Updated from the original review in 2019 ~
Trail tires have a wide-ranging definition depending on your riding style and terrain. The Bontrager XR4 is a large volume, medium height well-spaced knobs with low rolling resistance tire. Some of the tires that I think the XR4s compare most closely to are Maxxis Aggressor, Rekon, and Schwalbe Nobby Nic.
These Bontrager XR4s are targeted at the all-around trail rider that wants a great balanced tire that’s good in a wide range of conditions but doesn’t need or want the extra weight and rolling resistance of the status quo Maxxis DHF and DHRs. The XR4 compares in size most closely to a 2.5WT Maxxis casing. Next to the Aggressor, the XR4’s closest competitors are the Schwalbe Nobby Nic and Maxxis Rekon. Did I mention the XR4 is as large or larger than most competitors’ 2.5-inch tires!? The XR4’s rounded profile makes it work well as a front and rear tire for most trail conditions. I tried my best to find faults in the tire while riding a wide range of conditions from slippery roots to sand and rocks.
Bontrager XR4 Team Issue | 29 x 2.4 | Retail Price: $54.99 | Weight: 774 grams (average of 4 weighed) | Actual width on 30mm ID rim: 60.92mm | Actual height on 30mm ID rim: 59.23mm
- Weight – At 774 grams this is one of the lightest tires in the category
- Very predictable – wet rocks and roots, dry and loose it’s a great all-arounder!
- Low rolling resistance for a large and grippy trail tire
- High Volume – Far more accurate than Maxxis in stating true size
- Excellent value at $69.99
- Wear’s slightly quicker than some – Still seems to perform even when worn though
Compared to the Nobby Nic:
The Bontrager XR4’s closest competitor is likely the Schwalbe Nobby Nic – NN review here. Compared to the Nobby Nic, the XR4 seems to offer similar traction and low rolling resistance. If I had to choose one over the other in corning and braking traction, I’d give the slight nod to the Nobby Nic though. On average, the NN is around 100 grams heavier. Surprisingly the puncture resistance seems better with the XR4 – I had zero issues but tore a couple of rear NN’s when really pushing it on rocky downhills.
Compared to the Maxxis Aggressor and Rekon:
The Maxxis Aggressor definitely has more closely spaced and taller knobs. This adds up to an extra 200+ grams that most trail riders don’t need. I feel that I can pretty much ride the XR4 as hard as the Aggressor and it bites and rolls very similarly. As a lighter rider, I prefer the XR4’s lower rolling resistance and weight savings. The more rounded profile also allows the use as a front tire whereas the Aggressor’s square profile is generally a rear only.
The Aggressor might be a better choice for a bigger more aggressive rider or for racing enduro when really pushing it due to its more protected casing.
The XR4 compared to the Maxxis Rekon 2.6 is a little closer since they are really similar in size, weight, and knob spacing. The XR4’s larger knobs give it both better corning and braking traction. Additionally, I feel that the XR4 has a little softer durometer rubber that help’s it in wet conditions on rocks and roots.
After some proper abusive conditions in the rocks of Pisgah and Sedona, I haven’t experienced a single issue with the tires. I haven’t had any punctures, torn knobs, or flats. I am fairly easy on tires until I get sloppy and start plowing into stuff. With several slams of the rear into rocks while pushing it I was surprised not to damage the tire.
The Bontrager XR4 is a fantastic trail tire for those that don’t need the robustness of an enduro tire but want similar traction. It’s definitely one of the most underrated tires on the market. If you’re looking for a light, low-rolling resistance tire without compromising grip too much, the XR4 is a winner. The tire excells rather in the front or rear with its cost-to-performance ratio at retail price that is considerably less than competitors. For now, I’ll say this is my favorite all-around trail tire.
Ready to give these sneakers a try? Buy them here: Bontrager XR4
This Post Has 16 Comments
The SE4 model brings more support and durability to the equation at an average weight penalty of about 10% over the same sized XR4. It trades the XR4’s subtle 1pi single-ply casing for Bontrager’s Core-Strength reinforcement in the sidewall and casing. One model for weight conscious rider looking for good rolling and good grip. One model for heavier rider concerned with support at lower pressures, tire durability, rim protection, and flats.
Well said ?, I totally agree!
I would tend to agree with your test results. They came as OEM on my Trek Fuel EX and I wrongly thought that it was a very slow rolling tire. After my initial impression, I went out and purchased a Maxxis Rekon Race front and Ikon rear only to find it rolled no faster. Here is where I shamelessly admit that I found that my stock hubs had horrible bearings and that is why it rolled so slowly. That set of XR4’s now resides on my hardtail and it flat out flies! This is now my go to tire for just about everything and I look forward to getting a set back on the Fuel EX.
I’ve been using them for over a year on a Trek Powerfly LT 7 and I can’t fault them, particularly their low rolling resistance. At low pressures (I ride about 15lbs, yes 15) they just glide through bumpy sections. My riding area is not particularly rocky, although their are some and of course tree roots, hence why I ride at low pressures to take advantage of the low rolling resistance and 120TPI carcass. Otherwise I’m just careful and ‘ride light’ when I see rocks and edges. Not had a flat yet. Great tyre, well recommended.
I actually like the XR4s on my 2018 Trek EX 8….rolls well, really sticky on my trails, great volume in 30mm internal rims….way better than Hans Dampf and Nobby Nic (and I like both). Lighter, nice rolling, sticky…I would definitely replace with XR4s.
Just following up on your post on the XR4 which is now a few years old. Any further thoughts on this tire?I’ve been running a 29×2.4 XR4 as a rear tire on my Ibis Ripley v4 on the Colorado Front Range for almost a year now it looks very much like the tire in your pic. I run a Maxxis Dissector 29×2.4 (860g claimed weight) as a front to give me a faster somewhat light rolling trail set up for loose over hard. I’ve spent most of the last year on flat peddles trying to work on leaning the bike and pushing hard into the corners. The Bonty in the back probably has a 120% more volume than the Maxxis up front. Today I mounted a 2.6 DHF on the front and will compare my ride times w the larger tire. The 2.6 DHf doesn’t appear to have much if any more width than the 2.4 XR4 though it is taller/more volume. Next up I’m buying another 2.4 XR4 for the back and may run it up front for a bit to see how it grabs. Anyone tried a 2.6 XR4 on the front?
I definitely still really like the tire XR4, but don’t really have further thoughts on the tire. I find tires from Bontrager and Specialized more appealing as the differences that Maxxis may offer/claim don’t justify the added expense to me (now $100+ for many EXO tires). I am a smaller guy (140lbs) so I’ve found that I feel the extra weight and rolling resistance more than the normal rider. My preferences are light, faster rolling, and reliable tire over a grippy slow tire.
Like a lot of people, I tend to be into the tires I currently am riding. At the moment I have the Specialized Ground Control on my bikes. I still like the XR4 a lot as it’s a reasonably priced, reliable and fastish rolling tire.
I’ve found the differences in the way most 2.6″ tires feels on the trail isn’t that noticeable to me. And when I tried to run lower pressures, I started having rim strikes. So in the end I ended up running the same pressures I do in 2.35″ and 2.4″ tires. I have not ridden the XR4 in a 2.6″, but hear good things.If I remember correctly, the real weight of the XR4 2.6 is over 1000 grams though.
I just put the XR4 on my Top Fuel 7 I had specialized Butcher and Eliminator on my Fuel EX they were supposed to be comparable so I was told they are nice dry terrain tires but can’t compare to the traction and stability of the specialized so for me one and done I will have the Specialized on my bike for the spring or sooner
I believe the XR4 more closely resembles the Specialized Purgatory that doesn’t have quite as tall side knobs and rolls a bit faster – more of a true trail tire. The Butcher and Eliminator are quite a bit more aggressive tires than the XR4 for sure. I’d consider them a full blown enduro tire that prioritizes grip over the XR4’s more balanced all aroundness that most folks are looking for riding a Top Fuel.
Hey, slightly off topic, but….I am gearing up for the Swank 65 this year and was wondering what type tires you would run on it. I know these kind of races are won on the climbs, but I worry about going too small and lightweight with some of those descents. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Hey Josh! Great question, there are definitely tradeoffs if you go too XC or trail with your tires at Swank. You are right about the race being won on the climbs. Lots of time can be lost on the descent’s as well.
If you’re comfortable riding more minimalistic XC tires, I don’t think lack of traction is necessarily going to hold you back that much, but being worried about flats will. Upper Black (down to Club), Avery, and Lower Black have some tire killer’s with all the rocks. I rode Maxxis Aspen’s last year and lost big time on the DH as I was too worried about flatting. This year I’ll most likely ride the more “trail” oriented 60tpi Specialized Ground Control so I don’t have to worry about flat’s as much. Hope this helps, and you have a fantastic Swank!
Another good combo could be XR4 front and XR3 rear if you want a little more cornering traction. This would save you a little weight over the Ground Controls too.
Great. Thanks for the feedback.
I rode Ikon 2.2’s front and rear in the Five Points Fifty here in Chattanooga this year and ran DHR II front and Rekon rear 2 years ago at Swank. I’m mostly a Maxxis guy, so how do the tires you recommended compare to Maxxis tires(Rekon, Ikon, etc..)? I actually picked up a 2.6 Ikon recently and thought it might be a good tire for the race just for the volume and lower rolling resistance.
The 2.4WT Rekon doesn’t have quite the volume or grip of the XR4, but maybe rolls slightly faster. They’re about the same weight. The 2.6 Ikon is an OK tire for Swank. You’d just have to be a little more careful not to damage the tire on Avery and Black (the two rockier trails) and if conditions stay the same (dry and dusty) you’ll have to be careful in the corners. If you are a really smooth rider that can unweight or hop over the rough and are are comfortable in the corners with minimal knobs, XC tires can be an advantage. I’d vote for the Rekon over the Ikon though. With a little more bite and maybe a little more protection the Rekon is made for Swank.
If you haven’t ridden Black since last you did Swank,its quite a bit rockier (upper down to top of Avery and lower). Due to traffic and conditions the past couple summers, lots of sharp rocks have started poking through the dirt that was laid on top of them during previous years trailwork.