It takes guts to replace a classic product with a brand new one. And that’s exactly what Continental have done: they have replaced their classic go-to bike racing tyre, the Grand Prix 4000, with another model. Say hello to the GP5000. We take this new kid on the block for several spins.
The classic club racer’s tyre
Before we welcome the new model, a brief word about the tyres they are replacing. For ten years, the GP4000 was a true classic. I can really remember the first time that I rode my first pair. The speed of the ‘black chilli’ rubber compound felt like you had a permanent tailwind. And the stickiness (they call it stiction in the tyre trade) in the corners always felt sure-footed and consistent. Also, while other tyres may have been a bit faster, they were more prone to punctures because they didn’t have a Vectran breaker layer. So, in short, Grand Prix 4000s were the classic club racer’s tyre that was also perfectly protected for cycling to the race and back as well.
GP5000: tomorrow’s go-to tyre?
Times change and so do your tyres. Continental clearly realise that they were messing with serious voodoo by changing this tyre. So they kept the two killer features of the original: the black chilli compound and the Vectran breaker. Phew. So what did they add to it? Well they changed the grip pattern a bit. They have used a tread pattern called lazer grip, which is supposed to add traction in the corners. The tyre also has more shock absorption, the makers claim, employing a technique they call ‘active comfort’.
Fit like a glove
Mounting the tyres was a piece of cake. We had the 25mm-wide versions for standard inner tubes. The tyres slipped on the rims happily without the need for tyre levers, but without feeling sloppy either. (Rumour has it that the tubeless-ready GP5000 TL are rather less compliant.) Once up to pressure we noticed that the new tyre’s graphics are nice and understated. Interestingly, Continental is clearly up to speed on the latest trends: this tyre is available in widths up to 32mm (!) for the fatter tyre freaks among you.
Let the good times roll
We tested these tyres in a variety of circumstances: from the gravel cycle paths of South Holland to a wet and windy masters race in Amsterdam. We ran both front and rear tyres at a pressure of 7.5bar (about 109psi). (This is one bar under the 8.5bar maximum recommended pressure.) The GP5000s immediately feel familiar and roll along seemingly effortlessly. This may not just be because they are new tyres replacing a clearly dead set—bench tests have backed up Continental’s claims that the GP5000s have at least 12% less rolling resistance than GP4000s.
In order to give the tyres a decent test, we ran them along the rougher North Holland province cycle paths. This included gravel, paved surface and tarmac. Now I had not yet read the manufacturers’ claims about ‘active comfort’ at this point. Yet I really noticed that even on gravel, with relatively high pressure, the tyres were not only sure-footed and grippy, but also did not skip and bounce on these irregular surfaces. This is new. And it really works. Perfect for Gran Fondos on the not always comfortable roads in the Low Countries, for example.
Wet race test
The extremely wind conditions in March 2019 meant I didn’t feel comfortable entering the Kampioenschap van Amsterdam with a high carbon rim on the front wheel of my racing machine. So I swapped out the carbon for the front wheel pictured above. The race was not only wet and windy, it was also fast, as everyone in their class clearly wanted quite badly to be crowned champion of Amsterdam. The GP5000 on the front wheel performed excellently. I felt very confident on the tyre when cornering hard in the wet. And it appeared to pick up speed quite fast when the guys at the front put the hammer down. I kept the pressure at 7.5bar, mainly because of the wet conditions, but perhaps 8bar or higher would have been better in retrospect.
Continental have wisely chosen to keep the best qualities of the previous tyre and add to it. We still have black chilli, we still have the Vectran anti-puncture layer. But we also have less rolling resistance, more shock absorption and a wide range of widths to suit the modern tastes. All in all, this starts where the GP4000 leaves off, and certainly deserves to become a new classic. Continental GP5000s are not cheap: they cost around €63 each for the versions for inner tubes. The tubeless variety GP5000 TL have a recommended retail price of €75 each.