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.
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.
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.