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review

Bontrager GR2 Team Issue TLR Gravel Tyre

9
£52.99

VERDICT:

9
10
Nippy on road and copes with most things off, light and yet sturdy too, a lovely thing
Fit and forget
Fast on and off road
Sidewall protection
One size only
Not great in the mud
Weight: 
414g

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The Bontrager GR2 Team Issue TLR Gravel Tyre is lightly treaded yet fast and light, and still robust enough to cope with pretty much anything you can throw under it. A great fit-and-forget tyre, as long as it's not too muddy.

The GR2 Team Issue is designed for fast-rolling performance and biting traction on even the most rugged gravel roads, and this test pair has been ridden over every single road and off-road surface you could imagine and come out smiling.

As you can see from the photos, the tread comprises some closely spaced wedge-shaped blocks that run down the centre of the tyre, almost a solid line but not quite; shouldering that are some angled, long-sided hexagon knobs that are spaced slightly further apart; and outside of this are two lines of tread with even larger gaps between them.

The pattern looks very much like a micro version of a fast cross-country mountain bike tread – you can see the family resemblance to the Bontrager XR1 mountain bike tyre if you squint (and are familiar with the XR1...).

The central tread pattern means the GR2 is a swift tyre on tarmac, with those closely spaced centre knobs helping to keep the speed up, and it's a tyre that really gets it on with a satisfying high pitched road hum when it hits high revs. The only time the GR2s struggled on road was on really steep uphill pitches when they felt pretty sticky.

2022 Bontrager GR2 Team Issue TLR Gravel Tyre Centre Tread.JPG

The profile of the GR2 is well rounded with no square edges or sudden tread transitions, which means you can lean it over with confidence knowing that nothing weird is going to happen suddenly. It can be cranked over on and off road, remaining reassuringly surefooted on both, although the shallow tread means it tends to wash out on looser terrain if pushed.

Setting them up tubeless, one tyre went up instantly and the other was a bit of a pain and benefited from having an inner tube inside and pumped up and left overnight to help shape the tyre and set the bead. Since then there hasn't been any issue.

Fitted on 26mm-wide rims, the GR2s puffed up exactly to their stated 40mm girth. they only come in this 700 x 40mm, size but you do get the choice between full black or tan walls. Some might prefer a selection of 700C widths and 650B sizes to suit their bike and gravel preferences, but I think that for its intended purpose this size is absolutely spot on. That said a 650B x 50mm version would be an absolute hoot.

Both tyres on test came in well under the claimed weight of 435g at 414g, which makes them light for this size gravel tyre, and it certainly helps towards their nippy character: there was no noticeable lag in rotating them up to speed. Yet they still seem to be quite robust, too.

There are downsides to the tread pattern, though. The tightly packed central tread means you can get rear tyre slip off-road on steep or loose climbs, although that can be mitigated somewhat by playing with tyre pressure and running them as soft as you dare.

2022 Bontrager GR2 Team Issue TLR Gravel Tyre  Side Tread.JPG

And it really isn't designed for mud as the shallow tread packs up and becomes a gravel donut incredibly quickly; the wider spaced outer lugs don't seem to make much difference to clag clearance either, as they're not particularly proud of the carcass.

The GR2 is an okay tyre if it's just a bit puddly or it only has to deal with patches of tacky terrain, but it's not great at all for anything properly muddy over prolonged periods. But to be fair, that's not its designed operational arena.

Sidewall strength

The tyres come with Bontrager's Inner Strength casing that promises lightweight sidewall protection and it appears to work. While punctures to the treaded part of a tyre can easily be dealt with by tubeless sealant most of the time, and a plug for more serious issues, it's sidewall rips and gashes that can be a real Achilles' heel of tubeless tyres. I've had to annoyingly internally patch up a few in my time, but there haven't been any issues with the GR2s – no sidewall fraying or scuffs even, and they've done enough travelling to show some scars.

That sidewall protection doesn't seem to affect suppleness either – the 120tpi casing is light and flexible, and it took some experimenting to find the perfect pressure between too harsh and clunking out on the odd sharp edge.

2022 Bontrager GR2 Team Issue TLR Gravel Tyre Side Top.JPG

Where the GR2s shine is being a gravel tyre that can be taken pretty much anywhere; it has impeccable manners in a large variety of situations, without being a liability at any point. I took them on every off-road surface you could imagine, from high grade hardpacked gravel via wooded singletrack to rock-spiked dirt trails that would have been far better navigated on a mountain bike; my gravel bike goes everywhere, and is sometimes the victim of online routing quirks and over-zealous riding, but the only thing that has held them back has been tyre volume, nothing else.

Value

At £52.99, the GR2 Team Issue is a similar price to many rivals – though a lot less than some.

The similar one-size-only mode WTB Vulpine TCS, in this case a skinny 36mm, straddles the Bontrager, costing £55 with SG2 puncture protection and £49.99 without. While it's a more treaded tyre overall, it comes with a central tread that's a closely spaced strip. The side tread is still tightly spaced but chunkier than the Bontrager, and in his review Matt was surprised and impressed by the grip it gave off-road and the speed it offered on tarmac, but pondered how much nicer a larger size would be if your bike could accommodate it.

The Vittoria Terreno Dry is also £49.99 and, again according to Matt, it's grippier than the hexagonal scales that form the bulk of the tread might indicate, and the more pronounced side lugs help with traction on turns and off-camber stuff. Though he found the puncture protection was effective but compromised suppleness.

> Buyer’s Guide: 10 of the best gravel bike tyres

Another one to consider is Panaracer's GravelKing SK TLC. Rachel tested an earlier version on off-road.cc back in 2017 and was impressed; it's now £49.99, so still a fiver less than the Bonty. The tougher GravelKing SK+ with greater puncture protection is a bit pricier at £54.99.

The GR2 Team Issue is a lot cheaper than the Schwalbe G-One R, though, which is sitting somewhere north of £70 at rrp, but if you want speedy and supple but a bit fatter then according to Matt's review on off-road.cc it might be worth a look in its 45mm guise. He loved both its speed and grip.

Conclusion

In dry conditions these are very much a fit-and-forget tyre that will roll you over anything you might put underneath them. They wear well too: these have done a lot of general mucking about rides and long days and have also been overladen with bikepacking bags for over two weeks and ridden across the full smorgasbord of road and off-road surfaces. The rear tyre is showing some wear, as you might expect given what it's had to put up with, but the only issue they've had has been a 3mm gash that would only intermittently seal with sealant, so I shoved a tubeless plug in and it's been fine since. New favourite tyre.

Verdict

Nippy on road and copes with most things off, light and yet sturdy too, a lovely thing

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager GR2 Team Issue TLR Gravel Tyre

Size tested: 700 x 40

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?

Trek/Bontrager says: "A purpose-built gravel tyre that rolls fast while providing confident traction across all road surfaces.

"The GR2 Team Issue gravel tyre is designed for fast-rolling performance and biting traction on even the most rugged gravel roads. It has proven success at the most demanding gravel races and features Inner Strength Casting that provides lightweight puncture protection without sacrificing the smooth, supple feel. Plus, you can go tubeless for better performance and even more puncture protection."

I'd agree with all of that. It's a fast moving yet assured tyre for most off-road surfaces in the dry. The sidewall protection is a real bonus.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Trek/Bontrager lists:

A gravel tyre that provides excellent traction for confidence across the roughest roads

Fast rolling with consistent, predictable traction for a variety of road conditions

The Tubeless Ready (TLR) tyre for easy tubeless set-up and puncture protection

Supple and strong: the Inner Strength casing provides lightweight sidewall protection

The lightweight 120 TPI casing provides great ride feel and tyre performance

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

It's a well made tyre that's holding up incredibly well to my usual maltreatment.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

For its intended use of swift multi terrain travel, it's very, very good.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

Absolutely no issues, with great wear and puncture resistance; the tread is long lasting too.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10

It's a light tyre, which certainly helps its speedy character.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
7/10

Some will prefer a fatter gravel tyre, but for their size they can be quite plush thanks to their supple sidewalls, although getting them just so takes practice.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

Phewf, tyres aren't cheap these days, eh? It may seem a lot of money but in the long run thanks to their adaptability, reliability and longevity, I think they're worth it.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Bontrager says its GR2 Team Issue gravel tyre is designed for fast-rolling performance and biting traction on even the most rugged gravel roads, and I'd wholeheartedly agree with that. A Goldilocks combination of being speedy on the road yet grippy on most kinds of grit and dirt, its only shortcomings are when it gets damp under tread. The Inner Strength casing is a welcome bonus after one too many ripped sidewalls on various other tyres.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Speedy on tarmac yet good off-road grip, sidewall protection, and longevity.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The similar one-size-only WTB Vulpine TCS, in this case a skinny 36mm, straddles the £52.99 Bontrager, costing £55 with SG2 puncture protection and £49.99 without; Vittoria's Terreno Dry is also £49.99, while the Schwalbe G-One R is sitting somewhere north of £70 at rrp...

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, new favourite tyre.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes, for a multi-surface fit-and-forget tyre for drier months they'd do me absolutely fine.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I would like to give the Bontrager GR2 Team Issue a full 10 because it's been pretty faultless over every kind of surface, including some it clearly wasn't designed for. It's a great tyre if your gravel riding is 'road and a bit of absolutely everything else that's off road'. But I'm going to knock a point off because it's only available in the one size, which might be a bother to some people, and because it's not the best when it gets stickymuddy.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 50  Height: 180cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: It varies as to the season.  My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

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