If you're in the market for some Sunday-best racing rubber with a measure of puncture protection too the Specialized S-Works should be on your list, but if your performance tyres have to put a shift in during the week too then maybe you should look elsewhere. Specialized's S-Works Turbo tyres sit in one of the less populated bits of the company's vast cycling range, odd really because you'd expect the ubiquitous big 'S' to do more road rubber especially as they produce a fair range of well regarded mountainbike tyres.
Labeled for 'competition/speed' and weighted towards the light end of the scale despite the BlackBelt puncture protection strip the virgin ride on the tyres would put this claim to the test with an evening crit. Knowingly and blatantly breaking the first rule of bike racing of 'Never try anything new on your bike' the S-Works Turbos were thumbed onto the rims and pumped up to full pressure with half an hour to go to the start. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, that's what.
From the gun the S-Works felt like they belonged in a race, luckily. In the cut and thrust of straining for every advantage they certainly didn't feel under-trained and positively skipped along and crucially in that tricky left-hander at the bottom of the circuit that tends to sling a racer straight out onto the right-hand side out the exit and onto the grass the Turbos gripped alarmingly, that'll probably be the dual-compound rubber that uses a soft 55a durometer rubber on the sides compared to the harder 65a running up the centre allowing for more speed into the corner, more lean (can I mention that I clipped my hand on the road cone put there to save corner cutting over the drain cover which is something I'd never considered possible before) and definitely less drift that meant a definite advantage each lap over the wheelsuckers out of the corner and a couple of extra points on the race license thank you very much.
Race manners most definitely sorted it was time to see how the tyres performed on more day-to-day duties. As a training tyre the S-Works Turbo is a flattering partner, the 220TPI sidewalls making the bike feel fast and encouraging, although wear isn't the best either despite the harder rubber down the middle with the rear tyre developing a flat spot after too few miles, but then this isn't meant to be a training tyre per se. Another worry was that as soon as there was the merest of damp on the roads, be that from a morning dew, a light shower or the green of a shady corner the Turbo's became incredibly nervous, oddly enough this didn't translate into any loss of grip or performance, and no untoward drifting or falling over sideways moments, they just felt overly skittish, a trait that took a whole packet of faith to overcome.
The BlackBelt flat protection strip seems to do its job as no punctures were suffered during the length of the test despite the tread being peppered with tiny cuts, unfortunately that kind of protection doesn't extend to the sides. The downside to the light weight and supple feel of the tyre thanks to the slim 220 TPI sidewall is that they're not the most robust of rubber, the front tyre suffered a catastrophic and terminal sidewall slash leading to a botched roadside repair involving a puncture patch and a scrap of plastic found in the gutter just to get home, and an examination of the rear tyre's sidewalls showed anxious signs of scuffing and small nicks. Shame.
The Specialized S-Works Turbo tyre is a great piece of rubber - fast, supple and grippy enough to make a noticeable difference at race speeds, unfortunately they don't wear well and are a bit too fragile for every day ruffty-tufty training use, so not for you if you do your racing and riding on the same tyres because you can't afford both. But if you can then they're definitely Sunday best.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized S-Works Turbo 700x23c tyre
Size tested: 23mm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Specialized say the S-Works Turbo tire has world-class competitive road performance and is engineered to be the fastest, best handling race tire in the world. Combining extremely low rolling resistance with a compliant 220 TPI casing, plus compounds that increase traction while cornering.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The S-Works Turbo has a 220 TPI casing with an Aramid bead, the centre compound on the tread is 65a rubber with 55a on the shoulders and there's a BlackBelt puncture protection strip underneath. Available in 700 x 21c and 700 x 23c.
Well made, but with flimsy sidewalls and fast wearing tread.
An excellent racing tyre, but too lightweight for day-to-day riding.
The S-Works turbo is designed for racing, not long miles.
For a racing tyre with added puncture protection it's up there in the welterweight division.
The supple 220 TPI casing makes this a smooth tyre.
For the money I like a little more versatility from my tyre, I don't race enough to make these worthwhile.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For the designated competition and speed application the Turbo did a perfect job.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The grip and the swiftness.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The less than sturdy construction.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? For special 'Racing Only' maybe, if I was feeling flush.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but only the racier types, not the ones that just rode around a lot.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 180cm Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.