As the key contact point between the bicycle and the tarmac underneath it, Specialized argues that tyres are the best way to improve any bike’s performance. It’s why tyres were the first products that the brand released back in 1976 and why the American manufacturer continues to place such focus on improving the rubber that adorns its bikes. Today, Specialized has released a new family of S-Works Turbo tyres, calling them the “fastest, best handling, and most durable performance tyres we’ve ever made.”
The key improvements to the tyres compared to the previous iteration of Turbo tyres stems from the very core: the rubber compound. After extensive testing over the last two years – which involved measuring rebound, abrasion, hardness and tear strength – Specialized has invented an all-new rubber compound which is said to reduce energy loss while riding. Specialized says that the new compound, named the GRIPTON T2, should reduce rolling resistance and is the “fastest and most efficient” compound it has ever created.
Specialized explains that the GRIPTON T2 compound features enhanced Silica bonding efficiency to the fixed polymer chains, therefore balancing pedalling efficiency with improved grip in the wet and improving durability. The brand’s engineers focussed on both rebound and hysteresis when developing the tyre. Rebound tests showed that the new compound absorbed almost no energy (therefore will roll fast) while testing hysteresis involved seeing how energy is dissipated within the compound as heat is built-up. Less heat means that less energy is wasted, and Specialized discovered that the GRIPTON T2 performed better than any race-ready compound the brand has created in the past.
The brand’s new T2 compound is only used at the centre of the new range of Turbo tyres where the focus is on durability and efficiency. On the shoulders of the tyres, where the focus is placed on grip and traction, Specialized’s proven T5 compound is used, creating a dual compound tread.
The new Turbo range sees multiple different tyre options, the most expensive and premium of them being the Turbo SW RapidAir 2BR. Already one of Specalized’s best regarded tyres among its WorldTour teams, the brand explained that finding ways to improve the RapidAir was a challenge in itself. The tyre has always been set apart from competitors with its unique two ply casing – which Specialized says is faster and has better grip – but adding the T2/T5 dual compound has even further enhanced the tyres’ performance.
Impressively, Specialized claims that the new compound adds approximately 1000 kilometres of life to a set of RapidAir tyres, as well as saving two watts of rolling resistance. They are also the lightest tyres in the Turbo range, the new RapidAir are 230 grams lighter than the previous iteration in 26mm. While the tyres can be used with RapidAir sealant to give peace of mind when it comes to punctures, Specialized also adds that with new hybrid-Kevlar Blackbelt protection under the tread, the tyres have an additional 12% more puncture protection. The RapidAir 2BR tyres are priced at £65 per tyre.
Underneath the S-Works RapidAir tyres in the range sit the Turbo 2BR tyres. These are more all-round tyres that are aimed at race days and beyond, adding extra grip and speed with the new T2/T5 compound but also 8% more puncture protection than the previous version. The Turbo 2BR tyres are priced at £55 per tyre.
The other option in the range is the S-Works Turbo tyre, which gives an option to the lovers of tube-type tyres who value the easy installation and low maintenance that this type of tyre offers. The Turbo tyre features the dual compound seen in the tubeless tyres and the BlackBelt puncture protection but delivers it in a tube-type tyre. The S-Works Turbo tyre weighs just 200 grams for a 24mm tyre and Specialized says it has a lower rolling resistance and 8% better puncture protection than the previous S-Works Turbo, explaining the tyres have “S-Works-level speed with a tube”.
Specialized notes that the RapidAir and Turbo 2BR tyres also work with a tube but are “optimised to be set up as tubeless road tires with elevated performance”.
All of the tyres are compatible with the new hookless standard but Specialized says that it recommends a “hooked rim as seen on the Roval Rapide II and Alpinist II wheels for the best ride quality”. Specialized argues that these rims allow for a wider range of pressures, up to 110psi, to provide better ride quality on different terrain and for more rider weight.
The American brand has repeatedly voiced its opinion that tubeless tyres are the way forward, arguing that they offer greater performance benefits. Its new Roval Alpinist CLX II and Rapide CLX II wheels are tubeless, with Specialized arguing that using a tube means more deformation of the tyre and hence more friction which wastes energy. It also says that tubeless tyres allow better grip and a more comfortable ride.
Specialized has also today announced a new Roval Rapide CL II wheelset which has the exact same rims as the Rapide CLX II wheels but with DT Swiss 350 hub and DT Swiss Competition Race Straight Pull spokes. This means that at a weight penalty of just 70 grams compared to the CLX verison, the Roval Rapide CL II wheels are now able to be purchased for $1750/£1500 per wheelset — $1,050/£1000 less than the Roval Rapide CLX II wheelset.