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Bontrager R4 Classics Hard-Case Lite Road Tyre



Supple, fast and very pretty – expensive for some, worth it for me

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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Bontrager’s R4 Classics tyres are beautiful handmade clinchers that offer a smooth and very quick ride. You get great cornering grip and such a supple casing really helps on rougher roads.

  • Pros: Very supple, look amazing, fast rolling
  • Cons: Sidewalls will stain in proper 'Classics' conditions

Tyres are probably the best value for money component on your bike. Even a premium set like these won't break the bank, but they'll offer heaps of cornering confidence, extra puncture protection or even free speed.

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These R4 Classics have, as the name suggests, been designed to tackle the road conditions commonly found in the spring races. They boast many of the features found in the tubular version that is used by Trek Segafredo for those very races. In fact, this is exactly the same tyre, with the only difference being that it isn't sewn around an inner tube!

In fact, the tyres are also very similar to the regular R4, with the difference here found in the file tread pattern used on the Classics rather than the slick rubber of the regular R4.

Installing the tyres is a little more involved than a standard clincher as these arrive completely flat. I picked up the trick of mounting without the inner tube and then leaving overnight. It works well and makes putting in the inner tube, especially a latex one, so much easier as you've got just enough shape to work with.

Bontrager R4 Classics Hard-Case Lite Road Tyre

Once installed, the wide tread sits bang on 28mm on my Fulcrum Speed 40C wheels. They're not the widest rims, so I wouldn't be surprised to find these nudging 30mm on a wider rim.

Out on the road, these are simply beautiful to ride, with the supple casing and wide profile soaking up lots of road buzz. Throw these into a corner and the rounded profile results in loads of grip and zero skittishness.

The tyres have been really well made and spin perfectly straight when mounted. Handmade tyres like this can be a little wonky sometimes, so it's good to see none of that present with the R4 Classics.

Even though it's a larger tyre with a bit of a tread, this isn't a slow tyre. In fact, this would be a brilliant summer race tyre for larger riders and crit racers looking for maximum grip on tight city centre courses.

Bontrager has used its Hard-Case Lite puncture protection, but these are still a supple tyre, so try to avoid that broken glass.

> Buyer's Guide: 18 of the best tyres to keep you cycling through winter

I personally love the look of tan wall tyres on my bike but I would urge caution. These will stain with regular use in the rain. If left to go bad, they'll eventually develop rot in the casing, which can be very dangerous. That is, however, just the trade-off with tyres like this.

So, how do these stack up against similar options? Earlier in the year, I was testing Challenge's Strada Open Tubular (£54) which are very similar in construction. Both have a 320tpi casing, both get a file tread pattern and both cost about the same. The R4 Classics are a little heavier at 284g, but you're getting a 28mm tyre, 3mm wider than the Strada, which makes them perfect for larger riders on poor road surfaces.

If you're a fan of high-end tyres then you won't be disappointed with these. The R4 Classics are supple, roll well and give you great grip on dodgy corners: an excellent choice for larger riders or those wanting 28mm rubber.


Supple, fast and very pretty – expensive for some, worth it for me

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Make and model: Bontrager R4 Classics Hard-Case Lite Road Tyre

Size tested: 700 x 28

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?

From Bontrager: "A fast-rolling road race tyre for when traction and confidence matter most. A high grip tread and compound performs in wet and dry conditions"

They roll really nicely and grip very well indeed.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

From Bontrager:

Casing - 320 TPI casing

Compound - High grip tread and compound

Puncture Protection - Hard-Case Lite

Rate the product for quality of construction:

With handmade tyres, there can be slight wobbles in the line of the tread. These are perfectly straight when mounted up, showing top quality construction.

Rate the product for performance:

This is one of the best bigger road race tyres I've used. You get fast rolling speeds with brilliant comfort and excellent grip. That's exactly what having wider tyres on a race bike is all about.

Rate the product for durability:

They have lasted very well, especially the rear, which usually shows signs of wear. Use these in dry conditions and they'll easily last a full season. Run them in the rain too much without caring for them and you might find that they don't last so well...

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)

Weight is okay for a 28mm tyre like this. That said, it's not really the point of the tyre.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)

The wide profile and supple casing mean you can happily run these a little lower than usual and be very comfortable.

Rate the product for value:

They're expensive for sure, but for many people they will be worth the cash.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Really well. Take these down a surface-dressed back lane and they're noticeably less jumpy than a standard tyre. These will be excellent for larger riders.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The general feel of riding these tyres is brilliant. They're fast, grippy and comfortable on poor roads.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

It's a shame that such a nice tyre can be spoiled by a few rainy rides. Probably best to save these for dry days. You could Aquaseal them or coat them in polyurethane, but only if you know you'll be using them repeatedly in the rain.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

They're 99p more than the excellent Challenge Strada tyres that I tested earlier this year. Both do a fabulous job, but I'd suggest you go for the R4s if you're a bigger rider.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? As I'm not that big, I'd have the standard R4 in a 25mm version.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I loved riding these tyres. They get points for being supple, well made, grippy and fast. I've dropped them half a mark as they're one of the most expensive clinchers around, and they won't stay fresh in poor weather.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 24  Height: 177cm  Weight: 62kg

I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 5-10 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!

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