In the very first issue of peloton we introduced you to a company called Wheel Energy. Deep in the Finnish tundra (well, an hour outside of Helsinki) a few engineers have created a tire junkies heaven. They take tires and check their rolling resistance, their traction in dry and wet and every other conceivable aspect of tire performance. As a completely independent test lab they have made a business of speaking truth to power. The biggest brands in cycling come to them to find out just how their tires match up to the competition.
When Bontrager wanted to redesign their AW tires, all-weather tires, they had some lofty goals – divorce flat protection from a heavy, rigid ride, create traction and longevity that work hand-in-hand. Knowing that everyone can benefit from a race tires feel, but most riders will never race and dont want to sacrifice durability and flat protection, they decided to go after race feel without the delicate persona. Their new AW3 HCL is the tire tasked with delivering all of this.
When they presented it to Wheel Energy the Finns put it through its paces and presented the results, which were pretty amazing. Compared to other all-season tires designed for flat protection and durability the AW3 HCL presents less rolling resistance, in some cases much less, up to 25watt saving. For a training ride averaging 200 watts those are very significant savings the difference between feeling fresh and lively and feeling slow and sluggish.
The protection comes from an aramid layer for debris protection under the tread, but it does not extend to the sidewalls to keep them supple and light. This is called Hard Case Light, a Hard Case style is also available with an aramid layer under the tread, an anti cut layer and pinch flat resistant sidewalls. These tires come in an entry level AW1 for $30, an AW2 mid range tire and the top of the line AW3 for $70. The top of the line AW3 HCL tire weighs under 240grams, which is average for a race day tire, and game-changingly light for an all-purpose training tire. Yes, we know game-changingly is not a word, but it seemed appropriate. The tires are available from 23mm all the way out to 32mm.
Sadly, the tires are not yet available as part of Bontragers extensive tubeless ready offerings. The problems the AW tires aim to solve are the same thing tubeless solves and with the new, wide Hutchinson Sector 28 getting so much press, a tubeless 28mm Bontrager tire would be very well received, but we will have to wait and see if that tire is forthcoming. We have a set of the new AW tires en-route for long term test where we will weigh them, measure them and ride them, to see if they live up to the hype. Stay tuned.