Strong, durable, puncture-resistant tyres from Bontrager, which will see you through the winter
Arguably, rubber choice is as important as the wheels they’re fitted to: a set of tyres suited to your prevailing ride purpose can really make or break your ride.
Bontrager’s AW2 TLR Hard Case Lite tyres slot into the hard-wearing endurance category, and arrive with the promise of improved traction and comfort, prevention of pinch flats and puncture protection.
And if it’s peace of mind you’re after, the Hard Case Lites – with a tread gauge ‘optimised for maximum durability’ are certainly solid.
That solidity comes from the fact they’re of the Hard Case Lite ilk, indicating the carcass inside is beefed up with a puncture protection layer to deal with the extra hazards associated with dirty winter roads.
During our test rides, where the AW2s were taken over potholed paths and backroads where gravel and shrapnel is a common feature, the construction of the tyre held firm – only a few bits of flint become embedded in the outer rubber, yet none left much of an impressionable mark when removed.
Much like Continental’s Gator Hardshells and Gatorskins (both a personal choice in the past for this reviewer), which give a definite sense of security akin to a hard tyre, the AW2s are able to shrug off sharp pieces that might leave other lighter, thinner rubber exposed.
We had the 28c versions fitted, which are perfect for steady winter rolling – especially when the road gets bumpy. With no need to pump them beyond 60psi, comfort from such solidly constructed tyres is impressive.
They hit a nice sweetspot between being so hard that the tyre itself has no give, and still achieving that all-important longevity and puncture protection.
This leads us onto grip levels, which again are certainly good for a tyre of this type.
Bontrager themselves claim the TLR compound is designed to give a level of grip and traction akin to a performance tyre, and they’ve made a fairly good fist of it here. The compound does allow for enthusiastic riding when dry, and in the wet the tread helps the compound to keep on biting through the water.
The fact the compound feels particularly adhesive to touch is doubtless partly responsible for the overall grip levels, but it’s in the wet – when some of us have to commute by bike regardless of the conditions – where we must tip our hat to the Americans.
While not quite on a par with the Michelin Power All Weather rubber we tested recently for ultimate grip and feel (they’re the ones to go for if you still want the confidence to really attack descents in the wet), for everyday reliability for the commuter these are probably a slightly tougher option without sacrificing much in the way of ride involvement.
Given the overall aim of the tyre, it’s almost unfair to critique its climbing ability; it’s never going to be brilliant, given the 385g weight of the 28c versions coupled with the harder compound that does sap some feeling through the bike as a whole.
Here we think the Michelin Power All Season and Endurance tyres are a half step ahead, although like-for-like 28c testing hasn’t been carried out (the Michelin’s were all 25c size when tested). But, suffice to say, for everyday use they’re adequate, and are available in 24,26, 28 and 32c sizes for all uses.
Additionally, the Bontragers are tubeless ready, which if installed will bring system weight down slightly, inevitably making them a little more sprightly.
There is a downside to this, in that fitting them can be a little tricky – fitted to a test set of Cero tubeless-ready disc wheels, seating them inside the tight rim hook tolerances was quite a thumb-wearing, tyre lever-bending affair. However, once seated and inflated, the seal from the foldable bead is excellent, as tubeless fans would naturally hope.
And, for £39.99 per tyre – pricing is on a par with the market too. In fact, considering these are likely to last all winter and then some, they’re not too bad value either.
Overall, when measured against their stated aim of being suitable for road riders and commuters alike, with all the hardiness needed to meet this need, these tyres are solid and dependable options. They’re not super speedy, but grip and comfort levels are impressive, making them perfect for all-winter riding.
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