Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins
When the Trek World Racing Team requested a fast, downhill specific tire for hardpack courses like Sea Otter, Bontrager answered with the G2 Team Issue tire. With an almost semi-slick profile, ramped center knobs and some meaty, somewhat familiar looking side knobs, Bontrager's aim was clearly a fast rolling tire that doesn't sacrifice cornering traction. Does it deliver? We snatched a set to find out.
G2 Team Issue Tire Highlights
- Fast rolling, low-knob gravity tire
- Designed to excel in hard pack conditions
- Dual-ply casing
- Low rolling resistance downhill compound
- Wire bead
- Weight: 1,100 grams
- MSRP: $69.99
First, we'd like to applaud Bontrager for publishing accurate measurements and weights. Mounted to a Mavic EX823 rim and measured at the side-knobs and actual carcass, the tire measures exactly 2.2-inches wide. Claimed weight was also as advertised, coming in at 1,100 grams on the button. That's not often the case in the tire realm.
On The Trail
We have to admit, coming off a set of meaty downhill tires, we were reluctant to run this tire up front and in the rear right off the bat. As a result, we mounted it up as a rear tire only to start things off. Southern California seemed like an appropriate place to test them, with mostly loose over hardpack conditions during the Summer months.
When you first put these tires on, it's immediately obvious that the G2 rolls fast. Really fast. So much so that the decrease in rolling resistance is notable with just the rear swapped out. Often times one gives up traction in the name of rolling speed, but given the conditions this tire was designed for, rear braking traction is usually minimal regardless of tire type. The decrease in braking traction is actually hardly noticeable with the G2 mounted out back only, andhandling doesn't really suffer.
After building up some confidence in the G2 and learning how it behaves as a rear tire, it was time to test it as a front tire as well. When mounted on both wheels, the bike picks up speed much faster and holds it for longer - so much so that we have to brake check between jumps normally hit with no braking between lips. It's that fast. While the increased speed is certainly welcome, the bike's handling suffers as braking traction decreases significantly with the G2 up front. This is especially true in steep sections with loose silt or sand over hardpack. Both the front and rear tire loose traction with fairly light braking in these situations, which can lead to some pretty sketchy moments. That's to be expected with a nearly semi-slick design, however.
When it comes to cornering, traction up front isn't bad, although it takes some time and commitment to get used to not having transitional knobs. Once you get brave, get your weight over the front end and really lean the bike over, the G2 digs into turns well and the side knobs offer good support. Even so, we never felt fully confident in corners with it on the front of the bike.
At 2.2-inches wide, the relatively low volume tire raises concerns about pinch flats and potential rim damage. Luckily those concerns have yet to come to fruition on the trail. While the G2 seems to be a bit less forgiving than a larger volume tire, we've yet to have any issues or failures due to its size. We've pinged the rim a few times in rocky sections that a 2.4 or 2.5-inch wide tire typically has no issues in, but there has been no damage to the rims so far and we've never flatted.
Long Term Durability
With dozens of days shuttling and a handful in the bike park, the tires are holding up well. No side knobs have torn off and there isn't any excessive tread wear in the center. They seem to be on par with some of the other single/harder compound tires on the market.
What's The Bottom Line?
Fontana and Sea Otter racers rejoice, Bontrager's G2 Team Issue tire was taylor made for you. Featuring some meaty side knobs to help retain traction in the corners and a fast rolling center, it'll get you rolling quickly to the finish line. Elite level racers will truly appreciate this one on fast, hardpack tracks, and it is definitely something to add to your race day arsenal. Just be on your toes when you're cooking at Mach 10 into flat turns. The average Joe, however, will be best suited with the G2 as a rear tire paired with something a bit meatier up front. For many, the loss of braking traction and confidence in the turns when run both front and rear won't be worth the increase in rolling speed. Deep down we all love going really fast, but for the large majority of us controlling that speed is still the name of the game.
For more details on Bontrager's ever growing tire lineup, visit www.bontrager.com.
About The Reviewer
Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. He is currently a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.