Bontrager's XXX 4 wheels are very good. They build on an already-impressive Aeolus platform with modern refinements.

Price: $2,400 (complete wheelset, prices may vary)
Weight: 630 grams front, 770 grams rear (1,400 grams total, XXX 4 TLR rim brake)

Amid the verdant trees and bird-size mosquitoes of Wisconsin, Bontrager is making carbon wheels. The new Aeolus XXX wheels are designed and manufactured in Waterloo, and if you visit the company’s facility, you’ll see much testing goes into developing new products like these.

That’s because Bontrager has been making some of the best wheels on the market for a long time, and they’ve been doing it right here in the USA. But shirking the notion that it’s simply Trek’s in-house brand has been a challenge. When VeloNews visited the facility last summer, more than one Bontrager representative gave a shrug of the shoulders and said something along the lines of, “Well, whether people know it or not, we can only make the best stuff we can.”

So Bontrager continues to do so with the Aeolus XXX 2 (28mm rim depth), XXX 4 (47mm rim depth), and XXX 6 (60mm rim depth) wheels. The rim brake versions of these wheels all feature Laser Control Track braking, which is essentially a laser-etched braking surface. We’ve seen this same successful approach on Enve and Mavic wheels. If rim brakes aren’t your bag, each of the new wheelsets is also available in a disc-brake-ready version as well. And they’re all available in both tubeless-ready clincher and tubular versions.

Each rim’s shape has been redesigned to cope with buffeting in crosswinds. Bontrager spent three years developing the wheels and went through 10,000 test shapes to arrive at the finished versions. Bontrager is promising better braking, lighter weight, and better aerodynamic performance in crosswinds than previous Aeolus wheels.

And they’re wide. A 21-millimeter internal rim width plays nice with the trend of wide tires for multi-surface use. A TLR rim strip is included with each wheel to make tubeless setup quick and easy. All of the rim brake wheels are available now. The XXX2 disc wheels are also available now, while the XXX 4 and XXX 6 disc wheels will be available in June.

First ride

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), our first ride with the XXX 4 wheels took place in the rain. That means we got to test the Laser Control Track braking surface, and we’re happy to report it works well. They’re still rim brake wheels — they won’t rival the power and consistency of discs — but our tester noted it was nice to pull the levers and feel braking forces immediately, rather than the typical delay before the pads engage.

Our tester ran the wheels tubeless, which allowed him to run super-low pressures (60psi) for increased traction on dirt roads. It was here the wheels really excelled. The rim’s width helped us take full advantage of the 25-millimeter rubber we ran. It’s clear that pairing these wheels with 28-millimeter rubber would make for an excellent multi-surface setup.

Bontrager makes some bold claims about the wheelset’s performance in crosswinds, but we haven’t had enough time to confirm that they are any more stable when the breeze kicks up. We’ll address that in a long-term review.

And while we hit a few ruts and chatter on the dirt roads, it wasn’t enough to tell us much about the wheelset’s durability either.

Overall, early impressions of the XXX 4 wheels are very good. They build on an already-impressive Aeolus platform with modern refinements that make them appropriate for competition at the highest levels. In fact, you should be able to spot them on Trek-Segafredo bikes at the Tour of Flanders this Sunday.

Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com
Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com