The XR2 is a fast rolling race tyre designed for use on loose-over-hardpack and loamy terrain, while the XR3 has a more aggressive tread, designed to offer more traction in wet and dry conditions. Knowing that I like the confidence that comes with looking down at a beefy front tyre, I opted for a 2.3" XR3 on the front and put the slightly lighter, faster rolling 2.2" XR2 on the rear.
Team Issue is the premium offering in the Bontrager XR range, with the Comp and Expert versions of these tyres coming in slightly heavier, at a lower price.
On the Trails
My first test of the tyres was a nine-day stage race at joBerg2c. They performed admirably and without a single issue. The trails at joBerg2c were for the most part pretty smooth, and I probably didn't need the grippier XR3 on the front. To put them properly to the test I returned to my beloved stomping grounds: the loose rocky lines that make up the Tokai trail network. After subjecting them to as much bad riding as I could dish out, in every rock garden I could find (finesse is not my strong point), I can safely say they are robust.
Putting these tyres on coincided with a phase during which I have been trying to improve my cornering, and also happened around the time of the first rains of the season, and the advent of "hero dirt". So I can't honestly say whether my improved confidence cornering is down to practice, trail conditions, or the tyres, but they have felt comfortable turning on a variety of surfaces. A big plus for me is that there is no dead zone in the grip when leaning the bike over, so you don't have that scary split second before the knobs on the edges catch when leaning hard.
On dirt roads, they roll as well any other tyre I have ridden. Thanks to the drought we are experiencing in the Cape, I have yet to test them in seriously muddy conditions. The few times I have encountered mud or clay on the trail, I haven't noticed any issues with mud shedding.
The only potential hitch I see with these tyres is the price. At R799 per tyre they are neither the most expensive, nor the cheapest out there. For some, this may be an issue, but for what you get in terms of quality, wear and weight, I'd say they are extremely competitively priced.
These tyres offer a magical combination of grip and low rolling resistance at a competitive weight and price point. If you are in the market for cross country tyres it is worth taking a closer look at the Bontrager range.