The Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite is much faster than I've come to expect from such a tyre – an all-weather, reflective urban thing – and extremely puncture resistant. Even at higher pressures they give a compliant, rewarding ride.
Bontrager gives the impression the Hard-Case Lite has unicorn qualities – puncture protection without unnecessary weight – and it basically means the aramid/nylon protection only covers the tread of the tyre. That makes it lighter than the 'regular' Hard-Case, which has protection from bead to bead.
However, both types get the TR Endure rubber compound and a reinforced chafer strip to protect the sidewall and bead. The reflective sidewalls are a welcome feature for a model designed for year-round service, too.
Our 32mm test pair prove a decent default for general riding, but it's also available in 25, 28 and 38mm widths. Ours blew up very accurately on a 24mm rim, and getting them on and off proves easy.
The ride quality certainly lives up to the hype. They accelerate very quickly and are relatively effortless to keep on the boil. Even at higher pressures, I've never found the Bontrager skittish, or willing to step offline.
They are super compliant and much of my riding involves dark, lightly-trafficked lanes characterised by washboard tarmac and rim-wrecking holes. The AW3 Hard-Case Lite's responsive persona means the latter are effortlessly swerved even at speed.
More to the point, they iron out the washboard sections, gliding through with no loss of momentum. This has helped me with fatigue around the shoulders, arms and wrists on longer outings.
I haven't noticed any sluggishness on the climbs, and momentum is crucial with a fixed gear in the mid-high 70s.
Wet, early-season roads are perfect for testing tyres. The AW3s never missed a beat, allowing me to blast along confident and happy. Bovine dung and similarly slippery stuff hasn't presented any unwelcome surprises either.
One pinched tube aside, I've suffered no flats even on some terrible test roads. Shards of glass, thorns and similar sharps are more common than might be expected, and I resisted the temptation to sweep the casings for several rides. Even so, they've suffered no cuts or marks to date.
Specialized's All Condition Aramadillo Elite is a great 120tpi option and also £45 (at 2021 prices), but while quick, I found the 23mm a little harsh. The range goes up to 32mm, though.
The Kenda Kwick Journey KS Plus Tyre also gives a slightly harsher ride than the Bontrager, and also only has protection under the tread, but is fifteen quid cheaper at £30.
The Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite Reflective Road Tyre is an exciting and dependable tyre with excellent performance in most conditions. The broad choice of sizes extends its appeal beyond audax and winter training bikes, too.
Quick, compliant and very reliable tyre for general road duties
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite Reflective Road Tyre
Size tested: 700x32c
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 this is: "A lightweight aramid nylon weave sub-tread layer provides lively tyre-feel and leading puncture protection."
It's a quick, engaging and grippy tyre for general road duties and maybe some light touring.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Long-lasting TR-Endure rubber compound for thousands of miles of confident rides
- Smooth-rolling, lightly treaded design with siping channels for all-weather traction
- Reinforced chafer strip for additional sidewall and bead protection
Seem very solid, with little evidence of wear or indeed a flat, 400 miles down the line.
Do exactly as they promise in the blurb.
Light despite reassuringly solidity.
I've been surprised and moreover, impressed by their compliance along rougher road surfaces.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These deliver on their promises. Responsive and exciting, they have inspired confidence wet or dry and thus far, I am yet to succumb to a flat despite some concerted efforts hustling through thorns.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Swift, engaging and compliant ride quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Specialized's All Condition Aramadillo Elite is a great 120tpi option and also £45 (at 2021 prices), but while quick, I found the 23mm a little harsh. The range goes up to 32mm, though. The Kenda Kwick Journey KS Plus Tyre also gives a slightly harsher ride than the Bontrager, and also only has protection under the tread, but is fifteen quid cheaper at £30.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
These are very good at what they set out to do, and despite their robust casing and compound they're also pretty light, compliant and grippy. They're very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb 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, mtb,
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)