Review: Specialized's New Cannibal Tire is DH Race Ready

May 18, 2022 at 10:44
by Mike Kazimer  

Convincing a downhill racer to deviate from their preferred setup can be a tricky proposition, especially when it comes to tires. There's a reason that so many Sharpies get deployed on a race weekend – some tires simply work better than others, and if that's going to potentially be the difference between a podium finish or a mid-pack result, well, sponsors be damned.

Specialized developed the new Cannibal tire as a direct answer to their team riders' requests, a tire whose final design was directly influenced by feedback from Loic Bruni and Finn Iles. The goal was to relegate those Sharpies to the toolbox, and if the podium finishes at the Lourdes World Cup are anything to go by that goal was achieved. Now it's time to see if that streak continues at Fort William.
Specialized Cannibal Details
• Gripton T9 rubber compound
• 60 tpi, 2-ply Grid Gravity casing
• Sizes: 29 x 2.4" or 27.5 x 2.4"
• Weight: 1397 grams - 29 x 2.4" / 1365 grams - 27.5 x 2.4"
• MSRP: $80 USD
specialized.com

Photo: Specialized
DETAILS

The Cannibal's tread pattern deviates from the “looks like an Assegai” route that multiple companies have been traveling down lately. Instead, it uses very large side knobs that are free of any siping. That lack of siping is intended to increase the cornering support, and reduce the chance of the tread folding over at the high speeds and higher forces that are encountered on the World Cup circuit. L-shaped knobs alternate with a 'twisted' shoulder knob that's oriented to help improve braking traction.

Moving to the center tread there are three rows of two knobs, and then a large hexagon shaped knob that sort of looks like the Transformer logo. Again, a high level of predictable braking performance was the goal here, which is what led to the larger knobs – a greater surface area and bigger edges allow the tire to dig in and claw at the ground for more traction.

The best tread pattern in the world is no use if the tire doesn't have the rubber compound and casing construction to back it up. To that end, Specialized has been tweaking their rubber recipe for the last few years, working with their suppliers to come up with compounds that deliver the desired blend of grip, durability, and overall ride feel. The Cannibal uses Specialized's grippiest T9 rubber (the higher the number the softer the rubber), and a dual-ply 60 tpi casing.

During the Cannibal's development experiments were done with the geometry of the apex, the portion of the tire directly above the bead. The height and thickness of the rubber in this area affects the tire's handling and pinch flat resistance, and Specialized's designers ended up going with a curved and tapered design after trying different configurations. That apex geometry is now found on all of Specialized's Grid Gravity casing tires, not just the Cannibal.

On the topic of Grid Gravity, that's the only casing option for the Cannibal, in either a 29” or 27.5” diameter in a 2.4” width. There aren't any plans for a single-ply version, at least not in the near future. Mounted on a rim with a 29mm internal width the Cannibal measured true to size, at 2.44" at the widest part of the tread.



RIDE IMPRESSIONS

It hasn't stopped raining for more than a day or two since my test set of Cannibal tires showed up, so I can't comment yet on the Cannibal's handling in the dry, or on long term durability – those verdicts will have to wait. We have a group test in the works, so look for those results later this year. In the meantime, I have been able to get them out on a wide range of trails styles, everything from harder packed and higher speed to steep, greasy, and rooty.

INSTALLATION

Mounting up the tires didn't post much of a hassle. It does take a little extra effort to get them mounted onto the rim due to the thicker casings, but that's typical of most DH tires, and once in place they seated and sealed with a floor pump, no compressor required. I've been running 20 psi in the front and 22 psi in the rear, which has worked well for my 160 lb weight and the softer trail conditions. I've also tested them on an eMTB, which allowed me to rack up a bunch of miles in a relatively short amount of time. On the heavier e-bike I increased the pressure by a couple of pounds, but I was still able to run them in the low 20s without any issues.


ON THE TRAIL

You don't need to be a World Cup racer to enjoy the Cannibal, but it does feel best at higher speeds. There are some tires out there that feel like they're hugging the ground, wrapping around every undulation like the tentacles of an octopus. With the Cannibal, it's more like like it's trying to pummel every obstacle into submission. Once the pace picks up and the hits get bigger the Cannibal really comes into its own. 'Solid' is the adjective that I kept coming back to – there were no surprises, no sudden slide outs or handling quirks that I had to get used to.

The ride feel is somewhat reminiscent of Michelin's DH tires, although the Cannibal doesn't feel as heavily damped. The Michelins can feel harsh when the miles per hour drop, while the Cannibal has a wider range of comfortable operating speeds.

Despite the relatively tall tread, the Cannibal remains very predictable even on harder packed sections of trail. There's lots of cornering support, and I didn't experience any unwanted squirming or folding over.

I've ridden the Cannibal on some incredibly wet days and came away impressed with how much traction they delivered. Quantifying stickiness is tricky, especially since it takes more than a super low durometer rubber to make a tire work well in the wet, but the Cannibal held its own over slimy roots and down greasy chutes. The tread height is deep enough to dig into softer ground for predictable braking performance, but not so tall that they'll fold over when you hit a rooty or rocky section - the overall predictability translates to rocky and rooty sections of trail as well.

A true mud spike, or even a cut-spike style tire like the Maxxis Shorty or Specialized Hillbilly will still be the way to go for trails where mud is the prevailing element, since the Cannibal can't dig in quite as deep as those options. Still, it can definitely handle wet conditions, and the predictability on harder packed surfaces is a benefit over those more mud-specific models.


WEIGHT & PRICE

The Cannibal's 1397 gram weight is right in line with this type of tire. For comparison, a DH-casing Maxxis Assegai weighs 1340 grams, a Schwalbe Magic Mary Super DH weighs 1400 grams, and Michelins DH22 tires come in at 1500 grams each.

When it comes to price, the Cannibal is on the lower end of the price spectrum. No, they're not the cheapest but they are $15 - $20 less than comparable options from Maxxis and Schwalbe.






Pros

+ Very solid and predictable, especially at higher speeds
+ Not as expensive as other comparable race-ready tires

Cons

- Can feel a little clunky when the pace drops
- It's only available in a DH-casing option (for now)




Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesYou don't need to be a World Cup contender to enjoy the Cannibal, or even be a racer at all. It's a sturdy, very supportive option that works best at higher speeds, but doesn't give up that much performance when things slow down. The big, sipe free side knobs should help with longevity, making it a good contender for bike park or eMTB usage.

It'll be interesting to see what tires the Specialized Gravity Team choose for the remainder of the World Cup season, but if I had to guess that ol' Sharpie isn't going to see much usage – the Cannibal is that good.
Mike Kazimer








131 Comments

  • 86 8
 These names are getting ridiculous. Butcher/Purgatory/Cannibal/Slaughter in 2022, what'll we have with Specialized tire names in 2025? Genocide 29x2.5" DH Casing? Napalm Death 29x2.6" GRID? Disembowler 29x2.5" GRID?
  • 46 0
 The next step is slapping Heavy Metal Album-cover graphics on the sidewalls.
  • 16 0
 Perhaps the person naming them is only 5 feet tall and rides a 29er on very steep trails?
  • 3 1
 @Ttimer: I would love Vince Locke designed sidewalls.
  • 7 7
 @Ttimer: Better than GIANT YELLOW LETTERS! Wink
  • 14 1
 Napalm death is cool I’d totally run them! Big Grin
  • 30 0
 Agreed. I’d be interested in a front/rear combo called Puppies n Kittens for a change. Why’s it always gotta be so aggro?
  • 2 0
 @Ttimer: that would definitely be an positive argument toward those tires for me !
  • 21 0
 @RonSauce: after you wear out your Cannibal tire, does it become a Cannibal Corpse?
  • 3 0
 Don't forget the 27.5x2.8" Eviscerater DH EXO+ SS Race GRID SuperTrail
  • 3 0
 @jgoldfield: only if there is nothing left to mutilate. My trailbike has Derek Riggs artwork on it already.
  • 10 0
 Uhhh the Cannibal is a legacy name for Specialized. They had a tire with that name released in the early 90s.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: Hell yeah!
  • 4 0
 @mark73: Yup! Used to rock those huge 1.95s on my Jamis Dakota. Remember them being pretty good compared to whatever I'd replaced.
  • 1 1
 Stop the Names are find.
  • 3 0
 @Ttimer: it shouldn’t, but that might make me choose a tire just because

IT’S SO F**KING METAL!!!!!!
  • 4 1
 I would buy a tire named "disembowler" just for the name alone.
  • 4 0
 Corpsegrinder would be amazing. And then they would get George Fisher from the product pictures
  • 4 0
 I like the commenter who asks why an aggressive tread pattern DH tire has to have an aggressive name.
  • 5 1
 @mark73: they are going to sue themselves over that
  • 4 0
 @Rubberelli: Would you really buy a DH tyre named "Flower Fairy"? Or "Rainbow Surfer"
  • 4 0
 @Ttimer: my idea was Motorhead themed names, Bomber, Overkill, AOS, Orgasmatron etc
  • 2 1
 @pakleni: in todays bizarro world people would clamor for the tires..
  • 3 0
 Schwalbe on their way to release the Michel Myers tire
  • 3 0
 @pakleni: yes please, I would be very happy to ride those.

As long as they are good tyres I couldn't care less.

Would still be better then continentals line up. I'm currently running kryptotal and xynotal, both sound like prescription drugs
  • 1 1
 They went the wrong way since Gwin left...
  • 4 1
 @pakleni: There are dudes running “ass-guy” tires, so anything is possible.

Like someone wrote above, the names of tires don’t really matter to me. They just help differentiate “this one” over “that one” when I go to buy. I don’t think twice about it, really. Just an object named something. “Slaughter” loses it meaning. Just a tube of rubber.

In that vein, it’s just kind of humorous that all these tires have these hyper aggressive names. They could just as easily be named for good times — something that communicates fun rather than destruction. Could it be brand managers are playing to our subconscious egos and fantasies about our own riding? I think it says as much about us as the company. Not trying to advocate for anything. I don’t really care. Just a thought.
  • 1 0
 @pakleni: Evidently, that guy who criticized the aggressive name would!
  • 1 0
 @jgoldfield: it becomes a Carcass.
  • 1 0
 u forgot MEGADETH.
  • 1 0
 @whoopsy: you´ll have to name your bike ´my little pony's
  • 46 0
 Stoked to give these a try. The new Butcher and Eliminator are fantastic for trail riding.
  • 17 0
 Agreed. I love the new Butcher.
  • 5 0
 I'm using the Hillbilly right now. It is a good tire.
  • 1 0
 Can confirm - the Elim and Butcher are good trail tires.
Eliminator is the more predictable of the two, in Grid Trail (front) and BLK DMND (rear) form I haven't had punctures. Lots of sharp rocks on my local trails.
  • 1 1
 @chrod: lol. Lucky you.

I'm now using grid Trail and blck dmnd on my XC bike as I cutted them like every ride.
  • 2 2
 The only tires I've found that have held up on the rear have been DH casing Maxxis and BLK DMND Specialized tires so far. Maxxis EXOs, Schwalbe Performance Twinskin, and Specialized Grid casing tires have all sliced and pinched even at proper pressures.
  • 20 1
 Deviate from “looks like an Assegai” to “looks like a DHR 2”.
  • 14 0
 Kaz, you did a good job describing how it rides and letting me know that since I'm not a hard charger I probably won't be able to use it to its best potential. Exactly what I want in a review. Nice to finally get a really good look at this tread with close up photos! Sure, some features are a bit derivative but taken as a whole it seems reasonably unique. Most tires that brake really well do come across a bit DHRII-esque.
  • 15 4
 I can't believe people are still saying 29mm internal *diameter* when talking about rim width. Surely Kazimer knows better??
What circle are we talking about, exactly, that has a 29mm diameter? An imaginary circle laying across the rim width?
  • 7 0
 Glad to know there is at least one other pedant out there.
  • 1 1
 a straight line passing from side to side through the center of a body or figure, especially a circle or sphere.
* the length of the diameter of a figure, especially a circle or sphere.
* a transverse measurement of something; width or thickness.

Kaz did just fine.
  • 12 2
 Tire companies claim wider tires give more traction and can possibly be run at lower pressures. 2.4” is common in XC now. Since DH is less concerned about weight, why don’t we see more wider DH-specific tires?
  • 11 0
 Loic mentioned that the smaller tire can be more precise. I went from a Butcher 2.6 to 2.3 and did notice it would turn quicker but you couldn't be as lazy riding.
  • 8 6
 I run a 2.6 butcher right now because I like the bigger size on the front. Can’t stand that maxxis doesn’t make a true 2.5 or 2.6 in DH casing. A bit disappointed that this tire doesn’t come in 2.5-2.6.
  • 4 2
 @rockyflowtbay: but assegai is 2.5 and comes in DH
  • 1 0
 @jaydawg69: I've been on 2.3s for a while and like that you can run a heavier casing with a similar weight to a wide tyre with a lighter casing. They don't brake as well tho.

They're more ice skate than ski - quicker edge to edge.

IIRC Ben Cathro was a skinny tyre guy.
  • 3 0
 2.4/2.5 I think is the sweet spot for tires right now. Good balance of volume, handling characteristics and weight. If you start going to a larger volume to keep the same feeling you would have to significantly increase weight. Not top mention having to increase rim size to keep the tire shape and sometimes that wider footprint also means you loose some of the precision of line choice.
  • 3 0
 Anything above 2.6 starts to get vague in handling
  • 4 1
 @adamstraus: It's Maxxis. Bet it's closer to a 2.4" than 2.5".
  • 2 0
 @adamstraus: yes. You’re right. But it measures to 2.39. Which is annoying.
  • 1 7
flag deco1 (May 20, 2022 at 14:18) (Below Threshold)
 @jaydawg69: Loic doesn't use specialized tires
  • 5 0
 @deco1: him and Finn have been using these tires since last season.
  • 2 0
 Because World Cup pros don't ride wider tires because they are not as fast or as durable. Everyone wants to ride what Loic does.
  • 5 1
 @rockyflowtbay: Just mounted a new set of Maxxis last week. Assegai in DD version came in 5 mm slimmer then claimed.
I want all the width I paid for!!
  • 2 0
 Cause it's about how much tire contact you have when you lean the bike... The wider the tire the sharpest/thiniest the edge ... Or you have to run really low pressures but is not really biting that edge for turning... O had experienced with 2.6 and 35mm rims and this is what I found. 2.4 higher pressures way more consistent feeling and prediction
  • 1 0
 @pakleni: totally. I’d be happy if it was actually 2.5.
  • 13 3
 Only available in a DH casing doesn't seem like a con to me.
  • 17 0
 so i can't end up getting the wrong casing
  • 27 4
 For DH racing, apt name. The XC version will be called the Vegan.
  • 1 1
 Supply chain delays.
  • 12 5
 "Not as expensive as other comparable race-ready tires"

For Specialized accounting department, this is in their Cons column.
  • 23 0
 I swear by specialized tires for this reason, It's the only product where they try to keep the price accessible to every cyclist. I think its a good strategy to keep the price lower and have the market share of tires. Especially since they have such a robust line of bikes for all types of cyclists, clothes, components, etc... to turn profits. Its so great to treat yourself to a new set of tires each season to refresh your bike, and you also want to have a spare, and I like that specialized sees that, and offers competitively priced and performing tires to the market.
  • 6 0
 @Rexuis-Twin: Same I've been a fan of specialized tires for a long time now. The 30 day money back satisfaction guarantee is also a huge plus. You can literally try a new casing or tread for like 4 weeks and if you decide you'd rather go back to another option you can pull it and return to the LBS.
  • 4 0
 @DeLaRosaMTB: wait thats a thing??
  • 3 6
 I mean, if they cost the same as maxxis... would anyone buy them at all?
  • 2 0
 @andraperrella27: Sure is. LBS may need to be a specialized dealer but I've definitely used it. Works for saddles as well.
  • 2 0
 @DeLaRosaMTB: thats sweet! thanks for the info. makes it easier to want to try them out
  • 6 2
 @kcy4130: I wouldn't buy any tire if it was priced like maxxis. Why pay 10-20% more $ and get 10-20% less tire width then the package says?
  • 4 0
 @kcy4130: can't speak for everyone but yeah I would over maxxis. I've had pretty bad luck with a lot of warped maxxis casings right out of the box, plus that cheap, obnoxious logo...
  • 5 2
 Really wish they'd stick that apex into a single ply (or dual 120-tpi) tire! BLCK DMND was (actually still is for now, I just bought 2 Butchers for $45 to stock up) my jam for rear tire. Plain Grid was just too floppy to run in back at decent low pressures, though BD could have been just a bit softer all around and still managed to hold up with good traction pressures. Hopefully Grid Trail plus a light/small insert will do the job when I can't find BD backstock anymore, or I might be stuck spending a hundo (!!) on a damn DD tire for those (over-rated) yellow logos.
  • 3 0
 Been waiting a while for this tire! It sounds like a nice middle ground in terms of weight, casing feel/support and tread design of the Michelin dh34 and Maxxis dhr2. I like the staggered but well supported side knobs of the Michelin dh34, I feel they are more predictable in loose corners. Although the dhr2 feels like it has slightly more outright grip when leaned over in high grip situations, it also lets go more suddenly in loose conditions. I’ve already got a set of the new Conti Kryptotal’s on order, but now I’m going to “need” one of these, atleast to try as a rear tire.
  • 10 5
 Those Specialized tyre names make me cringe.
Butchered cannibal slaughter eliminator?
  • 5 0
 And Purgatory! Can't forget Purgatory. I dig the aggressive names.
  • 35 0
 Well, that's just like, your Verdict, Judge.
  • 5 0
 Butcher is named after "Butcher Ranch" a pretty popular trail destination in Northern California. Not sure about the others but there does seem to be a theme.
  • 4 0
 @DeLaRosaMTB: pretty sure the Hillbilly is named after a trail in Santa Cruz…
  • 2 0
 @norcalbike: I'm sure I read that the Hillbilly was a Sam Hill signature model when he rode for them. He was known for liking to run cut down mud spikes. The Hillbilly is essentially a pre cut spike.
  • 3 0
 The original Cannibal was maybe the 2nd tire Specialized ever designed,after the Ground Control back in the early 90s.
Collectors shell out hundreds of dollars for NOS versions ,specially in the "magic" Ummagumma grey rubber.
  • 6 0
 Cannibal is named after some sweet trails off of Donner Pass in the Sierra, or something like that…
  • 2 0
 @nozes: IIRC WTB designed the original Ground Control.
  • 3 0
 Purgatory comes from the resort above Durango where they had the first MTB Worlds and a World Cup DH back in the day.
  • 2 0
 @norcalbike: Demo is also named after a trail in SC
  • 2 0
 I’ve loved the Specialized tires I’ve run recently, except the Eliminator T7 that my girlfriend had on for about 10 rides when several shoulder lugs peeled right off the casing. The tire was ridden hard in dry climates (Sedona, GJ etc) but the lugs peeled landing a drop-pretty scary!!!

Dunno if anyone else has seen this with the new stuff from the red S, but hopefully they aren’t going down the path as Schwalbe did a few years back……
  • 5 0
 My Grid Trail T7 Eliminators look like new with several hundred miles on them.
  • 4 0
 @whackflyer: yeah I’m running a grid trail t7 eliminator with a butcher t9 in front. Tons of loose chunk in central California. Holding up very well.
  • 2 0
 @whackflyer: I burned up a few and wore them out with zero issues.

I was also surprised that the tire failed with so few miles and so dramatically.
  • 3 0
 Specialized will warranty them. Just bring them into a dealer. I had a bad tire with plenty.of tread left and my local dealer swap them with a new one, no questions asked.
  • 2 0
 @ride4austin: good to know. Tossed that one, but will take back to the shop if it happens again
  • 1 0
 @ride4austin: they will give you new ones you are right. I run 27.5x2.6 butcher and eliminator front and rear. Amazing tires cheap compared to the yellow ones. The dhr2 I was running in the back I warped 2 in one season. I am heavy 250+ but I also run about 35-40 psi so I dont ruin rims and the eliminator is awesome
  • 3 0
 Love the re-use of the 90's tire model name.

Don't be surprised if the gray Umma Gumma compound comes back.

For reference: i.ebayimg.com/images/g/sGIAAOSwLV5iQun~/s-l500.jpg
  • 2 0
 Would be sweet if Wtb came back with a velociraptor
  • 4 0
 I think the name would be more appropriate if it were made of recycled rubber. You know, rubber eat rubber.
  • 11 7
 Instead of copying the Assegai they copied the DHR2.
  • 4 0
 Rockin Spec Butcher Grid Trail tires..
  • 7 2
 Looks like a DHR2
  • 3 0
 The side lugs look very interesting. Like a hybrid between the L-shaped lugs on a DHR2 and the angled lugs of a magic mary
  • 3 0
 How is it possible that the 29x2.4 weighs only 2.3% more than the 27.5?
One of those weights seems off.
  • 4 0
 Eat Me Specialized!
  • 1 0
 It is hard to judge from the pics, but either it is a skinny tire or it has ginourmous knobs. Looks interesting. (and like the child of a 90s Ritchey Z-Max and a 2.3 DHR II)
  • 2 0
 I had the OG Cannibal tire and that thing was sketchy in the corners...this one looks loads better! Can't wait to try it!
  • 3 0
 60 tpi, T9 rubber, that's a 69 tpi rubber...
  • 5 1
 Looks like a DHR
  • 3 0
 Any news on the Captain?
  • 1 0
 Under wraps still.
  • 2 0
 Purgatory tires are 2 for 1 on the Specialized website at the moment.
  • 4 2
 Name is terrible. Should have named it DHR3
  • 1 0
 This is what I think of with their new tire moniker... www.youtube.com/watch?v=imwAdN53H40
  • 3 2
 Tire looks good. Cannibal name is terrible.
  • 4 0
 It's a nod to their old Cannibal tire from the mid 90's.
  • 1 0
 Not enough sips for grips
  • 3 0
 Lack of siping cause for griping
  • 2 3
 Well, they can't be any worse than their old tyres but the proof's in the pudding: I'll try them as soon as I see Loic and Finn racing on Specialized tread!
  • 6 0
 They raced them in Lourdes
  • 2 1
 Cons: It's not a Minion DHF.
  • 2 0
 Speed and Power
  • 1 0
 More than meets the eye...
  • 1 0
 Pros only available in DH casing.
  • 1 0
 Cannibal short for “Cannibalizing our dealer network”.
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