As Bontrager has developed wider rims for use on Trek’s hardtail and full suspension mountain bikes, its range of tyres has gotten wider too. Case in point, the versatile XR4 tread pattern is now available in plus-compatible 2.8in and 3.0in widths, as well as this new-school 2.6in size. To put these new not-quite-regular-not-quite-plus tyres to the test along with three other pairs of 2.6in wide tyres, we got our enduro moustachio, Ben Gerrish, to take them to task on some rocky Lake District carnage. Over to Ben!
Bontrager XR4 Team Issue 2.6in Tyre Features
- Aggressive trail tyre designed for riding loose and rocky conditions
- Size tested: 27.5 x 2.6in
- Also available in a 29in diameter, and widths ranging from 2.4in – 3.0in
- Lightweight 120tpi single ply casing
- Inner Strength sidewall reinforcement
- Dual compound 61a/50a rubber
- Tubeless Ready (TLR) folding beads
- Measured width (fitted to a 29mm wide rim): 2.52in / 64mm
- Confirmed weight: 890g
- Price: £49.99
The Bontrager XR4 is marketed as an aggressive trail tyre that’s suited to loose and rocky trails, which seemed ideal for my go-to local trails. The dual compound rubber features a firmer 61a rubber for the centre tread blocks, along with softer 50a rubber for the outer edges, which indicates the XR4 will be fast rolling in a straight line, combined with some traction-rich cornering once you lean it in.
Even with the expanded 2.6in carcass, the tread spacing is ample. It’s notoriously rough on bikes around my local trails, so the promise of the Inner Strength’s sidewall protection from cuts and pinch flats combined with the high quality 120tpi casing meant the XR4 sounded like it would be well up for the challenge.
The XR4s set up nice and easy on the internal 29mm rims, delivering a healthy 64mm width at the widest point and a depth of 62mm including tread. This meant the XR4 was the widest and highest volume option out of the four tyres on test. It’s worth mentioning that the XR4 will grow a little when paired to wider rims – on a set of 34mm test rims, the XR4s came in pretty much spot-on the claimed 2.6in width.
The big volume allowed me to run a shade less pressure than normal, whilst still having a tyre that felt like it sat up properly on the trail. The firmer compound through the middle of the tyre keeps a good pace on more hard packed surfaces, with the ramped centre tread doing its job just fine. Performance on loose rock was as advertised, with the tyre maintaining good speed and a predictable feel. As the terrain becomes more uneven, or the bike is pushed over into the corners, those side knobs come into their own to keep the XR4 tracking true. The softer 50a compound isn’t the most tacky rubber available, but it does well to boost grip levels on the rocks, providing a happy compromise to an all rounder tyre.
Into the mud and roots was my next port of call to test out the XR4, and given it’s been a long, wet winter, there was a fair abundance of this at my disposal. The harder packed mud went without a hitch, and the tread stayed relatively clear and effective even on the roots lurking down below. Once the mud turned to a more liquified state though, everything went a little bit pear shaped. Clearance wasn’t great, and the lingering mixture left on the tyre meant that roots then became a questionable gamble every time. The tyres performed reasonably well under braking, although on anything sloppy there was a certain amount of squirming from the back as it fought for purchase when it didn’t have full pressure applied.
That said, these were pretty extreme conditions, and across the range of terrain I tackled on the XR4, it would be safe to say it was an efficient all rounder.
Whilst the 120tpi sidewalls gave a nice supple feel and were responsive at my desired pressures, even with the Inner Strength lightweight sidewall protection, I did experience a couple of side wall blow outs whilst pushing the XR4s on rougher terrain. One was a small puncture that was plugged with a tubeless repair kit, while the other was a larger cut that I ended up patching from the inside. As with the Maxxis tyres and the difference between the EXO and Double Down casing options, my advice to anyone with a less ‘subtle’ riding style would be to go for Bontrager’s tougher SE4 tyre. That tyre uses the same tread pattern as the XR4, but with a slightly softer rubber compound and a thicker and heavier duty Core Strength casing. Check out Wil’s review of the Bontrager SE4 tyre here.
The Bontrager XR4 Team Issue is an efficient all rounder tyre that delivers consistent and dependable traction in a wide variety of conditions. I can confirm that it isn’t a dedicated mud tyre, but for almost everything else, the XR4 is grippy, fast-rolling and dependable.
|Product:||XR4 Team Issue 27.5x2.6in|
|From:||Trek Bikes, trekbikes.com|
|Tested:||by Ben Gerrish for 3 months|