Choosing a tyre for adventurous and off-road riding is getting easier all the time with a rush of new models being launched in recent years. The Specialized Sawtooth is a good choice for mixing road and dirt/gravel tracks, with a good balance of grip and rolling resistance, and the necessary toughness to survive tough trail conditions.
- Pros: Fast on a range of surfaces, reasonably priced, easy tubeless installation
- Cons: Not so good in the mud
The Sawtooth isn't a new tyre as such, but what is new is the 650B size option tested here. It's previously been available in 38 and 42mm widths for 700C sizes and has been specced on several Specialized bikes for a number of years. With 650B hot right now, these 42mm wide tyres look a good choice for those interested in the smaller wheel size.
Aside from the size difference, they use the same 120tpi (threads per inch) casing construction with BlackBelt puncture protection and the same Gripton compound, also used for Specialized's road racing tyres. It's a folding bead tyre with tubeless compatibility, or 2Bliss in Specialized speak.
Tubeless installation is straightforward. I tested them on two different wheelsets, a 3T aluminium set and a flash Specialized Roval CLX 32 carbon set (review coming soon) to see if they played nicely. They did; tubeless setup was a breeze. I used a Lezyne tubeless track pump and a glug of sealant and the tyres popped up nicely at the first attempt. Air retention has been good, losing only a bit over several weeks, nothing out of the ordinary.
Tyre pressure is important, especially with wider tyres. I'd suggest experimenting and definitely investing in a digital pressure gauge. I use a Topeak digital gauge all the time, it removes the guesswork and lets you make changes and record them for future reference. I found about 40-45psi for mainly road and hard trail riding worked well for my body weight (64kg); any higher and they tended to feel a bit bouncy and reluctant to deform over bumps. For off-road riding I was happy to go down to 30psi with no drawback at all, allowing the tyre to deform and offer up plenty of grip and vibration absorption. Specialized recommends a 35-60psi range.
These low pressures might surprise you, but even on the road they feel good. The tyres don't feel slow or draggy at all, but instead roll along really nicely with plenty of zip. I certainly noticed no huge impact on my general riding speeds. The tyre carcass is able to deform over bumps and imperfections. They feel compliant on rough roads.
Why are 650B tyres hot right now? You can get a bigger volume tyre into the same space as a smaller volume 700C tyre, so more air to cushion you on rough roads and trails.
Testing the Sawtooth 650Bs against a range of 700C tyres, from 30 to 40mm, there doesn't seem to be a huge trade-off in rolling resistance at a range of speeds; the 650Bs seem to get up to speed more quickly than the 700Cs, but don't have the same rolling speed at higher cruising rates. Take them off-road, though, and the benefits are clearer. A bigger cushion between you and the ground and the smaller wheel feels a bit more nimble and agile through twisty tree-lined trails, making it easier to chuck the bike through the turns and widen that smile.
For riding over a mixture of terrain these tyres work really well. I've encountered everything from rough gravel tracks to muddy byways, pothole-strewn country lanes mainly used by local farmers and covered in mud (and probably lots of cow poo) and proper singletrack in my local woods. If there's a weakness it's in really muddy conditions, but then that's beyond the design brief of the tread design, so perhaps a bit of an unfair criticism.
Probably the main rival to the Sawtooth tyres, which road.cc has tested anyway, are the Schwalbe G-One Speeds, now available in a 650B size. I haven't tested them, but Dave Atkinson has and he absolutely loved them.
I would hazard a guess that the Schwalbe tyres are a better bet for mainly road riding, but if you want to go more off-road then the more aggressive tread pattern of the Sawtooth tyres will give them the edge. The Sawtooths are also significantly cheaper, which could be the decider.
Fast and comfortable tyres that shine on mixed terrain rides, with loads of grip and good durability
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Sawtooth 2Bliss Ready 650B
Size tested: 650B x 42mm
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 says, "The Sawtooth is THE adventure tire of choice, developed to handle any road surface and to be tough enough to withstand the rigors of exploration. The tread offers sharp angles and edges to hook onto any surface, while the Endurant casing reinforces the sidewall for added protection and high carrying loads. Meanwhile, our legendary GRIPTONÂ® compound offers reliable grip and control, and the centre tread is reinforced for high mileage. Lastly, this iteration can be set up tubeless, so you're able to run lower pressures for added grip and traction, while also reducing the risk of pinch flats."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Specialized lists these features:
Casing: 120 TPI
Butyl wrapped bead = 2Bliss Ready
Flat Protection: Endurant Casing and BlackBelt
650b x 42mm, psi 50-80, approximate weight 555g
650b x 1.75"[47mm], psi 35-65, approximate weight 650g
700 x 38mm, psi 50-80, approximate weight 500g
700 x 42mm, psi 50-80, approximate weight 615g
Perform well on mixed terrain and various surfaces, from road to woodland trails.
I've battered them over my local off-road trails and they've stood up just fine, the tread and sidewalls showing no signs of the abuse.
Weight is respectable for a tyre of this size.
Comfort is a big benefit of these 650B tyres and provided you run low pressures they provide a very smooth ride.
You can pay a fortune for a bicycle tyre but these are reasonably priced.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good for road and dry off-road riding and gravel use, a good all-rounder. Just steer clear of muddy bogs!
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fast rolling, good grip and easy tubeless installation.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The only issue was tackling muddy trails, but they're not really designed for mud.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are a good price, cheaper than the rival Schwalbe G-One Speed (£64.99) at RRP.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a good tyre for road and gravel use and not insanely expensive if you want to join the 650B party.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.