The Bontrager GR2 Team Issue Gravel Tyre is one of two new gravel tyres launched by the company this year, with this one better suited to muddier trails where it copes surprisingly well, while still rolling nicely on the road and hard gravel surfaces. It's an easy tubeless installation and durability is good, and the price is par for the course for this sort of tyre.
- Pros: Fast on the road, grippy in the loose, easy tubeless setup, light
- Cons: A bit pricier than some rivals, not the best in deep mud
Compared to the similar looking GR1 that Mike reviewed, this GR2 tyre has a slightly more aggressive tread pattern with taller and more widely spaced blocks. That gives the tyre much better traction in slippery conditions, and while it's no deep mud-plugger, it makes surprising progress on gloopy trails. Still, it's a pretty low profile tyre and the emphasis is clearly on hardpack, dry gravel and road use.
The large majority of my off-road tracks and routes are covered in mud at this time of year and some sections better resemble deep bogs. To my surprise, the GR2 handled most of the muddy tracks well, but some skill on my part was required to balance power delivery and weight to avoid spinning out. For sure there are much better tyres if you are predominantly riding muddy paths, but for the occasional section these can cope.
The small block tread pattern extends over to the top of the sidewall which helps provide grip when leaning the bike over. Don't be surprised if you have some lairy rear wheel slides on faster trails if the surface is at all greasy or slippery, but that just adds to the fun and is the compromise you pay with a tyre of this design in the British winter.
Onto the road or hardpack surface and these tyres are much more at home. The low-profile tread pattern buzzes along reasonably quickly with a distinctive soundtrack, an experience and performance that is not dissimilar to the popular Schwalbe G-One. Another comparable rival would be the Panaracer GravelKing.
Another benefit of the tyre design is a decent weight, 440g on the scales (the GR1 is 10g lighter) and both are lighter than the aforementioned G-One. Curiously, and perhaps highlighting the fact that the company is merely dipping a toe in the gravel market, you only have the choice of a 700x40mm size.
In my opinion that is the sweet spot for a gravel bike that needs to perform well on and off-road if speed is at all a priority, so I don't mind the lack of sizes. Still, it would be nice to see a wider offering for those who might want narrower or wider versions.
It's a tubeless tyre so, naturally, I dug out the tubeless sealant and popped the tyres onto a tubeless-ready rim. The tyres are a loose fit, which on the Enve G23 wheels I've been using to test these tyres required a tubeless inflator to get that quick burst of air needed to pop the beads up into the bead seat.
During a couple of months of testing that has taken in as much off-road as road use, and lots of conditions from deep mud to frozen trails, the tyres have performed well. I love their turn of speed and they don't hold you back on the road much at all, you can whirr along at a decent lick quite happily. Yet turn off-road and there's enough grip to deal with most conditions you're likely to encounter.
If you want more ability and confidence in very gloopy conditions, however, I would not recommend these tyres. The Compass Steilacoom or a Maxxis Rambler, WTB Resolute or WTB Nano are a better bet.
Where these tyres make back up speed, literally, is on the road. They roll speedily along the road and progress isn't accompanied by too much noise, though more than a slick road tyre. And for dealing with mucky roads covered in wet leaves or agricultural muck (okay, poo!) the GR2 tyres are very surefooted and planted. Comfort is obviously a benefit of a bigger volume tyre and these are indeed jolly comfortable on the rough and poorly maintained roads round my way.
They should last too: durability has been fine throughout this testing period. I've not suffered one flat and inspection of the tyre reveals no cuts or slices to the tyre either on the top or sidewalls.
Surefooted, grippy and fast tyres in most conditions except the boggiest mud
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager GR2 TLR Team Issue Gravel Road Tyre
Size tested: 700x40C
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bontrager says, "The GR2 Team Issue gravel tyre is designed for fast-rolling performance and biting traction on even the most rugged gravel roads. It has proven success at the most demanding gravel races, and features Inner Strength Casting that provides lightweight puncture protection without sacrificing smooth, supple feel. Plus, you can go tubeless for better performance and even more puncture protection."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Bontrager lists these features:
A gravel tyre that provides excellent traction for confidence across the roughest roads
Fast rolling with consistent, predictable traction for a variety of road conditions
Tubeless Ready (TLR) for easy tubeless setup and puncture protection
Supple and strong Inner Strength casing provides lightweight sidewall protection
Lightweight 120 TPI casing provides great ride feel and tire performance
For the right conditions, ie when it's not too muddy, these are a good choice.
So far they seem very durable.
They're a reasonable weight for the size.
A big volume tyre at low pressure sure eats up the bumps.
It's not stupidly expensive like some tyres, you can pay a bit less for a similar size gravel tyre
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Worked well for mixed terrain riding with good speed on the road and decent grip in the loose.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Won't cope with the muddiest mud.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's a bit pricier than some other tyres in this category
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A good tyre for road and hardpack gravel riding with easy installation and reasonably priced, if not the cheapest.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.