How does one of the most expensive clincher tyres perform?
Words and Images: James Raison
Specialized Turbo Cottons are a product with a reputation: roll fast, puncture easily, empty your wallet, but look goddam good in the process. These rolling rubbers are high-end bike Instagram accoutrements. Thankfully, as I found, they’re not all show and no go. They go very nicely indeed.
- 320 TPI Polycotton casing
- GRIPTON compound
- BlackBelt puncture protection
- Width: 26mm
- Recommended PSI 95-115
- Weight 240g
The Turbo Cottons were a little tight but popped onto my Craftworx Ultima alloy clinchers for a few months of bashing around the Adelaide Hills. I ran them well below the recommended pressure with 65 psi in the front and 70 in the rear. 95-115 PSI feels so arcane in 2018.
Let's start with speed. These tyres have a lot of it. It can sometimes be hard to isolate an individual component’s effect on how quickly you move because there’s just so many parts and variables. On my own familiar equipment though, I can say with great confidence that these tyres roll rapidly indeed. They absolutely fly.
My anecdotal experience is backed by some goold ‘ole science as well thanks to the nerds over at Bicycle Rolling Resistance (BRR). The Turbo Cottons are the second fastest clincher they’ve tested to date, the fastest being Continental’s Grand Prix TT. While lab tests aren’t perfect replications of road conditions, all tyres they’ve tested are under consistent and replicable conditions. Go have a look at the full tests BRR ran on the Turbo Cottons.
Ride comfort is very good, but not the best I’ve used. The thin tread strip is matched 0.75 mm thick sidewall. It doesn’t flex as much as a Continental GP4000S II which has a 0.55 mm thick sidewall (yup, that’s why they slice so easily) or the apex of comfortable narrow road tyres; Compass Cayuse Pass that I’ve also reviewed. The Turbo Cottons are nice, no doubt, but my tyre odyssey has had me use some very plush rubber recently so they didn’t knock my socks off entirely.
They’re generous with their grip as well. The tyres grab and hold the tarmac whether bombing down descents or gingerly braking in damp conditions. Specialized’s suitably named “GRIPTON” compound is quality rubber. I first used GRIPTON on the Specialized Roubaix Pro 2BR tyres and was impressed by it then. But those are 32mm wide gravel grinding tyres. On the Turbo Cottons, GRIPTON is a blend of low rolling resistance but high grip wizardry.
On a related note, GRIPTON, Continental’s BlackChilli and Schwalbe Addix were all developed by the same boffin; Wolfgang Arenz. Ain’t knowledge great?
RIding these tyres is a true pleasure. Very fast and very grippy. What more could you expect of such pricey rubber?
WEAR, TEAR, AND PUNCTURES
At time of writing, the Turbos have racked up about 2,000 km of testing. I haven’t gone easy on them, riding in the wet and taking them on gravel when the mood strikes me. The are still in good shape. The rear tyre is showing the most wear, as it always will, and there’s just a few small knicks in the outer layer of tread. It’s just starting to show early signs of flattening off on the tread strip.
So far I’ve had zero punctures. I puncture very rarely though, maybe a couple of times per year across all my bikes, so I think my experience of puncture freedom is due to how I ride. I’m light and tend to run low tyre pressures so tyres last very well underneath me. Other owners have reported a high puncture tendency with these tyres but that’s just not my experience. They’ve been great. Consider yourself warned that individual results always vary when it comes to punctures.
ARE THEY WORTH IT?
Nope. Not for me anyway. There’s too many very good tyres at a much lower price for me to fork out $120 per tyre for another set. Funny story though, I bought these new in their box from a buy and sell page. For $60 each. Ridiculous bargain.
Tyres are a criminally underrated component. Good tyres can transform a bike from “kinda meh” to “awww yiss” and do the exact reverse to a good bike. I’ve seen $15k bikes getting ridden with Continental 4 Seasons on them. A tyre I abandoned after a few days because of their uncomfortable, wooden ride feel. Your bike deserves better than that.
There’s a stack of great options between $60 and $80; Continental GP4000S II, Vittoria Corsas, Specialized S-Works Turbo, Schwalbe Pro Ones, to really feel the need to spend $120 on more Turbo Cottons. My beloved Compass Cayuse Pass come in at an already lofty $90.
For that reason I'm unlikely to buy more Turbo Cottons unless I find a reason to need all their speed.
Surprising nobody, it turns out very expensive tyres are also very good. The best I’ve ridden to date. Rolling speed is fantastically fast, grip is about as good as it gets, they look lovely despite getting dirty easily, and they’ve worn surprisingly well.
There’s only one real problem I can think of. The logo has been placed to high on the rubber and it has worn off. Come on Specialized, I want people to know I’m running tyres this awesome.
Specialized Turbo Cottons are for people who want the best and are willing to pay for it.