BONTRAGER SE4 TEAM ISSUE | $75 | BONTRAGER.COM
Bontrager cooked up its super enduro tires specifically for riders demanding something extra out of their rubber. Tire companies have been racing to keep up with changing demands ever since the enduro scene exploded into a worldwide sensation and became a melting pot for the world's fastest cross country and downhill racers. For the first time in professional competition, tires had to be tough enough for knuckle-draggers but light enough for leg-shavers. This spawned a whole mess of amazing tires that squeeze the most performance out of today's bikes and their exuberant pilots. The SE4 Team Issue is just one such example, but it's one of the best we've ridden.
With seemingly endless variations between rubber compounds, casing materials, thread counts, tread patterns and reinforcing materials, tires can be tremendously complex. However, there are certain rules. Increasing durability increases weight and rigidity. It's easy to make a bombproof tire, but optimizing toughness, ride feel and weight is a difficult balancing act. Bontrager has done an outstanding job here. Our testers have gone through sets without a single flat, which is a pretty impressive feat considering the hostile desert conditions we typically ride in Southern California. Rather than adding one complete layer of reinforcement, the SE4 casing uses three separate strips, allowing the tire to be protected while remaining supple. The sidewall is much more rigid than on a standard tire, so most riders will be able to run slightly less air pressure without risking tire squirm or tubeless burping. I weigh about 180 pounds with a pack on and corner pretty aggressively, and I can get away with tire pressures in the mid to high 20s on a standard-width rim.
Then there's the traction. There is a lot of it in nearly any condition. The tread pattern is smart, with plenty of ramped center knobs for rolling speed, sipes and buttressed side knobs for traction and dual-compound rubber to utilize traction, wear and rolling. The SE4 is perfectly happy on loam, hardpack or in wet conditions. It's far from being a full-on mud spike, but it'll hold its own when things get a bit sloppy. The 60-TPI tire comes in 26-, 27.5- and 29-inch diameters, and weighs in between a claimed 819 and 1033 grams depending on size. A hundred and fifty bucks is a lot of coin to drop on rubber, but you can rest assured that the tread will outlast most of its competitors.