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Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 tire review – a lightweight tire for pure XC speed

A fast and impressively planted tire designed to chew up hardpack at speed

Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 tire
(Image: © Aaron Borrill)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Undoubtedly a fast tire but caution should be taken on rougher sections as it lacks comprehensive puncture protection.

Pros

  • +

    Huge spread of options and widths

  • +

    Easy to fit

  • +

    Fast-rolling tread pattern

  • +

    Excellent traction

Cons

  • -

    Minimal puncture protection

As the component arm of Trek, Bontrager is responsible for manufacturing a raft of components and accessories, and the brand’s XR2 Team Issue pictured here are one of the fastest options in the best XC tires segment. Like its main rival, the Vittoria Mezcal, the Bontrager XR2 Team Issue rolls with ease flaunting a tread pattern better suited to dry and loose conditions. 

Used by Trek Factory Racing’s Anton Cooper, Vlad Dascalu, Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff, the lightweight-construction lacks the 'Inner Strength' puncture-resistant casings of the XR2 2.3 and 2.6 but still gains some protection from the 120tpi nylon casing. I’ve been using this particular tire in various guises for years now in a myriad of conditions and stage races and have yet to be disappointed. It’s an excellent choice for those looking for the fastest route from A to B.

Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 tire

The XR2 Team Issue's tread pattern gives plenty of grip in dry conditions (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

 Design and specification

The Bontrager XR2 Team Issue might not feature the visual drama of the Mezcals, but the tread pattern is distinctive and functional. As the narrowest option in the XR2 Team Issue range, the 2.2in version pictured here is still generously lugged featuring a low-profile tread-block design and 120tpi casing. The sidewalls and lightweight nylon casing offer some protection, but not the same level as some of the competition. These particular tires are tubeless-ready and easy to fit - especially in partnership with the brand’s Kovee Elite 23 carbon wheels. 

Bontrager’s proprietary tread compound has been formulated for maximum adhesion in the corners, with no compromise on straight-line speed and that’s exactly how they feel out on the trail. Grip levels belie the relatively shallow tread pattern, and provide the assurance needed to push hard through corners and off-camber bends.

Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 tire

As well as the 2.2in version here, the XR2 is also available in 2.3in and 2.6in widths (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

 Performance

Weighing 681g per tire, they’re one of the lightest options in the segment and you can feel the low rolling mass when the trail points upwards. The shallow tread pattern, while not brilliant when it comes to dealing with mud and roots, provides great traction in most situations even up steep, loose climbs. Despite the paucity of comprehensive sidewall reinforcement, I’ve never felt at a disadvantage or reluctant to press on when the trail gets gnarlier, and I’m talking about properly gnarly Africanized trails of the Western Cape in South Africa. 

The counterargument is limited traction levels in the wet, across roots or when the trails are extremely washed out and loose. This can cause a lack of communication and trust with the front end forcing you to hold onto your breaks for longer, subsequently ruining trail flow and rhythm but this is only in extreme cases. If you’re a heavier rider who enjoys more technical trails, it’s probably worth upsizing to the XR2 2.3 and 2.6 or even the XR3.

Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 tire

The XR2 is a great partner for Bontrager's Kovee Elite 23 carbon wheels (Image credit: Aaron Borrill)

Verdict 

The Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 is a versatile tire, equipped to handle the rigors of contemporary cross-country racing. Yes, it lacks comprehensive sidewall protection but this is not a deal breaker as the 120tpi nylon casing is adequate enough to deal with everything the UK (and world) can throw at it. It’s only when venturing out and taking on more rutted, rocky trails that the casing might come under attack. Overall, it’s a fast, lightweight tire designed for relatively groomed cross-country courses. While they don’t cope well in the wet, they are difficult to trump when it comes to performance on dry, hardpack trails. 

Tech specs: Bontrager XR2 Team Issue 2.20 tire

  • Price: $69.99 / £64.99 / €69.99
  • Wheel size (inches): 26-, 27.5-, 29-inch (tested)
  • Carcass: Inner Strength on high-volume options only 
  • Dimensions: 2.2in
  • Weight: 681g (29 x 2.20) 
Aaron Borrill
Aaron Borrill

Aaron is Bike Perfect's former tech editor and also the former gear editor of Bicycling magazine. He's tested thousands of bicycles all over the world. A competitive racer and Stravaholic, he’s twice ridden the Cape Epic, raced nearly every MTB stage race in South Africa and completed the Haute Route Alps. Recently, Aaron has also taken up Zwift racing and competes at the highest level of eRacing, the ZRL Premier Division.


Rides: Trek Procaliber 9.9 MTB 

Height: 175cm

Weight: 61.5kg