Specialized's Slaughter Grid is a rear specific tire that's designed to roll fast while still offering good cornering performance. Testers found it to be just that, as the tightly packed low profile center knobs provide little rolling resistance and the tall side knobs bite and track through corners quite well. Semi-slick tires were all the rage among the XC race crowd years ago and have seen a resurgence in recent years due to the demands of the enduro race scene. The Slaughter Grid is one of this new breed of semi-slick tires, and it definitely rolls fast, but sacrifices traction when compared to tires with larger center knobs. The large side knobs are reminiscent of those found on the Butcher Grid and provide loads of traction when tipped on edge through corners, although this tire has a somewhat drifty feel before it's fully engaged in a turn. Riders looking for a reasonably lightweight and fast rolling rear tire that can still rail a turn will appreciate this tire most. At $60 retail, it's also a good value, and the winner of our Best Buy Award.
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 that earned it our Best Buy Award. The Slaughter Grid returns to the test again with some minor changes to its tread design and a 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. Read on to see how it performed this time around.
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 Schwalbe Rock Razor 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 wide 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. The WTB Trail Boss is another interesting option that has a tightly packed center tread design that rolls pretty quickly but has taller knobs that offer more in the way of pedaling traction in looser conditions.
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 has a tendency 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 WTB Trail Boss and the Maxxis Aggressor have reasonably low rolling resistance but with 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 really good shape. While running lower pressure we took more than one hit to the rim and the Grid casing held strong with no pinch flat. A fair amount of sloppy 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.
The Slaughter Grid is best suited for use as a rear tire for the rider who is willing to sacrifice a bit in the way of pedaling and braking traction for very little rolling resistance. It excels in hard pack conditions and offers great cornering ability for the skilled rider who gets the tires on edge in turns.
At a retail price of $60 we feel the Slaughter Grid is a great value and repeats its performance as our Best Buy Award winner. Considering the similarities to the much higher priced Schwalbe Rock Razor, the Slaughter Grid offers nearly the same performance at a lower price. 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 our Best Buy Award winner for its reasonable retail price and good all-around performance as a rear tire. 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.
The Slaughter Grid is available for 26", 27.5", and 29" wheel sizes. I comes in a 2.3" width for all whell sizes, as well as 2.6" and 2.8" widths for 27.5" wheels.
The Slaughter Control ($55) is offered in Specialized's lighter weight and thinner sidewall "Control" casing for 26", 27.5", and 29" wheel sizes in a 2.3" width.
Specialized also offers the Slaughter DH, a wire bead downhill version of the Slaughter that is significantly heavier and comes in both 26" and 27.5" sizes in a 2.3" width.
— Jeremy Benson