Continental tyres are one of the most recognisable and trusted groups of products in the cycling world. If you’re in the market for new road bike tyres, Continental tyres includes a wide range of choices to meet different requirements and price points.
Continental tyres are organised into winter/training/commute, sportive, race/triathlon and time trial/sprint tri categories, but there’s a lot of overlap in the range, as you can see from the graphic below. It’s a good place to start if you’re not sure which tyre is right for you. It also handily groups the tyres by price, with premium, performance and sport.
Life moves pretty fast. No sooner had we got used to the idea that Continental had — finally! — made a tubeless version of their flagship tyre than they one-upped themselves with a lighter, allegedly faster version of it, the Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TR. Let's kick off with a look at the new rubber.
There are so many significant differences between the Grand Prix 5000 S TR and its TL predecessor that Continental could easily have designated the new version Grand Prix 6000. The headline changes are:
The GP 5000 S TR retains the Black Chilli tread rubber and Vectran anti-puncture strip of the previous version and depending whose tests you believe is very slightly slower or very slightly faster than the TL in terms of rolling resistance.
While the GP TL was better than many previous tubeless tyres for ease of fitting, there were still rims it didn't quite fit easily. We've found the GP S TR is better still, but you might still run into not-quite-compatible combinations.
On the road tester Jamie found "they certainly feel fast and, just like the TLs, grippy in both dry and wet conditions. In theory, the TR should be more supple than the outgoing TL tyre, but more rigid than the non-tubeless version which gets three plies of 110tpi. In practice, they're lovely tyres to ride. Unlike some of the first tubeless tyres to hit the market, these don't feel stiff, and in back-to-back tests I preferred the ride on these to the Goodyear Eagle F1 Tubeless. I still don't think they're as quite as supple as my favourite race day tyres, the Vittoria Corsa Speed TLR, but neither are they quite as fragile, and are still in the upper echelons of the many tyres I've used."
The more off-road-specific of the two Continental gravel tyres, the 40mm-wide Terra Trail is available in 650B (440g) and 700C (460g). The tread pattern has smaller centre section knobs with larger shoulder knobs that Continental says is designed to be used across a multitude of terrains, from tarmac, gravel, muddy trails and other surfaces.
The lighter-treaded Terra Speed is available in 35mm and 40mm widths, in both 700C and 650B wheel sizes. Claimed weights are:
650B 35mm: 390g
650B 40mm: 400g
700C 35mm: 400g
700C 40mm: 420g
Continental says the lighter tread of the Terra Speed reduces the rolling resistance compared to the Terra Trail, and recommends it for rides and races in dry, dusty and loose conditions.
For 2021 Conti has introduced a version of the Terra Speed with trendy tan sidewalls.
At the end of 2018 the big news in Continental tyres was the introduction of a successor to the Grand Prix 4000 S II, unsurprisingly named the Grand Prix 5000. Not only did Continental replace arguably the most successful clincher tyre of all time, but they finally produced a tubeless version.
It's still available from some retailers but the Grand Prix 5000 TL has been nominally replaced by the Grand Prix 5000 S TR. We'll keep these details until retailers run out.
The tubeless GP 5000 is available in 25, 28 and 32mm widths, plus a 28mm wide 650B version. Our samples of the 25mm versions weighed an average of 302g each; we've seen reliable reports of 295g samples too. That's heavier than some comparable tubeless-ready tyres (a 25mm Schwalbe Pro One weighs about 255g) because Continental has gone for a fully tubeless construction with an airtight rubber layer on the inside.
In theory that means sealant isn't required, but Continental recommend you use 30-60ml of sealant to protect against punctures. Everything else being equal that extra layer also means increased rolling resistance, but it seems everything else is far from equal. According to Jarno Bierman at bicyclerollingresistance.com, the tubeless GP 5000 has very low rolling resistance, second only to the Vittoria Corsa Speed Open TLR, which has thinner tread.
Continental's not saying exactly what wizardry of rubber formulations and carcass construction has been wrought to achieve this, but it's impressive as hell, especially when you consider that the improvement over the clincher version of the GP 5000 is 17% — Conti only claims 5% — and the tubeless GP 5000 therefore has over 30% less rolling resistance than the GP 4000 S II. That makes it the fastest Continental tyre yet.
Tubeless standards and compatibility are still in a state of flux, so some tyres and rims go together more easily than others. Continental says it did extensive testing on a wide range of rims to ensure the GP 5000 works as well as can be possibly expected, and our testing so far confirms they've got it right at least as far as Mavic wheels are concerned. Jump to the eight-minute mark in Dave Arthur's installation video and you can see that a GP 5000 goes up on a Mavic wheel with just a track pump.
All in all, the Grand Prix 5000 Tubeless is an extremely impressive tubeless debut.
Continental's clinchers are extremely popular, both with riders who choose them for their own bikes, and with bike manufacturers who spec them from entry-level bikes right up to superbikes with hefty four-figure price tags.
Continental's headline claims for the new Grand Prix 5000: 12% better rolling resistance than the GP4000S II, 20% increased puncture resistance, improved grip and comfort, and 10g less weight for the 25mm version. In addition, Continental says the Black Chilli tread compound has been refined to improve its balance of rolling resistance and grip, the Vectran anti-puncture strip under the tread has been tweaked and the new tyre comes in a 32mm version as well as the 23, 25, 28mm widths of the GP 4000, and 25mm and 28mm widths in 650B.
The GP5000 boasts two new features: Lazer Grip texturing on the shoulder of the tread and Active Comfort Technology. Lazer Grip is a slight roughening of the tread intended to improve cornering grip, while Active Comfort is an elastomer embedded in the tyre to damp vibrations.
In Jarno Bierman's rolling resistance tests, the GP 5000 outperforms the GP 4000S II by almost 20%, so Continental's actually being modest in their claims there. Dave Arthur reports that they ride very similarly to the GP 4000S II.
The lightest Continental tyre at 150g in the 23mm clincher version, the Supersonic's smooth tread and very lightweight construction made it the fastest-rolling tyre in the stable until Continental kicked the chair out from under it with the GP 5000. There's no built-in puncture protection and tread wear is rapid because there's just not much tread there in the first place. This is a tyre to pair with the lightest inner tubes you can find for time trials and other short events. As Conti themselves say "Riders should weigh up the compromises that they are willing to take before selecting this tyre". Available in 20mm and 23mm widths.
This pair of Continental tyres were designed for racing duties. They combine two different width tyres, a 22mm Attack on the front, and a wider 24mm Force on the back, which also utilises Vectran puncture protection for added toughness. You can buy them as a pair for £99.95 or individually for £54.95.
If you are restricted to narrower tyre sizes then the Continental Grand Prix Force and Attack III tyre set is still one of the best you can fit to your bike.
The Attack and Force are also available in a tubular version costing £129.95 for the pair and combines a 22mm front tyre with a 24mm rear tyre.
If you want a slightly tougher and more durable tyre than the GP4000, the 4 Season is the Continental tyre for you. Conti has manufactured the tyre with two Vectran anti-puncture strips and added a DuraSkin anti-tear fabric to boost its toughness and longevity, it’s a tyre for conquering the cobbles and thanks to a Max Grip Silica compound, wet winter roads as well. It’s available in four widths from 23 up to 32mm making it a good all-rounder.
The GT stands for Grand Tour, this is a tyre designed to survive UK sportives, but any long ride where you want reliability without sacrificing performance is where this Continental tyre shines. It combines the toughness of Conti's Gator Hardshell tyre and the performance of the GP5000's Black Chilli compound. There’s a wider PolyX Breaker to protect against punctures and extra sidewall thickness provides added reinforcement. It comes in just two 700c widths, 25 and 28mm, and a 26x1in option.
The Grand Prix is the original fast Continental tyre, the one that spawned the GP4000 S II and then the GP5000, but Continental has kept it in the range and at £30 it’s one of the cheapest tyres to utilise the company’s Black Chilli rubber compound. It comes in 23, 25 and 28mm widths and is a good road race tyre. You'll sometimes see a Grand Prix SL listed as spec on bikes. Don't get too excited, this is just a Grand Prix with a silver label instead of yellow for bikes with more subdued colour schemes.
Based on the Grand Prix but given a brown sidewall and retro label, this is the Continental tyre to choose for a retro build. The tread pattern has actually been taken from a tyre Continental produced back in 1982 but still features the latest Black Chill compound and PolyX Breaker for avoiding flats.
If you want a supremely tough tyre for commuting and city riding, the Gator Hardshell is a Continental tyre with plenty of protection. It uses a three-ply casing with an extra layer of Polyamide protection, a wider PolyX anti-puncture belt under the tread and down the sidewall, and a Duraskin anti-tear mesh on the outside of the casing, all to produce a tyre that can withstand the rigours of daily commuting. Available in widths from 23mm to 32mm and choice of rigid or folding bead, the latter being the lighter, but more costly, option.
A popular training tyre, the Gatorskin is designed to be a reliable and hard-wearing tyre for going the distance and preventing punctures. It’s made with a Duraskin cut-resistant layer that stretches from bead to bead, features a PolyX Breaker for stopping thorns and glasses cutting through the carcass, and uses a natural rubber tread. A full range of width options from 23mm up to 32mm is available, with folding slightly cheaper rigid bead versions.
The first of the performance line of Continental tyres, the Grand Sport Race swaps the expensive Black Chilli compound for a newer PureGrip compound that the company developed to keep the price more reasonable, and at £30 RRP it’s an attractive price. It uses a folding bead to keep the weight down, and new NyTech puncture belt and comes in 23 to 32mm width options. It’s also available in three versions using different casing builds, Light, Race and Extra, aimed at competition, sportives and heavy duty use respectively.
"They roll well too, to the extent that it's possible to judge such things without a lab available. I don't know that they'd be my first choice for racing, but they wouldn't really hold you back much if you did decide to press them into such service, and for general road riding or commuting they are just fine. I used them on the club chaingang as racing didn't really happen for me this year, and I had no complaints in terms of speed," said Jez Ash in his review. You can read the review here.
The latest version of the Ultra Sport appears to be almost identical to the Ultra Sport II but for a new tread pattern and a tick in the box marked 'Suitable for standard e-bikes'. Like version II, then, it uses Continental’s PureGrip compound and a 180 TPI (threads per inch) casing. It’s available in 23, 25, 28 and 32mm widths and rigid and folding beads.
Like its predecessor, the Ultra Sport III remains a bit of a bargain, with decent performance at a very low price.
This is a tyre designed to be tough enough for the most demanding commuters, bicycle messengers and fixie riders. It uses the same tread pattern as the more expensive Grand Prix tyre with a thick elastomer belt under the tread to provide a high level of puncture protection, and a robust casing with added sidewall durability. Built to survive anything, it comes in 23, 25, 28mm, 27 x 1 1/8in and 27 x 1 1/4in widths with rigid or folding beads.
So far we’ve focused on clincher tyres as that’s the most popular choice with road.cc readers, but Continental produces a raft of tubular tyres, tyres that glue directly onto the rim.
Weighing just 200g, this track tubular has a very fine Nylon carcass and, like all Conti's tubulars except the budget Giro, is made in Germany. Amusingly, Conti says that while it's intended for velodrome use only, the Tempo II is "'misused' for mountain stages and time trials".
A bit beefier than the Tempo II, this is a track tubular specifically for longer track events such as European Six-Day events.
The Attack and Force employ the same basic idea of a narrower front tyre and wider more reinforced rear tyre as the clincher version of the same name but step down to 22mm at the front and 24mm at the rear.
Continental tyres are one of the most popular choices in the professional peloton, and while the pros get the special Pro Ltd version, this is essentially the tyre that has been riding to multiple race victories, including the 2016 Tour de France at the hands of Chris Froome. Handmade in Germany with a Black Chilli compound and four layers of puncture protection, and available in 19, 22 and 25mm widths, these are race-ready tyres.
Continental lists a TT version of the Competition with a latex inner tube, but these don't seem to be available yet.
The tubular version of the popular GP4000 clincher, on which this tyre is actually modelled with the same Black Chill tread compound and Vectran puncture protection. Is only sold in 22mm width, though.
A tyre designed solely for short road races and criteriums, the Sprinter uses a nylon puncture protection breaker and is handmade in Germany using the German company’s Black Chilli compound with an additional nylon ‘safety system’ puncture belt.
As the name suggests this is the tubular version of the popular Gatorskin tyre, combining the low weight of a tubular with the puncture-resistance of a winter training tyre.
The most expensive in the Continental tyre range, this is one for the velodrome and represents the company’s pinnacle of hand sewn tubular tyres. Features the same Black Chilli compound as the road focused tyres but a 220 TPI carcass with two aramid plies provides a recommended inflation of 170psi.
A tubular tyre designed for time trial events, hence the name, this one is favoured by some of the top professional cycling teams. It’s a 19mm width to maximise aerodynamic efficiency and the 0.7mm tread rubber minimises weight, yet Continental is confident the tyre will last a full British club time trial programme. Available in 19, 22 and 25mm widths.
This is the most affordable tubular in the Continental tyre range. It’s intended for training rides rather than competition events, and the cost is kept down because it’s made in Asia rather than Germany.
From Mat Brett's 2010 review: "There aren’t too many tubulars out there that are cheaper than the Continental Giro. Sure, you can find some, but this is certainly at the budget end of the market and it’s billed as an ‘inexpensive training tubular’. Bear that in mind and don’t go expecting a top level racing performance. But as an off-season run-around, it’s fine."
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.