House-brand tires are often deemed unworthy of *serious* mountain biking, but with the price of many popular options climbing well above $100 apiece, the catalog alternatives are looking a lot more tempting. Bontrager has built quite the broad lineup over the years, with offerings in just about every conceivable niche of the sport. Historically, their tires have been biased towards durability and rolling speed at times at the cost of all-out grip, but their engineering team is looking to make the rubber as good as can be.
• 29 x 2.5" or 27.5 x 2.5"
• 42a rubber compound
• Dual-ply 60tpi w/ butyl insert
• Wire bead
• Actual weight: 1455g
• Price: $79.99 USD
Enter the G5 Team Issue, Bontrager's most aggressive downhill tire. This beefcake has been in the lineup for a few years, but seems to get overlooked in the conversation about heavy-duty tires with versatile tread patterns. I wanted to see if that lack of hype was warranted, or if these were an overlooked gem.
With a fairly typical tread pattern, the G5s should suit a wide variety of riders, as there won't be much of a learning curve to get used to the cornering and braking characteristics.
Some members of the Trek Factory Racing DH team have made the switch over to Pirelli's new tires, but the majority of the Trek racers are still running G5s as their go-to World Cup tire. With a wire bead and heavily reinforced construction, they're pretty firmly aimed at the heaviest-hitting builds out there, suiting downhill and burly enduro bikes nicely.PERFORMANCE
Wire bead tires usually aren't explicitly stated to be "tubeless ready," but don't let such definitions stop you. Anyone who's been trying to get away from using tubes for long enough will know that you can mount up a tire like the G5 with a floor pump and some sealant just the same. I had no issue getting these to pop into place on some We Are One Convergence
wheels, and only had to be slightly more diligent than normal about keeping the pressures up. They might lose 1 or 2 psi overnight, but nothing too drastic.
For the majority of the test, I ran 21 psi in the front, and 24 psi in the rear, without inserts. They've been rolling under my Yeti SB160, and have seen plenty of time on trails around Bellingham, Squamish, and Whistler. Conditions have been all over the place, with plenty of wet and a healthy dose of summer dust to keep things exciting.ROLLING SPEED
Relative to some of the more aggressive tires I've ridden recently (Specialized Hillbilly, Conti Argotal, Maxxis Assegai), these G5s are quite speedy feeling on hardpack and soft soil. The center knobs are more tightly spaced than the aforementioned models, and the overall lug height isn't crazy tall - I'd say they're in keeping with something like a Maxxis DHR. TRACTION
The rubber on the Bontrager G5s feels quite soft in hand, deforming as you'd want it to, but the rebound speed is a bit faster than most of the other super-grippy tires on the market. That doesn't mean they don't stick to the trail, but you have to push through them a little harder to get things to smear on rocks and roots. In dry conditions, the rubber felt excellent, holding a line through roots and over slabs without much issue. In the wet, it's a different story, as the Team Issue tires still struggle to hook up on slippery roots quite as well as many of the other soft rubber options on the market. For this reason, I tend to think of them more as a dry-conditions tire, even though the lugs clear mud nicely.
The bite in soft dirt is excellent, thanks to the lug height and fairly un-siped lug design. The latter makes for a tire that doesn't ever feel squirmy, despite the fairly soft rubber. Another factor in that feeling of stability is the very tough casing that Bontrager used on these. With a two-ply 60tpi casing and butyl insert for durability, the tires can stand up on their own, and transmit quite a lot of feedback to the rider. I don't mind this aspect too much, but know that you have to hit things a little harder to get the tire to conform to the trail and grip in the turns.
Even at very low pressures, that relative lack of smearing power makes these a tire more well-suited to fast speeds and square hits, which is luckily what their primarily meant to do. On some of the trickier off-camber, slimy root laden trails here in Bellingham, the G5s came up a bit short, but they've held their own well in the bike park and when trails are dry. CORNERING
The consistent and well-braced edge lugs on the sides of the G5s give them a super reliable cornering feel, with sidewall support that really lets you lay into them. Like the DHF and other tires with a center-to-edge transition channel, there is a moment of looseness before that edge grip hits, but that feels a little more mellow on the G5s than some of those other alternatives. Thanks to a fairly round profile, you can lean the bike quite far without worrying too much about passing the edge. DURABILITY
With only one option on the menu, you're left with no choices to make if the G5s suit your fancy. Luckily, they'll hold up quite well should you spring for some, as I've found the rubber to withstand quite a bit of abuse without any rapid or unexpected degradation.
Despite running rather low pressures and feeling rim contact quite a few times, they've suffered zero pinch flats or tears - same goes for sharper rocky terrain, where the beefy casings have continued to last.
One upside to the slightly less-sticky rubber on these is their slower wear, with my rear tire only showing some degradation after many days skidding down Squamish slabs and even more days in the Whistler Bike Park, where MaxxGrip tires go to die. Obviously none of the compounds out there are going to last forever, but these G5s offer a solid balance between compliance and tread life, making for a solid value.
Very supportive casing +
Predictable, tried and true tread pattern +
Lacks grip in the wet -
Harsher feel than other DH-casing tires