2013 are said to have improved traction while minimizing rolling resistance. Less that $60 for a high-end tire with such excellent performance is a solid value—I’m sold.