I have been rolling around on the Specialized 2.2 Captain Control 2-Bliss and the Eskar 2.3 2-Bliss S model for a couple of months now. I mounted the Captains on the Lev and the Eskars on the SS Monkey.
Check http://www.twentynineinches.com/ for more on that a bit later this month, but I will sum up a bit here.
See this signature right there on this tire?
That is right, Ned Overend. Deadly Nedly. The Lung. The Captain. I remember standing alongside the racecourse at Mammoth watching him put the hurt on a much younger group of racers like Tomac, Weins, Grewal, etc. Man, I could hardly walk up that hill without dying and he made it look easy.
Ned was the man. So if his signature is on it, it must be good, right? Well, marketing being what it is, that may not be true, but in this case, Ned did me right by these tires. I don’t know if he dreamed them up one night or rode thousands of miles to prove them worthy or what, but these tires rock. They roll well, hook up well in all the dry-ish conditions I have tried them on, and I love how the front tire steers. As a rear tire it is good, but not great. It has a tendency to ping off of rocks that land across the side knobs and it will break and slip down into a rut a bit easily. I blame that on the relative lack of an agressive row of knobs like the Eskar has. Still, it was not bad at all and has become one of my favorite tires I have run on a 29er. If you need a good XC tire that does not need to be huge (these did fill out to be a true 2.2" tire after a while), this is a contender.
Ned is still the man.
Now it was the Eskars turn. 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”.
They ran a bit slow on pavement, but they made up for it in overall grip when climbing, braking and turning. I am not so crazy about the way the front tire handles, but I have never been a fan of square-ish tires with a gap between the center row and side rows of knobs. It has some certain handling personalities that reward an agressive cornering style that likes to be tossed into a corner and driven out. I am more of a sit back and carve kinda guy, and I always have preferred rounder front tires.
It is a very good rear tire. I even got it all muddy and it just drove along with little drama.
I have more detail of the testing heading toward www.twentynineinches.com, so keep an eye out over the next week or so.
In the meantime, I am going to pair up the Eskar as a rear tire for the Lev and keep the Captain up front. For the SS Monkey, I would like to go up a notch to something like a Rampage 2.3 or Racing Ralph 2.4. The Captain/Eskar is about as big as I would go on the Lev, but the Monkey has tons of room and the hardtail SS is just begging for a bigger footprint and cushier ride.
Next up is some thoughts on the FastTraks, hot off the race course.