Bontrager Aeolus XXX 2–Product Test

New and improved performance for bikes with the old brakes

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Of all the hard parts found in the Bontrager catalog, their wide selection of wheels has always been the most impressive. For 2018 the crew from Waterloo is adding new members to their family of performance-driven Aeolus wheels. Created with the goal of improving the Aeolus D3 design, the revamped Aeolus XXX line features three unique rim depths—28mm, 47mm and 60mm. The wheels are available in clincher and tubular designs, and while all rim brake models are available immediately, the Aeolus XXX 4 and Aeolus XXX 6 Disc models will be available in the summer.

THE TECH

According to Bontrager, it took three years of using finite element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and optimization software that produced 10,000 different designs before they settled on a final version of their new Aeolus XXX rim. Designed to refine the strengths of the Aeolus D3 and improve both braking and aerodynamic effects in crosswinds, Bontrager claims the Aeolus XXX is the most researched rim they’ve
ever produced.

While Bontrager developed a whole line of disc brake-friendly XXX rims, parent company Trek decided to throw a bone to the universe of rim brake riders by investing in an automated laser machining center that was used to roughen the brake surface to an optimized level for drastically improved braking performance, especially in wet conditions. Trek’s proprietary Laser Control Track is designed to work only with Swiss Stop Black Prince
brake pads.

We were happy to find a 21mm internal rim width, which is fast becoming the new optimized standard for the wider-tire trend. The wider rim is ideal for 28mm road tires or for multi-surface riding and gravel adventures. The width increases aerodynamics by producing minimal drag and helps provide a stable feel in the crosswinds.

The American-made wheels have an 18 (front)-/24 (rear)-spoke configuration using DT-Swiss Aerolite spokes. You’ll also find DT-Swiss hub internals with 36-point star ratchets. In addition to the Black Prince brake pads, included with the wheels is a Bontrager tubeless set-up kit that includes a TLR rim strip and valves. There is no rider weight limit with the wheels.

THE SETUP 

To get the most out of the XXX 2 TLR design, we set them up with Bontrager R3 TLR 700×26 tires. Unlike Mavic’s and other competitors’ tubeless-ready wheel/tire combos, using the Bontrager setup kit proved to be a painstaking process that took an unacceptable amount of time and eventually required us to use rim tape and valves that were not included. After a few frustrating attempts and lots of spilled sealant, the tires held air and ballooned up to a measured 28.3mm wide.

On the bike the wheels look stunning, with a minimalistic laser-etched branding that stands
out when comparing to other branded wheel technologies.

THE RIDE

The first thing we noticed with the wheels is how well they accelerated, which no doubt was the result of their low weight of 1313 grams (577 front/736 rear). When hitting rough road patches, the Bontragers damped most of the vibrations and produced confidence-inspiring feedback to make even the most hesitant rider feel more secure.

Lucky for us, a rare week of rain rolled into SoCal just as we rolled out on the Bonti hoops. Once out in the rain, braking was efficient, with comfortable modulation and response that rivals wet alloy rim-braking performance. With 65 psi in the tires, we felt confident and comfortable rolling through puddles and wet surfaces.

The rain began to let up, and the wheels inspired us to hit a couple more climbs. The wide rim and resulting tire profile encouraged us to push our limits descending, hitting unusually high speeds around corners, and we even got a response of “So that’s how that descent should look.”


THE VERDICT

It’s obvious that Bontrager has been paying attention to the current trends in wheel technology to create a
superior wheel.

The Bontrager Aeolus XXX is designed to handle everything from the cobbled kilometers of the Tour of Flanders to a local Sunday group ride. The new rim braking surface is outstanding, it allows you to feel comfortable in either wet or dry conditions which is a necessity for any carbon wheel. And, with a little effort (actually, a lot), it is tubeless ready.

While disc brakes are taking over, the stopping performance that comes courtesy of the laser etching on the braking surface can give retro-holdouts some refuge. The improvements the team at Bontrager produced are impressive, and we just can’t wait to try the disc brake versions.

PUNCH LINES

  • Unacceptable tubeless setup
  • Confident braking surface
  • Made in the USA

STATS

Price: $2399.98

Weight: 1313 grams/1433 grams with rim strip and valves

www.trekbikes.com

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