Specialized’s latest XC gear promises light weight and high-speed performance

Specialized has released what it claims to be its lightest off-road shoe of all time, the Exos, along with a host of revamped XC MTB tires, all aimed at riders for whom speed is key. the performance.

Cross-country really seems to be the most popular ticket in town right now, and with the World Cup season kicking off sparkling, the off-road world with lean tires and shaved legs is enjoying their time under the snow. the limelight.

Specialized also has a long history in the XC, with the Epic HT, the Epic full-sus and the Epic EVO all being some of the most sought after bikes on the scene.

Specialized S-Works Exos shoe details

In profile, the Exos is Specialized’s latest, largest (and lightest) XC shoe to date.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The S-Works Exos MTB shoe is considered the lightest all-terrain shoe the brand has ever produced, and on our scale it weighs 516g per pair, which is about 100g less than the S-Works Recon.

We will start with the fairly classic sole. It’s carbon fiber, as you would expect, with a series of non-replaceable lugs. At the front of the shoe is a pair of removable crampons – something cross country and cyclocross runners will appreciate in more muddy racing conditions.

The middle of the shoe has a fairly long stud channel, allowing the studs to fit far enough into the shoe, with markers to help with alignment.

Specialty toe nails

A FACT carbon sole maintains high stiffness and pedaling efficiency.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

As seen on the Recon and Specialized road shoes, the sole has a stiffness index of 13, which is as stiff as Specialized shoes – with the aim of transmitting as much power as possible to the pedals, via a rubber sole. FACT carbon.

The sockliner features the brand’s Body Geometry profile concept, which adds arch support and helps tilt the foot to maintain optimal knee and hip alignment. Although we are not physiologists, previous experience with Specialized shoes suggests that they should be comfortable.

Towards the front is a toe box which provides protection against impact from rocks and stumps.

Exos Specialized Body Geometry

Specialized’s Body Geometry fit is loved by our testers.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

It’s the rod that’s the most interesting, however.

It uses its Dyneema material, which is a super thin, super light and super soft material. This helps reduce that weight, and its flexibility should help keep the shoe in good contact with the foot – improving comfort, in theory.

It has an almost wrinkled feel and, while thin, doesn’t feel flimsy or stretchy. However, it does provide additional protection along the lower edges of the foot.

Specialized Exos heel

The thin material means the heel tab is a practical addition, not seen on the Recon shoe.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The design means there is no traditional heel pad, but Specialized claims that vertically it has the right properties to grip the heel when you pull on the pedals, while also having the flexibility to ensure a hold of the heel. heel to height.

Therefore, when I first tried on my pair, I had to use the tongue on the back of the heel to prevent the shoe from collapsing under my foot.

Specialized Exos Toe

A slightly smoother toe area differs from the crisper material around the rest of the foot.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

There is a sleeve over the toe area that the foot also seems to slide easily.

The shoe is secured with a single Boa Li2 dial, which has a fairly fine level of adjustment, and a pull-up to release. This allows the tongue to be pulled up and out of the way relatively easily, to remove the shoe.

BOA Exos specialized

The latest Boa dial offers plenty of precision settings.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The shoes will be available in sizes from 38 to 49 and will cost (a frankly rather staggering price) £ 400 / € 499.90.

Additional international prices will be added when we receive it.

Specialized XC Tire Line

Specialty XC tires

Specialized’s updated XC tire lineup.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

It’s not just the shoes that get you going fast, but the tires too.

Specialized’s XC rubber line has been renewed with modified tread patterns and updated casings and compounds. All three tires – Renegade, Fast Trak and Ground Control – are meant to cover everything from dry hard snow to rain and mud.

After its larger tires, the rubber is now coded with a “T” number: T5 and T7.

Specialized grid T7

The carcass and compound are detailed on the sidewall of the tire.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

T5 rubber is designed to roll quickly and wear a bit slower, with a little extra tear protection, so there will be less grip on hard surfaces.

The T7 rubber is designed for what Specialized calls “Alpine XC” conditions, with a more cushioned feel that should increase grip and control, as well as absorb trail vibrations a bit more.

S-Works tires benefit from a T5 / T7 blend, for a faster center tread and a more controlled, smoother shoulder tread.

The treads are called “Block in Block”, with sipes and, in places, a construction from two different rubbers. The outer rubber structures are designed to support the inner rubber blocks for a more planted and stable feel.

Three enclosures are also available. The S-Works is the lightest offering, with less puncture protection but a smoother feel, which in theory should help the tire roll faster with less weight improving acceleration slightly.

All three tires come with an S-Works option and all receive the combined T5 / T7 compound rubber.

Specialized renegade

The Specialized Renegade is its fastest rolling XC rubber.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Next is the Control box, which adds a bit of weight but also some puncture protection to the mix.

This will likely be the most popular version for your everyday XC rider who wants extra durability and may want to reduce the risk of punctures.

The Renegade and Fast Trak get both a T5 version and a T7 version with the Control box, while the Ground Control only comes with T5 rubber.

Specialized Fast Trak

The Fast Trak is a versatile mountain bike.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

The strongest is the Grid case, which has added side protection. Specialized says it is ideal for riders on its Epic EVO downhill bike.

There are Grid carcass versions of all three tires, with the Renegade coming with T5 rubber and Fast Trak and Ground Control with T7 rubber.

Specialty tire menu

A complete overview of the Specialized tire line and their options.

Renegade Specialty Tire Details

The Renegade is the fastest rolling tire, with a low profile and a fairly close tread. The S-Works (29 × 2.35 inches) weighs 583g on our scale, while the Control T5 weighs 652g.

Fast Trak Specialty Tire Details

The Fast Trak has a slightly deeper tread, with a bit more space between the blocks, as well as a more pronounced shoulder. Our Fast Trak Control T5 weighs 677g (29 × 2.35in), while the S-Works version weighs 611g.

Specialized Ground Control tire details

The Ground Control is designed as a front tire for wet XC conditions, but in our experience it also performs well as a general trail bike tire, especially in the rear.

The tread is pronounced, with a design that promotes grip in softer conditions and the Grid T7 we used weighs 858g in its 29 × 2.35 inch form.

Specialized ground control

Ground Control covers the line between the XC and the trail.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media

Specialty tire pricing

Specialized is one of the most economical tire brands.

Control Renegade, Fast Trak and Ground Control carcass tires are priced at £ 40 in the UK, while S-Works and Grid carcass tires are £ 45. We are currently awaiting international prices.

First impressions of Specialized Ground Control Grid T7 and Fast Trak Control T5

I had the chance to briefly ride some of the new tires on a Specialized Epic. I ran a Ground Control in the front and a Fast Trak in the back on varied terrain, with some rather long efforts.

In an XC context, I’m a fan of both tires. Ground Control is confident up front, with decent bulk on wider rims, which means a lot of grip and confidence.

The Grid case offers a good mix of stability and compliance, so you can really push it around corners with confidence, while still being flexible enough to handle high-frequency chatter well.

The tread has enough grunt to handle smoother conditions and while there isn’t a hint of mud, on an XC bike I think the trade-off between grip and rolling speed is just.

It’s not the fastest rolling XC tire on the market, especially in the softer T7 compound, so I would be wary of using it on the back of a real XC racing bike because I think it would lose some snap from the ride of the bike.

And in dry conditions I probably wouldn’t up front either – I think the Fast Trak has enough bite in the dry to be a safe racing option. However, for wet and downcountry XC exploits, I would love to throw Ground Control up front.

Another tire I have had a lot of experience with is the Fast Trak. It drives fast, thanks to its carefully chamfered tread, and seems to have a reasonable bite in dry to slightly soft conditions.

In an XC racing situation I would run it up front if it got wet, but provided that in the soft maybe I should be a little more careful around the corners.

The lack of a pronounced shoulder tread means you have to be a bit more careful. However, in the dry the tire leans happily on its shoulder and sculpts well-rounded turns in most drier conditions.

At the rear, that’s more than enough for Ground Control at the front. It takes turns well, doesn’t drag too badly, and manages to bite enough into the dirt to provide decent traction in all but sloppy conditions.

On wet rocks I’m not convinced the T5 compound has quite the same grip as similar spec Maxxis tires, but I haven’t tried S-Works tires in these conditions yet.

With their lighter casing, I avoided using the S-Works rubber in my testing, as I was on more marathon feats where I was happy to carry the extra weight for the peace of mind of the puncture resistance.

We will bring full reviews in due course.

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About Jeffrey Wurtsbach

Jeffrey Wurtsbach

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