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Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tire Review

by Stacey Moses

Disclosure: My full-time employer is an independent bicycle retailer, and we sell tires. Lots of tires, in all shapes and sizes, including the tires that are described in this review. I am announcing this fact at the beginning of this tire review because it may lead some readers to believe that I am biased. I prefer to believe that this fact makes me more discerning. But, as always, feel free to share your opinions in the comment section.

And now, the review:

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase road tires have been my tire of choice for city riding for the past half-decade. I put these tires on my Trek 1500 when I moved to Washington, DC and I rode them into squares. Bontrager offers this tire in a wide range of sizes (700×23-32c as well as 27×1 1/4-1 1/8 and 650x25c), but I prefer the 700x25c. As a smaller rider with a relatively light load, this width gives me enough stability without creating too much additional rolling resistance.

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase

The “triple flat protection” is the selling point (or three selling points) for the Bontrager Hardcases. The bead-to-bead woven construction means that the sidewalls of the tires are as tough as the portion of the tire that is hitting the ground, reducing sidewall cuts. There is an anti-pinch rib, protecting against pinch flats, and there is a Kevlar belt, virtually eliminating punctures.

Yes, these are all features described in Trek’s marketing materials for these tires, but when put to the test, each one of these features stands up to prolonged road testing in real-life conditions.

Just like any product, there are a couple of drawbacks in addition to all of the benefits of the Bontrager Hardcases. First, they are not the most supple tires that I have ever ridden, although I have certainly tried harder and heavier commuter tires as well. They also are not the most cooperative tires to change (I blame the triple flat protection features), but fortunately, they require far less frequent fixing and replacing than any other tires that I have ever owned.

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bike Tire

Overall, I have found the Bontrager Race Lite Hardcases to offer the perfect combination of reliability and comfort as a commuter or city tire, and for just under $45 per tire, they are not unreasonably priced for a very durable tire. For the more weight-conscious cyclist, Trek also offers the Race X Lite Hardcase, which is constructed from 120 threads per inch (tpi) casing compared to the Race Lite’s 60tpi. Finally, for the rain or shine crowd, there is the Race All Weather Hardcase, also available in a 26×1.5in version, with a rain-shedding tread pattern.

Choosing a tire can be a rather personal decision for a cyclist (second only to choosing a saddle), as some people may put more or less emphasis on durability, comfort, weight, color or price. After many years of experimenting with tires, I have found my balance with the Bontrager Race Lite Hardcases.

 
Burley nomad 269

24 Responses to “Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tire Review”

  1. I found Bontrager Race Hardcase tires in 650c on my Bacchetta Corsa to be a bit slipperly in the rain. Since I live in the greater Seattle area that was unacceptable to me. I switched to a more supple grippy tire. I never got a flat on the Hardcases.

  2. I frequently use the Race Lite Hardcase (not the X version) since it is available in 650c – I can not compare the two since I have not used both, but I did want to chime in and mention that I have had the same experience with the ‘Hardcase’ flat protection – noticeably less flats than anything else I have tried!

    CM

  3. Apis the Bee says:

    So, tire width & rolling resistance is the single greatest myth in cycling. What affects rolling resistance more than tire width is the tire’s supple-ness. Jan Heine has tested this theory to death. For more eloquent explanation see his publication, Bicycle Quarterly.

  4. Stacey Moses says:

    Multiple factors contribute to rolling resistance. The material of the tire, the pressure of the tire, and the dimensions of the tire all contribute to rolling resistance. To state that the contact area of the tire has nothing to do with road resistance ignores some basic laws of physics.

  5. Fat Pubis says:

    6,000 Miles and no flats

  6. Ri says:

    This should be an inspiration to change rules in Nascar. Why can’t we have NASCAR strictly for bikes?

    –Ri of changerules(dot)net

  7. Gene @ BU says:

    I would like to see tire manufacturers provide more reflective sidewalls options for use while commuting in the late fall and winter like the Vittoria Randonneur Hyper Road Tires.

  8. Mark Shaw says:

    I have had Bontrager Hardcase Tyres on my Road bike for about 1500 miles with no problems, I would recommend these tyres to anyone commuting, I agree though a good reflective stripe on the sidewall would be good

  9. David French says:

    Hi,

    I too work for a Trek retailer but in the UK rather than the US.

    I think this is a worldwide thing but it certainly is the case in England that if you buy any tyre (English for tire, sorry) from the new Bontrager range, such as the All Weather Hard Case you’ll get a 30 day money back satisfaction guarntee!

    So next time you want a bombproof tyre at least give them a go because it’s free if you don’t like them!

  10. Dewber says:

    Great tire! No need to run thorn-resistant tubes in these and can lead to premature rim and spoke breakage. Run about 90 psi in a 700×23 and this tire won’t fail you.

  11. Stacey Moses says:

    David- great point. The 30 day guarantee also exists here in the States, so there’s no reason not to give these tires a try.

  12. Ron says:

    I must have bad luck. Punctured tire after 500 miles. Tried lining the puncture with several layers of duct tape to keep the tire going. Needless to say I continue to get flats and need a new tire. Any idea what’s going on? I am at a loss. I spent the extra money to get more miles and it has been a nightmare.

  13. Murali says:

    I have several bikes and lost track of when I changed the rear Race Lite Hardcase on the one I rode today. Well, it had 4725 miles on it when it wore a hole in the tread path and blew the tube.

    My fault for not changing it sooner. But it ended up being a great experiment in how long this tire could be pushed. I think 4725 is exceptional for a single tire. And no flats in all that time (nearly 3 years).

    By the way, this is on my training bike. The amount of time I “lose” running a heavier tire is nothing compared to the time spent fixing a single flat.

    If I were racing, then I would use a race tire. But I care much more about making home without worrying about flats. Expecially since my rides are all long, on remote mountain roads, with some fast technical descents.

  14. scott says:

    Every time I think about getting new tires I look at other options, but always come back to the Bontrager Hardcase tires.

    I too have been using this for years (as have many of my friends) and have had great luck.

  15. Dan says:

    Very strong tire, use them on our tandem and on my heavy wheelset. But every hardcase I’ve run has had the tread start to delaminate after about 1500 miles, on the tandem and the half-bike. I’ve never had a chance to wear one of these out. Wish I could, I need more than 1500 miles out of a tire.

    I live in thorn country (goatheads) and nothing stops goatheads, not any lined tire. But I also run stans sealant in all my tubes so I rarely have to stop to change a tube.

  16. ivan says:

    I have these tires on my trek fx 7.3 for about 3000km and hate them. Except good puncture resistance (never had a flat, but also never driven off the asphalt) and ok wear level (barely noticable) there is not much good to say about them. They have quite high rolling resistance and at the same time are very hard and uncomfortable. My biggest criticism is absolute lack of grip when driving very fast through bends. Once you reach lean levet to ride on gray rubber, there is no feeling for the tire whatsoever. Its worse than on mtb tires..

    Because I ride my bike as fast as possible, I decided to switch these tires. Replaced them for vittoria cx and these are fabulous (considering driving conditions, I’ll probably never puncture them either)

  17. Jay LePree says:

    I would like to add one other positive comment concerning these tires. They wear amazingly well. Without exaggeration, I must have over 4000 miles on my rear tire, and it looks like I will have much more life from it. I would say this is the perfect commuting/touring tire for those riders who do not want to worry about flatting.

    It is true that they are not the most supple tires, but I find running the 700 x 28 mm at around 80 PSi smooths out the ride.

  18. Marrey says:

    Hi All,
    Just noticed lumps? in the surface of my rear tyre, running them at 90psi?
    Had them on for 300km, Australian roads, it appears that they’re splitting apart?
    Not happy!!

  19. Gerod says:

    Here is my 2 cents on Bontrage Hardcase tires.
    Love them. I have 7+ years experience with them. The 1st set lasted from 2004 ish to 2011. I just kept riding on them. I had a piece of rubber come off the contact patch of rear tire and you could see the kevlar strip. rode 2 more days no flats or tire failure. Averaged 3k miles a year, max miles in one year was 6K, deployed to Middle East for 6 months (3600 miles alone). All that time 1 flat, valve stem pulled out of tube. They are a bit hard to get on and off in the begining. When I installed the new set the 1st night I put tire pressure 10 lbs over max and let them sit over night and that made them easier to get off and on. Not like I had to take them off to fix a flat. The new set I did get 1 flat so far 3″ nail thru center of tire tube and rim strip (double wall rims). Haven’t had any traction issues either living in the pacific northwest Tacoma/Seattle area. Most of the commuters I know use them too. I am testing the Conti Tour Ride + right now and so far no issues. Plus these have a reflective strip on side wall of tire for added safety.

  20. Stu says:

    Just bought these so can’t vouch for their longevity. However they do seem to have horrendous rolling resistance even at high PSI. They are also hard and uncomfortable compared to my previous cheapo tyre however I have had no problems with grip.

  21. Tim Arnold says:

    Had these new tires 2 years now with Mavic CXP 22 rims (700): not 1 flat yet but only road riding @ 100 + psi only. Don’t ride very often, no racing or commuting either. But like the tires so far, they seem tough & better than the stock tires before. Trek 1000A entry bike still, but good enough for a workout to keep in shape.

  22. GREGG VU says:

    THEY WERE THE ORIGINAL TIRE ON MY TREK 7.7 AND RAN 3300 MILES AT 120 PSI WITH ONLY ONE FLAT. I’M ABOUT 215 LBS. SEEMS LIKE THEY PERFORM WELL.

  23. Loki says:

    Same here. Got flats in BOTH tires from those demonic stickers from outer space just this afternoon, and my tires were LOADED with them so there was NO patching to be done. The tubes were Swiss cheese. I went over to thicker tubes and am considering a liner on top of that. I don’t do slime, since a patch would never hold reliably once the slime oozes out of a puncture.

    I’ve put a ton of miles on my Hardcases in the past year, and who knows how many the previous owner racked up (okay, he racked up 72 miles before blowing off cycling altogether and let the bike sit before I bought it in near-new condition… knee patient who was ordered to ride and he didn’t like doing it so I got a nice Trek 7.3 FX and a bunch of other nice goodies for a steal). I think these can go a while longer, although I will probably convert to a narrower tire like I had on my last 7.3.

    Sad to say, nothing holds up well to the evil goat head, not even shoes, car tires, etc…

  24. plh says:

    They are good and I used them for a long time, years, until I discovered Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour.
    http://www.schwalbetires.com/product_search?name%5B%5D=356
    I used to get the occasional flay with the Bontrager but with the Schwalbe, nada.

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