Specialized Hillbilly Grid Tire - Review

Nov 14, 2017
by Mike Kazimer  
Specialized Hillbilly


Specialized have quietly been revamping their line of mountain bike tires over the last year or so, modifying existing tread patterns with a little extra siping here, new knob profiles there, and more 2.6" options.

The Hillbilly is no exception, and the wet conditions specialist has been reworked to offer even more traction when the trails are muddy and soft. It now looks more like an aggressive version of Specialized's Butcher as opposed to a traditional mud spike, with tall, square knobs that have been spaced out to help keep the tire from getting clogged with mud.

Specialized Hillbilly Details

• Intended conditions: soft to intermediate terrain
• Gripton rubber compound
• Tubeless ready
• Sizes: 27.5 x 2.6", 29 x 2.6", 29 x 2.3" (tested)
• Weight: 980 grams
• Price: $60 USD
www.specialized.com

In addition to the new tread pattern, the Hillbilly uses Specialized's proprietary Gripton rubber compound, which is claimed to offer vibration damping properties that help keep the tire sticking to the ground in rougher sections of trail. It's the 29 x 2.3” Grid casing version that's tested here, but there are also 27.5 x 2.6” and 29 x 2.6” options available, all priced at $60 USD.


Specialized Hillbilly
Tall side knobs help the Hillbilly dig deep into the ground.
Specialized Hillbilly
There's more siping than the prior version, which helps deliver even more traction.


Performance

The Hillbilly was officially released only a few month ago, but I was able to get my hands on some early production samples late last winter, which means I've been able to subject them to plenty of muddy miles.

The installation and tubeless setup was hassle-free, and once installed on a rim with a 30mm internal width the Hillbilly measured a true-to-size 2.3” from side knob to side knob. As far as pressures go, I typically run 21 psi in the front, but I ended up going a couple pounds higher with these tires to get the sidewall support that I was looking for. The reinforced Grid casing is Specialized's answer to riders looking for more puncture resistance, although it's not quite as burly as what Maxxis offers with their DoubleDown casing – riders in extremely rocky areas may find themselves seeking even more protection. That being said, I didn't suffer any punctures over the course of the test period, although the trails I was on tended to have more roots than rocks, which aren't as likely to slice a sidewall.

Enough about casings and pressures – how does the Hillbilly handle the slop? Extremely well, with loads of traction available, even on harder surfaces – areas where this style of tire typically struggles. Compared to the Maxxis Shorty, the Hillbilly felt less likely to suddenly slide out when faced with the slimy roots and wet rocks that are common here in the Pacific Northwest, and it soon became my go-to front tire when trail conditions took a turn for the worse.

The Hillbilly isn't an all-rounder (and it's not billed as one) and on dry, hardpacked trails the taller knobs do have a tendency to squirm, especially during hard cornering. But when those trails turn to mud, the same knobs will dig right in with the tenacity of a rabid dog going after a buried bone, churning at the soil and providing massive amounts of grip. There were times when I found myself laughing out loud after exiting a turn – it's positively silly just how well this tire will lock-in and hold onto softer ground.

Even with such an aggressive tread pattern the Hillbilly's rolling resistance is reasonable. It's certainly not a ultra-fast rolling summer tire, but it never felt overly-sluggish either. I am curious about what running the 2.6” version in the front and rear would be like – I have a feeling that's a recipe for a really good time. As far as durability goes, tires last a lot longer when they're used in the mud rather than on rocky, hardpacked terrain, and this Hillbilly is still going strong, with enough tread left for another round of winter riding.


Specialized Hillbilly


Pinkbike's Take


bigquotesThe new Hillbilly is a highly recommended option for riders who frequently find themselves riding in wet, muddy conditions. It's more versatile than a full-on mud spike, checks in at a reasonable weight, and perhaps best of all, has a very reasonable price – that's a tough combination to beat.  Mike Kazimer
Must Read This Week

120 Comments

  • + 37
 Someone high up in Spec's tyre division is British... so many great tyres for when it's raining cats & dogs

Keen to match this to a Purg out back
  • + 4
 mbuk did an article a few years back, spesh use the uk as a test bed for wet tyres, as do a fair few other brands, our kind of mud is different to everyone elses.
  • + 2
 Keen to match this to a Butcher out back too for greasy terrain
  • + 4
 Or they live and ride in a temperate rain forest. Either way, low durometer mud tires are the only options 10 months of the year around these parts #northwetcouver #bringyoursnorkle.
  • + 3
 @tomo12377 don't bother with the purg 2.6, ran it in the alps over the summer and sliced it to bits. The grip wasn't great either. However I couldn't recommended the 2.6 butcher any higher. Amazing tyre.
  • + 2
 @yeti-monster: run the 2.3 purg year round in the back (27.5 & 29) can't get enough of it such a good tyre. Setup tubeless too no burping/scurming right down to 25psi and I aint exactly a stick fairy
  • + 1
 whats your go to for gluggy clay?
  • + 2
 @dirtbeard: ha! nothing grips gluggy clay. Out of interest I was blasting down a wet slippy downhill on Sunday on the butchers and pulled way ahead of my pal on maxxis shorties. Normally very evenly matched.
This new spesh tyre looks like the gluggy clay go to tyre now
  • + 1
 @yeti-monster: i only use 2.4 hr2 always thought the were abit slow in the dry but just went out in wet on 2.3 ardents and shat myself i will take grip over speed now.
  • + 1
 @dirtbeard: there is a middle ground you know, youve kinda gone one extreme to the other there. DHF, aggressor, griffin, tomahawk, lots of grippier than ardent but faster than hr2 tyres in maxxis' line up.
  • + 1
 @inked-up-metalhead: yeah haven't had much chance to play around @$100 a tire I just ride my hr2 the ardents were on a demo bike.time for some new rubber though.might go aggressor out back for summer
  • + 1
 @dirtbeard: fair enough, yeah i usually run dhfs all year, occasionally throw my old swampthings on if its really boggy, ive experimented with faster rear tyres in the past and always been unimpressed tbh, the loss in grip over a minion for a slight gain in rolling speed isnt worth the trade, just throw an extra 5 psi in the rear and it rolls faster anyway.
  • + 1
 @tomo12377: Yep the Purg Grid on the back is a good one, I run a Magic Mary up front and Purg at the back and find it a great combo.
  • + 32
 looks like spesh is gaining traction on the their tire lineup
  • + 18
 So tyred of those puns...
  • + 19
 It certainly spiked my interest
  • + 14
 Stop this, you're all a bunch of knobs!
  • + 4
 These puns are circling the rim.
  • + 5
 Get a Gripton yourself, man!
  • - 1
 @JesseE: you folks have to stop casing post for puns
  • + 0
 I'm off the grid and ready to double down!
  • + 2
 Recycling the same tired puns at every reifen review will not stop ocean fill. But at least we're recycling something.
  • + 6
 There’s no end in sipe!
  • + 2
 @rockhammer: have you seen the price too, it's dailight rubbery!
  • + 0
 I'm rolling allarounder laughing
  • + 17
 muddy me up and call me a hillbilly, ill take 4
  • + 13
 Great looking winter tire, I think I'll pick one up...oh wait...no 26 option. FML.
  • - 23
flag graeme187 (Nov 14, 2017 at 8:56) (Below Threshold)
 does it come in 29?
  • + 13
 @graeme187: why don't you read the article?!?!
  • + 3
 @graeme187:

At the top of the article:

"• Sizes: 27.5 x 2.6", 29 x 2.6", 29 x 2.3" (tested)"

Read before typing.
  • - 17
flag Andrewlunka (Nov 14, 2017 at 11:27) (Below Threshold)
 @CaptainSnappy: I still don't see the 26" option. 27.5x2.6 is not a 26" tire size. 2.6 is the width, not the wheel size. they only are selling it 27.5 or 29er. I think you need to read the article more carefully.
  • + 7
 @Andrewlunka: Before you talk shi*t on someone else's reading comprehension you should read more carefully yourself! @CaptainSnappy was talking to the first response from @graeme187 not the original comment... You sir are the one who needs to read more carefully!!!
  • + 4
 @millsr4: You sure told him! Good day to you sir. Good day I say!
  • + 8
 @Andrewlunka: hahaha you absolute peanut
  • + 6
 @mikekazimer - for fall through spring riding in Bellingham, how does this compare to the standard issue Minion DHF/DHR combo? Seems like while it's plenty wet here, full-on mud spikes are not allround-y enough. Given what you say about how this holds on over greasy roots, if you were to run one tire for the entire wet-ish season here, would you go DHF/DHR, Hillbilly, or something else entirely?
  • + 0
 Muddy Mary's are a solid pick.
  • + 9
 @g-42, I still prefer the DHF / DHR II combo, or dual DHR II tires for the Bellingham area - they don't dig in quite as much as the Hillbilly, but the slightly lower tread profile makes them more predicable on the roots and rocks. Our mud isn't super gloppy / sticky, so a spike tire isn't as necessary.
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: Thanks!
  • + 1
 @mikekazimer: yea I agree with the DHR II for the best all year grip. they just seem to float a lot less on wet dirt than a DHF, although I think the DHF has more ground contact and therefore more grip on loose over hardpack. I always thought I'll get a Shorty for fall, but riding that DHR II I really can't see why I should...
  • + 6
 Magic Mary is my personal favorite bham front tire.
  • + 3
 You really like the DHR II for wet riding?! I tried those like 2 years ago and first time riding it in the wet, I was sliding non stop on wet roots...changed it back for my beloved DHF and never bought one again!
  • + 3
 @Timo82: yes, I do.
  • + 1
 @Timo82: Here I am running Dhr2s in winter and DHFs in summerFrown
  • + 6
 I tend to use the heavier casings of schwalbe but yeah spesh's grid casing is a good choice. but that crap about grippage on wet roots is a fantasy. it comes down to finesse an momentum, not the tire.
  • + 2
 I dare to differ. Sure, you can compensate for anything including a semi slick on front, but it remains a fact that spikes are more prone to be grabbed by diagonal roots than the “regular” tyres. Then they absolutely suck on slabs. There’s an easily perceived difference between Minions and Shorties when it comes to riding on roots.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: Yes give me a minion every time for the wet shiny roots
  • + 4
 I put on a Hillbilly on 4:20 for Williams Lake, and kept it on all year. From dry blown out Whistler to rowdy chutes to muddy slop, I've marveled at how well these tires do it all. And they barely look like I rode them. Tested, beaten, and approved! I've always been a Maxxis guy, with the odd Muddy Mary's, but big S is surely making waves!!
  • + 4
 As a card carrying “hillbilly” I find this branding offensive. We don’t all have wide gaps between our teeth, we can’t all eat an apple through a picket fence. “Cousin bangers” or “squirrel eaters” would be much more appropriate, accurate and less offensive.
  • + 7
 How does it compare to Magic Mary??
  • + 6
 Nothing compares to a magic Mary
  • + 1
 Asking the one important question
  • + 3
 Yes PB please do a shootout of this vs MM vs Shorty. Make that multiple shootouts so we can compare for each wheel size / casing weight as well!
  • + 3
 Good thing for they went with "Gripton" instead of "Gription." I've been ranking tires by their Gription for years now, and I'm sure if they heard I'd end up with a lawsuit!
  • + 3
 Big fan of the Butcher but riding in CO you hit a mud puddle once a year so not sure how the rubber handles mud. I"ll stick with schwalbe for mud.
  • + 1
 I’ve never tried the Maxxis thick DH style side wall but the grids are great. I ride pretty sloppy so I’m always landing wonky out of drops and stuff and hitting shitty lines through the rocks and those tires always hold up no burps no punctures since I started riding them about 3 years ago. Also they’re really cheap compared to just about every other quality tubeless tire out there.
  • + 4
 do these tire measure 2.6" when mounted on a rim,all the 2.6" Butchers i've seen are about 2.35" on a 30mm rim.
  • + 4
 I'd like to know this too.
  • + 8
 because they mesure it with 60 psi .... and this is not a joke
  • + 2
 no they dont, a 2.5 minion is much larger. this is in the 29er category. not sure how the others measure out.
  • + 6
 No they do not. I have them mounted to 30mm id and it's 2.5 and it took a bit of time to expand to that. The packaging also states the following: 21mm rim Id= 2.35, 30mm rim Id = 2.4, 38mm rim ID = 2.55.
  • - 4
flag excavator666 (Nov 14, 2017 at 9:20) (Below Threshold)
 Had a 2.3 Purgatory on the front a while back, and thankfully I ripped a hole in it after about 2 weeks. It was so skinny that it constantly distracted me from my riding. I just couldn't get it out of the back of my mind.
  • + 1
 @MisterJones: word...people have to know that!
  • + 1
 @MisterJones: they’re measured at maximum inflation for good reason.
  • + 4
 @thenotoriousmic: and that reason would be...?
  • + 2
 Also, @mikekazimer just an FYI, the standards set out by the ETRTO dictate that measurement of tire width does NOT include any knobs, it's only the casing that's being measured.
  • + 1
 Umm, my 2.6 butcher and slaughter are both massive on a 29mm internal rim, they measure exactly 2.6. I assume this would be the same.
  • + 1
 new 2.6 hillbilly on a 29mm internal rim at 40psi for 2 days: 62mm or 2.44" at the casing. My old 2.6 butcher was around 61mm at riding psi on a 35mm inner rim.
  • + 1
 Ran the Butcher/Slaughter GRID Gripton combo in 27.5 x 2.6 on my DH bike for 2 days. Cornering knobs already showing damage and I was flexing the rear into the swing arm on my Operator running 31psi! The 2.6 is a tall tire, measured 2.6in on a mtx33 rim versus 2.4in for a DHF 2.5 DH casing, but it’s only 0.1in wider than the DHF (2.5 vs 2.4 on same mtx33 rim). Not enough clearance on my Boxxer to run a fender either. Not impressed and put the stock DHF 2.5’s back on the bike.
  • + 1
 I use one on the back of my singlespeed for winter conditions. Great grip. In fact its still on there as it now really loamy and still working great. Paid NZD$45 so very happy. No problems so far with the grid casing.
  • + 4
 I'll stick with the Shorty.
  • + 1
 I have a old 26” hillbilly tire that says prototype on the side of it, and below that it says “right at your own risk”!! got it from a friend that used to design tires for specialized!
  • + 4
 Can I buy it without a specialized logo?
  • + 1
 Gripton rubber is great below 0 C°, doesnt go hockeypuck like other soft compounds do. For semifrozen trails i prefer butcher though as frozen trails are more like hard pack.
  • + 3
 DHF and DHR for everything.
  • + 2
 Why won’t specialized or anyone else tell use what compound they’re currently using?
  • + 1
 Honest question, did they fix the beads on their tires? I’ve always had issues with Spec tire beads wearing out and causing flats.
  • + 1
 I've personally never had a specialized bead tear out. But that said, yes, these are all new casings, designs and compounds. Much different tires.
  • + 2
 @btjenki: I don't doubt it, but my time in the shop has shown me this problem is across the board. I've seen worn beads on anything from road tires all the way up to fat tires. This is also something that shows up when the tire is almost new... I mean I shouldn't complain, it pays my salary, but the problem seems too widespread for it to be a single occurrence or coincidence and that is why I ask.
  • + 2
 Looks a nightmare for wet roots and rocks. Conti projekt baron for 26 in 2.4 and soon to be in 2.6
  • + 2
 What!!?? Soon 2.6???!!! Tell me more!
  • + 2
 @bushwacked: next year with the release of the other 2.6 inch sizes
  • + 1
 @poah: cheers, will have to make do with the 2.4’s for now
  • + 1
 yip me too though not sure 2.6 tyres in slop is a good idea
  • + 1
 Personally I find all the new Specialized rubber to be very twitchy in the wet
  • + 2
 Lol shorty for sure
  • + 0
 This has been out for far longer than the shorty you scrub
  • + 1
 Not ture. The older hillbilly 26” dh which was a great tire, and the 29 grid also a great have been out for a years. This hillbilly is different. Different rubber, different sidewall, and different tred patern.
  • - 2
 @rich2007: Wrong, just because they added siping doesnt mean its a entirely new concept or new direction for this tire. They are just improving on the concept. The hill billy was the first half spike loam tire released years ahead of the shorty.
  • + 4
 Yes the tire with name hillbilly has been out longer. The tire that was reviewed here is different. It is a different tread pattern, it is a different rubber compound, it is a different casing, it was even made in a completely different factory. You are correct it is not a new concept and the hillbilly was one of the first cut spikes offered, this particular one shares the name only.
  • - 4
flag poozank (Nov 14, 2017 at 12:57) (Below Threshold)
 @rich2007: that's like saying a 1990 Porsche 911 is not the same as a 2017 911 obviously they aren't the same car however that does not mean they aren't variations on each other and a continuation of the same ideas
  • + 0
 I might just have to get a set of these in 2.6" for my Wreckoning build tup @theminsta @BakerDusty @turco999
  • + 1
 Front only with knobs that agro!
  • + 1
 No 26? So the kids can't play in the mud now???
  • + 1
 When will they review the new schwalbe “horny Hannah” winter tire
  • + 1
 This looks like a great syncline winter tire. Coyote cliffs!
  • + 1
 No 26" ... no interest .
  • + 1
 Sup' (Maxxis) Shorty?
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