When the Continental Grand Prix 5000 first came out, we knew we had to test it out. So we kindly asked our ambassador Chuck Peña to test out the new tires. Chuck is a former weekend warrior racer who now just rides for fun and coffee, but every once in a while manages to prove Fausto Coppi’s adage true: Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. He lives in Arlington, VA with his wife (who is his favorite riding partner), his daughter (who takes great joy in beating him at golf all the time, but at least he’s still faster on a bike), and their dog (who is always there to greet him when he comes home from a ride). You can follow him on Twitter and on Instagram. He is also a contributor to PEZ Cycling News.
The flagship Continental Grand Prix 4000 in its various incarnations (the most recent being the 4000 S II) has had a loyal following for over a decade. For many riders, it’s the gold standard by which other tires are measured. Continental claims the BlackChili compound provides excellent grip and reduced rolling resistance without sacrificing durability. And the Vectran Breaker belt is supposed to be stronger than steel to offer high puncture resistance. As such, it’s billed as an all-arounder tire that’s also up the task of racing.
As a wise man once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but progress marches inexorably forward and the Grand Prix 4000 has been superseded by the new Grand Prix 5000. Continental claims the Grand Prix 5000 has less rolling resistance, better puncture resistance, and better mileage wear – no small feat since the improvement in any one of these factors usually comes at the expense of at least one of the others.
So is the Continental Grand Prix 5000 that much better than the 4000? I can’t quantify any differences with actual measured test data, but I can give you my seat of the pants (or is that bibs?) riding impressions.
A point of reference
My personal tire of choice for the last several years has been the Michelin Pro4 Endurance, which is considered a training tire. I no longer race and, honestly, don’t worry so much about going fast and eeking out every last watt, so I place more of a premium on puncture resistance and tire longevity. The reason I chose – and have been very happy with – the Pro4 Endurance is that it has a bead-to-bead protection belt to protect against flats. In the last 4+ years, I’ve had all of two flats riding the Pro4 Endurance. Moreover, I can easily get 3,000-4,000 miles on a pair of tires before having to replace them. And while they may not be the fastest tires, the Pro4 Endurance has a very comfortable ride in 700Cx25mm (NOTE: Michelin tires tend to run a little wider than their spec). However, they are a little on the heavy side at 245 grams for 700Cx25mm – but I doubt that’s a reason for any lack of speed on my part.
So while I’ve been perfectly happy riding the Michelin Pro4 Endurance tires, I was thrilled to have a go riding both the Continental Grand Prix 400 S II and Grand Prix 5000. Especially since I hadn’t ridden Continental tires since the 90s when, back in my racing days (yes, I’m old), I rode Conti tubulars exclusively – both training and racing.
Grand Prix 4000 S II
I actually only have one ride on the 4000 S II tires. Why? Well, the tires I was originally sent were 700Cx28mm. I mounted them and my chainstay clearance (I ride a Felt FC) was almost non-existent. Maybe a few millimeters, if that (see the pic below). But the wheel spun freely without rubbing, so I figured it was rideable.
Grand Prix 4000 S II on Irwin AON TLR 58 rim
To give you an idea how little clearance there is with the Grand Prix 40000 S II 700×28 on my Felt FC
As it turns out, even a skinny runt like me can put out enough power to cause some flex and create tire rub when there is next to zero clearance. (NOTE: I’ve read elsewhere that the 4000 S II runs a little on the wide side but I don’t have a caliper to measure. But if the 28s are more like 30s, that would certainly explain the lack of sufficient clearance and being able to induce tire rub.) I wanted to put more miles on the 4000 S IIs, but I wasn’t going to risk having something go terribly wrong. But here are my initial riding impressions:
- Inflated to 80 psi, the ride on the 4000 S IIs was downright plush. At least as comfortable as the Pro4 Endurance (but the latter in 700Cx25mm). The Contis did an admirable job of soaking up imperfections in the road and little bumps to soften the ride.
- Confident grip in cold (temp in the high 30s/low 40s F) with some wet patches. I had no issues going fast on downhill sections, cornering, or making left-right or right-left transitions. One thing the 4000 S II has that the Pro4 Endurance doesn’t is some tread on the outside edges of the tire, but I can’t say whether this offers anything in terms of grip or channeling away water.
- And they seemed to feel like they rolled just a tad faster than the Michelin Pro4 Endurance, but this is subjective and not based on actual data measurements. However, given that the 4000 S II is more of an all-around tire leaning towards race and the Pro4 Endurance is more of a training tire, you would expect the 4000 S II to roll faster.
Of course, what I can’t say is how good the 4000 S II is in terms of puncture protection and durability.
My bottom line: If the Continental 4000 S II 700Cx28mm fit my bike, I would be more than happy riding them. Ride quality-wise, I thought they were at least as good – maybe even a little bit better – than the Michelin Pro4 Endurance. So if your bike can accommodate the Continental 4000 S II in 700Cx28mm, they would be a great choice for a more than comfortable go-fast tire. What I can’t say is how comparable the ride comfort would be in 700Cx25mm. You would have to expect it to be a little less plush, but I doubt it would be harsh.
Grand Prix 5000
Given my experience with 4000 S II in 700Cx28mm, I waited until a pair of Continental Grand Prix 5000s in 700Cx25mm could be sent to me to ride them. (NOTE: I’m told the Grand Prix 5000s don’t run as wide as the 4000 S IIs, so maybe I could’ve ridden them in 700Cx28mm – but I didn’t want to risk it).
One of the first things I noted that was different between the Grand Prix 5000 and 4000 S II is that the graphics on the former are a little more subdued. The only things that pop out in white on the black sidewall are “Continental” and on the opposite side “5000” with a small German flag – the “Grand Prix” before “5000” is a subdued silver-gray-ish hue that’s really only visible up close. PRO TIP: Mount the Grand Prix 5000 with bicycle wheel valve stem centered on the “Continental” logo on the tire and you might fool people into thinking you’re riding tubs.
You have to look closely to see Grand Prix
Speaking of mounting, the 5000s were a very tight fit on my AON TLR carbon fiber wheels. And I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, but it seemed like it was tighter and harder to get the bead over the rim on my 58mm deep rear wheel (I run an AON TLR 38/58 carbon wheelset). So here’s another PRO TIP: Put your inner tubes in a zip-lock plastic bag with some talcum powder to get them liberally coated. When you put a tube in the tire, talcum powder will inevitably spill onto the rim. The talc on the tire and rim will actually make it easier to pull the last bit of bead over the rim with your hands (which I was able to do despite not having an abundance of hand/finger strength) and not have to resort to using a tire lever and risk pinching in the inner tube.
Grand Prix 5000 on AON TLR 38 rim
The other thing I noticed is that – knowing the Michelin Pro4 Endurance 700Cx25mm tends to run a little wider than spec – the Grand Prix 5000 is probably a “true” 25mm wide tire just looking it but (I don’t have calipers to measure). First, I know it didn’t look as wide as the Pro4 Endurance. Second, the sidewalls are nearly flush with the 25mm wide AON TLR rims. So if aero is what matters most, the Conti 5000s have a “need for speed” profile. #marginalgains
Grand Prix 5000 on AON TLR 58 rim
So how do they ride?
Almost from the first pedal stroke, I could feel that the Continental Grand Prix 5000s roll fast. They seem to glide effortlessly over the pavement. Are they 12 percent faster than the 4000 II S, as Continental claims? I can’t confirm that. I can only say that I found the rolling resistance to be exceptionally low. The effort required to pedal at speed just seemed less. And freewheeling downhill just seemed faster (and the buzz of my AON TLR 58 freehub seemed louder!) I realize that these are subjective – not scientific measurements with hard data – and subject to a number of different variables, but that’s how it felt.
Speaking of feel, the Grand Prix 5000s in 700Cx25mm at 80 psi were surprisingly comfortable. They weren’t quite as comfortable as the Pro4 Endurance (which is a tad wider), but I wasn’t expecting them to be (although in 700Cx28mm, I’m guessing the Grand Prix 5000 could be on par with the Michelin Pro4 Endurance). Certainly, for a tire that’s considered more of a “go fast” tire, the Grand Prix 5000 is more comfortable than you would expect. Yes, they were firm, but they weren’t overly harsh. So maybe there’s something to Continental’s Active Comfort Technology that “absorbs vibrations and smoothens your ride.” What I can tell you is that intentionally rode over less than smooth road surfaces as much as possible: cracked or otherwise broken up pavement, seams and joints resulting in uneven pavement, bricked roadway, slightly raised or dipped manhole covers, minor curbing, and small holes where chunks of pavement had come off – just not potholes that might result in a broken rim. While not plush, the Grand Prix 5000 took a fair amount of the “hit” off of all of those and without any major jolts. I always felt confidently in control and not in any danger of getting bounced off. A word I would use to describe how they felt is “composed.”
As it’s still winter in my part of the world, I rode the Grand Prix 5000s in colder weather and on both dry and wet or damp roads (not in the rain, but with leftover rain and sometimes melting snow). My experience was no slip and plenty of grip. Whether it was fast descents, cornering, or left-right/right-left transitions, traction was never an issue. So I suppose there’s some truth to Continental’s BlackChili compound for the 5000 being grippier than the 4000 S II, as well as Lazer Grip providing more cornering grip (BTW, the Lazer Grip tread pattern on the shoulder of the 5000 is different than the tread pattern on the 4000 S II).
Close up of the Lazer Grip tread pattern. Those “dimples” are tread wear indicators – when you can’t see them anymore it’s time to replace the tire.
Finally, although I have more miles on the Grand Prix 5000 than my one ride on the 4000 S II, I don’t have nearly enough (especially compared to riding Michelin Pro4 Endurance for 4+ seasons with only two flats) to pass judgment on either the puncture protection of the Vectran Breaker (I do know it’s not bead to bead, so the 5000 will be more susceptible to sidewall punctures) or how long the 5000 will last.
But I will say that I’ll happily ride the Continental Grand Prix 5000s until I wear them out.
The Grand Prix 5000s look good and ride great, so are keepers
Some food for thought
The table below provides some spec comparison between my “reference point” Michelin Pro4 Endurance I was previously riding and the Continental Grand Prix 4000 S II and Grand Prix 5000. The Contis (in same size 700Cx25mm) are both lighter. The Contis also have more threads per inch (TPI) – 330 vs 110 – which, in theory, makes them more supple, i.e., a more comfortable and smooth ride, and faster, i.e., less rolling resistance.
|Michelin Pro4 Endurance||700×25||110||245g|
|Continental GP 4000 S II||700×28||330||265g|
|Continental GP 5000||700×25||330||220g|
*Not tested but shown for same size tire comparison
If you were buying just on spec, you’d opt for the Contis. For those of you that crave test data, Jarno Bierman has done actual rolling resistance tests:
I was suitable impressed with both sets of Continental Grand Prix tires (albeit limited to just one ride on the 4000 S IIs). My seat of the bibs meter told me they roll faster (Jarno Bierman rolling resistance numbers confirm that) without sacrificing a whole lot in the way of suppleness/smoothness compared to my Michelin Pro4 Endurance tires.
So if you’re looking for go-fast tire that can withstand the rigors of training rides yet still hold their own in races – without having to make a big sacrifice in comfort – you’d be hard pressed to find a better tire than the tried and true Continental Grand Prix. Show up for any shop or group ride and you’re likely to see them in abundance. I can attest that a lot of my riding buddies ride Contis and swear by them.
What I can’t attest to is how well the Continental Grand Prix tires hold up in the long run in terms of punctures and wear. In that respect, they have a pretty high bar to clear compared to the Michelin Pro4 Endurance. Since they’re on my wheels and I’m riding them, we’ll have to see how the Grand Prix 5000s do over the next several thousand miles.
But is the Grand Prix 5000 that much better than the Grand Prix 4000 S II? That’s a harder question to answer. My subjective riding tells me the 5000 is marginally better than the 4000 S II. Both felt fast, but it wasn’t like a night and day difference. According to Jarno Bierman, the 5000 is 1.6 watts and 2.2 watts faster than the 4000 S II at 80 psi and 100 psi, respectively. Since I rode the tires in different sizes, I can’t make a direct comparison in terms of comfort. But in 700Cx25mm, the Grand Prix 5000 is comfortable for what is supposed to be a “go fast” tire. And it’s hard for me to assess if the grip on the Grand Prix 5000 is appreciably more than the 4000 S II (but the Lazer Grip tread pattern on the 5000 is supposed to provide increased grip when cornering). Both were fast and confident in turns and in left-right/right-left transitions – like when you need to flick the bike quickly to avoid a pedestrian so immersed in their smartphone that they’re oblivious to their surroundings.
If you’re just riding to ride, you’ll probably won’t notice much difference and be just as happy on the 4000 S IIs. Since they are now a discontinued model and you can find them discounted via a number of different reliable vendors, that means you can get nearly the same performance for significantly less cost – so a lot of bang for your buck!
But if you’re racing or riding where performance and results matter (even if only to you) and every watt counts, then the Continental 5000s represent a marginal gain that you could argue (rationalize?) is worth the cost (retail $79.99). My racing days are well in the rearview mirror and while crits were never my forté, I would be more than confident railing into and jamming out of corners on the Grand Prix 5000s. Ditto for fast, twisting mountain descents.
So get the 5000s if performance is what matters most, but you won’t be giving up much with the 4000 S IIs if you’re on a budget and need to be more cost conscious (some of us have spouses/significant others) – but buy them while you can because they likely won’t be in stock for very long.
One advantage that the Continental Grand Prix 5000 has over the 4000 S II is that the 5000 is available as tubeless. Even though my Irwin AON TLR aero bike wheels are tubeless-ready, I haven’t ridden the 5000 TL so can’t speak to how it compares with the clincher version. I admit that I’m curious about tubeless but also not convinced that the advantages outweigh the hassles of set up and the messiness of changing tubeless tires (because of sealant) for road riding. Nonetheless, riding tubeless is on my “to do” list.
And a final word
I will say that there were two things I found disappointing about the Continental Grand Prix 5000 tires.
First, I am apparently not any faster going uphill on them. So much for lighter tires being faster.
Second, despite their fairly tenacious grip, I still can’t do this:
BTW, those are Dunlops I’m riding on a Kawasaki ZX-6 school bike at California Superbike School at Virginia International Raceway