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Bontrager R3 Tubeless Ready



Versatile and comfortable road tyres – and an excellent introduction to tubeless

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 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.

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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.

> Read our guide to road cycling tyres

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.

> Reasons to go tubeless…

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 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?

26mm section

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

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)

Delightful blend of performance and ride comfort in my experience. However, watch Bontrager's YouTube video beforehand – this will make mounting that bit easier.

Rate the product for value:

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...

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

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)

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Ad Hynkel | 7 years ago

I have had one of the older 25s on the back of my bike for 2 years now and apart from the odd slip of leaves going up a steep hill never felt any real lack of grip. I don't have one on the front though where it would be much more noticeable if there is an issue. Does the newer model have a different compound?
One other thing I have found with them is that seating the bead with several re-installations has got progressively more difficult, the tyre has been off the wheel a couple of times since I first installed it. Each time getting it to seat on the Stans rims has been trickier after the ease of the initial install. I am guessing that either the bead is stretching or the rubber between the bead and rim is compacting, giving a less of a seal while it sits down in the channel. Certainly it is getting pretty easy to get the bead over the rim now. After a bit of reading and experimenting I found that putting sealant in before putting the floor pump on it finally did the trick. In the past I have put this in after seating the bead. There was a bit of leakage, but nothing major.

stuartanderson | 7 years ago

I'm using these tyres as a tubeless set up on Reynolds Assault wheels and in the dry they are excellent. In the wet though, lethal, no grip what so ever!!

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