24 June 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Bontrager XDX TLR 2.1 tires

We do a lot of tire and wheel reviews at bikefix and we do it for good reason: they are some of the easiest and most important changes one can make to their bike to get it to perform better. Tires, being much cheaper than wheels, are a good component to start with. If you are always slipping and hunting for traction, a burlier tire with bigger knobs might be worth a try. If you have plenty of traction where you live, perhaps you should try a lighter more efficient design. The Bontrager XDX fits into the second category.

I bought the XDX for a light bike where efficiency and rolling weight were concerns on since I use this bike to chase some local “fast-folks.” Traction is always important to me too though, and I couldn’t have a tire that completely skated all over the place. I hadn’t tried any Bontrager tires before, and this tread design looked like it would be fairly fast but also able to grip when expected too. They are a tubeless-ready (TLR) design, which means that Bontrager take a normal tire casing and put the special bead that tubeless standards require on it. This saves weight over UST by eliminating tubeless tires' layer of impermeable rubber on the inside. Companies assume (correctly) that some sort of sealant will be used regardless, making the sealing rubber redundant. I tend to like UST standard tires better for their stiffer, sturdier casings (see my previous tire reviews), but it seems manufacturers are getting a bit better at making tubeless-ready tires that don’t burp air. The XDX seems to be one of the well-made tubeless ready tires. I've never burped this tire in several months of riding and it has held up surprisingly well. It is not a burly or tough trail tire though, so please keep that in mind. I have taken it on some tougher trails and it has performed (and survived) admirably, but I’m not sure it would hold up to repeated trail rides in rough, rocky terrain. I knew going in that this was an XC tire though, and in that regard I have to give it very high marks. There were times that I wanted more traction but they weren’t as often as I thought they would be, given the intended purpose of these tires. That is quite a complement given what I expect out of light-weight (640 grams) XC tires.

The XDX has tight square-ish knobs that run in an evenly spaced pattern around the tire. There are no fancy gimmicks and they ride in a very predictable manner. There are a few different versions and sizes of this tire available, so hopefully one can accommodate whatever your needs might be. The 2.1 size has a folding bead, 120 tpi thread count, and is the only version to use Bontrager’s “AR casing” sidewall protection. It is also available in a 1.9 and a 2.4. The XDX seemed to wear fairly well around here (New Mexico, USA) and should last even longer in parts of the country that are less rocky.

I tend to err towards tougher tires with more traction but, I have to say that this is a great XC tire and is an excellent choice if weight and efficiency are important to you. $50 from your local Trek dealer or www.bontrager.com.



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