The new Bontrager FR3 29″er tires are getting a work out now, so let’s see what my first impressions are of these aggressive, burly tires. You can go back to get all the technical data here on the FR3’s from my “Out Of The Box” posting if you want to check out the specs.

ChargerFR3Rumble 022

How They Roll: Initial reports were that this tire was designed to have a great feel while pedaling yet have gobs of traction. A seemingly tough bill to fill for Bontrager. Usually a tire with “Velcro-like” traction rolls pretty slowly and vice-versa. The way Bontrager attacked the issue was with a novel tread pattern that features the center line of “knobs”, (or more like a ridge line), that would allow for fast rolling performance along with a lower set of tread “bars” emanating from that center ridge. Then the transitional knobs get taller, and the outside knobs bigger and taller yet. Interestingly, the way the tire performs is very dependent upon the rim it is mounted on and your air pressure settings. A wider rim sets more of the outer tread onto the trail, yielding more traction, but also more rolling resistance. You could also mimic a wider rim with a lower air pressure setting. A narrower rim makes the FR3 have a more crowned tread area, making the tire ride more on the center ridge. A higher air pressure setting may also yield this sort of result, which will make the FR3 roll freer than on a wider rim or with lower air pressure.

I used a rim in the middle of the suggested rim width range for this tire with air pressure settings in the mid to upper 20’s. My results showed that the FR3 rolls pretty well. I think the center ridge and lower ribs alongside that ridge help here. It isn’t “XC” tire fast, but it isn’t getting a ton of rolling resistance either. Some folks have commented that they thought the center ridge feature would be a negative for traction, but here I felt the FR3 really shined, despite the weird center line design.

ChargerFR3Rumble 019

Going Up And Around: One of the more challenging features about the local trails here is when our dirt gets somewhere between “tacky” and “greasy” where the dirt sticks into the tire tread blocks and then the occasional sandy patches leave a coating of marbles on the outside of that. (See image above) A tire that doesn’t have good traction to begin with will really fail to get a grip when this situation arises here. I was able to try the FR3 in these exact conditions and it passed the test with flying colors. The FR3 failed to lose its grip on the trail, climbed up the rooty step ups and made it through all the greasy spots but one where I blundered a sharp uphill corner while trying to clear a root in the granny gear. More my fault than the tires, really. But that said, the FR3 left me smiling. It really digs in on climbs and like to be leaned into corners where it seemed I could have pushed it a bit harder without losing grip. Off cambers were no issue here either. The FR3 just cruised through like I was on flat ground.

So, traction is good, the FR3 rolls pretty well, it sets up tubeless great, and handles low pressures just fine without feeling squirmy. I still need to test the durability claims for this tire, and we’ll have to wait a bit on that until I get some more test rides in tougher conditions. For now I will say that the FR3 looks to be a great tire for all around aggressive riding and should shine in a wide variety of trail conditions. It is built to withstand some abuse, and therefore is not a light tire. Those looking for something lighter can look elsewhere, but they will miss out on a tire with great traction, toughness, and a tire that rolls better than most any other tire in this class.

Stay tuned for the Mid-Term and Final Review in the weeks to come.

Note: These tires were purchased for test and review on this site. We are not being bribed or payed for this review. We will strive to give our honest opinions throughout.