Bontrager 29-3 Tires: Update

With some trail time on these tires, I am ready for an update on them for you. Let’s take a look at what I’ve been doing on them, and the rig I’ve been riding them on first though.

The Salsa El Mariachi with a Bontrager rigid fork

The Salsa El Mariachi with a Bontrager rigid fork

The Salsa El Mariachi I have is outfitted with a Bontrager Race X Lite Switchblade fork. The wheels are also from Bontrager and are the Race X Lite TLR wheels which are being run tubeless with the 29-3 tires. The main testing grounds have been at “The Camp” which has a wide range of terrain consisting of steep, rooty climbs, sweeping turns, switchbacks, off camber traverses, and soil ranging from some embedded rocks, to dirt, to some sandy traps.  In other words, a pretty varied pallette to judge a tire by.

The 29-3 front specific tire

The 29-3 front specific tire

The Front Tire: The 29-3 tires are front/rear specific, so I am going to break down each tire and give my thoughts on how they do their jobs at each end. The front tire reminds me a whole lot of a Specialized Resolution tire that has tie bars on the base of the lugs. (The Resolution, a discontinued tire, did not have this feature.)  The performance is very similar as well. I ran the front tire at about 27 psi  and felt it was very good at absorbing some trail chatter, but not supple. I should say that this is a pre-production pair of tires and that the casings are somewhat stiffer than the casings the production tires will supposedly have. The lateral grip is really good, as you might expect from a tread pattern featuring this sort of layout in regards to the knobs. Braking traction was great. The cornering performance in the conditions I have run it on so far s been top notch. I have yet to get some real “loose over hard pack” yet though, so the jury is still out in that regard. However; if your trails consist of any dirt that is tacky, loamy, hard packed, or buff single track, these tires will rail. Sand isn’t their friend, although they do okay because of the volume of the casing here. Mud performance is decent, but not spectacular. This tire seems as though it would be a great all-round tire, in my opinion.

The rear 29-3

The rear 29-3 tire

The Rear Tire: The 29-3 tires are an odd couple. They just don’t have anything in common except the branding on the sidewalls. I will admit to still having some trouble with the looks of this combination, and most of my doubts are directed at the rear tire. It is diminutive. It doesn’t have a lot of anything, really- volume, width, or tread depth. What it does have, it makes to work above and beyond all my expectations. Let’s get to the point: I didn’t expect to like this tire at all. After riding it some, I have found it to be a very capable tire. The climbing traction this tire gives you is amazing, and all without a rolling resistance penalty. In fact, it rolls really well. I ran it at about the same 27 psi as the front, fearing pinching or bottoming out on roots, but I never did. Cornering traction was very good. Braking traction…..well, it gives away faster due to its size. If the tire was wider with a similar tread pattern, I think it would work far better. People that rely heavily on the rear brake will find issue with this tire though. Mud wasn’t a friend, and sand wasn’t either. The tread packs up fairly quickly and the narrow width of the tire just cuts right down into loose sand. (In fact, it does the same in mud, which may be good or bad depending on the type of mud you have.) Overall, an impressive tire, but perhaps better for drier, racing type adventures.

Thoughts So Far: The front specific 29-3 is intriguing and I would like to see how the tire would fare as a front and rear set. The volume for the width is fantastic. The cornering and braking traction has been spot on so far. I like this as a choice for a rigid front end especially. The rear is perhaps the best “monster cross” tire available. If I had a suitable rig, this rear tire would find its way onto both ends of it. Fisher/Subaru team racers and 29erCrew racers are reportedly all over the 29-3 rear tire as a front/rear combo for racing. I can totally see this as well. If you are an XC racer on a 29″er, check these out.

I will be doing some further testing of these treads and will give a “Mid Term” report in a few weeks. In the mean time, I hear that 29-3 tires will be coming into stock at Bontrager’s warehouse within days of this post. Stay tuned for more………..

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