32’s are the new 28’s — that’s what I say. And, I’m glad that Bontrager agrees. With the launch of their new R3 lineup, they do offer non-tubeless 23/25/28c flavors, but once it gets up to the R3 32c’s, they are tubeless and are ready for year-round road and light gravel duty on today’s disc brake road and gravel bikes.
Bontrager R3 32c Hard-Case Lite TLR Tires Features:
- Designed for speed, traction, and durability while racing and road riding
- Proprietary TR-Speed compound provides confident, fast-rolling performance
- Hard-Case Lite with improved Nylon105 beaker belt provides lightweight puncture protection, great ride feel, and extra durability
- Tubeless Ready (TLR) design allows for easy tubeless setup and added puncture protection
- Fast-rolling, lightly-treaded design adds traction and confidence
- Low rolling resistance and excellent cornering grip
- Use with Bontrager TLR wheels, sealant, and rim strips for a complete tubeless system designed and tested to work together
- Weight: 315 grams (actual)
- MSRP: $64.99
R3 32c’s are wide, smooth and fast
Over the past few years, we’ve collectively turned conventional wisdom on its head. Back in the day, we would all pump our 23c clinchers to 110-120 psi and assume that would deliver the lowest rolling resistance and speed possible. With a teeth-rattling ride quality, we all soldiered on because it was supposed to be fast. Over time and with extensive research, we have collectively realized that wider tires at lower pressures are often faster than narrower, high-pressure tires. And, they are always more comfortable and grippier.
Relying on industry research and my personal confirmation on local routes, I’m here to add an additional witness to this truth — wider tires at lower pressures are just as fast or faster than the narrow/hard tires of yesteryear. Not only are 28-32c tires faster, but (particularly when set up tubeless), they are also substantially more comfortable than narrow tires. This combination of speed and comfort is delivered with the new Bontrager R3 32 TLR tires.
With the rise of disc brakes on road and gravel bikes, each of us should shout for joy with the current crop of wide, tubeless tires for road duty. And, the new Bontrager R3 32c TLR tires have convinced me that it’s truly time to pitch any 23-28c tires into the trash and go bigger. Again, you may have a frame that can’t fit larger tires. If so, check out the new Bontrager R3’s in narrower widths, but if your frame can accept wider tires, it’s time to go big.
Not all road wheelsets are tubeless-ready, but most modern ones are. I loaded up the R3 32c’s to the new Bontrager Aeolus PRO 3V road/gravel wheels that feature a wide, 25mm inner width. When seated up around 60 psi., these tires measure out to a plump 34.6mm. And, after riding 47c 650b tires much of the summer, these tires — even at those widths — seem plenty narrow.
The R3’s TLR casing is sturdy and capable of enduring the demands of year-round use. But, they are also easy to install/uninstall without tools. And, at 315 grams, they aren’t all that much heavier than the lightest 28c tires (170 grams per set above the R3 28’s). When you trade out tubes for tubeless sealant, that weight difference is even less.
As an ultimate test of rolling resistance and speed, I loaded up the R3 32c’s and tackled Utah’s Alpine Loop. This 2600 ft. climb takes me about an hour and is commonly featured in the Tour of Utah. With these tires loaded on an Open UPPER, I completed the full climb in 1:01:20. Just a week prior, I completed that same ascent in 1:01:00 aboard the 2020 Specialized Venge Pro. 20 seconds is minuscule when you consider that the Venge is one of the fastest bikes I’ve ever ridden.
When descending from that climb, these wide tires hook up beyond imagination and provide such confidence that they make new descents instantly-comfortable. Swooping back-and-forth down sinuous roads, the R3 32c’s hook up with panache. And, just around town, the all-weather traction remains superb on even the roughest roads and conditions.
Going tubeless is the only way I prefer to roll these days. And, with it now being goat head season (nasty thorns we get here in Utah), it’s the only way to ride. The new Hard-Case Lite casing and Nylon105 belt has already thwarted would-be perpetrators. I pulled a goat head out from the body of the tire and the nylon belt had stopped it from penetrating further into the tire. While sealant would have closed the hole, it’s nice to know that the protective belt did its job.
As an added bonus with these tires, you can confidently roll into light-duty gravel situations with confidence. Smooth gravel is a breeze and with low pressures, grip is excellent. The sidewalls have fared well so far without much sign of wear — even from sharp gravel.
NOTE: I’m 5’11” and 170 lbs. I typically set these up 60 psi up front and 65 psi in the rear.
- Tool-free install
- Seat up in a jiffy
- Roll fast on flats and climbs
- Minimal weight penalty
- Cornering traction is awesome
- Head into smooth gravel with confidence
- Solid flat protection
- For increased compatibility with some disc road frames, I wish Bontrager would make these in a 30c width
The Bottom Line: Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR 32c Tires
My assortment of 25-28c tires are heading to eBay. It’s time for modern-width tubeless road tires to take over, like the R3 32’s. The new R3’s are among the best tubeless road tires on the market and feature an excellent tread pattern for low rolling-resistance and all-season cornering traction. Don’t worry yourself over a little extra weight — all tubeless tires are a touch heavier than their clincher counterparts. It’s all good and well worth the reliable performance you’ll get.