Ground Control

Specialized Ground Control Review: A Forekaster Crusher

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


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Frank

    Hello, have you tried the T5 Control casing as a rear tire? Doesn’t look like they make a T5 GRID unfortunately. I wanted to run the T5 Ground Control rear and T7 front but worried that the less durable “Control” casing won’t be sturdy enough. Maybe the 60tpi casing doesn’t really need extra sidewall protection in the GRID. The XR4 uses 120tpi with a thin sidewall protection layer so maybe the Control casing is overall equivalent in protection to the XR4. Actually the 60tpi would offer more puncture protection on the top of the casing around the tread compared to the XR4 I would assume.

    1. Chad Davis

      Hey Frank, I currently have some wheels with T5 Control casings and actually prefer them for most conditions since they feel a little quicker rolling and are almost 100 grams lighter than the T7 Grid casings.

      If you have lots of sharp rocks or prefer the softer/gripier, maybe lean towards the T7. In my experience the Ground Controls haven’t been quite as tough to puncture as the Bontrager XR4’s.

  2. Frank

    Awesome thanks Chris! I think the GC T5 will be a better fit for me then since my trails don’t have too many rocks. I’ve never had a puncture actually running mainly XR2, XR3, XR4 tires. I didn’t realize the T5 was that much lighter. Specialized info shows only about a 25 gram difference between the T5 Control and T7 GRID. I wonder if the T5 runs a little smaller in volume. Under 800 grams would be great though for that aggressive of a tread at 2.35 size.

    1. Frank

      Sorry I called you Chris Chad lol

      1. Chad Davis

        No worries, I’m sure I’ve been called worse :)

        Good luck with the tires!

  3. Frank

    😆 Thanks Chad. If you ever need a really good more aggressive front tire to match up with a Ground Control or XR4 rear, the Tioga Edge22 is awesome. Great cornering and braking traction while rolling fast still. It’s only available in 2.5 size so it’s around 950-1000 grams but it really rolls well for how much grip it has and it has a bead-to-bead protection layer in the 120tpi version with 61a center 50a sides DC layout like the XR4. They also have a 60tpi version with just sidewall protection and a 70a base layer and 42a outside layer. Might be a good under the radar tire for you to review.

    1. Chad Davis

      Awesome Frank, thanks for the tip on the Tioga. I’m definitely not familiar with their tires.

      Whenever I kick the trend I’m in now with the light and fast tires, I’ll give them a look for sure!

  4. Michael Whitehead

    Hi Chad! Just landed here on a google search. Any reason to believe the T5 is harder and thus more puncture resistant per gram then the T7? I could care less about grip, puncture resistance is the key here in the Phoenix area as you know. Surprised to see you saying Bontrager is puncture resistant? Seems I see those flat a lot. Maybe they’ve improved? Anyway, I’ve had good luck with the older specialized ground control grid.

    1. Chad Davis

      Hey Michael! I’m not sure about that, but we have had good luck with the T5 rubber and prefer it to the T7 since it feels as though it rolls a little better and seems to lasts a little longer. We have much, much less rocky conditions than you, so you’re probably right to want that puncture resistance.

  5. ikaria juice

    Your blog posts never fail to entertain and educate me. I especially enjoyed the recent one about [insert topic]. Keep up the great work!

  6. Mike D

    Thanks my guy – off the back of this article I’ve just made my first non-Maxxis MTB tyre purchase in, well, ever!

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