With wheels our first stop for performance upgrades, we’re taking a look at Bontrager’s Aeolus 3 D3 carbon clinchers.
These hoops are among those routinely pressed into service by the Radioshack-Leopard squad of Jens Voigt, Fabian Cancellara et al, and among the new school of carbon wheel design: shallow, broad, and rounded, in the style of Simon Smart’s Enve collaboration.
Deeper carbon wheels – a feature of the Aeolus range if required (the 7 and 9) – look set now to remain the preserve of sprinters and time trialists.
Joint lightest in Bontrager’s range with their X-Lite TLR aluminium hoops (‘Tubeless Ready’), Bontrager have pitched the Aeolus 3 as a climber’s wheel: the headline weight is 1440 grams for the pair. While we’ve seen lighter wheels for less money (the Spada Stiletto aluminium clinchers we have on test, to name just one), it’s worth noting that there is no weight limit on this wheelset, indicating that Bontrager have at least one eye on longevity.
The American firm is claiming more than marginal gains for its Aeolus wheels, having invested significant development time investigating the interaction of the leading and secondary edge with the wind. The result is a wide rim (27mm) with a distinctive rounded profile, and, as mentioned above, a not dissimilar appearance to the previously tested Smart Enve hoops.
Unpackaging the wheels, we were pleased to find wheel bags, carbon-friendly cork brake pads, and valve extenders included. Such a package is sadly not standard among suppliers of full carbon hoops, and so worth noting here, if only for the many occasions we’ve spent running around looking for such items before testing.
Drilling down into the specification, we find a carbon rim some 35mm deep and 27mm wide, built using the same OCLV technology as Trek’s Madone and Domane framesets – little surprise given that Bontrager is a Trek subsidiary. These are laced to Bontrager-branded hubs built by DT Swiss with18 DT butted spokes front, and 24 at the rear .
The spokes are straight pull, front and rear. Interestingly, Bontrager have used what they call a ‘stacked’ lacing on the driveside rear, courtesy of a hub flange divided into six segments, each loaded with two spokes to allow wider bracing angles, and intended to deliver a stiffer rear wheel than a conventional hub.
The hub internals consist of cartridge bearings front and rear and DT’s ubiquitous star ratchet drive system for the aluminium freehub body (we’ll watch closely to see if this suffers from the cassette marking we’ve encountered on rival offerings). Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo iterations of the freehub are available.
The Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 has the look of a wheelset for the all-rounder rather than the specialist, but we’ll see how they play out in the coming months.
Check back soon for a full review.
Price: £899.99 front; £1099.99 rear