Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

You may remember Bontrager first unveiled their own branded tubeless road tire back in 2010. At the time, I was working at a Trek dealer, and the tires were very hard to come by – really the only way we were able to get a pair was on a Project One model that was built with Ultegra tubeless wheels. It remained that way for awhile, and all of a sudden the tires disappeared with little explanation. It turns out that the tires were built with another company’s licensed tubeless technology, and after a string of quality issues that plagued the tires, Bontrager pulled the plug until they could design a tubeless tire and wheel system that lived up to their standards.

Enter the new Bontrager TLR road wheel system that was introduced last summer. Built as a system, Bontrager now offers tubeless read wheels in Race, Race Lite, and Race X Lite trims, as well as R2 and R3 level Tubeless Ready road tires in 23 and 25mm that are all up to Bontrager’s standards for quality and performance. Using Bontrager’s excellent TLR system (which happens to be one of my favorites), the tubeless ready connotation means these tires must be run with sealant in order to be tubeless – for which Bontrager conveniently has an all new amonia free TLR sealant to replace Super Juice.

At first glance the new TLR road system looks like it could be a big step forward in the world of road tubeless. Check it out in depth, next.

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

We were sent the US-assembled Race X Lite wheels to review which retail for $1000, but it’s exciting to know that much of the same is available all the way down to the Race Lite and Race wheels which are quite a bit less expensive at $650 and $500 respectively. All of the wheels can be run with standard tube tires, or tubeless with the TLR system – though this is a bit different than some of the other tubeless road wheels on the market. You see, many of Trek’s bikes for 2013 include these very wheels with regular tubes and tires for their stock specifications. Thanks to the design of the TLR rim strips, when you are using these wheels for tubes, there is very little weight penalty, or difficulty in installing regular tires – they’re just like regular road wheels. However, throw in the Bontrager TLR upgrade kit (more on that later), and all of a sudden you have a tubeless road set up. The whole idea seems to be as close as you can get to a best-of-both-worlds type situation.

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

Like other high end Bontrager wheels, the Bontrager designed hubs on the RXLs feature DT Swiss 240 star ratchet internals, with straight pull nail head spokes. 18 DT 14/17g bladed spokes hold the front wheel together, while 24 spokes grace the rear wheel with stacked drive side lacing for increased stiffness and power transfer. All spokes are anchored to the 23mm wide rims with Alpina locking alloy nipples. Each rim features what Bontrager calls locally reinforced spoke nodes which beef up the rim where the spoke attaches while shaving weight between each spoke. Clearly marked on the freehub is the wheel’s 11 speed compatibility, and a spacer is included with the wheels in order to run 10 speed cassettes. A separate Campagnolo compatible freehub is available through Bontrager, PN 276362. To replace the freehub or to work on the hub, the end caps simply pull apart with your hands.

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

As mentioned, there are two ways to go tubeless with the new wheels and tires. If you bought a Trek bike that was equipped with compatible Race, Race Lite, or Race X Lite wheels, Bontrager has a convenient TLR upgrade kit that includes everything you need to make the switch – tires, rim strips, valve stems, sealant, even a valve core removal tool. Currently the kit seems to be only offered with 700×23 R3 TLR tires though, so if you’re wanting the 25s you’ll have to buy them separately. If you’re buying the wheels as an aftermarket upgrade, replacement wheelsets include the rim strips, valve stems, and internal cam skewers, meaning all you have to add are the tires and the sealant.

Bontrager TLR road tires are offered in R3 and R2 models, for $79.99 and $59.99 a piece. The biggest difference between the two looks to be 120tpi vs 60tpi respectively, with both tires featuring Bontrager’s Hard-Case Lite puncture resistance. Even with the Hard-Case lite belt, our R3 700×23 tires are impressively lite at 260g, though the 25mm tire might be the bigger surprise at 270g! That makes both of these tires among the lightest available all at fairly reasonable prices.

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

To go in the tires, Bontrager is offering their all new TLR sealant. On paper, the new sealant looks to be a winner due to its amonia-free formula, wide effective temperature range, and ability to seal up to 1/4″ punctures. It’s also made in the USA, and comparatively to some other sealants, requires less per tire to be effective. Bontrager reccomends little as .8oz. (25ml) for 700c, 1.6oz. (47ml) for 26? and 1.7oz (51ml) for 29? tires. The lower pictures shows the mica particulate that is suspended in the fluid to help plug larger holes (I had to let it settle to the bottom to photograph it). While a syringe would certainly be the easiest way to get the sealant into the valves, the bottle does include a length of hose that if you’re careful, you can attach to the spout of the bottle and valve and inject it directly from the bottle into the rim – though this method is more difficult to measure how much sealant you’re injecting. If setting up the RXL’s was any indication, the new sealant works great, as it instantly sealed the rim/tire junction that was leaking quite a bit of air without sealant with the recommended 25ml per tire.

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

Throughout the history of road tubeless, there has always been one draw back that seemed to turn early adopters off – installation and removal of the tires, or more appropriately, not being able to remove the tires after a flat. It can be a legitimate issue, if you’re unfortunate enough to get a very large puncture that isn’t able to be sealed (think big nail through the tire, or similar), you need to be able to remove the tire, boot it, and install a tube to get on your way. Many tubeless road tires use a carbon bead that can be extremely tight, the Bontragers on the other hand use a high modulus Kevlar bead that seems to be quite a bit easier to install and remove.

I will say the very first time you install the tire, it will be tight. You will have to use tools, so be careful that you don’t damage the tire or the rim. However, once the tires are installed and inflate, they stretch out just enough that you will be able to install them without tools in the future, and remove them with no more difficulty than many non tubeless road tires with the use of two standard tire levers.

Pro Tip: When you are installing the rim strip you will want to use the valve core to hold the strip in place while you snap the strip into the rim. This will guarantee that the valve hole on the strip lines up with the valve hole in the rim once it’s installed – it is very hard to move once in place. Most people know this, the important step is to remove the valve core once the strip is firmly in place, before trying to install the tire. Since the valve core has a big rubber block on the end, it prevents the bead of the tire from sitting in the center channel of the rim, decreasing the amount of slack you have when installing the tire. So remove the valve, install one side of the tire, then re-install the valve and install the other side of the tire. This makes it much easier to install the tire the first time around, and will lead to fewer curse words and thrown tools in the process.

Just in: Bontrager Race X Lite TLR Road Wheels with R3 TLR Tires

On our scales the wheels came in at 810 and 660g for the rear and front, for a total weight of 1470, 10g less than claimed. Completely set up with Tires, strips, valves and sealant the weight for the entire system is 2180g with 25mm tires. As mentioned, setting the wheels up tubeless was a breeze, and after the initial inflation they have held the same pressure for days – hopefully a sign of good things to come. Inflation of the tires can be done with a simple floor pump or an air compressor if you have access to one. Once I unearth some aluminum road brake pads from the “archives” we’ll be giving these wheels the full review.





  1. I have been running their RL TLR wheels with the R3 tubeless tires for a while now and they are quite impressive. They were even my backup/training cx wheels in the off season and performed flawlessly there too. Well done Bontrager, well done

  2. I am a little confused by the “upgrade kit” and inclusion of rim strips with the tires.
    I have a set of tubeless ready wheels form another manufacturer. I could just buy the R3 TLR tires and install them with no strips needed, right?

    • @jdo, no the upgrade kit is only for compatible Bontrager wheels. The upgrade kit is for those who, for example, bought a Madone with Race Lite wheels that are sold with non-tubeless tires and tubes. All that person needs to run tubeless then would be to purchase the upgrade kit.

  3. I feel like this wheel has the potential to be a ksyrium killer.

    Wider rim, great hub internals, and same weight, with tubeless compatibility now (I’ve been running my ksyriums tubeless with a set of hutchinsons for approx 2k miles with no issues). This wheel has the potential to be the ultimate training/roubaix style wheelset.

  4. My shop’s Trek rep just did his spring visit, and we discussed these wheels. He recommended 2oz of sealant per wheel, which is happily available in a 1 liter bottle.

  5. At first I couldn’t find the tires on Bontrager’s website, but the R2 TLR and R3 TLR are listed under Tubeless Ready Road. (They have R2 and R3 tires that are not the TLR ones.)

    They also have a video:

    700 x 28C pleaseeeeeeeeeee.

  6. Wait, setup was easy for you? We have had the damnedest time setting up our RXL TLR wheels. The Bontrager sealant didn’t work for shit so we ended up using Caffelatex, and the tires were so hard to get on the rim that it took 4 hands.

  7. Just installed a set of 25C R3 TLR tires on my Ksyriums. These had to be the toughest tires I’ve ever put on, a lot harder than the three pair of Hutchinsons that I had run before on the same wheels. First ride is tomorrow, we’ll see how well they perform.

  8. I have been riding the RXL TLR R3 25,s on my Project One Domane since Novermber and I love them. I just wish Conti would make a tubeless 25 GP4000s.

  9. Has anyone else had problems resealing these tires (sorry, american)? The first time we set these up tubeless it was easy. After a couple of months we went to clean up and change the sealant and we could not get them to reseat. We removed the core and used an air compressor with both a standard chuck and a blower for max airflow and it just blows out the sealant. Used soapy water as well.

    I did notice that the rim strip was caving into the drillouts in the rims, especially on the drillout closest to the bead ( because of the asymmetrical rim). This caused a dimple right under the bead lock groove. Also the bead of the tire seems to have stretched and is not making a good enough seal with the rim strip when inflating. Maybe this is why other companies us Carbon beads? Anything I’m not thinking of?

  10. Bazookasean, I had a similar issue and have a tip for you. Pinch the tire all the way around the circumference to be sure both beads are in the trough in the middle of the rim. If they are not then the initial seal required to drive the beads of the tire into the beads of the rim will not happen and air will just continually flow out of whatever gaps are there.

  11. for those of you asking for 28c versions of these tires: the wider bead seating of a tubeless tire results in a more circular inflation of the tire. I have found the 23’s and 25’s to measure 25mm and 27-8mm at the widest points respectively. I would be worried producing a 28c tire because the wider beat seat measurement might result in an actual 30c, which may result in brake clearance issues.

  12. After personally – as a mechanic at a Trek dealer – servicing warranty after warranty on Bontrager wheels in years past, you could not pay me to risk my neck on a pair of Trek-branded wheels ever again.

    Broken flanges, cracking rims after less than 500 miles with alarming consistency, and they want $1,000 for these things? For that much you can have a wheel builder lace a pair of DT 240s into Velocity A23’s and have a tubeless-ready wheelset (and pick your color and spoke count) that you can actually get rims for when it’s time for a rebuild.

    At least they look nice, which is what matters, right?

  13. Chainwhipped,

    I agree. Also worked for years selling Trek and saw the same issues. Overrated garbage, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. Funny you should say that Chainwhipped, I worked at Trek dealer too and youre right. there were a lot of warranty wheels. interesting though, I probably saw just as many broken A23 that were cracked at the rim. At least bontrager stands behind their stuff and replaces it

  15. As above comments on bontrager wheels, the my 2008 madone came with race lights, the rear hub is a piece of sh*t, constantly needed retightening, bearings needed replacing after about 5000k. After that, back to loosening up after every ride. Got sick of getting them fixed and gave up on them, and would never buy bontrager cr*p as a result.

  16. Weren’t the problems primarily in the paired spoke wheels and the early Joytech hubbed ones? Didn’t they go back to DT internals?

  17. I have a new pair of TLR Race wheels that I’m still riding with tubes. Any idea if I could just throw in two layers of Stan’s tape and a Stan’s valve with my Hutch tires (like I did with my Alpha 340s)? I haven’t sprung for the Bonti rim strips/valves yet, and I’m wondering if I can save myself $30 by using stuff I already have laying around the garage. Has anybody tried this?

  18. Bazookasean – Yes, I’ve definitely had issues with resealing these tires whenever mounting, or remounting a tire (used or new).

    I saw that Dave mentioned pinching the tire all the way around to get the bead in the trough. I’ll have to try that and see if that will work for me as I’ve had issues just like you where I could not get a tire to bead even when using a compressor. Here’s what I have learned.

    – A tire will seat beautifully if you install a new rimstrip
    – A tire will seat beautifully if you remove the old rimstrip and let it sit over night to relax
    – If you choose to remove the rimstrip you need to be VERY careful otherwise you will ruin it
    – To remove a rimstrip so that it can be used again you need to use a small screwdriver or similar tool and very carefully lift the rimstrip at the valve hole so that you can get another thin screwdriver under the rimstrip (perpendicular so that the screwdriver sits on both rim flanges at a 90 degree angle to the rim). Once you have the screwdriver under the rimstrip you can start to very slowly work the screwdriver (slide it) around the rim while gently nudging the rimstrip off to the side. You need to do this slowly and not get too great of an angle between the rimstrip and the rim in order to ensure that you don’t get large ripples on the edge of the rimstrip that are too large for it to work/seal upon the next installation.

    If you work the rimstrip off slowly you will probably see some small ripples on the very edge of the strip but after you let it sit over night the strip will relax some and upon installation you will hardly notice them and the tire will seal just fine.

    As I said, either a new rimstrip or this procedure has resulted in an immediate beading of a tire for me. If you keep a couple of spare rimstrips around you can just put on one of your spares, remove the one that is on the rim and let that one relax and use it the next time.



  19. Hey Zach, great review. It’s good to know that the kevlar bead loosens up a bit after bean installed. When I first tried to get the second bead over the Race Lite TLR’s I was testing, I finally gave up and took them to the shop – even they had a tough time. I’ll make sure to repeat the process before sending them back and will update the review if I see different results. Thanks and for writing yours.

    Here is my full review of the Race Lite TLR wheelset and R3 tires if you have time to have a read: http://tubelessready.blogspot.com/2013/07/review-bontrager-race-lite-tlr-wheelset.html

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