You might remember the launch of the Grand Sport Race tyre from German giant Continental, as it gave a load of them out to get some feedback from UK riders. Those who got down their local bike shop quick enough, at any rate. The Grand Sport mini-range includes this Race model, as well as the tougher Extra, and the Light, which is, well, see if you can guess. With an RRP of £29.95 and available online for a lot less than that, it's a lot more affordable than Conti's posher rubber, so how does the performance measure up?
Well, it's not bad really. Between finger and thumb they don't have that tacky feel that some tyres do, but the PureGrip compound does a decent job of holding on when the road's dry, and is acceptable in the wet. Continental says it's a lower-performance compound than the (excellent) BlackChili as used in its GP 4000S II and other primo tyres, and the limits of grip are a little lower here, it's true, but I only really noticed it when climbing out the saddle on a wet surface, which is when all but the best tyres get a bit slidey.
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.
What is good to see is that a relatively quick road tyre is available in 23, 25 and 28mm sizes. Road bike tyres sizes generally are increasing, as the market becomes more interested in the added comfort that this can give with very little cost, if any, in terms of out-and-out performance. We tested the 25mm size, which weighs in at 250g, compared with 230g for the 23mm and 270g for the 28mm. That's heavier than Conti's more expensive GP 4000II S, but also heavier than the cheaper Michelin Lithion 2 which we reviewed a while back. Not by enough that it's going to make a huge difference, to be honest. The Light version of this tyre is only available in 23mm, and weighs a scant 10g less per tyre than the 23mm Race model.
In terms of construction, they're 180tpi (threads per inch), with folding beads and use Continental's Nytech puncture protection strip on the centre of the tyre. They don't have the extra polyamide woven casing you get in a Gatorskin which would, in theory, make them more vulnerable to sidewall punctures, but in my (admittedly spring/summer) testing this wasn't a problem I had.
In fact I didn't have a single puncture in around 1000 miles of testing these tyres. Don't come crying to me if you get one 50 yards down the road – these things don't work like that – and as I already mentioned, these weren't tested in the depths of autumn or winter when the roads get really grotty. But on the empirical evidence I have at my disposal, I'd say they're a decently dependable option in that regard.
In terms of comfort and that hard-to-define characteristic, 'feel', the Grand Sport Race performs well; 25mm tyres generally should give a bit more compliance than 23mm ones, and on broken tarmac or along the canal towpath they fared pretty well. I weigh around 80kg and found that I could run these down to 80 or 90psi without an issue.
One final point to note – they can be tricky to fit. In particularly when run on a set of American Classic tubeless-compatible rims, they were a right bugger to get on and off.
Good mid-range tyres for all-purpose road use, available in a number of sizes, and discounted prices make for reasonable value
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Make and model: Continental Grand Sport Race 25mm
Size tested: Black 700x25
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Continental says: "Three new high performance race bike tyres – Light / Race / Extra – to cater for Competition, Sportives and Heavy Duty use. Chosen as a fitment tyre with many top bicycle manufacturers & introducing Launching our new PUREGRIP compound, sitting just below BlackChili but comparable with any other compound on the market. A supple 180 tpi casing for great rolling, handling and grip with new NyTech breaker technology to offer good puncture resistance, and all at a great price."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Max pressure: 120psi
Construction: 3 ply / 180tpi
Puncture protection: Nytech
Made in China, unlike Continental's more expensive rubber which is made in Germany. I can't really see the difference in terms of how well finished it is. The PureGrip compound feels cheaper and less grippy to the touch, though.
Rolls well, grip is more than acceptable but not on a par with the class-leading tyres.
Pretty good. Lasted well over test period, no significant flattening off, should be good for a long while yet.
No more than average for the size and price – not outstandingly light, but the trade off is decent wear rates and seemingly good puncture resistance.
Again, acceptable. You can buy more supple tyres, which also tend to be more expensive tyres.
It's available for a lot less than RRP, making it decent value.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Conti reckons that this tyre can be used for a wide range of road riding. As an all-round riding tyre it's a decent option. I think there are grippier and faster options for racing.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
No drama, decent puncture protection and weight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing much – grip isn't on a par with more expensive models.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe, although I'd likely opt for the Michelin Lithion 2 which is the equal of these in all things except wear rate.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.