Specialized Eskar 2.3" 29"er Tires: Mid Term Report

Note: This report is filed by Grannygear from Southern California.
As you may recall from the Eskar’s Out Of The Box article, I had mounted these on the SS Monkey using the DT Swiss 7.1TK rims with tubes. I was looking for a bigger tire than the Ignitors I had been using. I figured that if I needed more air volume and a bigger contact patch on one of the two 29ers I have, it was on the hardtail SS. I inflated them to 25psi as a starting point.

So, I have to say that I was disappointed in the non-2.3 size I ended up with. The numbers were not significantly larger than the 2.1 Ignitors, although they were sporting some pretty aggressive rows of knobs. Since tires can grow a bit when they have been mounted up a while, I re-measured them after a half dozen rides or so. They went from a 2.025” casing (sidewall) width to 2.06”. Tread width grew from 2.085” to 2.2” and height changed from 2.80” to 2.95”.

Overhead of the Eskar

I went to ride my normal Tuesday night loop, a 90 minute combo of pavement, sandy fireroad, steep climbs of hard packed clay covered in sand, and a long section of singletrack that winds across a ridgeline and then dives in and out of a dry wash canyon bottom.

As I hit the pavement, I could hear the tires making quite a bit of noise. After the Ignitor front/Crossmark rear combo, these sounded like mud tires on a 4×4. So, it was not a fast, smooth tire on pavement, but the SS is not all zoomy either, so it was OK. Hitting the sandy and flat fireroad, they did fine in the soft patches and seemed to have lots of drive and reasonable float.

The first loose, rubbly climb was very nicely handled with the Eskars. I could lean forward pretty far and stand on the pedals and the rear tire would hook up, and if it did break loose, it hooked back up again right away instead of continuing to spin till I hit the bottom of the crank stroke.

Riding along and looking at the tires, it is obvious that it has a certain profile that typically has a certain handling result, mainly when used as a front tire. It is square-ish, with a tall center row of knobs, a pretty big gap off to either side, then a smaller but still aggressive side row of knobs that sits lower than the center knobs. It has been my experience that this type of tire likes a certain type of riding style to get the best results. Straight up is all good, but when you want to turn, it works best to snap the bike over so you transition from the center knobs to the side knobs quickly. Hanging around in the in-between zone is kinda vague and odd, especially on hardpack.

I usually avoid this type of profile tire as I am more of a lean back and carve kinda’ rider and I spend a lot of time on sand over hardpack terrain. So, when I was running through the hard baked trail section, the bike was hunting around as the front tire debated which set of knobs to run on. Not squirmy like a low tire, just vague, like there was a hinge in the bike somewhere. However, when I leaned forward, elbows out, and drove deep into the turn diving for the apex and pedaling out, the tires felt great. That is just not my typical riding style.

Also, when the soil was loose and rocky, they felt very good, much better than the Ignitors. I could ride very aggressively without skating around much at all.

The next significant ride was in the mud following a big rainstorm. The Eskars hooked up well, seemed to clean out easily enough, and leant a confident feel to the ride. I think it would make a good winter tire, although I will defer to Guitar Ted here as he actually HAS a winter with real mud, snow, etc.

Mud and Eskars

So, to sum up:
-What is up with tires that are not the size they say on the sidewall? This has been going on for years. If I am going to put up with a slower rolling, aggressive tire, I want it to be a big fella. If I had ordered these expecting a bigger, true 2.3 tire I would have not been happy.

-If you like to ride aggressively, have a poster of Mark Weir over your bike rack in the garage, and dive into corners rather than carve a smooth line, you will probably like this tire. It would be a good tire for Downieville in my opinion.

-If you ride in loose conditions and need a tire that will punch down and hook-up, this is a good choice.

-My brief time in the mud seemed to work well, but I live where mud is pretty rare.

-I ended up running them at 22lbs or so and that worked well under my 180lbs or so.

They would not be my primary long term choice on the hardpack fireroads we have, especially since I spend a fair amount of time on pavement and, on the SS, I would prefer a larger, rounder tire with lower, closer set knobs. That reflects my needs better, but if the areas that the Eskar shined describe your needs/wants in a tire, the Eskar deserves a try.

I am strongly considering running this as a rear tire only and a Captain Control on the front for the Lev. A much larger tire than the Eskar would be a tight fit on the chainstay of the Lev, so that may be the hot setup. For more on the Captain Controls, look for our follow up on those as well.

grannygear

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No Responses to “Specialized Eskar 2.3" 29"er Tires: Mid Term Report”

  1. GreenLightGo Says:

    Thanks – interesting that it would work better as a rear – conventional thought would place this up front and the Captain in the rear – but results say otherwise!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Dave Says:

    +1 on the great write up. Nice review. I ride in a similar style, carver rather than a “slammer” so I find the same limitations in front tires that have a tread pattern like that. The Rampage was one of them. Some people love it (and I do in the rear) but it doesn’t work for me in the front.

    I hadn’t thought of it a lot in those terms, but you put it very nicely!

  3. grannygear Says:

    As an update, I have run the Eskar rear/Captain front on the Lev a few times now. So far, I really like the way that works.

    The Captains and Eskars are actually a very good size for my needs. I threw an Ignitor back on the front of the SS Monkey while I am waiting for some Conti 2.4s to get here. I still have an Eskar on the back and the Ignitor looked so wimpy now.

    So, even though I don’t see how they are a 2.3, they are a nice 2.2 sized tire when paired with the Captain.

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