Bontrager SE2 Tire AndrewM
2 Minute Reviews | Editorial

The Surprising Bontrager SE2 29x2.6" Team Issue TLR Tire

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Aug 31, 2018

Chorus: "You HAVE to try this tire!"

Me: "But, it has tiny side knobs."

Chorus: "Right! But it's AMAZING on the trail."

Me: "I don't know. Looks like an XC race tire."

Chorus: "Get the big version with the freeride casing! You'll love it!"

Me: "Didn't that Larsen guy quit XC racing to take up Triathlon?"

Chorus: "Who?"

And that's the gist of how my friends Chris and Steve upended my view of Shore-worthy mountain bike tires by convincing me - and I truly mean convincing me - to drop some coin on a 26" Maxxis Larsen TT 2.35" Supertacky tire for the back of my Balfa Minuteman. 

It wasn't light but baby did it ever roll quick. Climbing traction was shockingly good and braking traction made no sense whatsoever. I was never a true convert, returning to knobbier shoes in the worst of winter, but memories of that tire have me salivating every time a beefy, low profile, high volume tire is released.  

And then the Bontrager SE2 Team Issue TLR tire in 29 x 2.6" happened. 

Bontrager SE2 Tire AndrewM

The 2.6" SE2 combines a fast rolling tread with 60a/51a rubber, a 60tpi casing, and additional puncture protection. 

Bontrager SE2 Tire AndrewM

It adds over 200-grams of support and protection compared to the 2.6" Bontrager XR2 which appears identical.

SE2 vs XR2

After my middling experience with the XR2 - previously known as the Chupacabra - the SE2 would not have been a tire on my list of rubber to try. But, after riding Bontrager's XR4 & SE4 back-to-back the search for a well supported, high volume, fast rolling tire was on. 

The XR2/Chupacabra is a fast rolling, supple, example of an XC tire blown up to a larger size with its 120 TPI casing and 62a/60a rubber. To borrow Rocky Mountain's nomenclature, the SE4 is the 'BC Edition' of the same tire. It's rolling 60a/51a rubber with notably improved grip when the sport-surface gets greasy or slabby, and the 60 TPI casing helps provide a crucial increase in support - especially at lower pressures where a 2.6" tire functions best. 

The SE model tires also feature beefed-up sidewall inserts and a nylon sub-tread insert to improve puncture protection which is appreciated storming dusty rocky trail sections. Bontrager calls it Core Strength. I will gladly pay the 200+ gram weight penalty, per tire, on every ride for the improvement in performance and reduction in trailside issues. 

Bontrager SE2 Tire AndrewM

The side knobs are small but well supported and traction is remarkable, for their size, when the SE2 is leaned over. I prefer the ride of the XR2 in the 29x2.6" size compared to the 3.0". Tires with light sidewalls don't scale well for technical riding.

Riding the SE2

I've been running the 29x2.6" SE2 as a rear tire with a 29x3" SE4 up front. I've taken it down a variety of my North Shore favourites like Pipeline and Executioner on Fromme - for example - and rolled out impressed every time. It just doesn't make sense how much braking traction those little knobs deliver out back on my hardtail or my 120mm suspension bike. 

Bontrager SE2 Tire AndrewM

The vital stats as layed out by Trek-Bontrager.

Lean the tire over and the cornering grip defies explanation, until it doesn't. While not comparable to a 3c Maxxgrip DHR2 around corners, the SE2 rolls like slightly overfed XC rubber climbing pavement, gravel, or singletrack. 

The fastest and loosest steep I stormed pulling the SE2 behind me is called Lower Back Eddy in Terrace, BC and it was when I blasted out the exit that I decided to forgo taking off the SE2 for the winter. This thing is distilled shenanigans at  20-22psi. 

Bontrager SE2 Tire AndrewM

Haven't ridden in Terrace, BC? The trails are excellent, Hot House is the best meal I had this summer, and there's great fishing. 

Here's the fine print. I'm running smaller rotors out back and big rubber up front which is going to affect my braking bias, I'm already predisposed to enjoy tires like the Slaughter and Rock Razor - although the SE2 is my favourite of the bunch, and I'm still throwing my wheelset with a pair of e13 LG1r tires on my dually anytime I'm going to be riding over my head. 

I'm also not an evangelist trying to convert anyone from their massive knobbed rear meat. Any rider who thinks they're going to hate hitting highly technical trails on the SE2 definitely will. 

For high-volume, fast-rolling, hit-taking, trail-snaking, rubber the SE2 Team Issue TLR is a brilliant tire for the micro-knobby convert or curious. It's the biggest tire-induced grin I've had since my first ride on that 2.35" Larsen Supertacky. The SRP is 85 USD | 110 CAD - which is surprisingly the same amount - and the tire can be acquired through your preferred Trek dealer. You can also check it out on Trek's website


Comments

alexdi
+1 Dan
Alex D  - Aug. 31, 2018, 7:17 a.m.

Nice. I've put about 50 miles on the XR2 2.6 and previously north of 500 on the 2.35 XR2, initially with an XR2 3.0 up front and then later with a XR4 2.6. I think they're all excellent tires, though the 2.6s really benefit from an i35 or even i40 rim. I'm finding that with 2.6 on my i29 rear, I'm still at the same ~22 PSI I used with the 2.35 because any less starts to give up lateral support.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Dan
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2018, 10:17 a.m.

That's interesting, do you mind if I ask how much you weight?

I'll be testing the new 2.6" SE5 and I'm planning to mount on a 30mm ID rim (recommended width) but also on a 40mm ID rim (just to see). 

I'll try and mount this SE2 on a 40mm rim as well to see the profile. I haven't had any lateral support complaints but I think that can be summed up in SE2 vs. XR2. Especially once we're getting into the bigger volume 2.6". 

If you have a chance to try an SE2 (if the weight penalty is conceivably worth it for you) I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

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alexdi
0
Alex D  - Aug. 31, 2018, 4:45 p.m.

I'm 175lb / 79kg with an i39 F / i29 R wheelset. The XR4 2.6 in the front is happy at 17 PSI (or less) with great lateral support. Tread blocks are even with the sidewalls. There's so much volume on the big rim that it never bottoms. I think ~i37 would be ideal for this tire. I'm interested to hear your take. 

I've never actually tried a heavy casing. I've biased float and weight over stability. The bike is a Scalpel (albeit in trail guise with a wide cockpit and 185 dropper), so I suspect it'd be overmatched by terrain that'd really benefit from the SE-series. The previous XR2 2.35 lasted over 700 miles of rocky singletrack at race speeds before a cut near the bead from a nasty downhill put it down. Terrific weight / durability ratio in this lineup.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Dan
Andrew Major  - Sept. 1, 2018, 3:13 p.m.

Thanks!

I have a local buddy who swears by the performance, longevity and weight balance of the XR series tires (XR4 specifically) but he's a lot lighter than either of us. 

XR vs. SE definitely comes down to terrain vs. weight.

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snorris
0
snorris  - Aug. 31, 2018, 8:32 a.m.

I like em but judging by the condition of my rim after a rock strike, I should have got the SE2 not the XR2.

Tire was undamaged though...

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 31, 2018, 10:13 a.m.

Much better support from the SE2. XR2 could make sense for many areas I've ridden but anywhere that 'chunky', 'janky', 'rough', or etc could be used to describe the trails the SE2 is worth every gram.

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Heinous
0
Heinous  - Sept. 1, 2018, 2:29 a.m.

How would it compare to the Minion SS?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 1, 2018, 3:21 p.m.

Slaughter, Minion SS, Rock Razor:

In really loose conditions I prefer these tires over the SE2 (there is more traction in loose conditions when leaned over) but then, for those conditions I prefer something with more intense center knobs for straight line braking - like the DHR2, SE4, SE5, TRSr, etc. 

Where I prefer the SE2 over tires like the SS is the more predictable transition from centre to side knobs. It's most notable climbing out of the saddle (or sometimes cutting down smooth trails) but in general there are times with these semi-slick + side knob tires suddenly ditch speed, or hook up funny, or grab the trail in an unexpected way where the SE2 just rips along.

.

I was going to say that rather than being like a cut-down DH tire like the SS, the SE2 is like a really high volume XC tire with better support and improved cornering traction but I then realized that sounds pretty similar so I hope the above makes sense!

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Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Sept. 2, 2018, 8:13 a.m.

Hmm, Andrew did you ride the Rock Razor or only the Slaughter or SS? The reason I ask is that of the 3, the Rock Razor has the most rounded profile/modest side knobs, and comparative reviews confirm lower rolling resistance for it compared to the other two (especially the SS).

The reason I ask, is that I have loved my Rock Razor, and not experience the sudden changes you describe. At the same time, I tried a 2.8 Chupa(XR2) and after one gentle corner that was a bit greasy it just flew out from under me, so I ditched it.

I was about to get another Rock Razor, but then I read this, and I do like the idea of the 2.6 for some extra cushion/compliance over funky roots and rocks, so the SE2 sounds interesting. Also our local trails are mostly hardpack, or loose over hardpack, or bedrock, so the SE2 should do well, we have very little loose loam or sand.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2018, 8:42 a.m.

What width of rim is your RR mounted on?

I have the most time on the Slaughter (29x2.3” and 27x2.6”) and the Rock Razor (29x2.35 - I think) I’ve only ridden the SS on a friend’s bike.

I did not have a great experience with the Chupacabra either (29x3” specifically).

I quite like the Rock Razor and Slaughter (prefer Slaughter) so just trying to explain my preference for SE2 (specifically 29x2.6 which is the size I use / have used).

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Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Sept. 2, 2018, 4 p.m.

Thanks for the reply Andrew. I appreciate your thoughts, since I was all set thinking that an XR2 style tread wasn’t a good fit for me on my trail bike, and I would get another Rock razor, but then you say you often prefer the SE2, and that makes me wonder, especially since I had been yearning for a bigger tire in the rear.

My Rock Razor is on a 29” x i28mm rim, which is what I would put the SE2 2.6” on as well. 

(The Chupa 2.8 was on a 27” x i38mm rim on a previous bike)

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2018, 7:33 p.m.

It’s really too bad that Specialized only does their 2.6 Slaughter in 27” and that Schwalbe doesn’t make a 29x2.6” RR as it sounds like either tire would be an easy choice for you.

I’m excited to ride the SE2 in our greasiest winter conditions as that’s the one aspect where I have lots of time on RR and Slaughter but haven’t ridden SE2.

I was out on SE2 today riding Fromme and thinking about it a lot. I still maintain it isn’t a tire for everyone but I love the combo of fast acceleration, comfort (hardtail) and surprising traction.

It’s a hard thing to recommend as it isn’t universally great like a DHR2 where really anyone can like it anywhere... but I love it.

wasatchenduro
0
WasatchEnduro  - Sept. 7, 2018, 9:15 a.m.

Andrew et al.,

I'm bouncing (tee hee) between rear tires at the moment, currently rocking a Teravail Cumberland 29 x 2.6 on my trail bike (Stumpy29 w/ Butcher 2.6 grid front), which is absofreakinglutely huge. It's like a massive Slaughter. Coming off a 2.3 Aggressor DD the Cumberland rolls noticeably faster but is kind of bouncy and on an i30 rear rim it's hard to get to the massive cornering knobs as it's pretty rounded off. I'm running the light and supple casing which i believe weighs in at about 1,000g. Highly recommend as a fast rolling rear tire if you're on i35-40mm rim and like semi-plus options.

Anyway, same here I'm looking forward to a 29 x 2.6 Slaughter Grid as the new 2.3 Slaughter Grid is too lightweight, flimsy, and unsupportive for heavy riding as it just lost 100g (now about 850g vs 950g for the old version). The blue addix 2.35 Rock Razor is also light and flimsy for my weight and riding style, i love the profile and would love to try it in SG casing but i don't necessarily need a stickier, faster-wearing  compound, and also the new SG addix RR is apparently a mythical unicorn. The old SG ones are still floating around but i don't trust their durability. I also know a 29 x 2.6 Slaughter will be more like a 2.5, which I like.

And now the ask:  

1) has anyone used the 29 x 2.35 Maxxis Ikon Double Down? That's right, it comes in a 995g DD version which I'm very intrigued by it. Looking for fast rolling, tough casing, decent grip, but a little nervous about how it would corner.

2) thoughts on the 29 x 2.6 Maxxis Rekon? The burliest version is about 860g and i wonder if it'll work with a pool noodle inside to give it a little more support, or if it'll be flat prone under hard northern Utah riding due to lighter casing than what i'm used to running. I know it's been specced on some Yetis, matched to a 1,000g 2.5 DHF front which seems kinda strange.

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wasatchenduro
0
WasatchEnduro  - Sept. 7, 2018, 9:18 a.m.

Also - anyone tried the WTB Riddler 29 x 2.25 and know actual measured width? The 2.4 version looks perfect but has been discontinued... :(

The 2.3 Minion SS is too squared off on an i30 rear rim but i like that it's available in DD.

*nothing against the SE2 reviewed above. almost looks like a viable option but looks huuuuge, and i'm trying to get down to more of an actual measured 2.35-2.5 situation on an i30 rear rim. also, hard cornering?

Losifer
+1 WasatchEnduro
Carlos Matutes  - Sept. 9, 2018, 10:08 p.m.

Ikon 2.3 DD?!? Color me intrigued...

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Sept. 2, 2018, 8:13 a.m.

This comment has been removed.

tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Sept. 4, 2018, 7:41 p.m.

To me, for semislick-knobby side rear tires, the answer I've settled on is that you need a lot of horizontal siping and paddle effect on the front tire to even it out, and if you can accept using mostly the front tire to brake (and the braking points that come with that) then the setup works great.  If you miss a braking point, it's like a downforce car - you've just missed it, because late commitment 
DHR2 up front, SS out back - it's stupid fast in dry conditions and with the exception of one really narrow lean angle window that exists as you transition to aggressive corners, it's got phenomenal grip.
I knocked out a couple KOMs that I had no real right to just because of how good that setup is if you can commit to it... but I also had to run mismatched rim widths (29mm front, 25mm back) to get the profiles to match up, and I'm sure the compound delta and my weight distribution mattered more than I realize.

Reply

Lynx
0
MountainBikeBarbados .  - Sept. 9, 2018, 2:22 p.m.

I actually ended up cutting down the side knobs on the Minion SS because, basically, even on an i25 rim, they were permanently engaged and made the tyre draggy as hell. Can't say I like it as a rear once it gets really dry for braking, really does blow on steep, loose stuff, almost non-existent. Amazingly though, I've found excellent climbing traction with it in all kinds of conditions I would not have expected it to give grip in, with some body english of course.

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JBV
+1 Andrew Major
James Vasilyev  - Sept. 1, 2018, 9:52 a.m.

SE casings are great tires. i've got the SE4 2.6 27.5 on back of my Patrol and very happy with it on all fronts. smooth quiet and fast rolling, grip for days on almost anything and hard wearing.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 1, 2018, 3:23 p.m.

I've also had great experience with the 2.6" SE4 out back (and the 3.0 SE4 as a front tire). Just mounted up the new 2.6" SE5 and excited to compare it to the SE4.

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Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Sept. 2, 2018, 8:08 a.m.

Also have the SE4 2.6 in 27.5 on the rear. I like most of it, but I am dissapointed about the lack of side support for the shoulder knobs. The outside of the shoulder knobs drops straight down, rather than sloping away like a ramp. When I had a couple bikes on the rack, I could feel a huge difference in how much easier it was to fold the SE4 cornering knobs over compared to all the other tires on the bikes.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2018, 8:46 a.m.

What is the ID of the rim you’re running the SE4 on?

I’ve only ridden the 27” version in a 2.4”. I think it’s a good rear tire but I really like the 29x2.6”  which has much more pronounced side knobs.

I road both on 30mm internal rims and had no issue with side knob support.

Also love the 29x3” on a min 40mm internal rim.

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Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Sept. 4, 2018, 7:56 a.m.

I have the 27.5 x 2.6 SE4 on a 30mm internal rim. Of course a wider rim would stabilize the tire and side knobs a bit more, but:

The profile on the i3omm rim is great, the side knobs stick out at a nice angle angle , not to flat, but still up enough to grip well.

It's just that compared to most other tires, the outside of the shoulder knobs have very little support.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 4, 2018, 8:31 a.m.

30mm is apparently ideal - I like the profile on a 35mm or 40mm rim but run it on 30mm usually as well.

They’re big blocks but I totally get what you mean - have you tried the E13 LG1r or TRSr? So much thought into how the side knobs interact with terrain.

Curious what tires are your favourite for side knob support?

velocipedestrian
0
Velocipedestrian  - Sept. 1, 2018, 4:35 p.m.

Sounds like my experience with the Intense system 4 as a rear tyre on my HT in OG strong diameter. 

If they were available in a 2.4-2.6 with a medium strength casing I'd be stocking up. 

https://goo.gl/images/BSgfJ6

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Heinous
0
Heinous  - Sept. 1, 2018, 5:39 p.m.

I’m surprised we’ve never seen a beefed up Aspen, those things are way better than they should be. There’s apparently one in the works, but probably still light XC casing.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 2, 2018, 2:01 a.m.

I would try a beefed up, high volume, Aspen for sure. I used the run the 29x2.1" on the back of my XC bike with an Ikon up front. It was strangely awesome except for durability.

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joseph-crabtree
0
Joseph Crabtree  - Sept. 4, 2018, 10:33 a.m.

I talked with the guys at Maxxis and it looks like they are going to release a 29x2.6 Ikon in the next few weeks along with a 29x2.6 DHF/DHR2.

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Smoothmoose
0
Douglas Ko  - Sept. 17, 2018, 11:56 a.m.

2.6 Ikon?  Isn't that just the Rekon "inspired by Ikon"

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tehllama42
0
Tehllama42  - Sept. 4, 2018, 7:36 p.m.

Me, being the type of dumbass who actually rides 29x2.1 Aspens Front/Rear on snow, ice, mud, dirt, pavement - I highly recommend the experience, even if it's a total one-off.
Durability isn't great on the 2.1, but it only comes in 'I wear spandex and count grams in my cereal' casing tires, but I'm pretty optimistic that the 2.25 EXO version will actually be somewhat useful.  The plan is to pair that with a 2.25 Ardent Race, and see if I can get comparable road performance, and better off-road performance.

I'm waiting for the 29x 2.8/2.6 " trend to take off - because I want to run Minions front and rear with the 2.6 SS Minion (hell, I'd take a 2.4 or 2.5 MinSS in DoubleDown - basically anything that isn't dragging the corner knobs on pavement).  For my FS rig, I'm slow anywhere specific output matters, and grip limited anywhere I'm comparably fast, so that should be an ideal setup.

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Losifer
+1 WasatchEnduro
Carlos Matutes  - Sept. 9, 2018, 10:07 p.m.

I would love to see a WT Minion SS.

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wasatchenduro
0
WasatchEnduro  - Sept. 10, 2018, 12:48 p.m.

hell yes! give me a 2.4 or 2.5 WT please!

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Smoothmoose
0
Douglas Ko  - Sept. 17, 2018, 12:02 p.m.

Andrew - how does these measure up in width?  True to size?   I have the 2.2" XR2 on my beater and the knobs measure 2.2", but the casing is smaller.

I'm very close to pulling the trigger on the 2.6 XR2 on the trail bike and wonder how you compare it to Maxxis EXO casing?

I'm also thinking about the 2.6 SE4 for my sketchy rides to replace my 2.5 Aggressor EXO that got slashed up in Downieville, CA.  I think the conditions there are a bit more sharp than BC NS.  But am slightly concerned about a bit more weight and rolling resistances compared to the Aggressor.

I'm only weight 150# ready to ride, so I was bit surprise my Aggressor got eaten up alive.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Sept. 17, 2018, 12:43 p.m.

Hi Douglas,

On a 30mm ID Arc rim I measure the SE2 casing as ~2.53” and the outside-outside knobs at ~2.58”. The knobs are a bit tricky as they’re offset side to side.

For really sharp terrain rocks a smaller tire can be a better bet (lower volume - less likely to contact a rock) but yes our rocks are generally less jagged than other rocky places I’ve ridden.

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