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Continental GP 5000: famous tyres, good to better

Continental GP 5000: famous tyres, good to better

As we ride towards the end of the year, let’s take a look at some cycling paraphernalia that will help you make the most of your time on the bike.

 

They landed in Australia on Wednesday, we collected a review set on Thursday, talked about using them during a test session on Friday… rode the current review bike with the older iteration of Continental’s flagship road tyre on Saturday, and made the switch to the GP 5000 tyres on Sunday.

Monday was a rest day, no riding.

Tuesday: converted to the new tyre…!

It took just a few kilometres on the 28mm GP 5000 tyres to realise that they hummed along better than the GP 4000s that had been on the Cervélo S5 when it was delivered a couple of weeks ago.

It was serendipitous that Continental’s soon-to-be-superseded GP 4000 were on the first test bike RIDE Media has had in over a year… but, really, the coincidence is not that great. These have been, for many years already, the tyre of choice for many high-end road bikes.

Produced by the German company, GP 4000 tyres have been used for training and racing for a long time; they are a reliable, long-lasting product that riders know well.

The GP 5000 is ready to take over and it took only one ride to be convinced that the changes are, indeed, improvements.

Now available in Australia, the GP 5000s (above) come in 23, 25, 28 and 32mm. All are, of course, made in Germany. They are Continental after all…

 

No more ‘wearing in’…

In the past, you’d unbox the tyre, plonk ’em on, and then roll out the door when the conditions were good, the road dry, and without a lot of urgency to any take corners too fast. Why? Because there was a layer of… well, something that seems like a very thin coating of slime, something that gave the GP 4000s a little gloss out of the box.

Whatever that was, it took a few kilometres – or considerably more – to shed that slippery coating. Once gone, the tyres were great, traction was good, and they’d last a surprising length of time. (In case you are uncertain about their longevity, Continental have wear-indicators to highlight when it’s time to consider a new set.)

The GP 5000s, however… traction right from the box! The slippery coating of whatever-it-was is gone and the tyres now feel more like you’ve started the ride after having done a few warm-up laps.

Up to speed, around the corner. Lean! Feather the brakes if you must, then: out of the saddle and go again. The traction is great (in the dry, as has been my only taste of the new tyres to date) but that’s not the only highlight…

The little, dark dots are wear-indicators: when this little groove disappears from your tyres, it’s time to consider a replacement set… the rubber is getting a bit too thin.

 

Bigger, fatter… faster!

The Cervélo S5 that we’ve had for review came with 25mm Continentals (GP 4000s). They are nice and suit the bike. It’s a high-end machine and few corners have been cut on spec, and Conti has a reputation for quality.

My suspicion is that, by 2019, the new aero bike from Cervélo will be shipped to shops with GP 5000s.

Quite frankly, the new tyres make a great bike better. The fact that the new rubber is bigger helps; marked as 28mm, the GP 5000s we got from the Australian agent (Velo-Vita) were fitted with ease to the DT Swiss rims. Once inflated, they measured 28.5mm in width.

They are a little larger but it’s not as though the 28mm versions got wedged against carbon-fibre when putting the wheel back in the tight rear of the Cervélo S5; at a glance, there’s little obvious difference from the 25mm when on the bike. On the road, however, they sing along and the difference dimensions are noticeable.

There is data from Continental that concludes that these tyres roll faster than GP 4000s but it’s difficult to determine if the benefit really does provide “12% better rolling resistance”. Surely the Germans have done something in the lab to come up with this figure but this kind of claim sits awkwardly with me.

Either it feels good – better – or it doesn’t. The GP 5000s did feel better on the road.

The 28mm GP 5000s extend slightly wider than the rim and, on the DT Swiss wheels of the S5 (above), measured 28.5mm wide (at 95psi).

 

First impressions count

With the tight clearance for tyres on the S5, I was curious how close the 28mm would come to the frame. There’s nothing to worry about, there’s plenty of room. (Exactly how the 32mm option goes is, I suppose, the next thing to test… so I’ll have a chat to the guys at Velo-Vita to see if there’s another set to trial.)

The main selling points, according to Continental, are that the GP 5000s are faster – “better rolling resistance” – and that the tread has been laser-etched, an innovation since the release of the GP 4000s many years ago. They are also lighter. The catalogue also states that they are 20% more puncture resistant, a great claim if true.

The lack of the ‘slippery’ coating, the larger size – and the comfort that comes from that change – added to the proven compound from Continental means that the GP 5000s seemed to make a great bike even better to ride.

Black on black (above)… that’s the scheme for our test set of GP 5000 tyres.

 

There’s grip and the promise of better rolling and wear. Velo-Vita has also come up with a reasonable RRP of $89.95, significantly better in local retailers than the price listed on several major online retailers.

The GP 5000 is not just a tyre, it’s a rethink by Continental to improve what was already a very popular product.

I’ve used GP 4000s on various bikes in all weather conditions for many years. There were colour variations and a reliable old, very thin, set of these tyres are on a classic bike in my collection. The gold ones that adorn my Cannondale ‘Black Lightning’ are 21mm and, these days, they look as though they are some kind of skinny parody. They look fantastic, but I do now laugh about the ride quality they offer, especially after having had just a quick taste of the 28mm on the Cervélo.

It is possible to make good better, and often it’s the little differences that really add up to something special. Tyre selection is changing and the GP 5000s are a fine example of companies responding to market demand.

You want bigger? You’ve got it.

You want better? You can get it.

 

– By Rob Arnold

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