2020 Specialized Butcher GRID Trail Tire Review
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
What it is: Specialized's reworked Butcher tires for Enduro and DH applications, using the new GRID Trail casing.
In the past, I've had mixed luck with Specialized tires. By that, I mean I wasn't a huge fan due to weepy sidewalls, thin casings, and mediocre grip. The only tire I really got along with, oddly enough, was the Ground Control I ran on my SS for a while, however the casing wept so badly, it'd leave a slick spot on the floor after a while.
For 2020, Specialized has somewhat silently revamped their enduro and DH tires. I wish they released more details, but apparently changes were made to compound and casings, along with minor tread changes. According to one press release I found, these changes apply to the Purgatory, Butcher, and Eliminator tires.
Additionally, a new casing option was added called GRID Trail, sitting somewhere between GRID and BLCK DMND casings, offering more durability than GRID but without the weight penalty of BLCK DMND.
These details are somewhat obscure and hard to find details on, Specialized could have done a better job communicating or advertising these changes across the board, but that doesn't really impact the performance of the tire, which has been surprising.
When I bought my 2020 Enduro, it came with Butcher GRID Trail tires front and rear, the 2.6 up front and a 2.3 in the back. What I expected was to ride them once, then toss them, however I have been pleasantly surprised by the tires and have no real intentions on removing them outside of just trying something different. The changes have resulted in a tire that surprised me compared to previous versions I've tried.
My bike came with two of their tires, these measured somewhat interestingly (measured on 30mm IW rims, DT Swiss EX511s):
Butcher GRID Trail 2.3 (rear) - knob to knob : 58mm, casing : 61mm, claimed weight of 900gr
Butcher GRID Trail 2.6 (front) - knob to knob : 64mm, casing : 65mm, claimed weight of 960gr
The numbers above are interesting, because it shows that the 2.3 is much closer to 2.4, while the 2.6 is closer to 2.55. The volume on the 2.3 is impressive for a 2.3in tire, if I was looking for an aggressive front tire for trail riding, I would consider it over the Minion given its size, rolling speed, and weight.
The 2.6 is slightly less impressive in size, being on the smaller side, however I think this is somewhat to be expected given that it will likely need to clear forks and frames with greater ease than the 2.3. In either case, the volume of the casing is impressive, but not over the top.
Both tires have the same knob heights, so it appears the tread is identical, just stretched out more. That said, I do think increasing the knob height slightly on the 2.6 would have been a good idea, but it seems to work well in practice.
Setting up the tires tubeless was easy, no issues with a slipped bead or other problems. They do seem to stretch a bit over time and the fit over the rim when installing the tire isn't as tight as I'm used to, which can make setting them up on the rim a bit more tedious. I'm not sure if this has any practical effects on riding, though.
At the time I ran these, I weighed about 200lbs geared up and found that 20-21psi front and 25-27psi rear, depending on conditions, worked best. As with most tires, the performance you get will vary depending on the air pressure you run, the 2.6 up front seemingly a bit more sensitive to being under or over pressurized, while the rear had a better margin of error.
I have not tried these tires with inserts, yet, however the casing is thin and pliable enough that it should be easy installation, on par with something like a EXO or EXO+ tire more than a DD or DH casing.
Coming off WTB tires, which I feel are the grippiest tires I've run, I didn't have high expectations for these. That's also based on previous experiences with Specialized tires, specifically the Butcher, which I found unpredictable and lacking grip, along with having some nasty casing issues.
On the first ride, all those concerns went out the window. I was very impressed with the performance of the tires under the conditions I was riding, something that's continued for the last few months I've had them.
Since putting these tires on, I've ridden them on a variety of conditions ranging from snow to saturated to dusty and been very surprised by their performance in all conditions, especially the 2.3 in the rear.
For starters, being a lighter tire with a fairly moderate tread depth, these roll faster than a lot of the heavier or bigger knob options I've run in the past. The bike picks up speed faster and accelerates with more intention than with slower tires, yet the traction remains very good, at least on par with Minions.
The braking traction is excellent, I've ridden some pretty steep (45-50% grade) trails both in damp, leafy conditions and on soaked dirt, but I had more braking traction than I'm used to with any tire except maybe the WTB Judge. On the steep segments, the tires remained planted and, when they let loose, it was predictable and easily controlled. Under heavy braking, they hold on very well and are confidence inspiring when you come up on a steep segment and need to manage your speed.
Cornering traction is very good, but definitely loses out a bit to options with larger side knobs in very dusty conditions or in really soft dirt, especially mud. One of the days I rode, we rode a half mile or so segment of trail that was very rooty and off camber, along with being very wet and muddy. I think any tire would have suffered in these conditions, so I can't fault them entirely, but I definitely wanted my WTB tires on that day. Again, they performed at least as well as Minions, if not slightly better on the wet roots, but I found myself wanting a blockier tire to shed the mud.
I've found the casings comfortable and not overly harsh, which some of the more aggressive casings seem to have issues with. That said, it's definitely not a DD or DH casing, so that's to be expected.
So they roll fast, brake well, and corner well, what's not to like? I've yet to really figure that out. They come at a good price, they are light, and they grip really well. As an all around, Minion-esque type tire, these are hard to find fault in.
I will make one caveat to all my praise, I did pinch flat on a high speed rocky section of trail when I slammed the tire into a square edge rock. I've done this with other tires that have lighter casings before, but it's not something I do regularly. If you are racing enduros in really harsh, rocky conditions, a thicker casing may be merited, though.
Aside from that, they've held up very well with no tears or punctures, despite being ridden on some pretty rough, technical trails. I'm not normally one to tear tires, though, so if you are, then there may be an issue here, as these casings are definitely thinner than the 'Tough' casings from WTB or Maxxis DD and DH casings.
Unlike other Specialized tires I've had, the sidewalls haven't wept at all, either.
As for the tread life, you can see a photo below, this is after about 250 or so miles, which I'd rate as excellent especially considering it's performance in the wet:
Anyone looking for a great all around tire that is light and grippy, for trail usage or 'light' enduro. If you have issues shredding tires or pinch flatting, then running BLCK DMND casing would be a better choice. If your terrain is rocky, then you may run into pinch flat issues at high speeds.
The tires seem to do best in intermediate wet and dusty conditions, if your conditions are super sloppy or very dusty, then another tire may be more suitable. For wet roots, rocks, some dusty conditions, and wet dirt, they grip on par with or better than Maxxis Minions or the EXO+/3C Assegai I tested previously.
These tires would be great for the front of an aggressive trailbike or front/rear of an Enduro bike that isn't pounding on rocky terrain. If you find yourself having problems with the mud shedding of Minions or tearing/flatting EXO/EXO+ level casings, then these probably won't work for you. If the casing is the problem, I would suggest the BLCK DMND casing or another tire, like the Judge, especially for the rear.
Identifying the correct version
I almost bought the wrong version of the tires, because the only difference you can visually see is the serial number on the box. Thankfully, I was shown that if you look at the serial number, it should have a '20' in it instead of a '19' (e.g. 00120 vs 00119). This number is printed on the top of the tire box, so keep an eye out if you plan on buying these.
Again, Specialized could have done a better job communicating this, but there is a difference and if you get the 2019 expecting it to perform the same as the 2020, you may be disappointed.
vs. Maxxis Minion DHF/DHRII : It's hard to fault or criticize Minions, they do well in almost all conditions, they have plenty of casing options, and the tread has great life. In my experiences with the Butcher, I found them to be on par with one another, with a slight nod towards the Specialized tires in weight and braking performance. That said, the Maxxis options have more compound and casing choices, including MaxxGrip, which would probably edge out the Butcher in wet conditions, however I haven't tried these.
vs. Assegai EXO+/3C : I didn't get along with the Assegai very well, I found it would lose traction unpredictably and had poor grip on wet surfaces. Apparently, this is due to the MaxxTerra compound in the EXO+/3C version and less of an issue in DD or DH casings that come in Maxxgrip, which I haven't tried. In any case, the Butcher is lighter, faster, and grips more consistently than the Assegai EXO+/3C did for me, along with having better volume and casing compliance.
vs. WTB Vigilante / Judge : The Butchers are much lighter than this combination (by at least 450gr) and roll faster, they also grip better on hard packed surfaces and the tire life is better. The WTB tires are grippier, though, and have thicker casings. The grip difference in the WTB options will be most noticeable on soft or wet trails, where the blockier profile of the WTB tires will bite in better. The WTB tires will also clear mud slightly easier. Sizing is about the same.
Great, consistent price point of $60
Excellent braking traction, even on steep and wet terrain
Traction on wet roots and rocks is very consistent and predictable
Rolling speed and weight is good for an aggressive tire
Compliant, comfortable casings
Good volume, especially with the impressive size of the 2.3, which measure larger than 2.3
Casing is not durable enough for rough or rocky terrain
Tire beads stretch over time and can make installation a bit more tedious than with tighter beads
Figuring out if you have the 2019 or 2020 version is not exactly obvious