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Ridden & Reviewed: Specialized S-Works Turbo 24 Tires

April 2, 2013

It happened again. I got a demo product late in the week and the fact I wanted to ride it a few times pushed my post back. There are worse problems to have. Particularly when you’re talking about something as nice as the Specialized S-Works Turbo 24 clincher.

Specialized’s new S-Works Turbo clincher debuted last year at the Tour de France under Tony Martin, one of the best time trialists in the business. What was essentially a product launch didn’t have the golden aura that the then new Roubaix SL4 had under Tom Boonen last Spring. Martin punctured and the tire, touted as the fastest around, went somewhat quietly into that good night. The debut had been thwarted by road debris and a faulty tube.

But punctures happen. We’ve all been there. We’ve all flatted “puncture resistant” tires, sliced tubes full of sealant, maybe even rolled a tubeless tire, or had the heartbreaking experience of destroying a tubular. It happens. To all of us. Even pros. That’s not to say that some of these products aren’t best in class. It’s more a testament to the fact that often times luck plays a roll in cycling, whether on the sport’s biggest stage or the commute to work.  Lady Luck aside, the S-Works Turbo 24 tire is undoubtedly best in class.

Specialized's S-Works Turbo 24 clinchers. Fast tires, slick packaging.

Specialized’s S-Works Turbo 24 clinchers. Fast tires, slick packaging.

Most pros in fact do not run clinchers, the tires us recreational riders find on the majority of bikes in bike shops. Pros typically run tubulars, also known as sew ups, where the tube is essentially sewn into the tire casing and the whole contraption is glued–yes glued–to the rim. When you have a small army of mechanics behind you, and sponsors that provide multiples of everything, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds. But for most of us the thought of gluing tires seems archaic. And the thought of potentially having $90 (or more) flats, nuts. So we run clinchers. But some of us would also like to experience the ride quality of what many of the pros ride. Enter the S-Works Turbo 24 clincher.

Specialized’s tests show that the clincher version of the Turbo 24 creates less rolling resistance than the tubular version of the same tire, and it tests similarly well against other high-end tires from other major manufactuerers.  Because of cycling’s, and particularly road cycling’s, dogged determination to cling to tradition, it wasn’t until last year and that auspicious start that Specialized sponsored pros were convinced to give clinchers a go. And those riders, even Martin, have stuck with the new rubber, taking this year’s Terrino-Adriatico time trial win in wet conditions on them.

Why stick with a product where one of your first experiences wasn’t perfection? Well, there’s the recognition of the aforementioned luck factor. And there’s the fact that these tires ride great. Period.

A handful of grams heavier than the stock Turbo Pros that came on my Tarmac, the S-Works model feels a bit more surefooted.

A handful of grams heavier than the stock Turbo Pros that come on the 2013 Tarmac Pro, the S-Works tires feel more surefooted.

The S-Works Turbo clincher features a folding bead and a rubber compound that’s primarily synthetic, as opposed to primarily natural, like on Specialized’s other tires. This allows for the incredibly supple sidewalls, which not only aid in cornering (more on that later) but also in making the S-Works Turbo 24 one of the easiest tires to mount on a wheel in my experience. Also on the Turbo is a small tread pattern, almost like a miniature file tread, which goes not only across the top of the tire, but also fairly well down the sidewalls. It’s this tread which lends itself to the tire’s superior cornering feel. Finally, because the tire has to be ridden in the real world (despite the “for race use only” suggestion on the sidewall) the tires sport Specialized’s BlackBelt flat protection layer–not that flats can’t still happen, but every little bit helps. Perhaps it’s that effort to give some measure of durability that gives them a reported average weight of 205 grams. The “race only” designation is an acknowledgment that the overall life span of the tire, with its extreme suppleness, is shorter than the company’s other high-end clincher offerings.

I mounted the tires to the 2013 Tarmac SL4 last Wednesday afternoon, knowing that I’d be taking the bike to the Driveway Crit Series the following evening. As I rode over to the race from the shop, I leaned the bike into a few turns and noted that I felt firmly planted as a pushed my outside foot down and straightened my outside arm. Through some road debris and over a couple of potholes and road seams I held my breath. And the tires held the 95 psi I had put in them. After getting to the race, getting situated, and getting lined up it was time to really have a bit of a go on the S-Works Turbo 24s.

The tires didn’t disappoint. Around the turns faster and faster the bike never felt like it was going to give up its hold on the circuit. Even when I hit a small stone that had found its way on to the course and the front tire skipped it immediately grabbed the track again and the bike held its line. And when the shifting pack put me on the outside of the course and over a rounded curb into the dry moon-dust like dirt, the tires never faltered. But those two brief oddities aside, the Driveway is like riding velcro, a fairer race test would be some rough and tumble chip seal roads like those that many Central Texas road races cover.

Putting the Turbo 24s into a turn at the Driveway. Photo courtesy of DCM Photography.

Putting the Turbo 24s into a turn at the Driveway. Photo courtesy of DCM Photography.

So Saturday I lined up with 25 or so other riders for a “leisurely” 75 mile ride over to Lime Creek. Gravel strewn roads, bumps, cracks, climbing, descending, town line sprints it was all there. Three or four other riders flatted, but I never did. As the roads got rougher the further we got from town I noted that the Turbo 24s road much like another favorite high-end tire of mine–Vittoria’s Open Pave EVO CG–the clincher version of the somewhat well-known green tread tubular many pros ride in the Spring Classics. Both of these tires have a “softness” that makes them feel more comfortable than other offerings out there. But what the Turbo 24s have over the Open Paves is that the Turbo 24s also feel faster, more akin to the Michelin Pro 4s I rode for a while last season. It’s the combination of ride feel and speed that the Turbo 24s seemed to have locked onto.

Roughly an hour of crit racing and 4 hours of road riding and the tires were doing great. Then I flatted. But it wasn’t the tires fault. The latex tube I was using in the rear tire had a seam split. Ces’t la vie. A quick flat fix and I was ready for Monday’s ride, a fairly leisurely spin through Southwest Austin. Another 2 hours and the tires felt good. Over some loose dirt as I traversed a neighborhood and off a curb and I was beginning to forget that these were “race only” tires. Besides, it seemed sort of silly to me to go around changing tires just for a race.

It happens. Tiny, sharp piece of metal is all it takes.

It happens. A tiny, sharp piece of metal is all it takes.

Then it happened. I punctured. The smallest, and quite possibly sharpest piece of metal you’ve ever seen punctured my rear tire. I’ve seen similar pieces of road junk pierce basically every other tire I’ve ever run. And, save for tubeless set ups I’ve used, they’ve all resulted in flats. But this time, luck was on my side. The debris stayed in my tire resulting in a very, very slow leak. The tire wasn’t flat until after I was out of my kit, showered, dressed, and eating breakfast.

If only Tony Martin had been as lucky at the Tour last year. The S-Works Turbo 24 clinchers would have gotten the initial praise they deserved.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 30, 2015 3:10 am

    What’s up, I check your new stuff named “Ridden & Reviewed: Specialized S-Works Turbo 24 Tires | It’s Time To Ride!” like every week.
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