Specialized Ground Control Review: A Forekaster Crusher

Ground Control

Tires are easily one of the most discussed upgrades in mountain biking. And for a good reason, it’s your direct connection with the trail and is a reflection of riding styles and preferences.  The Specialized Ground Control is a reflection I enjoy when riding bikes with less than 130mm of travel which puts it squarely in the popular mid-travel “trail bike” category.

Specialized Ground Control T7 2.35″ | $65 | 862 grams

A good balance of grip, rolling resistance, weight, and durability is what I consider a good trail tire. Balance is what the Specialized Ground Control nails. The tested 2.35″ version of the tire is offered in two different rubber compounds. The T7 is the softer and gripper and the T5 is the faster rolling firmer compound. The tire has a round profile that does well on both front and rear wheels.

As for sizing, the Ground Control seems to run fairly true to size at just over 2.35″ (on 30mm rim) in my calipers. When compared to often undersized Maxxis tires, the 2.35 Ground Control is wider than most Maxis tires that are labeled as “2.4 Wide Trail” and even wider than some labeled “2.5 Wide Trail.”  Not really that big a deal, and most folks will never notice the difference in width. This is what some believe is a tactic of Maxxis to cover their tires more weight for a given size.

Riding the Ground Control

When leaning the bike over traction is predictable at most trail bike speeds. The tire rolls from edge to edge nicely  rolls really well due to its closely spaced knobs. It bites well in varying conditions from hard-pack to softer trail conditions. In fact, I don’t really notice anywhere where the tire isn’t predictable. Whether going up, down, on rocks, or on roots, I trust the tire. Only when pushing the pace downhill (and getting sloppy), did I start to notice the front tire starting to push a little through corners and the rear tire sliding a little.

How do they last?

I’ve had no major issues with the Ground Controls, unlike Specialized’s Butcher that I’ve been tearing knobs off of.
The tires seem to be wearing really well. I have a bit over 550 miles (see above photos) on a set that looks and rides pretty well still.
The bonus buy is a tan sidewall “Soil Searching” version that gives back to the trails. “Proceeds benefit Soil Searching which feeds the roots of mountain biking by sponsoring trail builders, hosting dig days, spearheading fundraisers, and providing trail development and maintenance grants.”  I have noticed that my rear tire has begun showing sealant seeping trough. See “wet” areas in the above photo.

Alternatives to the Ground Control

The closest Maxxis tires are the Rekon and new Forekaster. The Rekon is very close to the Ground Control in weight, grip, and durability.The Rekon costs a bit more depending on which casing you can choose, but usually only $10-$20 more per tire. The latest Forecaster looks like a great tire too, but it’s a bit on the heavy side for my tastes at just under 1000 grams. With enduro tires like the DHF and DHR weighing less that’s a strange place to be.

Bontrager’s XR3 and XR4 are great alternatives. Choose the XR3 if a little less weight and rolling resistance are desired. For a bit more grip, the XR4 offers larger knobs with more spacing than the Ground Control. The ground Control does seem to be wearing a little better than the XR4. Learn more about the XR4 here: Bontrager XR4 Team Issue Review

Specialized Ground Control vs Bontrager XR4
The XR4 is noticeably taller but similar in width and weight. Both are great tires.

Final Thoughts
In today’s market of tires approaching $100 each and beyond, the $65 Specialized Ground Control is a great value. You could go with one of the more popular yellow logo tires (Rekon or Forekaster), but I believe most would be happier with the Ground Control. You get a true-to-size tire at a very respectable weight. The tire’s balance of durability, low rolling resistance, and predictable grip make it a top choice for the “trail” rider.

Buy Specialized Ground Control at Jenson USA

Buy Specialized Ground Control at Competitive Cyclist

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