Specialized Turbo Cotton tyre - Review

The Specialized Turbo Cotton is a premium race tyre that excels in the holy trinity of low rolling resistance, great ride quality and good grip.

This performance comes at a cost, both literally and the fact these race tyres will never be as durable as something heavier. If you can accept those drawbacks, you will be rewarded by a simply sublime tyre.

An impressive palmarès

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Three years ago a Specialized rep was telling me that the new Specialized tyres were amazing but I refused to believe him.

Then Tony Martin starting winning TTs (including the worlds) on Specialized clincher tyres and I got interested, but I assumed they were 'pro tour specials' that us mortals could not buy. And then independent labs started to report that the consumer tyres were the lowest rolling resistance (Crr) tyres that have ever tested.

And then I got very interested and hence this review.

Blazingly fast

The Turbo Cottons test around 2-3 watts quicker than the excellent Conti GP4000s and the only tyres that beat it are dedicated TT tyres that have very poor puncture resistance.

Why is a low Crr good? Well, a tyre that saves you 2.5 watts is free speed. Give me an extra 5 watts any day of the week. To exaggerate things; comparing a set of these tyres to some Gatorskins will be the same as saving 20 watts… that's like comparing your form in March to your summer race fitness!

Quick tyres are a much more effective performance improvement than expensive carbon wheels. Though clearly if you combine these tyres with cutting-edge carbon rims you have a match made in heaven

They come in three widths; 24, 26 and 28mm. That's fairly unique in that most brands are pushing 25mm now. Interestingly, Specialized spec the 26mm tyres on their flagship S-Works bikes. I have been riding 26 tyres, I would put 24s on a TT bike. Byt to be honest, am not sure on the 28s - I think if I was going that wide I would probably be after a slightly more robust and hard-wearing tyre. But the 26s are perfect.

It is a 320 TPI (threads per inch) construction which means it's very supple. It has lots of Specialized sounding buzzwords, "Gripton" and "Black Belt". And no they mean nothing to me either... All you need to know is that these tyres are sublime; effortless fast, very supple and grip very well in wet and dry.


Those lovely cotton sidewalls (where the tyre gets its name) are exposed and do look fragile (but which is probably what helps give it such a lovely ride quality). As such, I had heard anecdotally that they were prone to punctures. I have a friend who has a set and says they are his best 'A' tyres but not used for general riding in Kent.

I have to say that I have not experienced any such issues. Even five days riding in Mallorca when we had shocking weather which produced torrential rain and stones and grit everywhere on the roads I had no issues. I don't expect to get much over 2000 km on these though. They are not the tyres for epic winter base mileage.


A close look at the sidewall and you will see it says 'For the Connoisseur'. I agree; I love the tan sidewalls but others don't.

A Conti GP4000S II is a great tyre and an easier sell. It's all black, slightly heavier and more robust and comes from a neutral and highly regarded neutral brand. I know many Trek owners will refuse to put Specialized tyres on their bikes…

So these will never be the most popular tyres out there - which is part of the charm. For those of us prepared to get something slightly more exotic, you will be rewarded with a wonderful performing tyre.

I have ridden these tyres pretty much exclusively for six weeks now and have put over 1500km on them. They have become my very favourite tyres.


  • Price: £58
  • Width: 26mm
  • Weight: 240g
  • Flat Protection: BlackBelt
  • Compound: GRIPTON
  • Casing: 320 TPI Polycotton

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