Cyclocross has seen quite a bit of innovation over the last few years. The eager acceptance of disc brakes has been the most notable change that riders have embraced. With braking issues settled, traction has always been a battle. Clincher tires will pinch flat at lower pressures, while tubulars are expensive and high maintenance. Tubeless tires have been a corner- stone in the mountain bike community, so it’s natural that cyclocross would follow suit. The CX3 TLR (tubeless-ready) tire is Bontrager’s response to the need of better traction while implementing modern technology at a competitive price.
The CX3 tread pattern is Bontrager’s go-to for muddy and adverse racing conditions. With ramped outside knobs and generous spacing down the center, the tire capably prevents mud and grass buildup. Bontrager offers the CX3 in two different casings—tubeless and clincher. The tubeless version that we tested has thicker sidewalls and a little extra puncture protection, in addition to a 120 tpi casing and a pressure range of 30–70 psi.
Set up was fairly easy. The HED Ardennes wheels that we mounted the CX3s on were already taped to go tubeless, which saved us a step. We used 2 ounces (per tire) of Bontrager’s tubeless sealant and had no issues getting the bead to seat on the rim. Bontrager claims that the CX3 can be run anywhere from 70 all the way down to 30 psi, so we set the tire pressure at 60 pounds to start out on the road, then dropped it to 38 psi in the front and 40 in the back at the first touch of dirt. We spent quite a bit of time on local fire roads and even did a longer gravel event to see just how much these tires could handle in terms of terrain and adversity. On steep, loose climbs, the rear tire hooked up well and felt consistent while maintaining traction. We had pretty consistent traction climbing with the rear tire up to about 50 psi; once we inflated higher, we spun out quite a bit.
The one thing we noticed about the CX3 is that it likes corners. The ramped outside knobs grabbed the trail and held tight lines through loose dirt, sand, hardpack and even on grass. The 33mm width seemed just wide enough to allow us to push the tires hard through turns and lean the bike lower than we normally would. Given the drought in California, it’s typically tough to find mud, but thanks to a recent light rain, we were able to find some muddy trails. Mud caked up some on the outside of the tire due to how close the knobs are spaced, but through the center of the tire, mud fell off pretty easily.
Even though they got us through to the finish of a treacherous day at a local gravel event, they are not suited for gritty roads. The rear tire showed significant wear after a day on rocky terrain, and even though we appreciated how low these could be run, we banged our rims pretty harshly on some sections that weren’t “cyclocross course smooth.”
• Affordable tire for aspiring racer
• Corners like a champ
• Doesn’t like rocks
Weight: 405 grams