Specialized has updated the Hillbilly mountain bike tire, their answer to the steepest and softest, or loosest conditions offered up by mother nature. It maintains the widely spaced tread block pattern of the previous iteration, the most notable alteration coming in the form of block-in-block transition knobs at the edge, said to add reinforcement and stability when plowing deep into soft loam or railing rock slabs. Available in Grid Trail and Grid Gravity casings, its tread pattern is made up of Specialized’s stickiest, lowest rebound T9 rubber, prioritizing out-and-out grip over rolling resistance and durability. Sizing options include 29″ x 2.4″ and 27.5″ x 2.4″.
While the super soft, slippery trail conditions we’re accustomed to have been absent for many months, they have given way to some of the loosest, marble-like conditions I’ve ever seen in this valley. Here’s how our first ride went.
New Specialized Hillbilly
I tested the 29″ x 2.4″ Specialized Hillbilly in the Grid Gravity casing, with a tubeless setup, on the SCOR 4060 LT I’ve been testing for the last few weeks. After wrestling the tough carcass onto the rim of a Crankbrothers Synthesis aluminum wheel I struggled to get rapid enough inflation to seat the tire with a Topeak Joe Blow Sport pump. I resorted to the use of my trusty Air Shot, and was successful thereafter. With sealant injected via the valve core, and pressure adjusted to 17 PSI, I was good to go.
Yes, 17 PSI is low. Much lower than that recommended on the tire casing. Here you’ll see a warning not to ride the tire below a minimum pressure of 25 PSI. Weighing just 61.5 kg in a full riding kit, and given the GRID Gravity casing of the tire, I wasn’t at all concerned. Besides, I find most tires, particularly those with a tough casing, perform best at pressures considerably lower than the manufacturer’s minimum recommendation.
My experience of the new Specialized Hillbilly is limited to one short ride, so I’ll keep this brief. Also, I’ve no previous experience of the former Specialized Hillbilly, so can’t provide a comparison.
In the loose, marble-like conditions of some of the over-ridden, over-baked trails, the Hillbilly’s connection with the terrain was confidence-inspiring from the off. Though you’ll see the marketing weighted heavily toward, slippery, loamy conditions, my experience is that it deals very well with loose-over-hardpack conditions. I’ve not yet been able to test it in the aforementioned quagmire.
The Hillbilly seems to perform as well as the 29″ x 2.4″ Goodyear Newton MTF tire I recently tested, but with more of a damped ride feel. I haven’t carried out a back-to-back test between the two, but my memory tells me the good level of grip provided when leaned over in loose, gravelly corners is comparable. The tire felt calm and collected over the rough, shifting surfaces of steep chutes, transferring that sense of calm and confidence onto the rider. Because of that, I was able to build trust in the tire’s ability to grip at speed over the course of a single descent, the kind of trust that can often take multiple laps or rides to build up.
The Specialized Grid Gravity casing lacked the wooden feeling I’ve come to associate with some other manufacturer’s tough casing tires, tested at that same low pressure of 17 PSI. It has a supple yet supportive feel to it that translates to good overall control when ploughing at speed over rubble. All that said, the damped ride feel could equally be attributed to the soft, low-rebound T9 rubber that makes up the tread pattern. Either way, the two combined seem to make for a good partnership, and I’ll be happy to put in many more miles on this tire to find out how it performs in the impending wet, greasy conditions that lie in store.
Pricing & Availability
Pricing for the new Specialized Hillbilly is as follows:
27.5″ and 29″ x 2.4″ Grid Gravity T9 will retail at €70 or $75 USD
27.5″ and 29″ x 2.4″ Grid Trail T9 will retail at €60 and $70 USD