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Bontrager's R3 Tubeless Ready (TLR) tyres offer a very comfortable ride and good puncture resistance. They form part of the brand's tubeless system though they aren't system-specific – you can use other sealants and rim tape without any problem, or indeed bog standard butyl inner tubes, which extends the appeal.
Tyre sections have been getting wider in recent years, with 25mm increasingly the default. These are 26mm, which by my reckoning is the sort of rubber that can perform year round.
The 120tpi casings and 110psi maximum pressures sound comparatively tame by contemporary standards (Bontrager's R4 320 is, as the name suggests, 320tpi, and many narrow section tyres have upper end pressures around the 125-145psi mark – some higher) but strike a good balance between spirited summer blasting and compliant, tarmac-hugging dependability during the darker months.
Regardless whether you're taking the tube or tubeless route, or standard or deep-section rims, there's a definite knack to persuading them aboard. The first 70 per cent lulls you into a false sense of security... and then I tried everything from my workshop tyre wand to four standard polyamide levers.
After several very loud agricultural outpourings and intensifying frustration, I consulted the Bontrager YouTube channel... Once you've got the 70 per cent home, hold it firmly and then, in minute sections, pluck the remainder home. Add 65-70psi, check everything's seated, and repeat. Huzzah!
The first 200 of 400 miles of testing I used latex tubes, alternating between 90 and 105psi. Formative impressions were of a quick and very compliant tyre, the sort that, despite weighing 320g apiece, are easily coaxed up to speed and glide along nicely. This compliance was really appreciated after 60-70 miles of fairly tough roads, littered with loose chippings at one extreme, others turning to treacle.
While riding, I was conscious of flints setting into the casings, and for testing purposes encouraged them to cultivate and embed over the course of several shorter blasts. Not so much as a nick in the casing, let alone a flat. Pushing to 30-35mph in torrential rain, they never missed a beat, even on 1-in-7 descents with hairpin bends for good measure.
This performance came in handy through town, too, when flicking around the usual suspects – holes, errant pedestrians, opening car doors... Despite concerted efforts, riding through shards of glass and debris, there were a few superficial nicks but nothing deep enough to demand filling with superglue. The only flat I succumbed to was the result of a tear at the tube's valve – presenting the ideal opportunity to go tubeless. Core and tape in, system checked and (Stan's) sealant delivered... round two.
Experimenting with the pressures, starting with 110 and repeating the rides, I was impressed by the tyres' supple, compliant nature. Even compared with a latex tube, there was some discernible improvement in rolling resistance and refinement.
One of the many virtues often touted by the tubeless faithful is the ability to run them at much lower pressures without worry of pinch flats, or that they might roll from the rim. Running them at 70, their baseline as marked on the side, was a bit on the low side for me personally; 95 seemed optimal, offering leach-like purchase in all contexts. Admittedly, some residual diesel encountered while tackling a roundabout left me a little shaken, but that greater contact certainly bodes well for crisp winter mornings, before the sun's had chance to burn through the icy film.
Calling their bluff, I've ridden through tacks and other sharps, and the sealant's done its thing handsomely.
Ultimately, I've been seriously impressed, and for those riders wanting to try tubeless and/or needing a four-seasons tyre for their trainer or best bike, the R3 seems an excellent option.
Versatile and comfortable road tyres – and an excellent introduction to tubeless
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager R3 TLR
Size tested: 700x26c
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?
Bontrager says: "Push past punctures on the R3 Tubeless Ready. These tires feature a durable, yet fast, tubeless ready design so you can run lower tire pressures for increased traction, comfort, and control.
"Featuring Hard-Case Lite sub-tread puncture protection with an optimized tread gauge for durability and a butyl liner for reliability, the R3 TLR keeps great road feel and low rolling resistance."
Definite knack to fitting them but otherwise a brilliant option for those tempted by tubeless and wanting a four seasons road tyre for general riding/training.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Low rolling resistance with excellent cornering grip
* Butyl-lined casing improves air retention for consistent tubeless ready performance
* The Tubeless Ready (TLR) tyre is engineered for easy tubeless set up and puncture protection
* Hard-Case Lite protects against punctures with lightweight, sub-tread material
Delightful blend of performance and ride comfort in my experience. However, watch Bontrager's YouTube video beforehand – this will make mounting that bit easier.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, I've been delighted by the R3's blend of responsiveness, puncture resistance and comfort. Fitting requires a more planned approach. Running them as a tubeless system accentuates these qualities, but even with standard butyl or latex tubes, they have behaved impeccably in all contexts.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Low rolling resistance, puncture resistance and comfort are impressive.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Can be frustratingly difficult to fit in the first instance.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – especially those seeking a transition from tubes to tubeless system.
Use this box to explain your score
Rounded performer that promises to be a favourable 'fit, inflate and ride' option for winter/training/sportives...
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)