Bontrager's CX3 TLR tyre comes with a 'Team Issue' tag and overall it works well as a cyclocross race tyre. There's good traction available in a range of conditions and tubeless means low pressures and no pinch flats.
I did managed to poke a hole in one of the sidewalls, and as usual there was a good deal of variance in the way the tyres sealed on different rims, but overall they're enjoyable tyres to ride and an option to consider for Sunday mornings in the winter.
Built on a 120tpi carcass with an all-conditions tread and a tubeless-ready bead, the CX3 TLR is designed as a tyre for racing. Tubeless has a major advantage for 'cross: the lack of a tube means that you can't pinch-flat them against a root or a rock. That means that you can run lower pressures without risking a flat, and that means more grip and a comfier ride.
I'm a big lad (92kg) and the lowest pressure I can reasonably get away with on a tubed 'cross tyre is about 45psi in race conditions. I dropped these CX3s down to 30psi and the difference in the ride was chalk and cheese: much more supple over the rough ground and much better traction on loose terrain, especially when climbing. I found that the tyres tended to roll a bit in the corners when that soft so I ended up at 35psi front and rear.
When you're running lower pressures it's more important that the seal between the tyre and rim is good, so that you don't separate the two and burp air out. This has much more to do with the physical interface between the two components than the sealant: if the seal is tight, then it's much less likely to open up under load.
I had mixed results here. On one race on carbon rims (Reynolds ATR) I managed to lose a fair bit of air out of the front tyre. This was on the very hottest day of summer (a stupid time to be trying to race CX) so the rubber in the tyre was probably more pliable than it would be in the mud in winter; also on a bone dry course there's masses of grip, so the forces trying to pull the seal apart are greater.
Since then I've had them fitted to a set of alloy wheels (Zipp Course 30 Disc) and the results have been much better. I had to add some extra tape to the rim bed to stop the beads falling in to the rim well when I initially sealed them, but since then they've been impeccably behaved and stayed up through hits that would definitely have flatted a tubed tyre. Lots of them.
I managed to put a hole in the sidewall of one tyre, big enough (just) that the sealant wouldn't close it: probably a sharp flint. I patched the inside with a standard inner tube patch and it's been fine ever since, but it did ruin my unremarkable mid-table position in one race.
The tread pattern is not particularly deep or aggressive, and fairly open. It sheds mud well and is pretty good across the range of conditions you can expect, ie everything. It's not the best dry course tyre I've used, or the best mud tyre either, but if you're looking to fit a pair of tyres for the season and rock up at each race hoping they'll be okay for the conditions, they're a good choice.
Good all-conditions race tyres that work well in the wet and the dry
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager CX3 Team Issue TLR Cyclocross Tyre
Size tested: Tubeless Ready
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?
Kiss pinch flats goodbye with the tubeless ready CX3. Run lower pressures and get traction performance that goes head to head with tubular tires for a fraction of the cost.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
A great-cornering TLR cyclocross tire built for muddy and soft conditions
Excels in muddy and soft conditions
TLR tire engineered for use with TLR sealant for worry-free setup and puncture protection
Available with Hard-Case Lite
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Well. Some issues with sealing on some rims, and one sidewall cut that the sealant didn't fix, but traction and pinch flat performance were very good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
You can run them at low pressures without pinch-flatting them, overall traction good in a range of conditions.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sidewalls would appear to be a bit vulnerable based on my experience, usual sealing lottery with different rims.
Did you enjoy using the product? Mostly.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes for racing.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Use this box to explain your score
They're not without their issues but overall, for a race tyre, they're a good UK choice.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 189cm Weight: 92kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.