Going from some mediocre tyres to something that does exactly what you’re after will drastically increase the performance of your bike for a relatively small amount of cash.
Over the last few years, we’ve been impressed with the development of Bontrager’s range of tyres, so we were excited to get some trail time in on their new SE4 and SE5 offerings.
Who are Bontrager’s SE4 and SE5 tyres for?
Bontrager’s SE4 and SE5 tyres are a step up from Bontrager’s well-renowned XR trail tyre range, pitched as offerings for the all-mountain rider or enduro racer.
The SE4 tyre shares the same tread pattern as Bontrager’s most aggressive trail tyre, the XR4, but with a sturdier casing and stiffer sidewall for increased puncture protection and cornering stability.
The SE5 is a toned-down version of Bontrager’s G5 downhill tyre; however, it has slightly more puncture protection than the SE4.
Due to the SE4 coming in a 2.4” width and the SE5 tyre only being available in a 2.3” width, and with the SE5 featuring increased puncture protection, we ran an SE4 on the front paired with an SE5 on the rear for the majority our testing.
How do they hook up?
Bloody well! The SE4 and SE5 tyres excel in rocky and loose conditions, but due to the wild shifts in weather Sydney has been experiencing recently, we’ve been able to test these tyres in all sorts of conditions, from bone dry and dusty, to drivetrain destructing slop.
In dry conditions, the grip from both tyres is very predictable, and the rolling resistance feels better than comparable rubber from other tyre brand alternatives with similar tread and casing.
The SE5 is exceptionally stable under braking as a rear tyre, as well as shedding mud and other gunk when the trails are wet, however, we think Bontrager should produce a 2.5” version. The larger 2.5″ size would be a great tyre to have on the front of an enduro bike as a dependable all-rounder for all but the wettest conditions.
It was only when it was very wet that we found the limits of the SE4 on the front, with the tread clogging up, and the side knobs not providing enough penetration to give the predictable handling we experienced in dry to medium conditions.
This isn’t unexpected, though, as, for a tyre that’s grippy in most conditions with such great rolling resistance, you can’t really expect it to double as a standout wet weather performer.
Do they wear out quickly?
The SE4 and SE5 tyres do use a fairly soft rubber compound, especially on the side knobs. We chewed through a set in a solid long weekend of lift assisted gravity riding, but most tyres won’t survive multiple days of chairlift aided abuse on chopped out trails.
In terms of how fast the SE4 and SE5 wear from normal riding week to week, we would say it’s not drastically different to how quickly comparable tyres from Maxxis or Schwalbe will wear- for example, a 3C tyre from Maxxis or a Vertstar tyre from Schwalbe.
Do they puncture?
Whilst the SE line of tyres from Bontrager does feature more puncture protection in the form of beefier sidewalls and casings to their XR line, we still had two punctures in the rear whilst running pressures in the high twenties, and on one occasion with the Huck Norris Anti-Flat Tubeless Protection System.
In comparison to other tyres on the market, the only other non-downhill tyre we’ve used that’s been 100 percent reliable throughout testing has been Maxxis’ Double Down offerings, however, they do weigh in around 100 grams heavier than the Bontrager SE models for a comparable size.
We should disclose that these punctures occurred barging through rocks on less than ideal lines, so overall we were impressed with the SE4’s and SE5’s durability, especially considering their lighter weight than other ‘enduro’ focused tyres on the market.
What if I’m not happy with them?
One thing about Bontrager tyres we think is truly exceptional is their 30-day unconditional guarantee. Whilst we’ve been impressed with the SE4 and SE5 in a variety of conditions, if you pick some up and you’re not happy, you can return them to your Bontrager dealer within 30 days for a product replacement or full refund.
If you’re on the fence about trying these tyres out, you’ve really got nothing to lose.
Bontrager’s SE4 and SE5 offerings are well worth a look if you’re an aggressive rider or enduro racer looking for a tyre that’s dependable in a variety of conditions, but doesn’t weigh a ton. Our biggest gripe is the single width available for both tyres, as we think a 2.5” SE5 matched with a 2.3” SE4 on the rear could be an excellent combination.