Raise your hand if you’ve not spent a season rolling aboard a set of Continental Grand Prix 4000 tyres, in one guise or another? You’re in the minority if your hands are – at least metaphorically – by your sides.
The GP 4000 has earned a reputation for balancing performance across puncture protection, grip and rolling resistance with limited compromise in any of the big three. It’s not the fastest tyre, nor the most robust – but if you want to run the same rubber for your target races and your daily commute, it’s a fine bet.
And finally, after 14 years, during which the tyre has evolved to rather convolutedly become the Continental GP 4000 S II, the creators finally believe it’s transformed enough to be marketed as the next generation. The Continental Grand Prix 5000 has arrived. What’s more, as the entire industry quite rightly suspected: the new GP on the block is finally tubeless.
Continental flew us out to the sunny island of Teneriefe to take the tubeless set for a spin up and down a portion of Mound Teide.
The insights one can glean from a 57-kilometre ride are limited, and we’ll be bringing you long term reviews of both the clincher and the tubeless version in the coming months. But in the mean time, here’s what you need to know about the replacement for what is arguably the most popular tyre in cycling.
Continental Grand Prix 5000 and Continental Grand Prix 5000 tubeless: the baseline facts
Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyre
The headline figures that you’re after? Rolling resistance for the GP 5000 vs the outgoing 4000 S II has increased by a reported 12 per cent, puncture protection by 20 per cent, the tyres are 10g lighter in a 25mm and, less quantifiably, comfort has improved.
The tubeless variety, an independent tyre in its own right, boasts 5 per cent better rolling resistance and a further 5 per cent of puncture protection on the clincher according to lab tests carried out in the HQ, in Korbach, Germany.
In order to achieve all of this, Continental says it has improved its famous Black Chilli compound, bolstered the Vectran Breaker puncture protection belt, and developed two new technologies: Lazer Grip and Active Comfort Technology.
The GP 5000 is available from 23 to 32mm, weighing 200g to 290g – with a TPI if 330, whilst the tubeless variety comes in at 300 to 370g, from 25 to 32mm – and a TPI of 180. All options are available in a 650b size as well as 700c.
The pricing for the UK is yet to be announced, but in non-Brexiteer currency they’ll be €60.99 for the clincher or €74.99 to go tubeless.
Finding the sweetspot
Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyre
The relationship between grip and rolling resistance is something Continental focused on in the new version, with tests carried out both on the drums in the lab and on the road to ensure real life transfer.
The myriad of elements which make up the compound where tested and adjusted, with components such as the Silica and Carbon Black being tempered in search of the holy grail.
Head of R&D, Edwin Gouswaard said: “When we talk about grip, hysteresis – the memory effect of rubber compound, like a memory foam mattress – is an extremely important property. It needs to be high, to have the optimal grip, and it needs to be low, to not loose too much energy. You will lose watts if the hysteresis is too high, but you need it for grip. This is a target conflict that we wanted to solve.”
Gouswaard says the newest version of the Black Chilli compound, which has existed in some variation for 12 years, hits the optimum.
“We have had this compound for a decade or more, but we have been optimising it continually. Black Chilli is about finding the sweetspot: achieving sufficient flexibility, and better stiffness at operating temperature, as well as hysteresis that is not too high or too low.”
For Continental, grip isn’t all about compound. Its tread pattern has always been distinctive and the GP 5000 uses a lazerd micro profile structure which expands over the tyre’s shoulder, increasing the surface area when compared with the outgoing CNCed version. The brand is calling this ‘Lazer Grip’.
“We have developed a special technique for laser engraving in the tyre – so we can influence the roughness of the pattern in the shoulder area to have more grip via a larger contact patch. The pattern is all about getting aerodynamics right, and influencing the grip.”
The days of 21mm clinchers run to a rock hard 120 psi plus have been banished from popular opinion in the same was as riding fixed all winter. Along with gravel bikes and the indefinable search for ‘adventure’, the target audience of sportive riders, club runners and aspiring racers is no longer ashamed to put comfort high on the list of desires.
With this in mind, Continental’s new ‘Active Comfort Technology’ is designed to dampen out some of the buzz we’re so very used to on UK roads – and its this new addition which Jan-Niklas Juenger, Continental’s Head of Road Tyres says is the most impactful of them all.
Residing below the now improved Vectran Breaker, which has “no impact on rolling resistance”, this layer is said to smooth out bumps and absorb vibrations.
“We’ve been able to manipulate a certain area under the tread of the tyre, and increase the comfort which is currently a big trend,” Gouswaard says.
It took one of cycling’s most prestigious tyre brands an awfully long time to develop its first tubeless tyre. The entire industry knew that going tubeless was on the cards, because it would be commercially irresponsible for it not to be.
Darwin Zabala, Continental’s Head of Marketing admitted: “It has taken a lot of time to develop tubeless technology for the road. Because we wanted to have the best tyre in the market with the best compromise between weight, rolling resistance, puncture protection and grip. We don’t just release a tyre because the market wants it, we want to create the best tyre we can.”
Juenger adds: “We are going through the roof with tubeless tyres. Previously, tubeless tyre technology wasn’t ready for the road – and we are really confident this tyre has the best sweetspot that there is.”
The distinctive feature of the GP 5000 Tubeless (TL) is that it features the brand’s Vectran Braker – leaving the rider no longer at the mercy of sealant alone.
This in turn has an impact on weight – with the 25mm option starting at 300g per tyre, making a set around 100g heavier than the likes of Schwalbe’s One Tubeless. However, Continental is convinced the trade off is worthwhile.
They also promise that the tyre will be compatible with any tubeless ready rim, though the brand is involved in a collection of tyre and rim manufacturers meeting in Brussels to discuss the creation of a tubeless standard for the road market.
Out of the lab and onto the road
Continental Grand Prix 5000 road tyre
So does all the tyre science ring true on the road?
We tested the tubless iteration of the tyres on the glass smooth roads of Mount Teide from Las Manchas. The section we covered demonstrated not an inch or road defect – so declaring the claims of comfort a success is going to require further testing at home.
However, over the consistent four to six per cent gradient, the tyres did roll smoothly beneath me, eating up the early miles with notable efficiency, though the Cannondale SystemSix shod with carbon rims played a role that can’t be ignored.
The true test is always going to come on the descent. Again, further testing is required on home roads (with brakes set up in the UK configuration) to be clear on how well the tyres respond to pushing the limits of grip. However, even in areas where the road surface was wet beneath us the rubber felt planted and reassuring
The Continental Gran Prix 4000 has always been a safe bet for any rider after a reassuring level of performance, across the board. With the GP 5000, that’s be refined – and the figures from lab tests are hard to argue with.
If you’ve been a fan of the market leader in the past, then you’re favourite has received a makeover which can only ever bring good news – and if you’re yet to become a convert, now would be an excellent time to explore unchartered tyre terrain.
After 14 years and multiple different remakes, the popular GP 4000 has finally evolved into the next generation