I rode the previous Bontrager R3’s tubed and tubeless with great success. They felt supple and rolled well. For 2019, Bontrager has completely revamped their R3 Hard-case Lite tire line with 23, 25, 28 and 32mm models. With the 25 and 28mm tires on test this spring, let’s see how the improvements worked out. (Note: View our R3 Hard-Case Lite 32mm TLR review.)
Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite Tire 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
- Fast-rolling, lightly-treaded design adds traction and confidence
- Low rolling resistance and excellent cornering grip
- Tread styling gets more aggressive as size increases to better suit intended use
- Weight: 215 grams (25mm) / 230 grams (28mm)
- Width: 25mm and 27.8mm on Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3’s
- Tread thickness: 3.6mm (at center)
- MSRP: $54.99 (23-28mm)
An R3 for all the roadies
Whether you still have a bike with limited clearance or if you have a gravel bike and are looking for an all-day road tire, the new Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite tires have you covered. As widths increase, tread patterns change from inward dimpled shoulders to outward threads for increased traction over more terrain.
Installation of both the 25 and 28mm versions were a breeze. I’ve got the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3 wheelset, which served as the perfect testing whips for these tires. The beads stretch easily on the rims without tools — just the usual tricks. In my testing, the Zipp wheel/tire combo is the easiest install and the Bontrager wheel/tire combo is about the same. Removal is a little more difficult, but also tool-free. I rode the 25mm tires at 90/95 psi and the 28mm at 80/85 psi for my 170 lb. rider weight.
I’ll note that these tires are directional. I can’t find much visual difference in each direction, but there is a direction arrow. That arrow proved difficult to find, however. Hunt for it… it’s there.
I’ll start with the 25mm R3’s. With an inward-dimple pattern and seemingly-narrow width, these are made for speed. It’s funny how 25mm tires feel narrow these days and especially so aboard the Trek Emonda SLR Disc with it’s generous tire clearance. At 90/95 psi, these ride a little harsh, but do have excellent cornering traction. I did venture onto some gravel and ended up flatting — doh. Upon inspection, I couldn’t really identify the exact cause, but it looked like a pinch flat. If your frame has limited clearance, the 25mm tires do roll fast and corner well.
I swapped out the 25’s for a set of 28’s for a better all-around ride. Treads are different, but the same Hard-Case Lite construction is employed throughout. I confidently rolled over glass and other debris without worry.
The 28’s roll just as fast as the 25’s in the lab, but in the wild, they roll faster. Again, wider tires and lower pressures will typically win every time. I felt more comfortable aboard the 28’s and the ride was noticeably-smoother. The results were faster times on the same segments — uphill and down.
Tire manufacturers are all across the board on their sizing, so it’s honestly surprising to see these tires measuring exactly and slightly under their stated sizes. Most of the time, tires measure larger than their stated width — particularly on a 19.5mm internal width rim. If you know your frame’s clearance, you can pretty reliably stay within it with this tire/rim combo. Wet traction was tested on both and I didn’t have any hesitation on either set. It was good and reliable.
While the Hard-Case Lite construction does protect straight-on debris, the sidewalls are just as susceptible as any other lightweight tire on the market. And, unfortunately, my rear tire suffered an untimely death due to a sidewall puncture. I’ve had that happen to almost every tire at some point in its life, I just hoped for a few more miles. Sad panda.
- Reliable, all-weather traction
- Roll well (28’s are faster and more comfortable in my tests)
- Tool-free install/uninstall
- Width-specific, optimized tread patterns
- Straight-on tread protection with Nylon105 insert
- 28’s don’t measure out to 28mm on 19.5mm rims
- Only get 25’s if clearance prevents 28’s from fitting
- Direction arrow is hard to find
The Bottom Line: Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite Tires
Bontrager’s latest top-of-the-line racing tires are built for speed and reliability for everyday use. The 23/25mm widths are only options if your frame won’t fit 28’s in my book. Traction has been reliable and rolling speed feels on par with other comparable tires.
Buy Now: Available at Bontrager.com or Your Local Dealer
Thanks for this review. Why a french flag on this american tires ? Are they made in France (by Hutchinson like Pirelli P-Zero Vélo ?) ?
The tires are not made in France, but France is well-known for cycling. Guessing they are just doing that to add a little flare to the tires.
I do not find a directional arrow on my R3 tire. Why didn’t he just tell us where the arrow is if it is so hard to find? I am very suspicious he made this up. i am looking forward to his reply.
my apologies. the direction arrow is on the drive-side sidewall, not on the other side that i initially only looked at. sorry.
Yup… it’s quite hidden, as I stated. Right on the bead almost and only on one side of the tire about 1/4 tire circumference from the sidewall label. Again, super-hidden and hard to find. Glad you found it.
Thanks for your review of these new 2019 Bontrager R3 tyres. It is probably the most in-depth available. I just bought one 28mm to test my frame clearance (and for the tread pattern, honestly). Sadly you’re right, they measure quite a bit narrow – 26mm at 100psi on my Fulcrum 5 LG rim 20.5×700 (17mm internal). In fact, that’s 0.5mm narrower than (or virtually the same as, give or take) my Continental GP4000s2 25mm at 60psi! Here’s hoping they stretch or I’ll be using their 30 day unconditional guarantee. It’s now got me thinking how the 32mm versions measure up or I should look at other brands.
Yeah, they do measure pretty narrow. The 32’s are fantastic if you want a fast-rolling tubeless tire:
They measure out pretty wide (34.6mm) on the Aeolus Pro 3V wheels with 25mm internal width. Great tires that I’ve been pushing hard over the past couple of months on long climbs, flats and fast descents.
I want to know if the R3 are getting larger after 3000-4000km like many tyres in the market the do like continental tyres.
Thanks for your comment, Alex. I’m not sure I can speak to that. I used these for a few hundred miles only. Others may be able to chime in. Sorry I couldn’t help you out!
Thanks for the review. I put a pair of the 28 R3`s on my Trek Domane with bontrager paradigm elite tlr wheelset. My 28 measured 28.31mm on 19.5 internal wheels. After two 30 mile rides at 80 psi 160lb rider weight on smooth road I had a slow leak on rear tire. Same as your experience. Looked like a pinch flat though I dont recall running over and bumps or rocks.
Now I’m bummed,
I let my local dealer talk me into changing my Nimbus Flak Jacket “28s” for a set of these R3s in “25s.” Now I’m wishing maybe I had stayed with size 28.
If you want to get the R3’s in a 28mm size, you should be able to return them:
I agree with you on the 25’s… they are narrow. The 28’s are a great tire that’s fast and grippy. Take them back to your Trek Dealer and get the 28’s.
Great review but I am confused about the recommended tire pressures. It’s stated that zipp wheels are fines but my 303s recommended a 57/61 psi pressure for my weight, but Bontrager says the R3 tire should be inflated to 90 = 125psi, which seems outrageously high for a tubeless tire. Does this mean zipps are really not compatible?
These tires are not tubeless, so therefore are not recommended for those wheels. You should only be using tubeless tires on your Zipp wheels and therefore can run those lower pressures.
You can get the Bontrager R3 in tubeless and I LOVE them:
In fact, when given the choice, these are the tubeless tires I run most often.
The Trek website shows great reviews for the R3s and one that stands out is mileage longevity, many of which are stating 5k+ miles. After just 1k miles, I began getting flats often, 3 during my last Century alone and the last one was a pinch flat as i entered the finish line parking lot. The 2 flats during the Century showed no reasoning of flatting on deep inspection of the tire. I did start noticing a squared off strip on the riding surface of the tire at about 700 miles. I changed the tire out after the Century and curiosity got the best of me what my center thickness was and it measured 1.54mm with the thickest part at 1.81mm. The 700x25c tires do roll great, corner well, and are quite fast on my Aeolus Pro 37 wheels and I’m at around 90/95 psi. But I’m not impressed with their longevity and flat protection, especially on my rear tire as the fromt tire will likely reach a couple thousand miles by their current appearance. I’ve tried different type tubes to see if I could get past the flats to include expensive TPU tubes that suffered the same fate. Granted, I’m 220 pounds, ride fast pace on rough roads and hills often so there’s that to consider. I’m considering a 28c for my next tire and will likely return to GP5K or I’ve also thought of trying out the P-Zero. I’m just concerned on mounting the Contis on the Aeolus as I’ve heard horror stories on fitting them on. Thoughts? Thanks.
Sorry that the longevity and flat protection hasn’t proven to be up to snuff. Ready to go tubeless maybe? It has some trade-offs too, but overall I don’t mind the maintenance compared to tubes.
I haven’t had issues fitting a variety of tires on the Aeolus Pro 37 or 51’s. However, I haven’t mounted the GP5000’s. That being said, GP5000’s are pretty much the gold standard, so you can’t go wrong. P-Zero’s have been great for me too. I can mount them tool-free. But, again, I’m riding tubeless and don’t have to pull the tires on/off very often.