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Specialized Introduces the All-New Cannibal Tire 2

Developed in conjunction with and for the Specialized Gravity Team, the downhill-specific tire offers large blocked knobs and sturdy sidewall support to withstand the speed and intensity of World Cup racing.

Specialized Introduces the All-New Cannibal Tire

At the first World Cup of 2022 in Lourdes, France, the Specialized Gravity Team was spotted sporting some all-new Specialized tires. Having unapologetically raced with blacked-out tires in the past, it was no secret that Specialized lacked a true downhill tire designed to meet the needs of their top athletes. After embarking on a long road of development, rider feedback, and tire evolution, they eventually arrived at their latest creation, the Cannibal. Intended to withstand the speed, intensity, and brutality of World Cup racing, the Cannibal introduces an all-new tread pattern, updated casing, and purpose-driven design unlike many tires before.

Highlights 

  • Intended use: downhill 
  • 27.5 and 29-inch wheel size options
  • 2.4-inch width
  • Grid Gravity casing
  • GRIPTON T9 compound 
  • Staggered shoulder blocks for cornering stability
  • Large, ramped center braking blocks 
  • Weight (measured): 1400-grams
  • MSRP: $80 USD

Cannibal Overview

The Specialized Gravity team has continuously raised the bar for bike setup, testing, professionalism, and all-out speed. No rock gets left unturned when pursuing the top step of the podium, and the likes of Loic Bruni, Finn Iles, and Chris Grice receive every tool imaginable to win. So when it came to tires, it hasn’t been that surprising to see logo-less tires mounted to their race bikes. After all, the Butcher has been the only semi-aggressive gravity tire in Specialized’s offering the past few years. And while the Butcher is great in many situations, it was never meant to be a full-on downhill tire. Realizing that their athletes were reaching for tires from various brands with different casings, compounds, and tread designs, Specialized set out to develop a World Cup-capable tire that would be the go-to choice of their riders.

Chris Grice // Lourdes World Cup, 2022

The goal from the beginning was to create a tire that could withstand the speeds and intensity of someone like Loic Bruni. The Cannibal was not designed for casual riding or to meet consumer demand, and the tread design and construction reflect the specificity of the new model. 

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At its core, the Cannibal features Specialized’s Grid Gravity casing that uses a 2-ply, 60tpi construction with a reinforced apex that provides sidewall support and helps prevent pinch flats. Grid Gravity is not a new casing; however, the apex profile has been adjusted based on athlete feedback. The apex is now thicker around the bead, creating a more predictable sidewall with better handling characteristics under high stress. It’s also worth noting that Specialized already began including the new apex profile in all Grid Gravity casing tires about six months ago.

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Specialized admitted it’s a fine line between creating a sidewall that is too stiff and diminishes traction or a sidewall that is too flexible and squirms under harsh compressions. From our time on the Cannibal, it feels plenty firm and supportive when riding at a fast, average pace. What saves the Cannibal from feeling too harsh or deflecting is the tread design in combination with Specialized’s stickiest GRIPTON T9 compound. The tread pattern screams aggression and traction, using staggered shoulder blocks for cornering stability and large, ramped center braking blocks that have no problem biting into the ground. The big blocked knobs provide stability at speed by maintaining a greater contact patch with the ground. The knobs also experience minimal flex due to their size, which allows the damping abilities of the compound to manage impacts, as opposed to relying on the deformation of knobs to provide traction.  

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We were surprised to see no siping on the side knobs; however, Specialized says they intentionally left the blocks solid to improve stability and braking traction. Well, what about cornering grip? The Cannibal leans on Specialized’s T9 compound that is soft enough to grasp intricacies in varying terrain and slow rebounding to maintain contact with the ground through impacts for a controlled, damped ride quality.

Initial Impressions

Believe it or not, we don’t own a downhill bike these days, and it saddens us to say that. While we couldn’t jump on a chair lift and bang out a bunch of adrenaline-pumping downhill laps, we did our best to push the Cannibal on our roughest trails in Boise, Idaho. 

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We mounted the tires to a Specialized Enduro and Trek Rail e-bike to gather some initial impressions. Right out of the gate, the Cannibal is visually one of the most aggressive tires we’ve ridden. The blocked side knobs flare outward, and the width is a true 2.4-inches. Everything about the meaty knobs made us want to lean over in soft soil and tear a rut into the ground. When mounting the tires, the weight was quite noticeable. Put against a scale, one Cannibal tire weighed around 1400-grams, which is a solid jump from the 2.4-inch Grid Trail Butcher tires we took off, weighing around 1050-grams. Combined with the aggressive tread design, the Cannibal obviously thrives on steep trails that will overcome its slow-rolling, heavy construction. 

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Once up to speed and pushing the Cannibal’s limits and our own abilities, the tires were exceptional at providing support, predictability, and endless traction when needed. The Grid Gravity casing is firm but never felt harsh. We had no problem pushing our weight into corners without experiencing any tire roll. Likewise, the tires held strong when hitting big compressions and never squirmed under pressure. The Cannibal’s aggressive, bold tread design left little traction to be desired and consistently found grip past the point we typically expect our tires hold contact with the ground. Again, you have to be riding some pretty gnarly, steep trails to warrant so much grip, but when you need your tires to hook up or slow you down, the Cannibal provides. 

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While most of our rides were on dry, loose, hard-pack trails, we did enjoy one muddy e-bike ride. When tackling sloppy conditions, the Cannibal had no problem clearing mud. We will add that as a rear tire on an e-bike, the large knobs bit into the ground without slipping under the motor’s torque and allowed us to clean two climbs we’ve never been able to achieve.

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What’s The Bottom Line

With a void to fill in their tire lineup, Specialized has stepped up in a big way with their purpose-built, downhill-specific Cannibal tire. Leaning on the talent and ability of the Specialized Gravity Team to help steer development created a tire that thrives when being ridden at the limit. For any downhill, enduro, or e-bike riders looking for a tire that will bite into just about any soil and promote hard-charging riding, the Cannibal is ready for the challenge. For everyone else, Specialized is only offering the Cannibal in their heaviest, Grid Gravity casing. We can only hope that casing options expand in time because the grip and control make the Cannibal a perfect option for riders wanting an aggressive tire that excels on various terrain. Until then, we will save the Cannibal for downhill and e-bike riding and will stick with lighter, more efficient tires on our other bikes.   

 For information about Specialized's Cannibal tire, please visit www.specialized.com


View key specs, compare tires, and rate the Specialized Cannibal in the Vital MTB Product Guide.

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