02 April 2008

bikefix Initial Review: Specialized Eskar Control 2Bliss tire

Specialized has, for a few years now, made some of the best mountain bike tires in the business. However, before I get into tire specifics, it important to note a major change with Specialized 2Bliss tires for 2008. Spez has decided that since everyone uses liquid sealant with tubeless tires- there is no point adding a impermeable rubber layer to the inside of the tire and therefore increasing the tire’s weight. I have not made up my mind yet on this “tubeless ready” format- but my initial reaction was negative. There are two reasons why I am concerned: The first is that although sidewall blowouts were very rare for me on the double layered tubeless tires, it does happen and is a real concern. This new version now has less sidewall material and that could be bad. The second is that the thicker sidewalls of the previous format had more structural rigidity and therefore less tire-roll when cornering. This is important for tubeless tires because they can be run at such low pressures. A heavy guy like me can really feel them moving around in the corners. These are just concerns mind you- only time and miles will tell.

For 2008 Specialized have also discontinued many of my old favorites and replaced them with new designs. The Eskar Control 2Bliss is the replacement for the old Resolution D2 2Bliss and is their versatile trailbike/light all-mountain tire. It comes in only one size: 2.3. As intended, I put it on my long-travel trailbike- hoping they would be as good as the Resolutions they replaced.

The benefit of the company's new casing is the lighter weight of these tires. I was curious to see if I could feel the weight difference when riding because it was quite apparent when I held them in my hands. They definitely seemed a little more lively than my old tires which could be the weight or maybe a bit less rolling resistance. Either way they felt a bit faster. After a long ride out at Cedro peak (my 3rd ride on these tires), I have to say that I like the tread better than my Resolutions- the Eskar grips just as well but is a fair bit faster than the Resolutions were. The tread was more predictable when cornering than the Resolution too (the Resolution’s only criticism). The Eskar’s are a dual compound tire which means they put a tacky rubber on the shoulders and a harder rubber in the center for durability and less rolling resistance (this is one of the reasons I like Spez tires so much). This concept works great and I wish more manufacturers would do it. Since installing the Eskars, I have been riding them at about 36 psi because of my sidewall concerns. I plan to head back out next week and ride with them at my usual 32-33 psi and then we will see about the cornering. As far as the toughness of the sidewalls goes- I haven’t yet had a problem and Specialized claims that the new 420/D1 casing is more cut and puncture resistant than the previous version, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now, but it feels awfully thin between my fingers.

Despite my initial concerns, the Eskar is a great riding tire and will be my first choice for my long-travel trailbike if the thin sidewalls don’t cause me trouble. The Eskar has an MSRP of $50.00 but I see it for less all the time.

We will update this review after we put more miles on them.



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