Strengths: Larger volume and more supple casing than other tubeless road tires
Excellent grip and durability compared to other tubeless road tires
Easy to set the bead and air up
Weaknesses: 700 x 25C size isn't stocked on shelves, so it must be ordered online or by phone, which means you won't have a tire for your race on Saturday if something happens Friday on your training ride (I don't/can't keep $80 tires lying around the garage).
Sizes reviewd: 700 x 23C TLR, 700 x 25C TLR
Having had mixed experiences with another brand of tubeless road tires I was excited to try Bontrager's offering when they hit the shelves of my local Trek superstore. I don't really have much experience with Bontrager tires on either road or mountain bikes, but I welcomed some more options in the road tubeless category, and I also saw that the R3 TLRs would be available in 25C width. One of my gripes with previous road tubeless tires was the low volume which I felt increased rolling resistance, hampered performance and ultimately contributed to an expensive dented rim on a set of 10-day old high-end hoops.
The TLR indicates these are tubeless ready as opposed to "UST" or whatever the road equivalent is - so Bontrager specifies that they are used with sealant (more on this below). The bead was easier to set than some other tubeless tires I've used, and I was able to pop them in place with several quick strokes from my floor pump - no need to break out the compressor. After adding some Stan's sealant I noticed that these tires look to measure larger than similarly marked tubeless tires from other brands. The 23C looked a little larger than the 23C Hutchinson Fusion 3 I had mounted on another wheelset, and much larger than the 23C Atom tubeless which looks to be puny in comparison. The 25C R3s were noticeably bigger yet, and barely fit into my Ridley Damocles, later depositing some mud and debris on the rear brake bridge during a couple rides after some rains. I also noticed when handling the tires that the casing felt more supple on the Bontrager TLR tires than on Hutchinson tubeless offerings - a good sign in my book.
Running the 23C at 90 PSI and the 25s at 80 PSI seemed about right for my 165 lbs in most circumstances. The R3 TLRs had excellent grip and rolled nicely. Training on them all winter the 25C felt like the faster of the two on the poor road surfaces in the San Diego area, although it's hard to say with any certainty. As the local racing season began the first weekend in February I decided to race on the 25s and have stuck with them every race since. The ability to run 80 to 85 PSI with no fear of a pinch flat is nice. In criteriums there is no need to steer around dots or seams in the road - the large and supple tire traverses these hazards without breaking grip, unlike a smaller volume tire aired up to a rock-hard 115 PSI which will skip hard. Giving some steering input it is easy to take a more aggressive line through a corner and I consistently have been able to carry momentum through corners in road races and crits while seeing other riders over-cook it and get gapped.
Wear and durability seem good so far. At just under 2,000 miles the rear tire on the 25C set is showing noticeable wear and I will replace them this week. They probably would be fine for another 500 to 1,000 miles for training purposes. At the Trek store a big guy working there (260 lbs.) said he gets about 1,200 miles on the rear tire - so bigger riders should expect them to wear faster. The 700x23C pair have about 1,500 miles on them and still look great. So far no tears in the casings. The sealant has saved me from a couple punctures on the road. Puncture resistance seems equal to or better than the Hutchinson tubeless tires I had used previously, and durability when crossing little rocks or gravel seems superior as so far no blowouts on the Bontrager R3 TLRs. As I wrote above, previous tubeless tires had left me disappointed with a total of 3 blowouts - all caused by small rocks in the road - and one dented rim picked up in a minor pothole hit while canted over on a downhill.
A note about TLR & sealant: I always have run tubeless tires on my road and mountain bikes with sealant. Stan's is affordable and works great in these tires. The sealant does seem necessary on the R3 TLRs as recently on my 25Cs which are about to be replaced (and in which the sealant is probably mostly dried up) I heard air escaping the tire while climbing up a steep driveway. The low speed and very high gradient combined to deform the tire and I could hear air leaking - in the end not much air escaped but it was a clear indication to me that the sealant is necessary and if the wheels sit for long periods of time or the sealant otherwise dries up it should be topped off.
Ratings: Hard to rate tubeless tires since the offerings are still new and evolving. These are by far the best riding and value tubeless tires I've been on to date, and I will stick with them for now. Hopefully more manufacturers will release "tubeless ready" road tires with supple casings similar to the R3 TLR. Compared to Hutchinson tires at $100+ apiece these are a no-brainer.
Similar Products Used: Hutchinson Fusion 3 Tubeless 700 x 23C
Hutchinson Atom Tubeless 700 x 23C
Bike Setup: Campagnolo Zonda 2-way fit
Campagnolo Shamal Ultra 2-way fit
Date Reviewed: November 18, 2012
Strengths: 1973 miles to date, through the summer
Weaknesses: None so far,but one flat that would happen with any tire
replaced them when the weather conditions and road maintence went downhill
a Recreational Rider
Date Reviewed: October 30, 2012
Strengths: Lightweight, great grip, pretty good in the wet, decent puncture resistance
Weaknesses: Fairly expensive
These would be a good race tyre but I've used them extensively on really terrible road surfaces in the north of Scotland. No flats up to now but I'm one of those lucky guys that rides a bike nearly every day and NEVER flats.
They are soft, the rear ishowing a fair bit of wear. I had been thinking of changing them for the French winter but I'll probably just switch them over and run them into the ground.
Really impressive performance tyre that if I got another pair, I'd not be thrashing them on poor minor roads.
Strengths: Very smooth, good handling, and easy to change in case you have a flat. Only 190 grams which is pretty light.
Weaknesses: Soft rubber may not last as long as some other tires, though they are comfortable.
I had R1 tires on my Trek bike which seem nice as smooth as my Cont Grand Prix's on my other bike. I found they were had a 60 thread count and were over 300 grams in weight. Therefore in seeing a higher end Trek bike with the R3's, I found they were much lighter and the thread count was at 120 so I figured I would give them a try. I found the price similar to the Cont Prix though a little cheaper. They were very easy to put on my rim, and looked good.
In riding with the R3's, the rubber compound seem smoother than the R1's, and climbing with them seemed to allow me to use a little less effort. I have no complaints with them and know they have a puncture resistant belt on the center of the tire. Usually soft tires don't last as long as some of the all weather tires, but the rolling resistance is less and personally I enjoy the smoother ride better. I would recommend them for daily riding or racing. If your roads are not good and has glass, rocks and other road debris (especially after winter), you may want to consider Bontrager's heavier but stronger RXL All Weather tires as the R3's only has one belt of protection
Similar Products Used: Bontrager R1 - which are not a great time
Bike Setup: Trek 4.5 with Bontrager RL saddle and Ultegra drail's.
a Recreational Rider
Date Reviewed: January 10, 2012
Strengths: Grip, Light Weight, Easy to fit on the rim
Weaknesses: Short life, puncture resistance
Average tire for above average price. I bought the tire based on the recommendation of a friend. Supposedly these are more durable than the R4, and I don't doubt that they are. I weigh about 170 lbs, and my tires look like they will last about 1,400 miles. Over the last few months, I have suffered quite a few flats with these tires. It may be just bad luck, but they are no better than my Specialized Mondo's that I had previously. I put these on my bike at the same time I put on some Gatorskins on my other bike, and these have worn noticeably more. I have also had zero flats with the Gatorskins and 6 flats (and counting) with the R3s.
So, after one year and about 3,000mi I'm pretty sure I didn't buy enough bike when I got started. Wasn't sure how much I was going to get into riding last year, so I went with a Specialized Secteur Comp (aluminum frame, carbon fork & seat stays) for $1650 because I couldn't justify going for more t ... Read More »