During the three years Bontrager’s engineers spent developing the new R3 Hard-Case Lite tyre range, they created a completely new testing protocol. They replaced the traditional rotating steel drum with a customisable flat, rolling surface that can imitate every possible road surface.
Experimentation with tyre widths, tread patterns, puncture protection and rubber compounds proved that larger volume road and gravel tyres definitely roll faster and sometimes by over 10 per cent in one direction than in another.
This resulted in improved Hard-Case Lite puncture protection from the Nylon 105 breaker belt and a new TR-Speed rubber compound, which is claimed to roll 7 per cent faster than the previous R3 tyre, and last almost twice as long.
Central to the R3 is its directional 120 TPI casing, topped with TR-Speed 62a durometer rubber. It feels extremely light for a 32mm tyre, with supple sidewalls and a tread layer that’s of consistent thickness.
My tyres weighed just 307g and 316g, well below their claimed 340g, and much lighter than some highly rated 28mm tubeless tyres.
The tread is split into three 12mm-wide bands, with six parallel bands of tiny raised tread blocks. The central one is slick and the shoulders contain six rows of tread blocks. They’re shallow, but are distinct from each other and they conform to the road surface to generate grip.
The R3s slipped easily on to tubeless rims with 20mm internal width without a fight. They measured 32mm wide when inflated, and produced an evenly rounded shape. Bontrager recommends a maximum pressure of 70psi, and I tested at 65psi.
Even with such low pressures, the R3s don’t feel squashy, they have good sidewall support and directional stability, while their supple construction gives excellent road feel and great surface feedback.
They’re surprisingly fast, with negligible noticeable rolling resistance, but plentiful grip in dry or wet road conditions and a confident, secure feel.
Their composure over broken tarmac and technical cornering ability, plus added ride comfort, soon becomes addictive, and with no obvious speed penalty, the 32mm R3s are my new favourite all-round tyres.