Stand Out Product Of The Year: Specialized Hillbilly

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The Specialized Hillbilly GRID T9 tyre is the product that we wonder how we ever lived without. Useful, functional, and just what we needed.

  • Brand: Specialized
  • Product: Hillbilly GRID T9 tyre
  • From: specialized.com
  • Price: £45.00 GRID Trail, £50.00 GRID Gravity
  • Tested: by Benji for 9 months

Let me be clear, the new Hillbilly isn’t as good as a Maxxis Shorty or Wet Scream but it’s very close. And it is significantly more affordable. The £45–50 price tag really needs a whole lorra praise in this day and age of £80+ rubbers. Despite/because of its not-a-Shorty-ness, the Hillbilly is arguably a much more useful all-rounder of a mountain bike tyre. You can lazily keep these tyres on way after you’ve finished eating all of your Easter Eggs and you’ll be fine. They really don’t mind being pressed into hardpack duties if they need to.

Here’s our full review from July…

TLDR: the latest Specialized Hillbilly is like a halfway house between a Schwalbe Magic Mary and a Maxxis Shorty, and is thus brilliant. The price tag is an added bonus.

Pros

  • Excellent on loose terrain but copes with rock ‘n’ root too
  • Gravity version is impressively tough
  • Unbeatable value

Cons

  • On the heavy side
  • Wish there was a version between GRID Trail and GRID Gravity!

I’m going to go straight in and deal with the weight issue first. Specifically as regards the GRID Gravity Hillbilly. Whilst part of me wouldn’t say no to losing 100g or so of this tyre, another part of me realises that when the conditions require a tyre like this, weight just isn’t so much of issue. When the ground is slow, when the weather is poor, when the roots are shiny, when the rider and bike are soaking and covered in filth … I can live with a ‘heavy’ tyre.

The GRID Trail Hillbilly is a nice weight but, in pure performance terms, if I’m riding terrain/routes/attitude that’s a bit more XC-traily, then I’d stick with my go-to Schwalbe Magic Mary. Having said that, £45 is pretty flipping great for a tyre that’s almost-a-Magic-Mary, so in performance-for-pound-sign terms I probably would go Hillbilly GRID Trail (instead of a Mary) if it was my money.

Do not get the T7 Hillbilly. Actually, you can’t even if you wanted to. At time of writing at least, Specialized don’t offer the Hillbilly in the fimer T7 rubber compound. Very wise. Mud/winter/loose tyres make zero sense in slippery compound rubber. It’s not like the T9 compound is actually super duper sticky/soft. Using no-science-whatsoever (apart from my ‘feel’) I’d compare Specialized T9 rubber to Schwalbe Addix Super Soft (AKA purple Addix). It’s not as soft as Maxxis 3C MaxxGrip in my opinion. And that’s fine. MaxxGrip is often OTT. And T9 is waaay grippier than Maxxis 3C MaxxTerra compound.

The Hillbilly that I’d buy is the GRID Gravity T9. It’s just the more versatile tyre in terms of PSI; you can run it firm, you can run it stoopid soft and it deals with it. The GRID Trail feels a bit weedy when you begin to want/need to let PSI out of it (for lattice root and green rock madness, for example). And at mid-pressures the GRID Trail carcass does lack a bit of ‘damping’; it’s a bit pingy. The extra 240g of Gravity GRID is worth it.

Speaking of versatility, I’m tempted to say that the Hillbilly is more versatile than the Maxxis Shorty 2. There’s a bit less squirm. A bit more accuracy. And I think/feel that it is faster rolling everywhere (compared to a MaxxGrip Shorty 2). It’s a close run thing between the two tyres. But this tyre costs £50. So it wins.

In terms of rolling speed, the new Hillbilly is actually very impressive. Sure, almost anything rolls faster than Maxxis 3C MaxxGrip but the Hillbilly is one of those tyres that you really don’t mind leaving on even when the weather/terrain is drier.

Durability wise, it’s been pretty good I think. I’ve had no issues with fragility. And the levels of wear are very fair I think; you can just about make out the original sipes after an extended winter of riding (on a Specialized Turbo Kenevo SL e-bike no less).

Some actual weights for those who like that sort of thing (and it does matter a bit for once because: wheels)…

  • Specialized Hillbilly GRID Trail T9 29×2.4in: 1,070g
  • Specialized Hillbilly GRID Gravity T9 29x.24in: 1,310g

Overall

The previous version of the Specialized Hillbilly was always a “good tyre for the money“, the new Specialized Hillbilly is a “great tyre”. Full stop. The relatively cheap price tag is the icing on the cake. It’s still fifty quid for a bike tyre but you just need to glance at the prices of premium tyre brands’ offerings these days (£84.99 anyone?) to see how impressive the value is. The latest Specialized Hillbilly T9 has earned a permanent place in my tyre pile. It’s not a very big pile (Schwalbe Magic Mary, Maxxis Minion DHR II, Specialized Hillbilly). You could call it a podium in fact. The new Hillbilly is a medal winner.

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Review Info

Brand: Specialized
Product: Hillbilly GRID T9 tyre
From: specialized.com
Price: £45 GRID Trail, £50.00 GRID Gravity
Tested: by Benji for 9 months

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 20 total)
  • Stand Out Product Of The Year: Specialized Hillbilly
  • weeksy
    Full Member

    Ran one at Fort William this year on the lads DH bike. Worked perfectly well… Ran it in the mud and slop at Rheola DH racing where again, it worked well… yeah, we like a Hillbilly T9 here.

    I think it’s still fitted to one of his wheels now actually.

    Kramer
    Free Member

    Loads of people out here in the Alps running a Hillbilly/Butcher combination.

    devash
    Free Member

    Speccy tyres have come on leaps and bounds in the past few years. Been running a pair of the latest Ground Control Grid T7’s this year. Just as good as Maxxis / Schwalbe and half the price. What’s not to like?

    MartynS
    Full Member

    Loads of people out here in the Alps running a Hillbilly/Butcher combination.

    can i take it from that they are better as a rear tyre? Doesn’t say if its F/R specific…?!

    weeksy
    Full Member

    We ran Hillbilly on the front yeah for the grip as it’s quite a big tread.

    Kramer
    Free Member

    Hillbilly front, Butcher rear.

    Kamakazie
    Full Member

    I really like the older Hillbilly and these new compounds sound like they address the main issue which was grip on wet roots / rocks.

    It is a shame the carcass on the Trail isn’t a bit more supportive as I’d probably try a new one on the front, but I’m now using the Kenda Hellkat in enduro casing which is the best year round tyre I’ve found. The carcass has the feel of a much heavier weight tyre, and seemingly similar levels of protection.

    chiefgrooveguru
    Full Member

    The new tread pattern makes it a better dry/hard conditions tyre but doesn’t seem to be any worse in the mud/loose. The T9 compound (which was briefly available on the old tread pattern) is sticky and really well damped – super calm feeling compared to T7. I’m sure it rolls slower but it’s not noticeable on the front. It wears a lot faster than T7 (aka old Gripton) but at least as well as other sticky tyres – T7 is almost everlasting on the front!

    I’ve been running Hillbilly F / Butcher R for a few years on my Levo – and also on my hardtail in the wetter months.

    I’m running the Grid Trail casing – but I do run Rimpact inserts for extra stability and toughness (standard front, pro rear).

    P.S. Benji – the old T7 one makes a ton of sense for my very niche use of commuting on a Levo but also doing proper riding on it – drop the pressure down to around 20psi and it works fine in the mud and wet, even doesn’t kill you on wet roots (is quite good at catching itself), pump it up to 30psi and I can pedal it past the limiter on tarmac without my legs dying. I’m keeping the new tread pattern T9 for next winter now.

    tomparkin
    Full Member

    I’ve had older Hillbilly front / Butcher rear as a “leave it on” combo for a few years now (not the same physical tyres I hasten to add) and they’re great in that guise. Enough in the winter without being too much in the summer.

    And if you shop around you can often get them for pretty keen prices — not that full RRP is especially bank-breaking in the first place.

    I am currently uhmmming and ahhhing about Mary v.s. Hillbilly as a new front tyre, the new T9 sounds quite convincing.

    nickc
    Full Member

    My Enduro came with old (2 generations old) Hillbilly Gripton on them and they lasted exactly one ride. I tested the same tyre on the Stumpy Evo, and it was still shocking.  Glad they’ve (finally) wrestled a half-decent tyre out of the tread design

    bikesandboots
    Full Member

    The comparisons with other tyres people would be considering, is much appreciated – keep up the good work.


    @ben_haworth
    Any interest in writing some kind of tyre atlas, something like this thread? https://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/equivalent-or-similar-tyres-in-different-brands/

    mudfish
    Full Member

    Hey Ben, Great review. Since you’rs Singletrack’s resident rubber addict, I hope a couple of questions are OK.

    I see you used the T9 Beverley Hillbilly both ends on the KSL.

    Lucky me I have a KSL too and love it set up 29/275.

    Given the assist, I feel it’s feasible to run “proper” well damped “calm” tyres, my fronts are generally extra soft Mary, Bontrager G5 and I plan to try the DH22.

    – I’ve a 275 Aggressor on the back and sometimes run an earlier gen. 275 Maxxterra Shorty back there. Would your choice be T9 Hillbilly Gravity rear for when it’s too slimy for the Aggressor? Or a DH22 maybe?

    Just those 2 tyre options – year round?

    I did try a Mary rear which was OK in loam but seemed to fold the edge knobs on hardpack berms. Big Betty tempts but I read about issues on wet roots / rock. Its very rooty here in the South East Forests.

    Do you have an opinion on tyre life? I read that the rubber deteriorates and loses its grip but if the knobs “feel” OK I wonder if they are. Some say 3 years and most of my tyres are past that (kept in a dark-ish garage) as I had 18 months off with a spine injury.

    Thanks lots

    chakaping
    Free Member

    Been riding one as a front tyre in the recent frozen then sloppy conditions.

    Bloody great tyre and a deserving winner.

    bear-uk
    Free Member

    Cannibal front and hillbilly rear for me both on T9 gravity casing.

    Basically went with the spesh shops recommendations 

    Only done one 15 mile trail centre on the above combination but well happy so far.

    I have also used the old one and the t9 hillbilly on the front and have been very happy with them.

    honourablegeorge
    Full Member

    Reviews keep quoting this £80 price tag for tyres – that may be RRP, but who pays that?

    Pretty much all Maxxis tyres can be had for 45-50 Euro online, ditto Schwalbe

    bear-uk
    Free Member

    Shop price is £50. My last two came cheaper with some signing up discount.

    chakaping
    Free Member

    I got a couple for £35 each, it’s just like the good old days 🙂

    onehundredthidiot
    Full Member

    Hillbilly been on the front of various bikes for a good few years now usually with a butcher on the back.

    KSL has a hillbilly t9 on the front and a Hillbilly t7 on the back. It takes a lot to upset the bike, with those types and the extra mass.

    noeffsgiven
    Free Member

    Halfway house between MM and a shorty, but what compound ? purple or orange, maxxterra or maxxgrip.
    I’m sure cannibals are also a great tyre but it didn’t stop Bruni slipping on a Sharpied Conti, much to BK and Ronan Dunne’s amusement earlier this year 😀

    chiefgrooveguru
    Full Member

    “Halfway house between MM and a shorty, but what compound ? purple or orange, maxxterra or maxxgrip.”

    T9 feels softer and slower rebound to the thumbnail test than orange or maxxterra and when riding it feels noticeably stickier and calmer. I actually had to speed my fork rebound when I swapped a MM soft to a Hillbilly T9 this winter.

Viewing 20 posts - 1 through 20 (of 20 total)

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