Curtis Keene and Jared Graves will be riding on new versions of the Specialized Butcher and Hillbilly this weekend at the fourth round of the Enduro World Series, tires that were created based specifically on their requests. According to Wolf VormWalde, who heads up Specialized's tire development, “We started last year with Jared and Curtis approaching us and saying, 'We don't have the right tires. We either have the Grid tires, a reinforced trail version, but it's not tough enough, or we have the DH version, but it's too heavy, so we need something in between.'”
The result is the new 120 tpi BLCK DMND casing (apparently there was a vowel shortage when they came up with the name), which uses an exclusive design that was developed in conjunction with the tire factory Specialized works with. The casing has one ply that wraps all the way around, and a second ply that stops just under the shoulder knobs. This helps to keep the crown of the tire flexible in order to adapt to the shape of the ground, while still maintaining plenty of sidewall support. There's also a rubber apex layer that's thicker around the bead area, and then thinner towards the shoulder knobs, a design that's intended to help prevent pinch flats by protecting the tire's sidewall from being sliced if it bottoms out against the rim.
The tread pattern of the Butcher and the Hillbilly remains the same, but the rubber compound and casing construction are all new.
The actual tread pattern of the BLCK DMND tires is the same as the current versions of the Butcher and Hillbilly, but the rubber compound that's used is slower rebounding to help the tire stick to the ground. “When you want grip, and you want the tire to stick to the ground, that's what you want," says VormWalde. “It doesn't need to be super soft, but it needs to come back slowly.” The new tires will be available in 2.3” and 2.6” version for both 27.5 and 29” wheels, along with a 27.5 x 2.8” Butcher.
In addition to the new casing option, Specialized is also launching their own line of tire sealant. It's not radically different from other options on the market, but they wanted to be able to offer a sealant they were confident would work well with their tires and wheels.
It's looking like it could be a wet and wild two days of racing on the Austrian / Slovenian border, a perfect proving ground to see how the new tires hold up - check back for videos, photo epics, and results throughout the weekend.