Tires are an essential part of your bike, and the size, profile, the kind and placement of the lugs and rubber compound are all elements that influence the behavior of your tire. There are huge differences between these elements that determine how quickly your bike goes, how well it grips in corners and how it keeps traction on different surfaces.
Earlier we published the review of the Specialized Purgatory Grid. Along with this tire on the front wheel, I also rode with the Ground Control on my rear wheel, a set-up that you can find often on Specialized bikes. The Ground Control is really a different tire than the Purgatory, which isn’t surprising seeing as a front wheel also has a different role than the rear wheel and needs to be able to be good at different things. The front wheel has to grip well so that you can steer sharply, the rear wheel is where the power transfer takes place, it needs to keep traction but without too much rolling resistance to push your bike quickly through the trail.
Both the Purgatory 2.3 inch that I had on the front wheel and the Specialized Ground Control 2.3 inch on the back are robust thick tires that work well with the trail bike / enduro bike they were on.
Both tires are real trail tires that aim at being very versatile but with a tendency towards rougher terrain. With an open lug profile so that the tire retains sheds mud and sand easily.
The Ground Control Sport has a less deep profile than the Purgatory Grid and also the lugs are different in shape and placement. Whereas the lugs of the Purgatory are cut sharply and placed at an angle on the rolling direction, the Ground Control Sport lugs are more or less rectangular, with less sharp edges and all perpendicular to the rolling direction.
The rubber compound is also a bit harder and firmer than used in the Purgatory Grid. This gives the tire less rolling resistance than the Purgatory Grid, which is good for a rear tire. The lugs run a bit higher towards the edges of the tire to provide the much needed grip in flatter corners. I noticed on some wet roots I banged over that the tire lacks a bit in lateral grip resulting in my back wheel slipping away until the lugs catch the ground again. Something that more tires will struggle with a bit.
After quite some kilometers the tire does show some signs of wear. The edges of the lugs are less sharp and the lugs have worn down a bit. The rubber compound is somewhat harder than the Purgatory Grid and nevertheless showed more wear. I have to say that I do a lot more with my rear brake and that I also regularly do some street riding to practice my technical skills and there is some skidding involved at times. 😉
In short, the Ground Control Sport is a versatile tire that rolls comfortably with some extra bite for the corners. The combination with the grippy Purgatory Grid up front and the somewhat harder faster Ground Control Sport behind is great. As mentioned in the review of the Purgatory Grid it is a set that is very appropriate for softer, loamy, loose forest trails. We have not been able to test how the Ground Control Sport does it in the mountains on more stony stuff.