Specialized Tires: Final Review From The West Coast

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment from our West Coast cntributor, Grannygear, on the Specialized Captain Controls 2.2, Eskar S-Works 2.3, and Fast Trak LK/S-Works. So check out these final thoughts from the West Coast.

Over the past few months we have been rolling around on various combos of the latest offerings for 29er MTB tires from the Big S and I think I have had enough saddle time to come to conclusions that are reasonably accurate.

Captain Controls

The Captain Controls – It is hard to beat an all around tire like the Captain. In a world where it seems like there are tires for every occasion, the Captain stands out as a fine example of a tire you could leave on all year round, travel with it, and just pretty much forget they are there. They are a great size, and on a Stan’s Flow rim, offer a full and round profile. Are they an all mountain tire? Not really, but it is a very good trail bike tire. They steer very well and roll much better than that size of tire should, likely due to the center ridge of knobs. They even make a very good rear tire, although I did find them wanting to break away and drop into ruts a bit more than I would like, but the side knobs are not that aggressive and that is where I would place the blame. I ran these on the Lev, but I bet that it would make a fine SS tire front and rear.

Muddy eskars

The Eskar – I ran these on the SS Monkey. I never needed more traction than these tires offered. They loved the loose, rocky trails we have around here and they even hung pretty well on one very muddy ride. I was slightly dismayed in the non-2.3 size, but they are easily a good 2.2 and the large tread lugs felt like cushions in the rocks. I did not care for the way they steered in hardpack conditions as they seemed to wander when they were in between the center rows of knobs and the edgy, aggressive side knobs. The biggest hit against them is the slow rolling that they impart on any ride on a hard surface. Not a go-fast tire for that, but if you ride in loose, chewed up terrain or sandy, gravelly soil, they are a good choice.

Fast Trak

The Fast Traks – I ran the non-S versions on the SS Monkey. Before I installed them, I had been running some Continental Mtn King 2.4s, so the 2.0 Fast Traks looked like a cyclocross tire compared to them. However, the tires are more than meets the eye. They are a fast rolling, quick turning tire. If speed is a priority and you are not a Clydesdale rider, these babies will get it down the trail. They actually have more grip than I expected and on smooth harder surface trails they are very agile and fun. They are much less fun if the surface is deep and loose, like sandy soil and rocky, rubbly stuff. There they let you know you are not rolling on fatties. I also found it challenging keeping them from spinning on kitty litter over hardpack when I was really pulling hard on the SS in steep pitches. I bet they would rock on gravel roads and they were a huge advantage on long, extended fireroad climbs.

NOTE: I leant the Fast Traks out to a friend who was competing in his first 12 solo endurance race. He trained a bit on the K versions and raced on the S-Works tires. He expected them to roll well, but was skeptical that the tires would hang in there on the fast, hardpacked and sometimes sketchy course. However he was more than happy with the tires performance overall and commented on the good cornering and grip in those conditions.

More final thoughts: I ran the Captains and the Eskars tubeless on the Flow rims and they installed easily and inflated with a floor pump no muss, no fuss. The Fast Traks were run with tubes.

Currently I am running a Captain front and an Eskar rear on the Lev. So far that has been a super combo, although I would run another rear tire if I was trying to be fast on a long ride with lots of climbing. The flip side is tons of braking and driving grip from the rear tire. The Eskar barely fits in the chainstays of the Lev and a muddy day would be a challenge. I have no present use for the Fast Traks, so I will shelve them for now, but if I ever feel the need for speed above all, they are just an arms reach away.

Thanks to Specialized for providing us the tires in this review!


No Responses to “Specialized Tires: Final Review From The West Coast”

  1. Race29 Says:

    Any reason to believe the Fast Tracks wouldn’t work as well tubeless as the other two tires?

  2. Guitar Ted Says:

    Race29: I’ve been running a set of Fast Trak LK’s tubeless on Bontrager TLR rims. They work fine with sealant.

  3. grannygear Says:

    Just to clarify, I ran them tubed ‘cuz the wheels on the SS are tubed. No other reason. I never ran them on the Lev which is tubeless.


  4. Wish I Were Riding Says:

    How much bigger would you say the new Captains are compared to the original ones? Is it noticeable? I like this tire, and if its bigger I’ll probably get me some.

  5. Guitar Ted Says:

    Wish I Were Riding: I haven’t seen any other versions of this tire (The Captain), so I can not comment except to say that I am pleased with the width as marked. Perhaps Grannygear has somewhat more to add, but I feel the volume is there along with the width, and as Granny says, the traction is outstanding.

  6. grannygear Says:

    Sorry, I cannot compare to any earlier versions. It is a pretty full and round tire, especially tubeless on the Stan’s Flow rims. It is big enough to be a poor choice in the sticky mud wedged under a Reba’s arch. Ask me how I know.


  7. Oderus Says:

    Wish I Were Riding, there is not an earlier version of the Captain tire as it is brand new. It is a new tread design for Specialized. If you wanted to compare it to previous 29er tires from Spec, then I would say that over it’s past 29er selection it has a higher volume, more aggressive tread, comparable drag and handles better in turns.

  8. Nick Says:

    Can anyone weigh in on how The Captain would perform on East Coast rocky rooty trails, which are sometimes wet?

  9. Wish I Were Riding Says:

    Oderus, that is not true. I have been riding on a Captain 2.0 for many months now, so this is not a new tread design. What is new about it is that it also now comes in a 2.2 size, as well as 2Bliss versions.

  10. Oderus Says:

    Wish I Were Riding, it is a new as it was first produced in 2008. It only came out this past year to clarify. It has not been around (like the Fast Track) to see a second generation so to speak.

  11. Nick Says:

    Just to confuse the situation 😉

    Oderus, I believe originally Wish I Were Riding was asking how the new 2.2 width compared in size to the old 2.0 width. Correct me if I am wrong.

  12. Guitar Ted Says:

    Nick: Getting back to your East Coast question: I think the Captains would work fantastic on your terrain. I am very impressed with the traction with the Captain tires. We have some roots and embedded rocks here, plus our soil gets “greasy” with moisture, so I am familiar with slippery trails! The Captain worked super well on a few climbs with the single speed and again; it was without a slip.

    I ran tubes in mine. I think traction would only be improved tubeless. As far as I am concerned, the Captains are keepers for conditions like you describe.

  13. CaliBerlin Says:

    Captain 2.0 or 2.2?

    As Nick said, 2.0 used to be the only option.

    So are captain reports on this thread for the 2.0?

    Thanks. Would love to know before I drop $65.00 on a tire. ($130.00 a pair!). At least there won’t be swapping anymore…

  14. Guitar Ted Says:

    CaliBerlin: All reports on Twenty Nine Inches are for The Captain 2.2 inch wide tire.

  15. Nevada 29er Says:


    Do you have the different weights for the Captain 2.2 Armadillo vs Control vs S-Works? Kind of confusing with all the choices and no weights given…

  16. Guitar Ted Says:

    Nevada 29er: We only ever got the Captain with the 2Blis Control casing in the 2.2″ size. They weighed in the 720-730gram range.

    Specialized lists a weight on the plain Captain 2.2 at 660 grams. I would be willing to bet all the range is between 660 and 750 grams, based upon my experience.

  17. Nevada 29er Says:

    How does the 2.2 Captain compare to the 2.4 Conti MK? Looking for a trail/AM type tire for high desert conditions, everything from hard pack to rock, to loose sand.

  18. Guitar Ted Says:

    Nevada 29er: The Conti is super grippy. It will have some increased rolling resistance in harder packed soils/rock, so if you are riding on this sort of stuff, The Captain may be better. The Captain rolls really well and is an excellent “all ’rounder” in my opinion. Not really great at any one thing, but pretty darn good everywhere.

    The width of my 2.2 Captain Control 2Blis tires is pretty close to a MK 2.4. I would call it a wash. I have the Captains on some Gordos now and they look really fat on there. I think if I measured both on the same rims though, the Captain would be a bit narrower, but not by much.

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