09 November 2007

bikefix Exclusive Review: Specialized Roll X Pro D2 2Bliss Tire

After about a year without a tire I could really get behind, I got aggressive in asking local riders what they rated for local conditions. It's largely dry around here, with plenty of sharp rocks and a fair amount of sand. I loved Continental's (UST) Vertical, but got sick of cutting new or near-new tires. Geax's BarroMarathon (UST) had promising volume, but wore alarmingly quickly and didn't corner as well as it could have. WTB's ExiWolf 2.3 has been great on my 29er, but isn't available in a tubeless version. Schwalbe's Albert was nice but I wanted something between the narrow-ish 2.1 and massive 2.25, besides, they were pricey.

A number of locals whose opinion I trust recommended Specialized's Roll X. Reasonably fast-rolling, fairly sturdy (but not DH heavy), and (in the Pro tubeless version), a helluva deal at $36.95 at the shop down the road. I threw them on the scale and seem to remember them weighing in at a reasonable 770g.

I picked up a 2.2 (for the front) and an older 2.0 (almost as big as the 2.2) before a big trip during the first week of August. While we had several beautiful days, we also had a fair amount of rain, and I was pleasantly surprised. There was plenty of traction for climbing, and descending grip wasn't jaw-dropping, but more importantly it was predictable.

There's little worse, in my opinion, than an unpredictable tire. Personally, I will happily trade a very grippy tire that lets go abruptly for a moderately grippy one that breaks free progressively, allowing me to make corrections before being dumped on my ass. In most conditions, the Roll X is a very predictable tire. It performs well in loamy, rocky, and wet conditions, due no doubt in part to the soft 60 (shore A) durometer cornering knobs (combined with a 70 shore A centers). The only place where it falls a bit short is in 1in or so deep sand. Less and it's fine, much more and nothing works particularly well. Seeing as no tire is perfect, that's fine by me.

My only complaint is that the cornering knobs are wearing a bit too quickly. Much like the triple-compound Schwalbe Racing Ralphs, I'm finding that the grippy cornering knobs rear faster than the rest of the tread, and quickly become the weakest link. Have a look at the photo to the right. The cornering knobs on the rear tire are pretty severely undermined after only three months of regular riding. Better than some, worse than I'd like. I could happily wring some more life out of the tire if the cornering knobs weren't so hammered (see comments about unpredictable tires, above). Today's ride was probably the last on the rear, though the front is still in good shape and will be shifted aft. Thanks to a $25-off-$75-purchase coupon at the aforementioned shop, I now have a Resolution front and spare Roll X waiting to be ridden.

These were run with about 1/4 cup of Stan's NoTubes sealant (thanks to the cactus and goatheads that litter our local trails) and between 25 and 30psi (less than Specialized's recommended 35psi min). No flats, no sidewall cuts, no knobs rotting from the inside and falling off.



edit: Talked to the local Spez dealer yesterday, and the Roll X has been discontinued for 2008. Replaced, according to them, by the Sauserwind, which is available in... 26x1.8 That doesn't sound quite right- does anyone have any more info?


motoxer913 said...

I'll 2nd that! I've been running the Roll X 2bliss in the rear with a Maxxis Ignitor tubeless up front and it's been a great combination. the Roll X is a great deal, especially considering it's tubeless and dual compound. I'm in Utah and ride 99% dry rocky mountain trails and I've been really happy with it. I think my only complaint is maybe that it's a bit too round and could be slightly more square so the bike doesn't fall into turns so quickly. Going from a Nevegal to a Roll X was a big difference in turn-in handling.

bikefix said...

Now, if they'd only bring it back... Nothing else has worked quite as well for me. :(