Continental Grand Prix First Ride
Continental Grand Prix 700x24c folding clincher £27.95 (wire bead £23.95)Perhaps the most influential lightweight road clincher of the early ‘90s, Continental’s Grand Prix remained a best-seller in some European markets even after being discontinued in the UK a couple of seasons ago. Now it’s back, albeit in a very different guise. With a new pattern moulded in Conti’s highly regarded Black Chili tread compound, the new Grand Prix has the latest ‘PolyBreaker’ double thickness polyamide puncture protection belt , which was developed as a less-expensive alternative to the Vectran layer originally used on the Grand Prix 4000 model.
Offered as a lightweight, high-performance tyre, the 2009 Grand Prix nevertheless comes in both folding Kevlar and non-folding wire bead formats, the rubber ridden here being one of the two 700c sizes with the folding bead. The section is a generous 24mm with 22mm as the alternative. Conti says that ‘wider tires roll easier, yield higher mileage and offer more comfort and grip’ and that the 24mm profile is ‘wide enough to exploit the advantages of wider tires, but still light and slim enough to improve the performance of any racing machine.’ Suppose it depends on the tyre fitted previously, but in any case the new model is a very impressive addition to the Conti range. The claims made for a wider tyre generally hold up to close scrutiny, the only disadvantages from the performance point of view being a small increase in weight – to 230g for the 24mm Grand Prix – and wind drag due to increased frontal area.
The new tyre has a Black Chili tread compound said to be optimised for wet and cold conditions and does indeed offer reassuring grip in the rain. It has also proven exceptionally resistant to cuts, receiving precisely none over several hundred miles of testing to date over terrain as varied as gravel trails in the New Forest and the usual south London commuting bash. Punctures so far have also been notably absent. In addition to this impressive display of toughness, the Grand Prix delivers a well-controlled ride that, if lacking the suppleness of the best competition rubber, is nonetheless comfortable and well-balanced even over rough or broken Tarmac.
As a luxury training or fast touring tyre, the Grand Prix would so far appear to fit the bill very nicely, its relatively high price offset by a thick tread and seemingly low wear rate. It is not, however, going to satisfy the rider looking for a superfast or exceptionally light competition clincher; it is, in fact, a fine replacement for its illustrious predecessor.