Specialized Slaughter Grid Review
Cons: Fair braking performance, side knobs wear quickly, low profile center tread doesn't provide the best traction
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Our Analysis and Test Results
After a less than stellar first experience on the Slaughter Control tire that came on one of the complete bikes in a previous enduro bike review, testers were hesitant to include the Slaughter Grid in our last mountain bike tire test. Those reservations quickly vanished as they found the "Grid" casing version of the tire to offer significantly better performance and enhanced durability. The Slaughter Grid returns to the test again with some minor changes to its tread design and slightly lighter weight. At first glance, the tread design looks nearly identical to the old version, but the center knobs have some small vertically stepped edges, and both the center and side knobs have sawtooth-like ridges that are intended to provide additional bite. We put the new Slaughter Grid through its paces mounted as a rear tire in combination with a Butcher Grid up front.
According to Specialized, they made the Slaughter because riders had been asking "for a tire that could enhance speed, while still giving them confidence while cornering." Testers found this to quite accurate, as this tire rolls fast while still managing to provide plenty of bite and support when you commit to a corner. As a semi-slick tire design, it does have a distinctly drifty feel in the intermediate zone as you transition from the low profile center tread to the side knobs. It takes a little getting used to, and this tire rewards the rider who commits to turns and tips the bike and tires on edge when cornering.
The row of tall alternating rectangular and L-shaped side knobs look almost identical to those found on the Butcher Grid and are stout with squared-off edges that are eager to bite into the ground. The side knobs feel strong when on edge and don't fold thanks to the beefier and moderately supportive sidewalls of the Grid casing. The Grid casing does a good job most of the time but is notably less supportive than those found on much heavier tires like the Maxxis Assegai with its DH casing, or the WTB Convict with their Tough casing. That said, the Slaughter Grid weighs roughly 400g less than those competitors, so it's a trade-off.
As mentioned above, the semi-slick design of the Slaughter Grid rewards the rider who commits to their turns. Skilled riders will appreciate this, but those who don't tend to lean their bikes into turns may find this tire to feel a little more drifty than they would like. The eThirteen Semi-Slick shares a similar design and cornering feel. The low profile center tread doesn't do much when turning until the side knobs engage, but once they do, this tire can rail a corner with the best of 'em. We played around with our pressures a bit while testing the Slaughter Grid and found that 22-27psi was the range that we liked. Since we were using it as a rear tire, 22psi was as low as we could go without fear of pinch flatting or denting a rim, and the Grid casing felt up to the task of remaining supportive and not rolling at that pressure.
The pedaling traction of the new version of the Slaughter Grid is slightly better than the previous version we tested due to the minor changes made to the center knobs. The addition of vertically stepped edges and a sawtooth side edge profile does enhance their bite, but only by a little. On hardpack, this tire performs excellently, with lots of little tread edges that provide excellent traction. In softer, looser conditions, however, those low profile knobs don't provide the same level of traction as a tire that has taller or more widely spaced center knobs. The Slaughter Grid would occasionally spin out in steep and loose terrain, noticeably more than a tire like the Maxxis Minion DHR II with taller paddle-shaped tread lugs.
It's a compromise, of course, as this tire rolls very quickly and performs well on hard-packed dirt surfaces and solid rock. People who ride in places where there is a lot of loose, sandy, or gravelly climbing might be better off with a tire that has a more aggressive center tread.
Just like with its pedaling traction, the Slaughter Grid performs well from a braking traction standpoint on hard-packed dirt and rock. In soft dirt or loose conditions, the low profile center tread doesn't provide the same level of bite as tires with taller or more widely spaced knobs. This is another area where a skilled rider who tends to look ahead and read the terrain well will likely enjoy this tire a little more than those who do not. Testers found that when they really slammed on the brakes, this tire was much more likely to slide, resulting in numerous semi-controlled skids, where other tire designs would slow you more effectively. Tires like the Maxxis Aggressor, Maxxis Minion DHR II, and the Schwalbe Hans Dampf may not roll quite as quickly but provide far better braking traction than the Slaughter Grid.
The Slaughter Grid receives high marks for its rolling resistance or, more accurately, lack thereof. What it lacks in pedaling and braking traction, it more than makes up for in its ability to roll fast. Tires like this or the Schwalbe Rock Razor are very intentionally designed to roll quickly with tightly packed low-profile center tread. This tire rolls noticeably fast, especially on hard-packed dirt, dirt roads, and paved roads, and is almost silent in comparison to tires with beefier center treads. This is in stark contrast to a tire like the Schwalbe Knobby Nic that has significantly more rolling resistance, and traction, and is audibly loud when riding on pavement.
People who aren't completely willing to commit to a semi-slick design like the Slaughter Grid might really like a more middle of the road option. Tires like the Maxxis Aggressor have reasonably low rolling resistance but with a moderately tall center tread that delivers more in the way of pedaling and braking traction.
How long a tire lasts is dependent on much and how hard you ride. The Slaughter Grid is a bit more prone to wear than some of the other models we tested for a couple of reasons. First, the low profile center tread knobs are short and therefore don't have a lot of material to wear down before the edges round off, and the siping wears away. Second, since the center tread knobs are shorter, the side knobs get a little more abused when cornering, and virtually all of the forces are applied to them as opposed to sharing some of the work with the intermediate knobs found on other tire designs. This is evidenced by the fact that the side knobs are showing some erosion and, in some cases starting to tear slightly by the base at the end of our test period.
As a general rule, rear tires wear out more quickly than front tires because they generally support more of the weight and forces applied both when pedaling and when cornering. Our testers find that they need to replace their rear tire more frequently than the front, and this holds true for our test model Slaughter Grid. Despite being ridden for the exact same amount of miles as the Butcher Grid we paired it with up front; the Slaughter Grid looks much more worn on the side knobs. That said, the sidewalls are still in perfect shape. While running lower pressure, we took more than one hit to the rim, and the Grid casing held firm with no pinch flat. A fair amount of careless riding through rock gardens with gratuitous sidewall abrasion hasn't seemed to affect them a bit, with no leaking or seeping of sealant to speak of.
Unlike the previous test where testers found the Slaughter Grid to be among the more challenging tires in the test to install, the new version was a snap to mount up. Testers were easily able to get the tire onto the rim without the use of a tire lever. Seating the bead was also simple and required only the use of a floor pump. The Slaughter Grid was not prone to losing air overnight, although after sitting for several days, we found that we needed to top it off with a few pounds of pressure.
At its retail price, we feel the Slaughter Grid is a great value. If you're looking to test the waters in the semi-slick trail tire market, the Slaughter Grid is an affordable way to do that. When paired with a Butcher Grid up front, you've got a great tire combination that will cost you less than the competition.
The Slaughter Grid is a reasonably priced semi-slick rear tire that is best suited for dry and hard conditions. If you're looking for a tire that rolls fast and can hold its own in the corners, we think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better value than this. Bear in mind that this tire does sacrifice a bit in pedaling and braking traction for its especially low rolling resistance, and that is something that should be considered when you're searching for tires. That said, if you're looking for a reasonably priced set of tires, you can't go wrong with a Slaughter Grid in the back and a Butcher Grid up front.
— Jeremy Benson