Bontrager Race XXX Lite Clincher wheelset ridden and raced - Road Cycling UK

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Bontrager Race XXX Lite Clincher wheelset ridden and raced

Bontrager Race XXX Lite Clincher wheels prove fast and responsive

Wheels maketh the bike. Nowhere is money better spent than on wheels, a component of the racing bicycle that can have a profound impact on the performance of the bike as a whole. This is something I’ve been focusing on recently.

My current bike of choice, a Focus Izalco, runs a pair of Zipp 303/404 carbon/aluminium clincher wheels. While not the lightest at 1635g, once up to speed there’s a clear aerodynamic advantage over regular box section rims.

The key bit of that previous paragraph, however, is “once up to speed,” and it’s the Zipps’ slight hesitation in acceleration from slower speeds, that prompted a change to a pair of Bontrager Race XXX Lite Clincher wheels.

Their 1320g pair weight is achieved with an OCLV carbon fibre rim, flangeless carbon hub shells and 18 front and 24 rear straight pull DT Aerolite spokes.I do a fair amount of racing and recently the majority of it has been crit racing.

We’re well served in London with dedicated crit circuits at Hog Hill and Crystal Palace. They’re short, tight and twisting circuits, and the nature of the racing, with lots of sprinting, attacking and covering of moves, dictated my wheel change. So a light, yet stiff wheelset is the preferred choice. The speed can change dramatically and often with little warning in a crit race, and a wheel that is responsive to these changes of speed, with a quick ‘wind up’, is key.

On paper the Bonty’s looked to offer an improvement over the Zipp’s. Only riding would tell though. So, with tyres fitted and brake pads swapped for the supplied Bontrager cork pads, I took the Bonty’s out for a spin. Immediate impressions just rolling away from the office were impressive; there’s a noticeable difference just riding through the congested streets of London, and moving away from traffic lights revealed that their low weight improved the ease of acceleration.

But racing was the real test, and so a load of weekly crit races was on the cards. What I really noticed, coming away from my first race with the Bontrager’s fitted, aside from the comments I received on how snazzy they looked in the bike, is the extra ‘snap’ when getting out of the saddle, sprinting out of corners or crossing a gap to a breakaway rider.

There are some, quite serious, downsides however. Firstly, the braking performance is poor. With the supplied pads, braking is by far the poorest I have ever experienced with carbon rims. The Reynolds hoops that I recently tested proved that carbon braking performance has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but the Bonty’s are seriously lacking.

They’re also not the most compliant wheels, mostly likely directly attributed to the carbon rim construction. Particularly noticeable is an unnerving feedback that manifests itself as a thrumming through the handlebars. It only occurs at higher speeds (in the 40-50kph range) on some road surfaces, and is a slight concern. That aside, the wheels are proving to be tough and durable, despite their light weight and carbon construction. It might ‘only’ be a 320g weight saving, which is nothing to the complete bike, but in the area the weight has been saved the difference is huge.

Bontrager Race XXX Lite Clincher: £699.99 front, £999.99 rear

bontrager.com

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