What is it
Bontrager is no stranger to the demands cross country racing where tires can mean the difference between a podium finish and walking to the finish. Bontrager revamped its XR1 tire to meet the demands of more challenging cross country courses and pickier racers.
Fast rolling and grip rarely appear in the same sentence when describing tires, but it applies here. Tightly spaced, staggered center tread deliver traction on roots and slick rocks. Widely spaced, lower on shoulder corning knobs offer confidence when diving into corners and berms. And the supple casing is a major upgrade. Just a slight drop in pressure is felt instantly, conforming over roots and rocks. For a cross country race tire, Bontrager’s 495-gram XR1 can be ridden in nearly every condition except deep mud, and even in that it preformed ok.
- Easy tubeless set up with floor pump
- Reasonable price
- Wide spaced cornering knobs
- Cut resistant side walls
- Supple casing
- Predictable tread performance
- Fast rolling
- Tread wears quickly
- Side wall design collects mud
It would be great to ride one tire all season. But it’s a lot to ask. Ripping downhill? Give me something that can handle cornering at high speed with some rocks thrown at it, too. Racing cross country? Give me a tire that rolls fast, is light, and will hook up if I venture off line. Well, cross country courses have changed a lot in past years and so are the demands of the racers. Adding more technical features and longer double track/road sections means you need a truly versatile tire to compete.
All that said, Bontrager’s XR1 has become the go-to tire for me. You can feel the suppleness of the casing when mounting. Though 120 TPI is commonplace for a quality cross country tire, it’s rubber durometer and sidewall stiffness that make a difference you can feel on the trail.
Bontrager wheels have a proprietary rim strip that is designed to offer easy set up and little mess. I was able to set up the XR1’s with a floor pump with little to no sealant spillage. Paired with 29mm internal rim width on Bontrager’s Kovee XXX, and these tires measured a touch over the claimed 2.20. It was more like 2.30.
For my first ride on the XR1’s I hit some classic local single track that’s pedal heavy with some flowy sections. On the gravel road to the trail, I felt like I was on road tires. There was minimal rolling resistance, but the feel was a bit abrasive. I knocked the pressure down to 21 PSI (less than I would ride normally) and it clicked.
On the trail, I was on pillows. I did bottom out on some roots but that was few and far between. I felt confident taking turns fast, and braking traction was there when needed. I felt comfortable during the ride, seeking out rumble strips of roots to check compliance. All was good there, too.
Next up was the real test: damp roots and rocks in central Pennsylvania. Riding over moss covered boulders, I never slipped or lost grip in a turn. Traction was predictable and consistent. After a full day of bouncing around on sharp rocks the XR1 had a few cuts but nothing you wouldn’t expect from a lightweight XC tire. Thin sidewalls are common in race tires, especially higher TPI ones. However, I was bummed to see the details fade on the center line tread and side knobs chipped away slightly. (I must mention that these tires were my go-to, so they we’re at about 200 miles at this point.)
Lastly, the XR1’s got a taste of snow and ice as you can see from the pictures in this review. I wasn’t expecting much, but when paired with the Kovee wheel’s wide footprint there was ample contact patch and grip. This time I lowered pressure to 19 PSI, yet pedaling traction was still firm and the XR1’s handled very well in these conditions, especially considering this is not their intended use.
Bottom line, Bontrager has improved its tire offerings year after year, and I would recommend this latest option to anyone looking for a race day XC tire that you can train on and not worry about getting stranded. And considering most cross country race tires are coming in around $75-$80 these days, the XR1 is a steal at $55. The forward thinking tread design opens a wider use for Bontrager’s XR1 besides cross country racing and dry pine forests. Any rider looking for confident traction and fast rolling from a tire are advised to check these out.
Rating: 4 out of 5
More info: www.trekbikes.com