Last spring (’09) I was handed a Specialized Eskar Mt bike tire to test ride. As I looked the tire over, I was pretty stoked, I like big butts and Fat Tires! And the eskar doesn’t disappoint on the Fat tire, it is a 29″ x 2.3 with approx. weight of 730g. I got this bad boy set-up on the Felt 2Niner comp – with the Rock Shock Tora 318 air Fork with about 180psi. Why the Tora? Because that’s what I got!
I like Specialized’s website that states: “When you have a bike with 150mm of travel, you better have a tire that can handle the trail” -True, but what if I have 50mm of travel? I’m a regular guy that likes to put a beating on anything under me. And since I can go to nearly any race and decide that day if I want to ride clydesdale or not (I’m about 195 lbs. ), this tire will definitely be put through the paces! My riding style tends to be somewhat aggressive for a cross country rider, I like the lean fairly hard in corners and make the tires do what they should.
I mounted the tire with a tube, and didn’t have any problems. I pumped in awe as I saw the size of the big boy. I like a Fat tire on the front wheel! Especially if you have 1 that gives you traction control in the turns. You see I don’t mind if the rear of my hard tail washes out some, I can usually handle that. But if your front tire washes out – you can be meeting mother nature close up before your hands are off the bars.
I like to run Fat tires up front for traction and a smaller tire in the rear because that’s where most of my weight is, so I want a smoother tread that rolls easier. Since there is not as much weight up front, I don’t mind sacrificing smoothness for traction when it counts.
Terrain used on:
So far, I’ve been to Pisgah, Ft. Yargo, Bull Mt areas, Stanley Gap, local Atl trails systems, and several rides in the North Ga. area. And in all the conditions that can be found in these areas – dry, wet, cold, hot and humid!
I definitely run the air pressure in my tires a little higher than most everyone that I know and have read about on forums, so when I saw the recommended PSI of 35-65, I usually run my 2Niner tires around 40 PSI. Much less than that, and I tend to pinch flat on the hard tail….again, clydesdale. But with that said, for me running about 40, that eskar soaked up several missed timed jumps, awkward landings, and the general shenanigans that I put it through. I had several landings that were more ‘thud’ like than anything, and I would hold my breath waiting to hear that hissing sound – but it never came from the eskar, it soaked up all the aggitated hits that happened with out complaint. I like Fat tires!
I usually ride fairly hard pack terrain because I’m in Georgia. Most of the time we enjoy warm weather to ride. In fact 1 of the rides that I did was a 50 mile ride that was mainly in fire (gravel) roads and this tire was good about soaking up the rough sections. It took the roughest section around for me to think the tire was not fat enough – but this section is notorious around North Georgia for being a section that rattles the brain.
I have also taken the eskar on some road sections b/w trails, and although I wasn’t attempting any twisty sections, the tire is noticeably nobby, both in feeling and sound going down the road. But still it was stable, and handled like a knobby would.
Inevitably while I am out we are going to be going fast enough into a turn and get in a corner that has loose dirt before you know it. When it happened, at most I would get a some slight slippage before the tire would grip again….I wasn’t attempting to ‘bust’, but there were definitely situations where I was going fast enough to be slightly out of control – kinda like controlled chaos. Seemingly the tire would slide just a few centimeters before regaining control.
Wet and Mud:
I raced the 12 hour relay race at Yargo on May 2nd. When the thunderstorm hit, I was mid-lap, I had just fixed a rear flat a few miles back, and I was hammering on the pedals to regain lost time for the team. The conditions didn’t effect the eskar at all. The handling was predictable. Even when I was pushing the front end to hard into a corner, the eskar was very subtle about slipping, giving me enough feedback so that I didn’t push anymore. But it never slide out from me and that’s an important thing.
However, I felt that it would run out more easily on wet roots or rock.
This fall/winter in Georgia I was on the trails after some heavy rain fall that we have been getting. The eskar didn’t miss a beat. In fact, I think it excelled in these conditions. I even went out for a snow/mud ride where I was chasing a buddy of mine, I had more trouble with movement from the rear tire than I did the front. In other words the rear wheel was causing me to slow down before the front tire was in corners.
I was thoroughly pleased with the Specialized eskar and the handling that it has. If your like me and enjoy having a Fat tire up front that will give you extra grip, then I would suggest the eskar.
Because I did run the eskar up front (I think as it should be) I didn’t notice any great tire wear – even after several road sections that I have taken it on.
If I had raced more this year, I would have set it up tubeless – but since I wasn’t racing much, I didn’t because I like riding this tire!