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Continental launches first tubeless tyres, Grand Prix 5000 TL

Joe Robinson
7 Nov 2018

German tyre giant also launches new GP5000 clincher as ever-popular GP4000 ceases production

Page 1 of 2Continental launches first tubeless tyres, Grand Prix 5000 TL

It's been a long time coming. After years and years of resisting, German tyre giant Continental has finally converted and launched its first set of tubeless tyre, the Grand Prix 5000 TL.

Every road cycling tyre and wheel brand worth its salt has progressed in the last few years and introduced a range of tubeless-ready rims and tyres for those looking for an option between clincher or tubular.

Continental was the last big player to hold out.

Why did Continental hold out for so long? Well, it's a collection of reasons.

People convert to tubeless for a few reasons but they mainly revolve around the appeal of doing away with an inner tube that allows you to, firstly, run lower pressure in the tyre, therefore increasing the contact point with the road helping grip and comfort, while also completely doing away with the worry of pinch flats.

However, the German brand often argued that while this was very useful off-road - where tubeless has ubiquitously been accepted - there wasn't a significant enough advantage in terms of performance to justify the development of tubeless technology on the road.

Continental has also been wary of the lack of an industry standard when considering tubeless tyres and rims. Widespread are reports of tyres being too small for rims, making it impossible to seat or vise versa, a tyre to slack that pops off the rim when inflated, all because the industry fails to work to an agreed standard. It was a big deterrent for the German brand.

Finally, with the GP4000 SII, it had the world's best selling tyre, universally accepted as the best all-rounder on the market, offering just the right mix in terms of rolling resistance, weight, puncture protection and mileage.

However, having long worked on the development of its newest clincher tyre, Continental believes it has developed four technologies that finally allows it to release a tubeless tyre that will reach the company's gold standard.

As Continental's head of research and development puts it, 'after 14 years of the GP4000 being the best all-round road tyre on the market we have developed four new technologies that have not only improved the best clincher wheel in the world but also enabled us to release the best tubeless wheel on the market,'

'Continental wanted to do it right. We developed tech for the new clincher first, using our experience from the GP4000, before then transferring this across to tubeless.'

You see, Continental is not only releasing a tubeless tyre today but also a clincher model too, the GP5000, which is key in the development of its tubeless sibling.

Improving the best

The brand new Continental GP5000 clincher is claimed to improve on all aspects of the GP4000 SII, the world's best-selling road tyres, as Continental explains.

‘We have worked for a long time on this. We had to turn the entire system inside out and go deep into the physics of what makes a great tyre as we already had the GP4000 that, while old, is still regarded as the best all-round tyre out there.'

Thanks to the development and improvement of four individual technologies within the tyre, Continental believes that its latest iteration has 12% improved rolling resistance, 20% more puncture protection, is 10g lighter a tyre and is also more comfortable.

'The big step in this process was not so much the development of tubeless but the improvement of technologies to increase the entire package. Not just rolling resistance, grip or mileage but the entire package,' says Continental.

'We assessed all different compounds, puncture protection tech and also developed a system called Active Comfort.'

The first of these technologies is fairly familiar, Continental's trademark Black Chili compound, the combination of rubber which it attributes as the reason for 'excellent grip, higher mileage and efficient rolling'. It says that this compound has received a minor overhaul, improving all three aspects slightly from its previous GP4000 tyre.

Continental has also developed 'Lazer Grip'. A brand new lasered micro profile structure that has introduced a rougher pattern tred for increased contact with the road that then spills over the shoulder of the tyre to improve traction in the corners.

Next is 'Active Comfort', a layer embedded within the tyre that Continental promises absorbs road shock and smooths road surface although it seemed particularly coy in revealing what makes this so.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is Vectran Breaker. A material we have seen before in Conti tyres, it’s synthetically-produced 'high tech’ fibre that provides a final layer of material between the inner case of the tyre and outside forces looking to cause punctures. It’s also the material that Continental attributes as a key factor in producing a ‘market-leading’ tubeless tyre.

‘With Vectran Breaker, we believe that Continental tyres are ready to go tubeless on the road because we will not just be relying on sealant to prevent punctures but now also this extra material’ says Continental.

Continental concedes that this does add overall weight to the tyre leaving them at 600g for a pair, around 50g heavier than a set of Schwalbe One tubeless tyres, he believes that the added puncture protection more than makes up for the deficit. He also routinely reminds that this is an all-round tyre rather than a race tyre, therefore, demoting weight away from a primary concern.

Admittedly, the issue of rim and tyre standards is far from a solution, with Continental labelling the issue as ‘chaos’ - as ongoing discussions continue between brands - but believe that all of its tyres, after testing on most of the industries rim options, will fit on every tubless-ready rim.

Sizing for the tubeless and clincher GP5000 buck no trend with the former available in 25mm through to 32mm and the latter ranging from 23mm again up to 32mm. Both will also offer a 650b option in 28mm, too. Pricing is also on trend at ¢74.99 a tyre for tubeless and ¢65.99 for clincher although, like most tyre manufactures, expect this to be lower when hitting shelves, which will be as soon as Friday 9th November.

There will also be Continental sealant available, adapted from its existing mountain bike range, but details on this also remain light.

Notably, and something Continental kept somewhat under wraps, was that as of now it will be ceasing production of all GP4000 units in its German headquarters. While this may seem minor considering it has produced a GP5000 clincher which is likely to be all but indecipherable from the GP4000, this could produce a collective moan from the thousands upon thousands of riders who religiously ride on the GP4000 SII.

The final question seems to be: with Continental finally making the switch to tubeless, is this the watershed moment in which tubeless tyres on the road is finally accepted.

Personally, I think it’ll be another nudge but not the tipping point in making tubeless ubiquitous on the road as the road cycling industry is a market that is suspect for being resistant in adopting new technology - just look at the furore 1x has caused!

Continental is also wary and Continental's head of research and development, who admits he is also still to convert over to tubeless, is not convinced the road market is fully ready to make the switch. He does admit though that he hopes ‘Continental converting to tubeless would be enough of a move to create a major shift in road tyre purchasing, as it would prove their place as the best road tyre manufacturers in the world.’

Earlier this week, Cyclist Magazine visited Tenerife for the launch of the Continental GP5000 clincher and TL. While there, we got the chance to put the tubeless version through its paces up and down the stunning sloped of Mount Teide. Click through to the next page to see our report on this latest set of rubber

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Page 1 of 2Continental launches first tubeless tyres, Grand Prix 5000 TL