Bontrager AW Tire Testing

With the introduction of Bontrager’s new All Weather (AW) line of tires, even they admit that previously most tires in the category were an either-or sort of thing. You could have fast tires that weren’t that protective, or slow tires that were built like a tank and various combinations in between. The goal of the new AW line was to combine the low rolling resistance of a race tire with the protection and grip of an all conditions tire to create the perfect year round clincher. For those who aren’t out there racing, this may just be the perfect tire.

Roll on for more details and actual weights! UPDATED

Bontrager AW Tire Spread

Of course you always have to be a bit skeptical when a company is testing their own product, but in Bontrager’s rolling resistance experiments, the AW3 HCL (Hard Case Lite) tires showed huge gains compared to other industry leaders. At a constant weight and speed the AW3 HCL saves up to 25 watts at 25 MPH. UPDATE: It turns out, that Bontrager did use independent testing to verify the performance of the tires, specifically testing was performed at the renowned Wheel Energy Lab in Finland.

Bontrager AW Tire Rolling resistance

That translates into over 6 minutes or 2 miles difference that the lowest performer on a 36 mile loop.

Hard Case Hard Case Lite

In order to build in the puncture protection while still keeping the tires supple, there are two different levels of construction – Hard Case Lite, and Hard Case. HCL on the left is the lightest weight design that uses a belt or co-extrusion that is directly under the tread in the center of the tire. It protects the area most likely to encounter glass and other road debris, while leaving the sidewall supple for the smoothest ride. HCL is found on the AW1 HCL, AW2 HCL and AW3 HCL series.

On the AW1 HC and AW3 HC, you can get the upgraded Hard Case option for the maximum protection. The figure on the right illustrates the Aramid breaker belt (1), Anti-cut bead to bead casign (2), and anti-pinch sidewall support (3) which all combine to make a bombproof tire that is still light weight.


Like other Bontrager tires, the AW series incorporates their Aero Wing design (far right) which  adds a small wing over the bead of the rim for better aerodynamics. Depending on the model, AW tires are available in sizes ranging from 700×23 to 700×32, and in 60 or 120 tpi casings. The least expensive AW1 HCLs run $29.99, with prices up to $69.99 for the highest end AW3 HC. All tires are available now at your local Trek Dealer.

Bontrager AW3 Weight

As far as real world weights are concerned, our test sample of 700×23 AW3 HCLs totaled 236g – which is pretty freaking light for a tire of this category. We’re guessing that much like the Bontrager TLR R3 tires we’re testing, most of the AW tires will weigh either exactly as claimed or a bit under. Full test coming soon.




  1. Interesting they’re called “All Weather.”

    As I recall, the first Hard Cases were terrifying in the wet.

  2. I’m always skeptical of test data that is perfectly linear, but then so is everybody that’s ever actually collected test data.

  3. Are these tubeless? If I’m going to spend $70 for a tire, then they should compare it to the Hutchinson Tubeless offerings, which I think will still roll faster than these tubed tires.

  4. @Alex K: for that, take a look at the R2 and R3 TLR tires from Bontrager. I’ve been blown away by how good those feel

  5. “You could have fast tires that weren’t that protective, or slow tires that were built like a tank and various combinations in between….the new AW line was to combine the low rolling resistance of a race tire with the protection and grip of an all conditions tire to create the perfect year round clincher”
    …which then begs the obvious questions:
    1. why HCL and HC?
    2. where is the rolling resistance data for HC?
    Call me ever so slightly cynical but it kind of looks like:
    HCL= fast(ish) tires that aren’t that protective
    HC = slow tires that are built like a tank (or some combination in between)

  6. Bontrager’s road tires used to be made in the same factory that made Vittorias (a contractor, not by Vittoria itself), though I can’t say anything for certain about these in particular.

  7. I was initially excited to see a 700×32 offering, but it looks like that’s only in the lower-tpi wire bead version.

    Also, my god does Bontrager’s website make it a PITA to figure out exactly what you’re getting in a tire. Would it be too much to make a nice chart for each tire with available width, bead, and materials?

  8. Kenda makes good tires, so that’s not the problem. 236g for 23mm is too much, Michelin and Contential makes 23mm at 202g, even with protection.

    Bontrager could do it better.

    Why do the manufacturs still insist on thread patterns on bicycle tires?
    I have a old Michelin Carbon 23mm at 240g, totally without patterns and it’s awesome in heavy rain.

    I’d pick a Contential, Michelin or even a pair of Grand Bois…
    Grand Bois Cyprès 700C x 32 mm at 290 g, or “Extra Léger” , still at 32mm (real 30mm) at 232 g !
    Grand Bois Cerf, Blue Label 700C x 26 mm 222 gram!

    Why are most of the manufacturs ignoring the small marked of the wider tyres in the 700c, light, supple and high quality fast tyres, high tpi, and low rolling resistance. They seems to think that commuters prefers thick and heavy tires with low tpi. The selection is awesome in 23-25mm, but over 28mm it’s not so good. 26″ is’nt so well on light and fast tyres at ~1.8″ or so, with a focus on low weight and low rolling resistance. I commute a lot, but I want fast tyres!

  9. I just put on a Continental GP 4-Season, glad this test confirmed I got a great tire which is nearly identical in performance to what they claim to be the best.

  10. I appreciate it when companies present data on their products, but listing just 3 other tires, without explaining the criteria that those 3 were selected, just doesn’t feel all that “scientific.” It feels like, “We have designed a new, faster rabbit, the X-Factor Rabbit, and to show just how fast the X-Factor Rabbit is, the X-FR, we have matched it in a race with the Hippo-1, the FatBob-Hippoeux, the Hippomino-622, and the Hippomaxius-4600. The graph clearly shows that the X-FR uses less watts than the other popular tires. No, no, no, no. The data is only good if the Bontragers are being compared with “the current leading, racing, all weather tires,” period. Why do I feel as if I am still dealing with the same company that forced Mr. Greg LeMond out of the bicycle business? I am sure it is a great set of tires, but I am also sure that they were not clear on why their new AW tires were being compared with specifically those other 3 tires.

  11. Well put Tim.
    In Treks defense, those are some of the big name, popular tires marketed as all-condition tires, as evidenced by their names:
    -All conditions(SBC)
    -4 Season(Conti)

    But, I know that the All Conditon and 4Season at least both have bead-bead protection layers, which would be more comparable to the full Hard Case.
    In fact, Conti 4000s and Specialized SWorks, both ‘race’ tires also have a single, center protection belt.
    So, would it be more realistic to compare those?
    As the article states, it is easy to make a tough tire, doable to make a fast and comfy one, but hard to do all three.
    Therefor, a rolling resistance chart is only valuable if accompanied by wet traction and puncture resistance charts for the same model, to see which masters that balancing act best.

    A great example is the Tour Magazin test of wide road tires:

    Tires are rated on the balance of grip, rolling resistance and puncture protection.

  12. Exactly Tim.
    In fairness to Trek, those three tires are marketed as all weather tires, as evidenced by their names.
    However, what this doesn’t show is whether the AW-HClite shown in the rolling resistance txt can compare to the puncture protection of those others.
    In theory, since at least the Specialized and Conti tires have bead-to-bead protection, they would be more comparable to the full HardCase tires.
    If you are going to promote a tire as ‘doing it all’,it needs to be tested for all properties.

    A good example is the TourMagazin test of wide road tires, where tires were rated on the combination of rolling resistance, grip and puncture protection:

What do you think?