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Bontrager R3 TLR road tires get a price drop, updated tubeless sizing & easier set up

Bontrager R3 TLR Fast viewBontrager R3 tubeless are ready to roll fast.
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Bontrager’s R3 tire is the brand’s most extensive lineup, coming in sizes 23mm – 32mm to handle many different terrains. Now, they’re offering two additional TLR (TubeLess Ready) sizes and knocked down the price to $55.00 per tire – making them some of the more affordable tubeless road bike tires on the market.

They say they’re also easier than ever to install and setup tubeless thanks to a new bead and shape, with a very supple new casing, too…

Bontrager R3 TLR tire casing and design

Bontrager R3 TLR tread

The new R3 TLR (TubeLess Ready) tires are part of Bontrager’s do-it-all road bike tire lineup. Already available in a 700×32 tubeless, they’ve just added 700×25 and 700×28 sizes. These new use an improved Hardcase Lite puncture protection strip and get a very supple 170tpi casing.

Bontrager R3 TLR fresh new
The new Bontrager R3 TLR 28mm tires fresh out of the package ready for install.

The R3 line uses graduated tread, offering mildly more aggressive side “knobs” as tires get wider. Note the tiny nubs on the 28mm tire above, versus the indented dots on the 25mm below.

Bontrager R3 TLR 25mm fresh new
Bontrager R3 TLR 25mm – notice the inverse of tread from the 28mm

All R3 TLR tires use a Bontrager proprietary TR-Speed compound that feels fast on the road and offers a longer-lasting tread life than previous models.

Bontrager R3 tire actual weights & widths

Bontrager R3 TLR bead close up
Bontrager R3 TLR bead close up
Bontrager R3 size and weight comparison
Left to right: 700x25mm Bontrager R3 TLR – 700x28mm Bontrager R3 TLR – 700x28mm Bontrager R3 tube-type.

On our scales, the Bontrager R3 TLR 700x25mm tires came in 289g fresh out of the packaging, and the 700x28mm is a mere 11 grams heavier at 300g. For comparison, the tubed version of the Bontrager R3 weighs in at 236g, with a notably thinner casing.

Bontrager R3 TLR 28mm tire width
Bontrager R3 TLR 28mm tire width on Bontrager Aeolus wheels

Fully inflated on a set of Bontrager Aeolus Pro 37 wheels, the R3 700x28mm came in at 27.36mm. The Aeolus Pros have an internal width of 21mm and an outer of 28mm – giving the tire a nicely rounded silhouette.

Easy tubeless setup

Bontrager R3 TLR supple bead
Bontrager R3 TLR has a supple feel and is nearly flat out of the package.

Bontrager feels the best way to get more riders on tubeless tires is to eliminate the arduous setup barrier. If you haven’t gone to tubeless on the road yet, here’s the deal: pouring a bunch of sealant into a tire and tying to seat/seal it with an indoor pump is anything but easy, let alone with a hand pump on the side of the road. Bontrager’s complete TLR system of wheels, tires, rim strips, and sealant aims to close the gap between tubeless and road riders.

Bontrager R3 TLR center tread pre-install
Bontrager R3 TLR center tread pre-install

The new R3 TLR tire line employs a carbon bead that Bontrager says is stiffer and more resistant to movement. The carbon beads of the all-new R3 TLR stretch less than a traditional Kevlar bead, which let them design the overall tire bead diameter slightly larger relative to the rim for a better install experience. (I know, keep reading)

Since the beads hold its proper size without as much stretch, they say the tire still seals quickly and holds that seal with better performance at the higher pressures of 700x25mm and 700x28mm road tires. Indeed, they have a 115psi max rating.

Here’s our take: Technically, having a slightly larger tire bead diameter could be a little scary. But, first, we’re talking “slightly” and within norms. Second, Bontrager’s wheels and tires are optimized to work as a system with their snap-in rim inserts, which eliminate the need for tubeless tape but are also thicker than tubeless tape. Meaning, they likely take up that extra space to create a tight seal all around. Or you could just wrap a couple of extra layers of tape if you’re concerned.

R3 TLR tire first impressions

Bontrager R3 TLR tread close up
Bontrager R3 TLR 28mm tread close up

Out of the package, the R3 TLR feels different than the tubed version of the same tire. The bead is sturdy, but the casing of the tire is playable and supple to the touch. The TLR casing’s 170tpi thread count is higher than the tube-type version’s 120tpi – which puts the R3 up a notch in the overall road tire realm. That being said, the R3 boasts a hefty nylon puncture protective layer, but the trade-off will be worth it to most…weights are still competitive, even with that piece of mind.

Ride quality

Bontrager R3 TLR tread knobs

I went for the 28mm tires as I frequent more tar and chip road this time of year and am lured easily to gravel on my road rides. I ran lower pressure from the getgo than I did in the tubed version – as typical with most tubeless setups. With these, I found myself going even lower than I do with other road tubeless tires.

I found a sweet spot at 70/73psi (I know, the stated minimum pressure is 80psi… experiment at your own risk). The volume of the tire was enough to soak up the road, and if I hit a substantial crack, it offered protection for the rim. The R3s have a great feel at lower pressures, and the casing is robust. Taking sweeping turns, the R3’s didn’t squirm or bounce – they stayed solid and felt fast.

Bontrager R3 TLR side flag

I appreciate Bontrager opted for “knobs” on the larger tires (28mm-32mm), they can easily hold their own on the limestone. I have a set of tan wall R3 32mm tires and I use them gravel, road, and straight-up exploration – confident in the puncture protection and ride quality.

Tubeless setup

It’s warm now, and the tires mounted quickly and easily…the real benefit to this design will be in the freezing winter months. Many road tubeless tires rely on slightly smaller tire bead diameters to ensure an ultra-tight fit, which can make them difficult to install and even harder to remove.

I found this out on a mid-February ride, cracking all the tire levers in the group and still unable to get the bead off that new tubeless setup. Hopefully, that will never happen again, and Bontrager’s design should solve that particular problem.

If you’re looking to jump into the tubeless road game but have yet to do so – this could be the tire to push you over the edge. When you take all the tire’s performance and match it up against the price – the R3s are a solid deal. Plus, with the Unconditional Bontrager Guarantee, if you don’t like the tires – just take them back.

Learn more at Bontrager.com

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3 years ago

I love these tires. Near tubeless road tire on the market, I’ve tried them all and these are what I come back to over and over. As a shop mechanic installing many road tubeless tires almost daily these also setup the best, most others are inalterably tight and take 2 guys to stretch/Mount like the GP5000 TL or Schwalbe Pro One’s. Lloyd of guys in our ship won’t try them or recommend them because of the brand name they just assume others are better but until you try them you won’t know. At the current msrp they are less expensive than most top tier non-tubeless tires.

3 years ago
Reply to  dustin

Crap sorry for the terrible auto corrections above… No edit function on here

3 years ago

Hello dustin,
Any problems using these tires with “non” Bontrager wheels? (Reserve DT370 IW=21mm for example or similar)

Joe Cruz
Joe Cruz
2 years ago

I installed these tires in January of 2021. Over the past year I put over 2200 miles on the roads and trails of Phoenix, notorious for thorns (goat heads), glass and really rough chip seal pavement. After each ride I do a quick inspection, 7 punctures during the year but not a single flat. Every 6 months I pop off the tire, clean out the old gunk and replace with fresh sealant. An easy task compared with the GP 5000’s I was riding on. A great tire. The only issue is, they are tough to find.

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