Since Bontrager hired Frank Stacy three years ago, the quality of their rubber has gone through the roof. Stacy has serious pedigree in tyre development across all kinds of vehicles, though in mountain biking he’s best known for his work with Specialized where he took their tyres to a market leading standard. With Bontrager, he’s replicated that success once again, and the XR2 is an example of that achievement.
When we recently took delivery of our Trek Superfly, we stripped off the stock rubber (skinny, lightweight, ultra-fast Bontrager XR1 tyres) and replaced them with something a little more suited to our intentions for the bike. We want to use the Superfly as bit of a dual duty bike, for cross country racing and trail riding, so the stock rubber just wasn’t right. We opted for the Bontrager XR2s in a 2.2″ width, as they looked to offer more bite but without sacrificing too much rolling speed.
We sealed the new tyres up on Bontrager RXL wheels using Bontrager’s sealant which we’ll talk more about later. Swapping the tyres out added just 50g per wheel, the XR2s weighing a very light 590g.
We’ve logged around 10 days of riding on these tyres now in a wide range of conditions, including four days on the rocky, pointy tyre chewing terrain of Alice Springs, and we’ve got a great handle on how they…handle.
It’s clear that Bontrager have worked long and hard on the compound; whereas many tyres we’ve ridden lately have traded durability for grip, the XR2s seem to have struck a great balance. For a tyre with a relatively low-profile tread, they hang on very well on every surface we’ve thrown at them so far. Even though the tread isn’t particularly ‘gummy’ the well supported tread blocks find great traction. In terms of cornering prowess, these tyres certainly out performed our expectations.
Lots of hard braking on rough rock has begun wear the rear tyre, but the knobs aren’t tearing off like we’ve seen on other brands. The knobs might be losing their original sharp edge, but they’re retaining their integrity.
The centre tread is quite minimal and so rolling speed is a real winner. We’ve been running these tyres at around 28psi and they cover ground exceptionally quickly, still conforming nicely to the terrain in the 2.2″ size and floating over sandy patches.
On the pointy granite and quartz of Alice Springs we did manage to pierce the rear tyre once, between two tread blocks. Given we hit the rock at fault hard enough to flat-spot the rim, and keeping in mind the tyre’s weight, we think that’s acceptable. Fortunately the Bontrager sealant sealed the hole up perfectly, and we were able to keep riding the tyre without any need to patch it up. We didn’t manage to cut the sidewalls either, in spite of clipping countless pointy rocks.
All up, we’re very impressed! This tyre is as good as we’ve ridden for cross-country use, striking an excellent balance between weight, grip, rolling speed and durability. It does its best work on hardpack, rock-based or sandy trails, but there are few areas we’d be loathe to ride it. Worthy!