I purchased the Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tires last November after a weekend with three flats over the course of two rides. There was getting to be too much grit and gravel on the roads to keep running my beloved Grand Prix 4000 S II tires. Wanting a tougher tire but liking the Continentals so much, I decided to choose from their offerings for winter tires.
After some research, I narrowed my choice to either the Gatorskins or the 4-Seasons. The fact that I had a gift certificate to an online retailer that only had the 4-Seasons in stock made my decision for me.
The $75 retail (though they can be found in the $45-$55 range online) Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tire falls between the race-oriented 4000 S II and the more touring/training/rough-road-riding Gatorskin. This is not a criticism and isn’t implying that the 4-Season is neither fast nor tough. In fact, it is meant as praise for the balance Continental struck when they developed this tire.
The toughness of the Continental 4-Season comes from the use of both Duraskin ® sidewall reinforcement and two layers of Vectran™ protection under the center tread. These added defenses allow Continental to keep the outer rubber fairly soft for increased grip. The softer rubber is also beneficial in winter riding conditions. Low temperatures can result in hardened rubber, so it is important that a tire targeted for use in these conditions takes this into account.
That pliable rubber tread and its enhanced grip are one characteristic that makes this tire still feel fast. Another is the reduced weight when compared with heavier “winter” tires. The 4-Season lists a weight savings of approximately 80 grams per tire (a 1/3 lb. savings per set) over the Gatorskins. This keeps the tire from feeling sluggish on spin-up, climbs, and acceleration.
I have just under 1600 miles on this set of Continental 4-Season tires. The roads have only gotten worse over the winter, yet I haven’t had a single flat since changing to these. Grip is good, though not to the level of the 4000S II, but this was anticipated. However, the level of grip was greater than expected thanks in large part to the lower pressures I feel comfortable running. I set these 3-5 psi lower than the 4000S II tires because I feel confident that the sidewall protection will help fight pinch-flats. This lower pressure really helps increase the grip level by flattening the profile. When inflated to the same pressures I run the 4000S II at, the 4-Season seems much more rounded which acts to decrease the size of the contact patch. This is noticed in straight-line hard efforts as the rear of the bike seems to squirm when the tire rocks on the rounded profile. Also in cornering, there is a noticeable roll as you lean the bike. By lowering the pressure, you are effectively increasing the contact patch and flattening the profile. This not only enhances grip but softens the ride too.
The durability of these tires is well beyond that of the 4000S. With around 1600 miles, the tires still have a lot of life left. Many of these miles are roller miles too, which seem harder on tires than road miles. My main disappointment of the 4000S is the relatively low mileage I get from them. The 4-Seasons have surpassed my expectations for wear rate.
The Continental 4-Season tires are offered in 23, 25, 28, and 32 mm widths. I purchased the 25 mm version. I am quite happy with the 25 mm width and would actually like to try the 28. The lower pressure possibilities offered by the higher volume make wider tires more appealing than narrow, especially when used on rough roads or on roads with a lot of debris.
I highly recommend the Continental 4-Season tire for fall/winter/spring riding. In fact, it is close enough to the ride and grip of the 4000 S II with the added benefit of greater wear life that I am in no real hurry to get the 4000 S IIs back on. This is a tire that is great for long miles on less than ideal roads. It’s such a good all-around tire that it just might have become my year-round tire. conti-online.com
– Alex (Steak Sauce)