The first time a tire ever impressed me, it was a 28mm-wide Specialized Turbo. Reagan was in office. It was my first folding clincher and its improvement on my bike’s handling and rolling was enough that I vowed to buy a set of tubular race wheels. Basically, I decided that if a Mustang was that much better than my Corolla, I needed a Lamborghini.
Since then, everyone has upped their tire game to the point that I haven’t ridden a 23mm tire I disliked enough to comment on in more than five years. It’s also fair to observe that while Specialized helped lead a revolution in clinchers, they’ve made some tires that were frozen-pizza awful.
They also spent some serious money on rolling resistance research and when they got what can only be described as bad news, rather than doubling down on marketing double-speak, they overhauled their entire tire program. I like to point to moments like this when people want to accuse Specialized of building their entire company on exhaust and reflective devices.
We’re a a couple of years into that overhaul now and for the last two months I’ve been riding the new S-Works Turbo. I’m running it on Zipp 303s in a steel frame. This generation of the S-Works Turbo is 220 tpi and supple as a dress shirt. It comes in three widths: 22, 24 and 26mm. I wish they offered 28s and 30s, too. I’m riding the 26s and on the awful roads in Sonoma County, they are the difference between shoulder pain and fun. On the label they suggest a pressure range of 110 to 125 psi, but I disregarded that the way I disregarded the inscription that says “for racing only.” Without bothering to smirk, I’ve been pumping them up to between 85 and 90 psi in the front and 90 to 95 psi in the rear. Were the roads here better, I might run a bit more pressure, but I paid a lot for my dental work. The only flat I’ve gotten has been from a thorn I found while picking blackberries at the side of the road. Given the quality of the blackberries, it was totally worth it.
That this tire only goes for $55 is a selling point in itself. That’s cheap enough among high-performance clinchers that it’s not unreasonable to run them in all but rainy conditions, when water will cause any tire to flat more readily.
Specialized refers to the rubber compound as Gripton, which is cute enough, but objectively all we know is that it’s a proprietary blend that is high on grip and low on rolling resistance. Anyone who has read a bit about rubber knows that those two qualities are inherently at odds. I’d love to know what the durometer of the rubber is so that I can better compare it to competitors, just for my own edification.
As a reviewer, every now and then you try something that causes you not to move on to the next sample. This is one of those occasions.