Review by Matt Thomson // Photos by Dave Trumpore
Downhill tires. Not too complicated, right? Well, there are a few things to consider when purchasing a new set of DH meats - let's roll through them quickly, shall we?
- Does it hold air when ridden in rocky terrain (not some bike parked-out groomer that looks like the felt on a billiard table)?
- Is the rubber suitable for riding over roots and rocks when it gets wet?
- How does it corner?
- How does it brake?
- How does it roll?
- Does it clear mud well?
- How durable is it?
Bontrager's new G5 tire is a fine addition to their lineup. I've been riding on a set for a couple months now and have ridden them to destruction with the intent of answering the questions listed out above. These are my impressions of this capable offering.
G5 Team Issue Tire Highlights
- Big-volume downhill tire intended for very aggressive riding over loose, rocky and wet trails
- 2-ply casing
- Condition-specific compound assures maximum control
- Inflated tread profile provides numerous biting edges at any lean angle
- Tie bars provide increased braking traction
- Wide central groove delivers predictable slide
- Siping and angled edges provide additional traction over obstacles while improving braking
- Wire bead
- Weight: approx 1300 grams
- US MSRP: $74.99
On The Trail
The G5 provides flat protection on-par with, or better than its competition. Although I rode these tires in lots of different locations and conditions, my benchmark for flat protection is the Angel Fire bike park. I ran them front and rear in that sharp, rocky gnar at 30psi front and 31-32psi rear without getting a single flat tire. I also have to mention that I only got one small ding on a rear rim in 2 days of riding them at Angel Fire. Check this item off the list.
The rubber on the G5 is fantastic. It provides ample grip over wet roots and rocks and inspires confidence in these types of conditions.
Cornering on these tires is a pleasure. They provide a predictable feel at all speeds and beg to be ridden harder. Unlike many other offerings, I never felt any nervousness when transitioning from a straight line to cornering angles. Like any properly designed DH tire, the G5 has a nice channel to allow the shoulder knob to dig in and provide grip when turning. Getting this tire to break loose took a little more effort than some other tires designed for firmer trail conditions, but when it does come free, I experienced a very controllable feel. Two thumbs up for the turns.
Braking on this tire far outperforms the Minion DHF, Bontrager G4, and Specialized Butcher gang. The G5 has big center blocks with lots of braking edge to deal with slowing you down.The G5 also sheds mud/debris very well. The more open nature of its design allows it to happily fling shit everywhere, with aplomb.
Finally, we should point out that pricing on the G5 is comparable with other offerings in its class.
Long Term Durability
In my experience with just one set of tires, I would consider the durability of the G5 to be above average for a tire with this soft a rubber compound. You pay a price in durability for all this traction when you buy a tire that will perform in all conditions, but the G5 performs admirably in the durability department. Unlike some other tires in this category, I didn't experience any shearing of the corner knobs once they started to wear out. They continued to provide a predictable feel. I tore no lugs off the tires at any point.
Things That Could Be Improved
I feel the G5 does not roll quite as fast as the DHF, G4, Butcher contingent. I wouldn't call it a hindrance, and I didn't perform any pseudo-scientific tests aside from back-to-back riding, but it just felt a little slower on the flat than some of the other tires I've tested. Definitely not a deal breaker, but something to consider if you're riding in less steep terrain. Luckily Bontager has you covered in that regard with the G4. At the time of testing, the G5 Team Issue was only available in 2.35, and while it is certainly not too small for any type of riding, a 2.5 would probably suit bigger riders and/or rougher courses a bit better. EDIT: this aspect was improved upon quickly - the G5 is now available in 2.5 as well.
What's The Bottom Line?
In summary, Bontrager bills the G5 as a "loose conditions" tire and it certainly performs excellently in these conditions. It's worth mentioning that the G5 does admirably well on hardpack too, never seeming out of step. It's a great DH tire in almost every way. The 2.35 we tested is up for serious abuse and will suit any application - or look into the 2.5 if you're a heavier rider or if the courses you ride are really rough. Thumbs way up, Bontrager. Nice work on the G5.
For more info, visit www.bontrager.com.
About The Reviewer
Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210-pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.