|Getting 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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