Continental goes tubeless with new Grand Prix 5000 road tire

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The Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II is considered by many riders to be the finest all-around premium road tire currently on the market — the ideal balance of weight, rolling resistance, grip, durability, ride quality, and puncture protection. After an awfully long stint as the front runner, that tire is now being replaced by the new Grand Prix 5000 (aka, GP5000) in both standard tube-type clincher sizes and — finally — tubeless variants.

Better in every way

The original Grand Prix first hit the market 14 years ago, and Continental has obviously learned a few things in that time. Not surprisingly, then, the company claims the new Grand Prix 5000 is better than the latest Grand Prix 4000 S II in every key performance metric. It’s supposedly faster with 12% less rolling resistance; more durable with a 20% boost in puncture protection; 10g lighter (for the 700x25c tube-type size); and even offers a smoother and more comfortable ride.

Continental builds the Grand Prix 5000 with a three-ply, 330tpi (total) nylon casing, augmented with a more finely woven Vectran breaker belt and a new elastomeric casing element (dubbed Active Comfort Technology) that somehow damps road vibration without introducing any speed-robbing hysteresis effects.

Continental’s trademark Black Chili compound hasn’t been left alone, either. In addition to using the latest formulation, the Grand Prix 5000’s shoulder tread now gets a subtle laser-etched texture that the company says provides superb cornering grip straight out of the box — basically the equivalent of pre-scuffing a new tire. And as a bonus, that texturing supposedly also helps oncoming air flow more smoothly around the tire casing for reduced aerodynamic drag.

The new Lazer Grip texturing is one of the most interesting things about the new Grand Prix 5000. According to Continental, the tiny laser-drilled holes help improve cornering traction straight out of the box, instead of relying on a short break-in period during which the tread typically gets a little scuffed-up.

Available sizes for the tube-type Grand Prix 5000 reflects the latest trends. There’s still the classic 700x23c option to satisfy the purists and riders with older frames that just don’t have the clearance, but also 25, 28, and 32c options. For the first time, there are also two 650b options in 25 and 28c widths.

Claimed weights for the 700c tube-type sizes are 200g, 215g, 235g, and 290g, respectively. Official figures for the 650b variants are 205 and 230g. All of the new tires will be exclusively offered with black sidewalls and folding aramid beads.

Moving tubeless forward — sort of

While the release of a successor to the venerable Grand Prix 4000 S II will be newsworthy to many riders in and of itself, fans of tubeless road tires may regard the fact that Continental has relented to market demands for a tubeless version to be practically earth-shattering. The famously conservative German company (its tires are still actually manufactured in Germany) has long resisted the calling, saying that the tubeless road category in general simply wasn’t sufficiently mature to justify yet another compromised, me-too product.

But the release of the Grand Prix 5000 TL helps to validate the notion that tubeless road is truly legitimate, and Continental’s specs are certainly enticing.

The minimal tread pattern on the new Continental Grand Prix 5000 and Grand Prix 5000 TL isn’t a huge departure than what’s found on the current Grand Prix 4000 S II, at least in terms of the pattern.

As compared to the Grand Prix 4000 S II, Continental says the Grand Prix 5000 TL rolls 5% faster, despite using a coarser 180tpi casing relative to the tube-type Grand Prix 5000 as well as an additional innermost layer that improves air retention. It’s also said to be 5% more puncture-resistant, and that’s before taking the requisite sealant into account, which offers an additional measure of protection. The same Black Chili rubber compound, Lazer Grip tread texturing, updated Vectran breaker layer, and Active Comfort Technology features are the same as what are used on the standard Grand Prix 5000.

Claimed weights are still heavier than the tube-type version, with the 700x25c size coming in at 300g, the 700x28c at 345g, and the largest 700x32c variant tipping the scales at 370g; there are no 650b versions (at least not yet). Those modest figures don’t include sealant, so weight weenies aren’t likely to be impressed. But as always with tubeless, it’s important to remember that things largely even out after you account for the mass of the now-unnecessary inner tube (which matters even more for the larger-volume sizes).

A couple of features should make the Grand Prix 5000 TL easier to set up, too. The bead is covered with a layer of extra-soft rubber, and there’s also a finned extension that helps to create a more reliable initial seal regardless of rim profile.

Continental has incorporated its latest features and technologies into the new tube-type Grand Prix 5000 (at left) and the new tubeless Grand Prix 5000 TL (at right). Photo: Continental.

Continental says the Grand Prix 5000 TL has also been sized so as to be universally compatible with all current tubeless road wheels and rims on the market in terms of safety, although the ease of installation and roadside service will still vary. Currently, Continental neither recommends nor advises against specific makes or models of rims, saying only that the dimension is inline with ongoing behind-the-scenes talks with other European rim, wheel, and tire brands who have been trying to establish a bona fide tubeless standard.

Pricing and availability, and questions left unanswered

Suggested retail price for the tube-type Grand Prix 5000 is US$80 / €63 / AU$85, and US$95 / €75 / AU$110 for the Grand Prix 5000 TL, regardless of size. All of the tires will begin shipping from warehouses immediately. There are currently no plans for tan-walled versions or tubulars.

As impressive as the Grand Prix 5000 sounds — and as nice as they seemed during my initial test ride atop the impossibly-smooth tarmac on the island of Tenerife — I couldn’t help but walk away from the launch event with lingering questions regarding tubeless compatibility and serviceability. Continental’s biggest objection has been the lack of an industry-wide standard, after all, and despite progress in the closed-door talks that have been taking place in Brussels for the past eighteen months or so, that standard remains elusive.

I have no reservations about the standard Grand Prix 5000; no doubt, it’ll be a fantastic tire. But is the Grand Prix 5000 TL the tire that finally advances the category? That’s a much harder question to answer, and one that I’ll be addressing in more depth in the coming days.

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