Specialized Purgatory GRID Review
Cons: GRID casing is a little weak
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Purgatory posted solid scores in most review categories. It never blew us out of the water by doing anything exceptionally well, but it also doesn't do anything poorly. The low price tag makes it a viable option for less aggressive riders or those who ride buff trails primarily. It would be easy to ignore the Purgatory due to its okay scores in most categories, but it's still a great choice for many riders, especially those who don't want to break the bank.
The Purgatory delivers solid cornering performance. The rubber compound felt supple and tacky enough to deliver traction and the shoulder knobs were quite pronounced. This is a great tread pattern for the rear.
We are big fans of this style of tire. Even though the Purgatory appears to have been designed for use in the rear, Specialized didn't skimp on the shoulder knobs. Yes, the center tread pattern is less aggressive, but the shoulder knobs appear quite similar to the Butcher, a better front tire from Specialized. This means that when it is time to wrap around a corner, this fast-rolling tire hooks up quite well. Other tires with a more rounded profile can have a more vague feel. When you are leaning into a corner, the Purgatory has a nice and defined feel. You can tell when you are on the edge riding the shoulder knobs, and you also know when you are about push beyond them. This defined and somewhat edgy feel is a desirable attribute for most riders.
The Purgatory fared best turning over rocks, hardpack, or even some fresh loam. You can push into the corner quite hard. In the loose over hard cornering scenario, which is particularly difficult to ride, the Purgatory broke free occasionally, especially under braking loads. If you can avoid braking too hard in this situation, you will enjoy a higher success rate.
The Purgatory delivers reliable climbing traction. This isn't some wimpy semi-slick that breaks away far too easily. Instead, the center knobs are tall and substantial enough to deliver a nice amount of bite in most situations.
When working up a rocky and rooty technical pitch this tire works quite well. This is especially true in dry conditions. Add some moisture to the equation and the tire spins out far more easily. That said, there aren't many tires that stand out as excellent trying to climb wet roots.
Traction on hardpack was pleasant as well. You can feel a nice, firm, bite into a nice brown-pow situation. Steep and looser punches can be problematic. When you stand up and smash the pedals, this tire can spin fairly easily, especially in loose dirt. Again, this is a situation where few tires stand out. However, if you are careful with your weight distribution, this tire does just fine.
There are better performers in terms of pedaling traction, but the Purgatory can still hang with most.
When it is time to slam on the binders, the Purgatory has okay bite to it. When you are really ripping downhill, it does take noticeably longer to come to a halt with this tire compared to some more aggressive tires.
The same design properties that allow the Purgatory to be a fast-rolling and efficient tire also detract from its braking performance. The tread in the center of the tire has sipes, or notches/cuts, in it. These sipes are designed to allow for more sharper braking bite. The problem with the Purgatory is that the siped center tread is lower profile and more tightly spaced giving the lugs a little less bite. If the tread blocks were taller, this tire would have better-stopping power.
The Purgatory scored well in the rolling resistance category. It isn't the fastest rolling tire in the test, but it offers a great balance of rolling speed and traction. This is a high compliment. Some of the purebred semi-slick tires definitely roll quicker, but the Purgatory still posts a nice score.
This rolling speed is particularly noticeable on fast and flowy trails. This is true when grinding uphill or ripping downhill. The relatively low amount of rolling resistance paired with the low weight creates a nice, efficient, feel. Going fast is fun, and if you are used to big, aggressive, enduro tires, the Purgatory feels noticeably lighter and quicker. This can save you a good bit of energy over the course of a long ride.
Throughout the testing process, we observed no signs of significant wear on these tires. We put approximately twelve rides on these tires and the lugs are still in excellent condition. No, these tires don't look brand new anymore, but they are in great shape. There is a touch of wear on the lugs where you can start to see some deterioration, but this is quite normal.
The GRID casing withstood some pretty rough riding. We tested this bike on a hardtail mountain bike. As a result, we were not exactly seeking out the rowdiest trails available. That said, we rode plenty of rocks at reasonably quick speeds. We experienced no cuts or punctures. Speaking on past experience, we have had extensive experience with the GRID casing on other Specialized tires. We have cut and punctured this casing multiple times on rough trails. This has happened to lightweight testers and heavy testers alike. Based on this experience, we think this tire is best suited to flowy to moderate terrain.
We expect the lifespan of these tires to be on-par with some of the longer-lasting tires if you can avoid cutting or puncturing the casing. That is a big if.
The Purgatory was easy to set up tubeless. We were able to seat the bead with a compressor very easily and with a tubeless booster pump. We brought the tire up to approximately 45 PSI during installing and that was all it took to seat the bead. It was easy to pull the bead into position with only one tire lever.
The Purgatory is best suited as a rear tire for riders who want a fast-rolling, yet substantial, rear tire. This tire is best suited for the rider who doesn't feel the need to ride too many fast, rock-strewn trails. At $60, the Purgatory is an exceptional value in a day where tire prices are creeping towards the $100 mark.
The most aggressive riders should look towards a burlier casing that can withstand a beatdown more effectively without cutting or puncturing. The Maxxis Aggressor and Maxxis Minion DHR II are better choices for this rider.
The Purgatory is a strong value at $60. This tire is substantially less expensive than some of the other big players in the world of mountain bike tires. That savings is more than enough to get you a jug of Stan's or Orange Seal.
The Specialized Purgatory GRID does most things pretty well without standing out in any categories for riders who are seeking an affordable and functional rear tire. There are better options for those who frequently find themselves in gnarly scenarios, but the Purgatory will make a lot of sense for a lot of riders and terrain, without breaking the bank.
This tire is also available in a Control casing that sells for $55. This tire is dubbed Purgatory Control as opposed to the Purgatory GRID that we tested. The Control casing is a good bit lighter but we would steer way clear. We fear that with any dose of rocks, it would be very easy to cut this tire.According to the Specialized website, this tire is not available in the new BLCK DMND casing. This heavier and more protective casing is only found on the Specialized Butcher, Eliminator and Hillbilly tires. We will keep our eyes peeled to see if the Purgatory will be available in the BLCK DMND casing.
— Pat Donahue