Bontrager SE5 Team Issue Tire - Review

Jul 24, 2015
by Mike Kazimer  
The rigors of enduro racing and all-mountain riding require tires that have the cornering and braking grip of a DH tire, but with a more reasonable weight for long days of pedaling. To meet those demands, Bontrager took the tread pattern found on their G5 downhill tires and applied it to a lighter weight, folding bead casing, creating the SE5. The SE5 uses a familiar looking series of alternating rectangular and L-shaped lugs on each side combined with a blocky center tread, all of which adds up to make a design that's intended to excel in loose, rocky, and wet conditions.

Bontrager SE5 tire review

A softer, 51a durometer rubber is used for the side knobs, and the alternating horizonal and vertically oriented rectangular center knobs are made from a slightly harder 61a durometer compound to help ensure even tread wear. The tires are tubeless ready, and Bontrager's Core Strength sidewall and subtread reinforcement is in place to help prevent sharp object from ruining race runs. The SE5 is available for both 27.5” (935g) and 29”(990g) wheels in a 2.3” width, and retails for $74.99 USD. www.bontrager.com

Bontrager SE5 tire review
The SE5's tread pattern is borrowed from the G5, which was developed for World Cup DH racing.
Bontrager SE5 tire review
Bontrager's Core Strength casing is intended to prevent punctures, although I managed to find rocks pointy enough to exceed its capabilities.



Pinkbike’s Take:
bigquotesGetting the SE5 tires mounted up tubeless was extremely easily, and they settled into place against the rim with a satisfying 'thwunk' using only a floor pump. I tried both the 29" and 27.5" versions on a number of different wheelsets, typically running between 22-25psi on rims whose widths ranged from 24-30mm internally. No matter the configuration, I didn't have any instances of burping or rolling the bead off the rim, and the reinforced sidewalls provide a good amount of support even at lower pressures.

The most noticeable trait of the SE5's tread pattern is just how predictable it is. As long as there's something for the knobs to dig into, there's no sense of vagueness or any on/off feeling when leaning into a turn. It was only on extremely hardpacked trails that the softer side knobs felt a little bit squirmy, but that's a more than acceptable tradeoff for how well the tires perform on all other conditions, from the wet slop of the spring time, to the deep layer of moondust that the Pacific Northwest has been coated in lately. That fine dust can make already difficult trails even more challenging, especially when it settles on steep rock faces and acts like a graphite lubricant, but even in those challenging conditions the SE5 offered good braking traction, making it easy to find the sweet spot necessary to maintain control without any unnecessary skidding. The center knobs responsible for that braking traction also come in handy for climbing, and they'll claw at the ground in search of grip for as long as you can keep churning away at the pedals. Although the wet weather has been conspicuously absent lately, earlier in the season I had plenty of chances to try the SE5 in the mud and on slick roots, and they passed with flying colors. Mud is shed quickly thanks to the generous spacing between knobs, and although there's no ideal tire for wet roots, the SE5 handled them well.

Given their meaty appearance, I was impressed by how quickly the SE5 rolled, and they felt noticeably faster than the Maxxis Highroller II tires that I'd had on previously. Of course, they're still not going to be as quick as a more XC-oriented tire, but that's not their intention. To speed things up even further, the combination of an SE5 in the front and a tire with a lower profile tread pattern like Bontrager's SE3 in the rear is a highly recommended combination for dry to medium conditions.

I did manage to puncture the rear tire on two separate occasions, in both instances slicing the casing near the inside edge of a side knob. Both punctures were caused by high speed runs through pointy rock gardens, and although a DH casing would probably have been a better choice for the conditions, it's worth a mention. Otherwise, there have been no other issues, and the tread wear has been very consistent; even after a handful of days in the bike park there aren't any torn off knobs or unreasonable wear. Overall, the SE5 is a standout performer due to its versatility - from mud to dust, it delivers outstanding traction without sacrificing too much in the way of rolling speed. For aggressive riders searching for a tire that can keep up with their endeavors, the SE5 is worth a try.
- Mike Kazimer



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96 Comments

  • + 71
 Need a 26 version. I run the g5 on my session and would love to try these on my 26 inch remedy
  • + 4
 I love the xr4's I use on my capra. I chose the xr over se for the weight and rolling speed and they have very strong sidewalls and a very good tibeless seat.

These look a bit more aggro though which isn't all bad when the UK loam and hardpack turns to boggy mud baths (when july and August are over).

My favourite thing about bonty tyres is that they do so many tyres with different conditions in mind so you can pick n mix your perfect combo(s).
  • + 3
 Got to agree with that, love my XR4 on the back. It's coming to the end of its life though so I'll soon need a replacement.
  • + 36
 No 26" version?!?!
Bloody knobs.
  • + 4
 I loved my G5s but I had the 2.5 version which they sadly seem to have stopped making. I do not really understand why they would get rid of the 2.5 as I always thought creating the mould would be the most expensive part of manufacturing a tire.

Last year I only remember seeing the SE4 in the enduro category on their site so both the SE5 and SE3 are new. What I find weird is that they made an SE3 tire in 26 but not an SE5. I figured they would not make any new 26 tires, especially since they have been removing some 26 sizes, and also that 26 riders would rather have a more aggressive tire given the choice (taking an SE5 over an SE3).

All this to say that I do not really understand what Bontrager is doing with their 26 tires (and road tires I guess).

I was actually running a G5 2.5/Hans Dampf 2.35 on my trail bike this year and then I went G5/K-Rad (I initially had two Hans Dampf SnakeSkins but put holes in both of them). The G5 was insane on my trail bike, pretty much what I would consider infinite grip. I have no doubt the SE5 is an amazing tire.

I just got an XR4/XR3 combination so I will see how the casing holds up. It was a really hard decision for the XR4/XR3 vs SE4 but my bike sees asphalt too so I wanted the harder rubber and lighter weight.

I don't know if you have ridden the G5s lukachadwick but I do not think the XR4 tread pattern compares. I know the G5s have a way softer rubber compound but I feel the tread pattern helps a lot too. The G5s/SE5s have much more braking knob area than the XR4s and the G5/SE5 sideknob pattern lets you grab a bit of brake mid corner without much drama.
  • + 14
 You could just get Maxxis minions
  • + 8
 It's funny, on almost every new product review you get tons of riders complaining that there isn't a 26" version, wake up bike companies!
  • + 10
 How is the width? Is the 2.3 a true 2.3? I can't believe the review doesn't even mention this.

I switched a 2.35 nevegal to a 2.35 magic mary and the magic mary is much closer to my Conti Kaiser 2.5 than the 2.35 nevegal, which means it is like 2mm away from rubbing on the seatstay when the nevegal was just fine... which means I don't think I should run it as the second the wheel goes out of true, it's going to rub. But 2.3 minions are closer to 2.1s last I checked, wtf?

Is there any other industry where 2.3 means "anything between 2.0 and 2.5", seriously...
  • - 3
 Wake up companies or wake up complainers! No manufactures make a 26" enduro/trail bike, 90% of people that ride enduro have 650b bikes and a few % have 29", why would a company make an 26" enduro tyre for the remaining few % of the market.
  • + 1
 crazedmodder, the G5 27.5x2.50 is still in production and is in-stock at Trek. The part number is 434492. Your local Trek dealer can get them within a few days.
  • + 1
 PLC07, some brands are notoriously narrow. In that way they can say their latest and greatest 2.3 tire is lighter than the competitors tires. Tire width is a combination of art and science, but companies who care will be accurate within +/- 2mm to the width called out on the sidewall. You should know, though, that rim width has a definite effect on tire width, about 0.4mm per 1.0mm of rim width.
  • + 1
 Bontrager XR series tires generally measure true to size. The XR4 26x2.35 I've tried is equal to an HansDampf 2.35. XR3 29x2.3 is bigger than Ikon 29x2.35 or XKing 2.4.
  • + 8
 @StraightLineJoe Last group ride I went, more than half the 30 people there had 26" still and I see a lot on the trails. People are slowly switching off to 27.5/29" but a lot of us aren't in a hurry to do so. Lots of people also get used bikes and there are a lot of 26" for sale. I will personally be riding my 26" for most likely another 3 years or so because it is still good and having tried 27.5" bikes, I don't see any reason to sell my 26" for one. So yeah. No 26, no sale with me for a few years.

@TyreGuy Yeah I know rim width has an effect but the same announced tire width on the same rim should be pretty close to being the same. In practice, there is 1/4" difference (0.25" or 6mm) between 2 supposedly similar tire. Ideally they should use an average rim to measure the width but then again we're talking about an industry who doesn't care about standards except their own. I'll probably sell the magic mary and I'd try an HR2 but then it says 2.4. Is it a true 2.4 and won't fit or its a minion 2.4 and closer to 2.2 in reality? This is a headache.
  • + 5
 @StraightLineJoe, Nice numbers, where did you pull those from? You can easily go through all the new reviews and product released for yourself and see the number of consumers voicing their opinion, Rhett industry should cater to its consumer not the other way around, why are we being forced to buy into something a large percentage of us feel is pointless, there's more than enough $$$ to be made by continuing to offer 26", 20mm axle, 135 or 142 rear axle, as well as offering the newer "standards", the complete phase out I'd pointless and annoying.
  • + 5
 @NoahGdoesmtb3655
Yeah that is an option but although I have never tried Minions the reviews for the G5s claim that they feel quite a bit different than the DHFs and match up better with the DHR2 although even those do not feel the same. The sideknobs are DHFs (but with an added sipe in the L knobs) while the center knobs are a DHR2, HR2 and Kaiser mixture. Honestly the G5s were amazing tires but I wanted to experiment with other brands and I regretted it. Now I am back on Bontrager with XR4/XR3 combo on my trail bike and soon G5s back on my DH bike. It is hard to convince people to give Bontrager tires a try and to convince them that they are actually good but if you have not tried them then they are really worth trying.

@StraightLineJoe
Just have to point out that your 90% statistic sounds nicely made up. There are not many new 26" bikes available that is true but only relevant if you think that bikes have a 1 year lifespan. I have a trail bike I bought new at the end of 2012 and a DH bike I bought new at the end of 2013. I do not consider my trail bike at a 3 year lifespan to be old, not even close to new for sure but not old either. The frame will likely outlast most of the parts so I need new parts for it and I consider tires to be the most important component on a bike so I want the best.

@PLC07
greenblur is right, the XR series runs close to Schwalbe widths as do the G5s it seems. My 2.35 XR3 is pretty much the same width/volume as a Hans Dampf 2.35. It is too bad Trek does not have the tire guarantee in Canada though.

@TyreGuy
I should have been more specific but I meant 26x2.5. The 2.35 is probably the size of a 2.5 Minion so I ordered a pair to try but for the stuff I ride I like having as much volume as possible. I just think it is really weird that they had 26x2.5 last year and killed it this year, at first I thought maybe I had a 2.35 and I just had a memory lapse but I still have a nearly dead 26x2.5 G5 here. Also their 27.5 G5 is a new tire and they brought it out in 2.5 width only when companies seems to moving to the Schwalbe 2.35/Maxxis 2.5 widths.
  • + 1
 Exactly!!!!!!
  • + 1
 they look just like the specialized tires that came on my 09 enduro! sweet!
  • + 2
 26er Minion, DHF, DHR2, EXO, any compound avail everywhere, don't look back.
  • + 1
 straightlinejoe can only ride a straight line on his latest 275/29 bike
  • + 54
 Nice pattern and compounds for a light duty DH tire...but No 26/No Care.
  • + 11
 There is a 26" version of this, its called the Maxxis HR2, and it won't puncture as easily either.
  • + 52
 Looks like a Minion.
  • - 3
 and a Kaiser Projekt…
  • + 21
 Good choice by bontrager then.
  • + 13
 Moto tires all look very similar, shape is only part of a tire's performance. Compounds, construction etc play a huge role in how a tire performs.
  • + 13
 james182 - tread patter and shape is the biggest factor when it comes to grip. Even hardest Minion will always be grippier than softest Ardent in most conditions. Same with mud tyres, widely spaced long knobs of muddy mary or shorty, 70a will grip bette iin mud than high roller in slow reeazay.
  • + 8
 Oh I stand corrected, silly me, thank you Waki
  • + 4
 Not sure why WAKI was negged so much for that comment. He IS correct. Sure, compounds and construction play a role but for MTB tires, tread patterns will influence performance the most.
  • + 2
 Why is WAKI's comment downvoted so much? Nothing is wrong in his statement.
  • + 4
 I came here to say that "looks like a Minion"
  • + 44
 I'll buy the 26" versions.
  • + 36
 Side knobs of a minion, center knobs of a kenda... i dont care aniway beacause i only ride 26"
  • + 8
 I feel like this should rhyme but it doesnt and you didnt even try so 2/10 for effort and a neg prop. Smile
  • + 4
 Side knobs of a minion, center knobs of a kenda... i dont care aniway beacause i only ride 26" AND SEND HER!
  • + 10
 Side knobs of a minion, center knobs of a Kender. Something about Josh Bender
  • + 10
 minion side knob, kenda center knob, no 26 is a real bad job.
  • + 0
 10/10 and props to all for trying + its raining so i can finally do some digging tomorrow!!
  • + 33
 I stopped reading after finding out they don't come in 26 inch.
  • + 16
 Yep. No 26 = not interested.
  • + 3
 The sad reality is, Trek are no longer making bikes that would use this tire in 26". They, like so many others have switched over there entire line up to larger endeavours.
  • + 16
 Sticking with my minions I've had for 2 years... Hopefully those are still available in 26" when they go out
  • + 15
 Bontrager DHR II
  • + 12
 Stopped reading after no 26" option
  • + 11
 extremely easily? 26 haters!!
  • + 4
 I use an xr3/xr2 combo on my bikes in the summer, switching to HR2 (or sometimes xr4) for the winter or any gravity runs. I always love coming back to the Bontragers... Super predictable, fast rolling, easy to set up and most of all very grippy.

I'd be checking the se5s out on my Slash for sure if only they came in 26". To be fair though, Bontrager does do most of their stuff in 26" (like the xr range), so can't really complain at them.
  • + 6
 The tire designer at Cheng Shin Tires must have a right old laugh every time they open their pay cheque Big Grin
  • + 7
 What would gravity tyres would look like if Minion DHFs never existed?
  • + 1
 A Michelin dh16
  • + 3
 All you guys lamenting the fact they are not making this tire in 26" fear not! Panaracer just announced they will continue to make the Dart and Smoke models available EXCLUSIVELY in 26". This is great news for all the best riders out there who are choosing to continue riding 26" wheeled bikes (even though all of them are such great riders that they could ride anything they want FOR FREE, but they choose to run 26" because the performance is sooo much better.) The Dart and Smoke live on!!
  • + 7
 Maxxis called. They want their DHR II tread back
  • + 2
 Thanks for the warning on the casing cuts MK. I punched straight through the center of the tread on a Bontrager XR4 Team Issue after tagging a sharktooth rock. The Maxxis HR2 Exo I was running on the other end of the bike shrugged that same rock off without so much as a scratch. I was loving the tread pattern for the 3 rides the tire lasted, but I'm afraid it looks like Bontrager's trail tire division needs to go back to the drawing board on their casings.
  • + 2
 Maxxis exo is a tougher carcass vs XR but weaker then a SE. Se5 sliced at the core strength gap, this gap is protected on the SE4 by dual shoulder lugs.
  • + 1
 Sorry, this does not compute. Yes the XR4 / SE4 tread pattern has some transitional lugs, but there is still a ton of exposed casing between knobs in the tread design, expecially near the middle where I punched my XR4. I've run EXO HR2s and Ardents hundreds of times over the exact same line that killed my XR4.
Tread pattern here or there, TWO of Bontrager's SE-casing tires punched through in short order in MK's test just like my XR did. How this leads you to conclude that the SE casing is "tougher" than anything else, much less an industry-benchmark trail casing like the EXO is beyond me.
  • + 1
 Exo like snakeskin tear up the centre tread(also the XR4 as there more a XC carcass)
SE has a vulnerable few mm gap under the shoulders.
Never seen a SE rip/cut the centre tread, only Leov has achieved that.
  • + 6
 It all started with the michelin comp 16
  • + 3
 Funny that Enduro sickness that is hitting mtb. DH tire with light casing is not a DH tire... Two flats with this new tire show all this is bullshit. Dh trails should be riding with DH casing
  • + 2
 I've had a few rides on the SE5 and the SE4 now and these are excellent tires. SE5 is amazing out front, has all the traction of the HR2, but feels more precise and less drifty. The hard center knobs I found to be too firm for my liking as a rear tire. The SE4 is like a super gravity Hans Dampf with better side knobs and a slow rebound 55A compound that grips everything, dry or wet. I love the Maxxis HR2 in front and the DHR2 out back in EXO 3C, but after suffering several tread punctures this year I had to try something beefier. Why is the Tomahawk their only reinforced enduro tire? The DH tires are just too heavy for long rides, park or shuttling only. These Bontrager enduro tires are awesome, under 1000g each and let you charge like you have DH tires on your bike. May never go back to Maxxis again.
  • + 1
 Cheers for info. I'm about to mount up this combo tubeless:

FRONT 2.35 Magic Mary SS Trailstar
REAR 2.30 Bontrager SE5 Team

I'll let you know how it goes.
  • + 3
 Couldn't be happier. Loads of traction from both tires, SE5 rolls fairly well too. This could very well be the best setup for PNW all-mountain bikes.
  • + 4
 Hey @Mike Kazimer...what was your favorite rim width for these tires? Or at least did any widths stand out as particularly good or bad?
  • + 2
 The SE5 is available for both 27.5” (935g) and 29”(990g) wheels 

For both 27.5 and 29? They stopped even mention 26. I feel like outcast or bastard. Changing wheel size is changing the whole bike. And I don't have f...g money!
  • + 5
 Even when I have the Money, I don´t want ride 27,5 or 29.
With 26" I feel so Old school ;-) Thank you Bontrager !!!
  • + 5
 All these "looks like..." comments are so boring!
  • + 3
 Not as much as all the 26" comments
  • + 0
 true!
  • + 12
 Doesn't fit inside my cantilever brakes => worthless.
  • - 1
 @ilikeallwheelsizes time to upgrade to disk brakes...
  • + 5
 Nice try maxxis already made the high roller II
  • + 2
 soft compound tires as a design for a tire for mud flies in the face of 50 years of contrary experience. Stiff, widely spaced knobs for mud and soft closely spaced for socal dry. Has global warming changed this?
  • + 3
 I just put one on the front this week. Absolutely incredible. Predictable and locked in on corners. My new favourite front tire.
  • + 2
 I have been impressed with my xr4 / xr3 combo...except in the braking department. Will give these a try when in need of new rubber.
  • + 2
 To the alternate brands I've tried in recent years (Specialized, Schwalbe, WTB): fool me once, shame on you. Stray from Maxxis again? Shame on me.
  • + 4
 Awesome tires, too bad they're completely unavailable. Thanks Trek.
  • + 1
 It's been available for months now... You can get it in any Trek store! Couple of my buddies are riding these tires, the SE5 and the SE4. Much better than the XR series.
  • + 1
 Nah, they're sold out at distributors. I'm just bitter because I want to race em' right before they get another run in.
  • + 1
 May not hit UK till winter Frown
  • + 1
 not available in Switzerland either...Trek doesn't even know when they will arrive! so we all have our cool bikes but no tires to match... especially 650b seems to be difficult...waiting for ages for the Ibex EDC in 650b
  • + 4
 Brah do you even Trek World Racing ?!?
  • + 1
 Great tires but they do seem to be susceptible to slices at base of knobs. That said, this didn't happen to my xr4 until 6months in. And bonti run lil bigger than maxxis.
  • + 1
 I like when they put the ribbed section of sidewall on a tire, makes it easier to run a friction generator for my turn signals
  • + 2
 Would have been better in a 42a/50a durometer. If the tyre is almost 1000g they might as well be super tacky on the edge.
  • + 1
 look at the On-One Chunky Monkey
  • - 1
 Over the years I've spent a lot of time on various Bonty tires. The last few years they've been excellent as many have said. Frankly, I'll make any tire go flat at some point, so as long as the sides are stiff enough so that the tire doesn't roll, half of the tire formula is sorted out. I'd take any complaints about punctures with a grain of salt.
  • + 2
 looks kinda like a maxxis dhf and a high roller 2 had a bontrager baby
  • + 1
 With that weight I'll stick with my XR3 2.3 or an XR4.
  • + 1
 Looking forward to the dhf 2.5 foldable tire review?
  • + 2
 Minion anyone?
  • + 0
 Why do Bontragers tyres look as maxxis do and work way better? haha
  • + 0
 Looks like a minion.
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