It’s no secret that Bontrager is not just your run of the mill OEM tire manufacturer. After hiring legendary tire designer Frank Stacy a few years ago, things quickly got serious and quite successful for them. A few months ago we grabbed a set of the SE5 team issue, a mid weight version of the G5 – a World Cup winning DH tire. The “SE” part stands for Super Enduro. The new tire is tubeless ready with a reinforced casing and a reasonable weight. Bontrager claims that the SE5 excels in loose, rocky, and wet conditions. We’ll take a look at how it treated us in Northern California and British Columbia after some quick specs.
27.5 X 2.3″ – 935 grams
29″ X 2.3″ – 990 grams
TPI(Threads Per Inch) :
Reinforced / 60TPI
First Impressions/Installation :
We chose to set our SE5 tires up tubeless because, well – why wouldn’t you? The first thing we noticed was how soft the knobs were. Widely spaced and relatively low in profile, these seem like they’ll have loam written all over them. Anyhow, the 27.5″ X 2.3″ tire that we rode on our Trek Slash, Giant Reign and Norco Range had the perfect mid weight casing. It comes in at 935 grams and really felt like the perfect in-between thickness for heavy duty trail/enduro style riding. Quite a few tire manufacturers offer a light weight casing coming in around 700 grams and then a heavy duty casing that comes in close to 1,100 grams. The SE5 Team Issue sits comfortably in the middle. At $74.99 they come in at a bit lower price than offerings from some brands like Schwalbe and Michelin, but aren’t exactly a budget tire either. That said, they do feel really nice in your hands and installed in a snap quite easily with a floor pump and some latex sealant. On 28mm wide rims, our 180 pound test rider generally set these up around 30PSI. Let’s see how well they kept our rubber side down…
While this tire is designed with gravity in mind for the most part, it is a lighter weight casing than it’s DH counterpart(G5) and Bontrager are well aware that people will be using this tire on ascents. Surprisingly, the SE5 climbed exceptionally well. Uphill techy bits were handled in a controlled and predictable fashion. The central knobs sat at a pretty low profile and have a bit of a ramp to them on their leading edge to keep the tires rolling fast. Sometimes this can leave a tire needing more traction on the climbs, but with the widely spaced knobs we always found plenty – even in wet and loose conditions. Additionally, considering how widely spaced the knobs were, they rolled faster than we anticipated.
With a bit of travel thrown into the mix lately, we were able to ride these tires in just about every condition, minus slick rock – which they aren’t really rated for anyway. Bontrager claims that this tire is geared toward the “loose, rocky, and wet”. True to their claim, the SE5 excelled in loam, loose chunder, mixed conditions, rooty slick stuff, etc. The lower profile and wide spacing was great on the aforementioned terrain, plus it prevented the tires from packing up when things got muddy. However, when we went to smash some turns in bike park terra firma, the extremely soft(50a) and not so broad side knobs gave way and folded over rather easily. So, the only terrain that we found that they weren’t quite optimal was hardpack. If you spend a great deal of time on really firm terrain, we’d recommend that you take a look at their SE4 tire.
Unlike the SE4, the SE5 has a large amount of space between the central knobs and the side knobs; it also lacks an “intermediate knob” in between the two. Tire designers opt to add an intermediate knob to help support traction on hardpack as it provides a greater surface to lean on, and stiffens things up a bit as the user is leaning on 2X as many knobs covering more space. Anyhow, the SE5 is not rated for hardpack, but it’s worth discussing how it managed it. That said, these tires were some of the best we’ve ridden in just about every other type of condition. For as much time as we did spend riding them in harder terrain, we were surprised that the side knobs showed no signs of ripping or failure, and stood their ground quite fine. We’re not sure how on earth they held up as well as they did considering what we did to them in some bike park turns.
Braking was an afterthought on the SE5. The trailing edge of the braking knobs was sharp and squared off as you can see in the picture below. Every other side knob has a 90º cut in it to assist with braking while cornering. Regardless of condition, braking was handled perfectly – once again, even in the deep loose stuff, the not-so-tall, fast rolling knobs found their way and gripped with the best of them. Impressive. In terms of wear, the 60a knobs running down the middle have held up quite well. They are a bit firmer than the cornering knobs, but on slick rocky rooty steeps they still behaved well. While they are soft and grabby, they wore well and have proven to resist premature wear despite the fact that we’ve been skidding around on them like teenagers for quite a few weeks.
Which type of consumer is this tire for? Pretty much anyone except maybe Moab locals and guys that are trying to annihilate concrete hard berms in the bike park. Those riders should consider the SE4. If you ride a 120-160mm bike aggressively and find yourself in a wide array of riding conditions and terrain, you will be very happy with these. At 935 grams, these have a surprisingly tough carcass – perhaps the perfect middle of the road weight/casing thickness.
We are still riding these with reckless abandon and haven’t suffered a single flat, so take that for what it’s worth. The construction is perhaps their most impressive point of merit, in fact, it is the best we’ve ridden to date. In terms of value, the SE5 comes in with a pretty reasonable price while providing top notch performance. We’re excited to see what other tread patterns Bontrager lays up on this same casing.