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Monday, August 29, 2011

Continental GP4000S Review

WHY I CHOSE THIS TIRE
I went with a car tire brand because they have more experience with extreme conditions like giving ~3000 pound cars the ability to carve corners better than a 145 pound rider. Between Continental and Michellin, I chose Continental mainly because I saw consistently better reviews from them. I know this is not a very scientific method of selection, but based on my experience with tires, real life customer reviews are more reliable than comparing tire specifications on paper. The only way to find the best tire is through trial and error.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT TIRE
Tires provide grip by changing its molecular structure based on the shape of the tiny cracks, bumps and irregularities that it makes contact with on the ground.  It's almost like creating tiny fingers which grip the road.  This is the most important characteristic of any tire.

Tire compounds generally fall under two categories based almost entirely on temperature.  Tires that specialize in warm/ hot conditions are street tires or racing slicks and tires that specialize in cold temperatures are winter tires.  When a summer tire is used in warmer conditions, the molecular structure can change based on tiny irregularities on the road.  On the other hand, if a summer tire is used in cold weather, the entire molecular structure hardens and rather than changing shape, it literally rides over the irregularities much like a miniature car with plastic tires.

Tire companies have tried to create the ultimate tire which can perform well in hot and cold temperatures, but in reality, these "all season tires" actually only have the ability to handle one condition better than the other.  Generally, generic all season tires are geared towards colder temperatures and "performance" all season tires are designed mostly for hotter temperatures.

Based on my experience with the Continental GP 4000 S, this tire was designed for warm/ cool weather.  With that said, don't expect these tires to last as long as the cheapo tires that focuses mainly on long tire life through harder tire compounds.

TRAINING WITH THE GP 4000 S
When I took these tires out on a sunny day around 85 degrees, the first thing I noticed was the very low rolling resistance.  The tire felt smoother than riding on solid painted lines with my Vittoria Zaffiro.  Cornering was even better.  I found out that I could lean significantly sharper around corners without the slightest hint that the tires would lose grip.  Overall, the tires were very predictable and had an enormous amount of grip compared to my Vittoria Zaffiro.

RACING WITH THE GP 4000 S  - Conditions: Dry Road - 97 degrees - Very Humid/ Sunny - Course Map
After riding a 35 minute criterium, I was very happy with how the Continental GP 4000 S performed. Although after the 29 minute mark, I got lapped twice by the peloton on the .6 mile loop (I still have noob cycling edurance), I was surprised to find that I was significantly faster than the peloton around the turns.  I didn't think my 23+ pound road bike could be faster around the corners than the 16-17 pound bikes that most of the peloton used.  The grip that these tires gave me around the corners was the major factor that kept me from getting lapped a third time. Throughout the entire race, the tires remained very predictable at the limit and never felt like it was going to lose grip. I was so confident with these tires that I even chose to take riskier and much tighter lines to shave off time around the turns.  Seeing how approximately seven people lost control from hard cornering, I think these tires performed extremely well.  If my endurance was equivalent to the fastest riders, I could have placed at the top just because these tires allowed me to go so much faster.  Anyone who has a competitive amount of endurance or consistently places near the top should use these tires- as long as no one else is using the same tire, it's an almost guaranteed win.

UPDATE:
I came across this article online which tested 16 performance tires.  Based on weight, rolling resistance, puncture protection and wet grip, the Continental GP 4000 S came out first.

Click here to see Continental's tire test results.

PROS:
  • Currently has the best grip compared to any bicycle tire on the market
  • Easy to mount
  • Lightweight
  • Very very low rolling resistance
CONS:
  • EXPENSIVE!  Use it only for important rides like criteriums, time trials, etc.
  • These tires are so good that you will wish you had a Continental sponsorship so that you could always ride on these tires and replace them for free.