Specialized Hillbilly Grid Trail 2Bliss Ready T9 review– bargain priced winter tire

Can the new Hillbilly continue Specialized’s wallet-friendly tire wins into winter?

Hillbilly T9
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

BikePerfect Verdict

The excellent new Hillbilly is significantly grippier than a normal trail tire in wet/filthy conditions but still OK for intermediate trails and pedaling. Total bargain pricing in the UK as well.

Pros

  • +

    Noticeable extra filth grip

  • +

    Excellent carcass damping

  • +

    Bargain UK pricing

  • +

    Easy tubeless setup

Cons

  • -

    Bit slower than a standard trail tire

  • -

    Nearer 2.3 than 2.4in

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Specialized’s Butcher Grid Trail 2Bliss Ready T9 already ranks as one of the best mountain bike tires available - especially if you’re in the UK and after a high grip bargain. The updated Hill Billy adds even more traction for sloppier, softer conditions without losing hard surface control or dragging dramatically either.

Hillbilly T9

Specialized ran tons of prototype rubber recipes before settling on their superbly damped and impressively grippy GRIPTON T9 mix  (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design and construction

While the name is similar to the previous generation Specialized tires, the latest Grid Trail 2Bliss Ready carcass comes from a different manufacturer. It’s the same 60tpi layup used on the excellent new Butcher tire though and the same soft, slow rebound ‘GRIPTON’ T9 compound is used on the Hillbilly as well.

The center/shoulder tread pattern is very different, following the classic ‘square studs with plenty of space around them’ format of most good soft conditions tires. Specialized run alternating pairs of knobs close for a slight paddle effect and the knob tops are siped (slotted) to allow them to reshape and spread under load. 

Shoulder knobs are slightly angled in for a directional emphasis with alternate lugs getting long supporting buttresses right down the sidewall. U-shaped sipes create a ‘block in block’ effect on every other knob too, but there’s no outward splay or projection over the carcass edge.

Weight is average for a modern 2.4in ‘trail tire’ at 1074g but at 59mm across, they’re actually closer to 2.3 than 2.4in wide. There’s also a Gravity Grid version but that takes weight beyond 1300g in pursuit of extreme punishment survival.

Hillbilly T9

Chunky siped knobs with plenty of space behind means tons of grip where other tires slide (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

If you don’t like changing tubeless tires because of the faff and mess involved, you’ll be relieved to hear Specialized 2Bliss setup is about as easy as it gets. Not so tight onto the rim that it’s a fight but not so loose you’re worried about it ripping off in the first turn or peeling off if you get a blowout. It runs happily at teen pressures if you really want to suck the wheel onto the ground too but obviously bear in mind that this is a trail tire. If you’ve got a history of rubber-ruining rim abuse you can pick the Gravity version.  

Impacts aside, the grip and control levels are well up for extreme riding. The more open, lugged tread locks into dirty, wet, and loose conditions significantly better than a ramped or flatter/tighter tread. While they don’t ‘lean outwards’ to grab carving/off-camber traction automatically the side knobs are well-supported enough to deliver the traction as soon as you tip the bars into the turn. The tread cleans super quickly even in clay conditions and when they do start to slide it’s a very predictable, normally saveable push, rather than a sudden snap-out and dump-you situation. 

The T9 rubber and underlying carcass give excellent impact damping and micro traction too. That reduces nerves when transitioning from slop to roots/rocks or the treacherous mess of ‘who knows what’s waiting under the leaves/around the next corner that typifies a lot of UK and northern hemisphere riding for half the year. While there’s an audible and haptic rumble on the road and you’ll lose some ground in a roll-down test, they’re certainly not so slow you’ll go home early or stop one run short on a session. If anything their ability to keep you upright where most trail tires won’t mean you’re likely to get more riding in and you’ll certainly be going faster on descents and tech sections too.

The fact they make adequate forks feel great and great forks feel amazing adds to their already excellent value in the UK at least and while they’ll shred fast if run on summer rocks, in their natural habitat wear is proving totally reasonable. We’ve had no ripped knob or unraveling/twisting carcass weirdness from our long-term Butcher tires either.

Verdict

Specialized’s new Hillbilly T9 tires are a great choice if you want significant extra grip in the slop and soft conditions. The Grid Trail versions are really well-damped on harder surfaces and not a total pain to pedal either. In the UK at least they’re an absolute bargain as well.

Tech specs: Specialized Hillbilly Grid Trail 2Bliss Ready T9

  • Price: $75 / £45 / €70
  • Sizes: 27.5 or 29 x 2.4in
  • Options: GRID Trail or GRID Gravity
  • Weight: 1074g (Trail, 29 x 2.4in)

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect and Cyclingnews’ contributing tech editor. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg