Today saw the launch of the tyre that has won the most World Cups this year, the Bontrager G5.
The bike industry is a fluid entity with names coming and going through the years, once upon a time Michelin ruled the roost when it came to downhill tyres, they had the fastest racers, spent the most on development and seemed unstoppable, yet they faded in the wake of Maxxis who are still the leaders in terms of popularity. Bontrager were up until a few years ago in that background phase, always there but not driven to produce the best product available. Now they have something, or should I say someone, driving them forwards, he needs no introduction as he has taken the world by storm since he won his first World Cup in Pietermaritzburg last year, Aaron Gwin is the reason they are starting to invest in their tyre program once again.
Bontrager have been working closely with renowned tyre designer Frank Stacey for a few years now in an effort to reboot their line of tyres and it has certainly paid off so far with Aaron winning the Fort William World Cup on a prototype G5 on it’s first outing. Impressive stuff.
Frank has worked closely with Aaron and the rest of the TWR team to not just match the competition, but to improve on current tyre design and provide Aaron with a tyre that has the performance to keep up with the blazing pace at which he is riding this year. Aaron even has it in his contract, and Bontrager were happy to share this detail, that he is allowed to use a tyre from a different manufacturer if he feels there is nothing in the Bontrager range that matches the conditions on any given day. The only time Aaron had to do that this season was in Fort William where he felt he needed some extra volume in the front tyre to help him through the numerous rock gardens, we were told that a larger volume tyre is in the works but not yet available. Interestingly this coincided with one of the few occasions we have seen Aaron make a mistake in a race run with him sliding out twice during his qualifying run at Fort William, he switched back to Bontrager for the finals and went on to take the win.
The weather during World Cups is notoriously unpredictable so the team worked hard on the development of an intermediate tyre as they felt this would be the one that would get the most use and would be critical in the chase for the Championship.
The G5 shares the same features as the rest of the tyres in the range, butyl inserts to help with stability, a tacky compound to provide grip and the same 2 ply layup on the side walls but features a brand new knob layout that is aggressive to hold up under hard braking and cornering. Support is definitely the key to this tyre, the spacing of the knobs is designed to provide the same surface area while laid over as you’d get when upright, potentially giving a high level of grip while cornering and in off camber sections. This is combined with a piece of rubber called a tie bar that bridges every other row of centre knobs which helps them hold their shape under braking. Other features include strategical siping on select knobs to aid traction.
The G5 certainly looks like a promising tyre for racers, it’s pedigree is second to none with some impressive wins under it’s belt already this season. With the worlds fastest racers pushing harder than ever tyre design is having to keep up with products that meet their demands, the question is does this progression translate into benefits for the average consumer?
Will the tyre perform equally as well for Johnny Local on his local uplift day as it would during a World Champs race run under the guy who has already wrapped up the World Cup title with one race to go?
We’ll find out soon enough when we get a pair to test in the coming weeks and we’ll pass on our findings!