Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite tyre - review
Bontrager’s AW3 Hard-Case Lite tyres prove themselves to be impressive all-weather rubber
Confidence is golden in road cycling – never more so when the weather is inclement and grip levels are, at best, reduced. Being able to rely upon the rolling stock to keep you stuck to the road whatever it decides to throw your way is therefore critical; not just for ride enjoyment, but safety too.
Taking square aim at the all-weather tyre market here, then, is the Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case Lite road tyre (AW3s for short). As with many tyres of this type, it claims to give optimal grip in sub-optimal conditions, throwing in decent levels of puncture protection and low rolling resistance too, naturally.
Of course, every tyre pitched at this market tends to make these kinds of claims – we reviewed and were largely impressed by the Michelin Power All Seasons 25c tyres recently, which of course made similar posits – but how do the AW3s stack up?
- Price: £34.99 each
- Weight: 295g (28c tested)
- Website: Trek
First off, it’s a little unfair here if we go for a direct comparison, thanks to these being 28mm in width rather than the Michelin’s 25mm, but it does allow us to comment on the sheer grip benefits of having wider tyres in poor conditions.
Helped along by slightly lower pressures than 25c equivalents, this also goes to improve comfort as well, with tyres able to absorb impacts and mould a little more to the road surface, also improving the effectiveness of the contact patch for grip. It sounds like I’m simply explaining the benefits of wider rubber (and this coming from a fan of 25mm tyres, given the choice), but the thing is that the AW3s actually live up to it.
And there’s more: the 28c tyres on test weigh in at 295g per tyre. Ok, that’s not super light, but it’s very competitive for 28mm rubber and lends the AW3s a competitively quick edge when pumped to around 90psi at the front and 95psi at the rear (I currently weigh 80kg). For optimum comfort I dropped them off a little from here, but it had a detrimental effect on how lively and responsive they felt.
Still, rolling resistance itself, as claimed by Bonty, is impressive for an all-weather tyre, comparing fairly well against the Michelin Power All Season compound too. Sure, they’re not race tyres, but it means the AW3s are capable companions if you fancy getting a bit of a spurt on to avoid the worst of the incoming weather.
This leads me to my lasting impression of the AW3s: how simply easy to ride they are, in any weather. There’s no sense of being unduly held back in the dry (aside from the natural downside of the 295g weight), with a responsive ride quality, while the compound is grippy under aggressive cornering in damp weather.
Taken out on short gravel byway sections in my local area, feedback is as consistent as you could expect from an uneven surface, with a good level of comfort and predictable behaviour underneath the bike. With pressures reduced towards the comfortable end of the spectrum, these tyres are able to absorb a fair amount of the extra punishment served up without feeling too vague. It’s a really solid combination of feel and isolation in this respect.
It’s also worth mentioning that Bonty have installed what it calls its ‘Aero Wing’ bead, which has been seen on performance tyres over the past few years and is designed to smooth the transition from tyre to rim. I can’t quantify its effectiveness, but I can say it visually allows the tyres to balloon out to minimise gaps from brake track to tyre.
Confidence, the concept upon which this review began, is easy to come by with the AW3s. Throw in the fact that they come with Bonty’s Hard-Case Lite (a pared down yet nonetheless effective) puncture protection layer, and you’re ostensibly as happy to roll over grit and gravel as you would be on the beefier AW2 tyres (which are tubeless, unlike the AW3s) we tested back in February. It’s genuinely a ride-anytime tyre, as ready for the punishment of pavé as it is for smoothly tarmacked century.
The Bontrager AW3s have impressed us with their grip in all conditions, and with a seemingly effective puncture protection level along with good comfort levels. Impressively, they also retain a responsive edge - I’d happily don them again for next autumn, right through to spring.
- All weather grip
- Quick rolling
- Responsive for 28c rubber
- Not tubeless