specialized 2012 ground control mountain bike tire finite element analysis design

Seeking a little more info on the 2012 Ground Control mountain bike tire prototypes that just showed up at our door, we opened a real can o’ tech talk, charts and graphs from Specialized. Yes, the forthcoming Ground Control borrows the original’s name, but that’s it. The tire claims to be the first ever designed with Finite Element Analysis (FEA) prior to having a mold ever made.

Specialized’s Nic Sims says: “This is the first tire we have that has gone through the FE analysis process, and we are currently the only company doing this. What this allows us to do is mimic loads put on knobs to see what they will do when under load, so it allows us to get a better starting point on new tires. The old and usual method is to think up a design, commit to a mold and then build some test samples and ride them. If this does work, then it is back to square one and you repeat this process until you get it right. This is a costly process and if you get it wrong can cost you a model year in launching. With the FE analysis we start with a tire that on the computer we know what it will do before we commit to the mold, so theoretically we have the tire we want. Obviously the ride quality is a big thing and there will always be a lot put on that part of development but the FE stage can eliminate a lot of wasted molds and cost of test samples that don’t work.”

Sims confirmed that the new Ground Control is a 2012 tire that should be available in July. It’s an all-around tire similar to The Captain, but has 18% better rolling resistance than its sibling. Pricing is TBD. More after the break…

specialized 2012 ground control mountain bike tire finite element analysis design

In addition to the FEA, Specialized looks to be introducing Adaptive Tread, which will also go on the 2012 Fast Trak tires. As a design element, Adaptive Tread looks like it’s their way of giving the tires decreased rolling resistance when riding and climbing while improving cornering and grip in the turns and descents.

specialized 2012 ground fast trak bike tire finite element analysis design

Compared to the 2011 Fast Trak tire on their website now, the images above and below definitely show a new tread pattern for this tire.

specialized 2012 ground control mountain bike tire finite element analysis design


  1. What a lovely picture of the FEA. But FEA is only as good as the constraints and forces you apply to it and given that the block is mounted to a flexible rubber casing with low pressure air inside it, it seems something of a jump to fully rigidly constrain the lower surface. Is the leading edge of that block really going to deform like that before the block itself simply bends the casing inwards at the back and lifts it at the front? I doubt it….

    Might be a nice tyre, but the FEA is just marketing (or their engineers are clueless)…

  2. They did all that analysis and got a tire (ground control) that looks like something Schwalbe has been making for 5+ years 🙂

  3. agreed… I hope (in the least) that they repeated the analysis with the constraints as springs. The spring stiffness may be derived from the internal air pressure, under the load of the rider.

  4. A tire is a tire is a tire. Whatever you choose to wrap around your wheels you will adapt to. Given, some tread designs will boast better performance on certain terrain. But that’s the point, no two trails are alike. If anything I think the durameter and casing design has a bigger impact than anything else. There are just too many variables to determine that one tread will out perform another in more than one environment. That’s why pro’s choose a different tire for every course, and why I ride the same thing everywhere.

  5. a – in short, yes the tire leading edge will flex – tire siping is real i think? it allows the tire knob to not only flex as designed/needed, but allows more right angles (edges) to contact the rock, wet root, etc. it does make a difference. i’m not an engineer, just bike shop guy and racer dork. apparently, as you state it, the fea is just marketing because chris wyatt is definitely not clueless.

    marek – you probably think that a cannondale prophet is the same as a specialized enduro or that a Blur is the same as a Trance because they ‘look’ like each other.

    alloycowboy – i had never heard geax was using fea, but the picture in their catalogue does look cool. i haven’t used their tires and i’ve never heard any good reviews – maybe they have been using fea for years, but i think making good tires is probably more important.

    just my two cents.

  6. an enduro blur and trance look like each other? whats your point joe?
    that geax’s version of tire marketing is less valid than specialized’s version of tire marketing?
    one may be better, i think the point being brought up was the “novel” aspect of using FEA for tire design. Its not atypical for the big S to make what other companies consider commonplace to present as “never before seen or done by anyone in the bike industry” – and for media folks to suckle the teet. So to speak. No offense meant tyler : )

  7. call420 – perhaps the voice of reason has returned here. my points were:

    1. the prophet and enduro both have X-shape front triangles and the blur/trance both use short dual rotating links (vpp and maestro) in their suspension. the point is that they ‘look’ like each other, but i’m sure most riders would be able to feel (or at least recognize) a difference. marek mentioned that ‘they got a tire that looks like something Schwalbe has been making for 5+ years.’ i can appreciate the smile face but my point stands, with tires its not only the casing, tread pattern, durometer, tubeless compatibility, etc. i know schwalbe makes great tires, however they are not the same because they ‘look’ the same.

    2. mentioning geax, i guess my point was that regardless of what they use for ‘design’ that the end product is what we need to judge them by – maybe they’ve been using FEA since the 80’s to ‘design’ tires, but their end product hasn’t seemed to gain notoriety – at least no one has ever come into any of the shops i’ve worked at asking for a geax. yes, these shops were the center of the universe.

    3. as suckling the teet goes – i think thats a funny analogy, pat on the back for you – i sell specialized stuff for a living, but i’m not going to go say that they don’t mistakes and/or bad products. and yes, copying then calling it innovation is something they should get a slap on the wrist from the bike industry parents (whoever they are). calling cannondale’s open standard bb30 their own osBB. tapered front ends – first used by look, klein, and ridley that specialized ‘revolutionized.’ the list goes on, however i will argue that right now their tires are killing it. evidenced by the local college kids that come in to buy them at retail when they could be shopping maxxis, geax, kenda, whatever else on the interwebs.

    i like specialized enough to argue for the things they do well, but also to criticize their faults. anyways, i am glad that so many of us are passionate about our tires – sorry i like stirring the pot. But i think it shows A tire is a tire is a tire is not quite an accurate statement. i’m not a pro anyways. smile face time =)

  8. @gillis
    Tyres… the only bit touching the trail. If they are not the only bit touching the trail your tyres are rubbish.

    Point: Tyres are alot more important than any few hundred grammes savings on frame weights and suspension set ups. A good tyre tread and casing are the difference between getting somewhere fast; upright; not wasting power spinning the back wheel and feeling like you are dragging your bike forward; sliding onto your arse and wasting heart beats on sweat spinning the cranks and going nowhere.

    That’s before you include carcass strength where you might be walking home or getting DNF, rotational weight meaning it takes more effort and wasted power accelerating and this includes breaking. Or even for the weekend warrior getting 0 bang for a buck out of a tyre that loses its knobs after 4 rides.

    @the rest of you I just had 1000 miles out of my fast trak front and rear and I have to say the 29 2012 fast trak is more durable and has better grip than my 26 captains ever had (how much of the wheelsize I don’t know effects this sorry 🙁 ) but they still have at least 2-300 miles left on them.

    I DO NOT slide though, since our local trails are damaged enough by people that cannot ride and slide to hell whilst never rebuilding the trails… I digress.

    I couldn’t stand the old fast trak but the new one is a different tyre, not just changed slightly , complete new tyre nothing like old.

    And no, Spesh didnt revolutionise FEA, but damn they have made a wonderful tyre out of it (I’m yet to try the GC, cash flow permitting)

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