Review: Specialized Fast Trak, Purgatory and Clutch MTB Tire Review | Bike198

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Review: Specialized Fast Trak, Purgatory and Clutch MTB Tire Review

Specialized Crutch Tire Review

Today’s mountain bike tire market is flush with tires for every kind of riding. We all know how important tires are and have our own favorite tread pattern. Whether you DH or XC ride, the chunk of earth you carve on dictates tire selection; loose and loamy, rooty, rocky, the list goes on and there’s a lot of tires out there to choose from.

Lurking in a quiet corner of the bicycle tire market is Specialized tires. For whatever reason, Specialized chooses not to directly market their tire line despite having over 54 different tread/casing combinations of 26” mountain bike tires in their line. Chris Wyatt, a tire engineer for Specialized, provided a few sets of tires to check out; a model for each of the four primary disciplines in mountain biking: cross country, all mountain, freeride and downhill.

XC Tire: Fast Trak LK Control 2.0”

Specialized Fast Trak LK Control MTB TireSpecialized’s Fast Trak LK (low knob) is just what you’d expect in a cross country tire: it has a lightweight casing and a low profile tread pattern. The casing is thin, lightweight and easy to set up tubeless but it’s the knobs and tread pattern that stand out with this tire. Even though the knobs are low profile and seemingly not very aggressive; the tire hooked up surprisingly well while both climbing and cornering. This can be attributed to the shape of the knobs: the leading edges are short but the cornering and diagonal edges are long; as opposed to square-shaped knobs that are typically found on other low profile xc tires. These longer edges don’t seem to slow the tire down but they increasingly improve cornering and climbing grip.

I prefer using the Fast Trac LK as a rear tire and a standard Fast Trac on the front due to its taller profiled knobs. Compared to other low-profile cross country tires I’ve ridden, the Fast Trac LK’s seem to hook up better both climbing and cornering. After a few months of use on hard packed and rocky terrain, the knobs held up well but the sidewall eventually got sliced on a sharp rock. The Fast Trak LK is a fast and grippy tire but if you ride aggressively on sharp, rocky terrain, be mindful of the lightweight Control casing.

Pros: light, fast rolling and impressive grip considering the low profile nature of the knobs, tubeless ready and seal up very easily

Cons: lightweight casing is susceptible to cuts on sharp rocks

All Mountain Tire: Purgatory Armadillo Elite 2.4”

Specalized Purgatory Tire ReviewAll mountain tires need to be a lot of things. They need to grip very well yet roll decently fast. They need to be sticky enough but not sluggish. They need to be burly enough but not too heavy. Specialized takes each of these attributes head on with the Purgatory.

The volume of the 2.4” size is impressive; they are every bit of 2.4” wide and have plenty of volume. Armadillo Elite casing is tubeless ready and has just the right weight and thickness for all mountain use; falling in the gap between single ply and downhill casing. The Purgatory’s knob layout is unique following a one-two-three-wide pattern. Additionally the shapes of the knobs themselves are unique, each one playing a roll in the equation: climbing, braking and cornering grip. Leading edges on the side and transition knobs are pointed and really seem to dig in. Siping on the two-row set of knobs in the center adds additional grip while climbing and braking on rocks. The shape of the knobs and layout of the pattern strike a good balance between grip and rolling resistance. They are spaced in a manner that keeps them rolling fast yet still maintaining an acceptable amount of grip through a clever use of knob design.

Specialized Purgatory Tire Review

The Armadillo Elite casing held up exceptionally well. These tires saw tons of rocks and never got cut. Specialized has always had solid rubber compounds. None of the knobs peeled and they maintained stiffness. I was surprised how much the tread resisted wear considering how miles they had on them. This durability is two fold, it makes for a faster rolling tire yet its not as sticky when it gets wet on the roots and rocks. It’d be nice to see Specialized offer this tire and casing combination in a sticker compound.


  • a very balanced tire: rolls fast and grips well.
  • good tread life
  • strong casing
  • large volume yet not too heavy for an all mountain tire
  • tubeless ready and seal up very easily


  • the only time the Purgatory felt compromised was in the wet roots and rocks. This can be expected out of an all mountain tire that still has to be somewhat fast-rolling. A stickier offering in this same tread and casing would be good to see.
  • $60 per tire is pricey and only available from or authorized dealers

Freeride Tire: Clutch SX 2.3”

Specialized Clutch Mountain Bike TireSpecialized’s “SX” casing line of tires have been getting some attention lately. A lot of freeriders are looking for a tire burly enough to charge the gnar with that can still be pedaled without too much of a weight penalty. In comes the SX casing, filling the gap between single ply and DH tires.

At 950 grams, the Clutch SX is 300 grams lighter than the Clutch DH. That translates to nearly a pound and a half of rolling resistance in a set of SX tires compared to the DH. This weight savings can really be felt in the cranks not to mention in the handling of the bike. SX casing allows you to run lower pressure than single ply side tires. The Clutch SX uses a dual tread compound with 50a in the middle and 45a on the shoulders. Similar to the roll of the casing, the tread compound fills the gap between downhill sticky and all mountain fast.

Siping is what the Clutch tread pattern is all about. Each row of blocks in the center tread is siped, alternating from parallel to perpendicular. These sipes double the amount of edges working for you whether you’re braking or climbing. The shoulder knobs are also siped, have sharp edges and despite being a soft rubber compound, have good stiffness to them. I’ve used these tires in a lot of environments from the southeast to the desert southwest to British Columbia and without a doubt; they are up there with the best tires I’ve ever used. The grip is outstanding in a wide variety of conditions and they do quite well in when it’s wet. Clutch’s like to dig in and hold on. Due to the aggressive nature of the tread and the siped knobs, they’re more prone to wear in excessively rocky/hard packed environments. When you couple the super grippy tread pattern of the Clutch and lower pressure allowances of the SX casing, you have a recipe for traction.


  • very solid traction both climbing and cornering in a wide variety of conditions
  • sticky rubber compound performs well when it’s wet
  • stiff side knobs
  • good durability in the rubber, no peeling knobs
  • SX casing strikes a good balance between single ply and DH casing


  • the siped tread pattern is more susceptible to wear in hard packed/rocky environments
  • $60 per tire is pricey, and only available from or authorized dealers

Specialized Crutch Tire Review

Downhill: Clutch DH 2.3”

The Clutch 2.3 DH tires are sticker than the previously mentioned SX with a 42a/40 center/shoulder compound and are heavier at 1,250 grams. The same can be said about the DH Clutch as the SX in terms of tread pattern. The casing however is thicker and has Butyl inserts at the bead which allows you to run even lower tire pressures giving the luxury of even more grip out of the proven Clutch tread pattern.


  • very solid traction in a wide variety of conditions
  • sticky rubber compound performs well when it’s wet
  • stiff side knobs
  • good durability in the rubber, no peeling knobs


  • $70 per tire is pricey, and only available from or authorized dealers
  • the siped tread pattern is more susceptible to wear in hard packed/rocky environments

All tires and Specialized product can be purchased at your local Specialized dealer or at This review was written by Chad Oliver. A-Line Tabletop picture by Kristian Jackson.

This topic contains 5 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  SS 6 years, 9 months ago.

  • Author
  • #14662 Reply

    • Total Posts 0

    Chad – did you ride the Purgatory tire while in Huntsville? Just pondering the 29×2.4 version for winter use.

  • #14663 Reply

    • Total Posts 0

    I just have to say – from personal experience – these tires are fantastic tubeless options. They set up as well as any other option i have used – better than bontrager, and as good as TCS by WTB…

  • #14664 Reply

    Chad O
    • Total Posts 0

    i used the Purgatory’s on my first visit to Monte Sano and the Clutch SX during my second visit. Although the Purgatory’s did great, the Clutch were a little better in that particular riding environment due to all the rocks: i was able to run lower pressure w/ the Clutch compared to the Purgs. I also could feel that the Clutch were a bit stickier in the rocks.
    I think you’d really enjoy the Purg in a 29er. only time that tire gets a little dicey is when it gets wet out there but, you can’t ride at Monte Sano when its wet so i’d say go for it. As i said in the review, the Purgs grip very well and roll fast too so its a great option for ya. The large volume would be a big help over there in the rock tech.

  • #14665 Reply

    Chad O
    • Total Posts 0

    you got that right. the Specialized 2Bliss tires are super easy to set up tubeless. I ran the Purgatory and Fast Trak tubeless and had no issues at all; they beaded-up with one blast of compressed air and they held air for days and days. I used two scoops of Stan’s sealant for good measure if i got a puncture but will note that one scoop also worked well.

  • #14666 Reply

    • Total Posts 0

    Thx. I am currently using the Ardent 29×2.4 (which I am super happy with) but like to try different stuff.

    Rode last night and went down Bluffline in the dark!

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