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Bontrager debuts carbon clinchers and road tubeless wheels

Bontrager debuts carbon clinchers, cheaper helmets, aero drop bars and tubeless road wheels and tires

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FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (VN) — Four new carbon clincher and three road tubeless wheelsets, tubeless-ready tires, an aerodynamic road bar, and a brand new, lower price-point helmet are all their way from Bontrager, the company announced on Wednesday in Belgium. The new goods are at least a few months away, but will be hitting shops mid-to-late fall and provide increased options both in performance and price point.

D3 Clincher wheel line

The Aeolus D3 tubular lineup has been around for about a year, as has the 50mm Aeolus 5 D3 clincher. We have tested and enjoyed both — the 50mm tubulars are part of a VeloLab review in the July issue of Velo Magazine, and we found them to be the most versatile wheels in our lineup. The 50mm Aeolus 5 clinchers feel very similar, with just a bit of added weight.

Now Bontrager is adding three new rim heights to the carbon clincher lineup: the 35mm Aeolus 3, 70mm Aeolus 7, and 90mm Aeolus 9. All three, as well as the Aeolus 5, feature full-carbon rims laced to Bontrager hubs using DT Swiss internals with 18 front and 24 rear spokes. Any of the four will set you back $2700 per set.

Rim shapes fit the latest wide trend, at 27mm wide at the brake track across the range. Unlike Zipp and Hed, though, Bontrager has not focused its trailing-edge shape on crosswind stability, instead opting for a bit less overall drag. The goal, the company says, is to produce a shallower rim with the same low drag as a taller one so crosswind stability is improved automatically, thanks to decreased surface area, and lower drag can be achieved with a shallower rim height.

“Zipp went after stability, with a super blunt trailing edge, so they gave up a bit of pure performance,” Bontrager wheel product manager Darren Snyder said. “Bontrager has leaned more towards producing the lowest-drag wheel, and let the rider chose which is the fastest wheel for the day.”

The approach is certainly different, with most brands clamoring for the “most stable” label. In our own testing we noticed that the Aeolus 5 was slightly more prone to be blown off course by wind gusts than the taller Hed Stinger 6 and Enve 6.7, but they also tested nearly as quickly in the wind tunnel as those taller options. (For the full details on that test, pick up the July issue of Velo)

The Aeolus 3 is aimed squarely at shallower multi-purpose wheels like the Zipp 303 Firecrest clincher, with a competitive claimed weight of 1450 grams and drag figures that mimic those of the taller 303 until over 10-degress yaw, when Zipp pulls ahead.

The Aeolus 5 clincher weighs 1520 grams, again very competitive with other similar offerings. It is intended to compete with the Zipp 404 and Hed Stinger 6, and Bontrager data indicates it does sit closely in line with both. According to Bontrager’s testing, the 5 doies stall later than the Zipp 404, at 15 degrees yaw instead of 12.

The Aeolus 7 weighs a claimed 1700 grams, and the 9 weighs 1910 grams. Both are aimed at the TT and triathlon set, and obviously come through with the lowest drag figures in the range. The Aeolus 9 with Bontrager’s aero-profiled Aero 4 clincher tire can produce negative drag under certain conditions, according to Bontrager’s wind tunnel testing. Other tall wheels, including Zipp’s 808 Firecrest and Mavic’s new CXR80, make similar claims.

All four models will be 11-speed Shimano compatible with the swap of the freehub body. None have a weight limit.

Tubeless Ready

Road tubeless seems to have been on the brink of big things for years now, with Hutchinson leading the way and a few other tire companies, including Maxxis and Specialized throwing their hats in the ring as well. Rim options have slowly expanded, but still remain somewhat limited.

Bontrager believes in the system, and to prove it has released an entirely new line of tubeless-ready wheels and tires for 2013. The aluminum RTL (Road Tubeless Ready) wheels, dubbed Race, Race Lite (RL), and Race X Lite (RXL), each use the same Tubeless Ready rim strip system as Bontrager’s mountain bike tubeless wheels, and bring road tubeless down to an impressively low price point.

The Race wheelset will retail for $500 and will be available in July. Weight is a claimed 1690 grams. The RL will also be available in July, for $700, and weighs 1500 grams. The RXL model will be available in September for $1000 and weighs 1480 grams.

All three sets use an offset spoke bed to help equalize spoke tension between the drive side and non-drive side, and include localized spoke head reinforcement on the rims to keep weight low and strength high.

The rims of all three sets will be wider than average, with a 23mm inner width. Wide rims support the tire better, offering a better ride and improved cornering, particularly when used with wider tires.

This brings us to the two new road tubeless tires, the R3 and R2. Though Bontrager is debuting the tires with the wheels, all three wheelsets will be compatible with any other road tubeless tire on the market, as well as clincher tires and tubes.

Both options use a high-modulus Kevlar bead, rather than a carbon bead as Hutchinson uses, and will be available in October. The R3 has a 120tpi casing and Bontrager’s HardCase puncture protection and weighs 270 grams. According to testing done at Wheel Energy in Finland, the same test facility we have used for independent tire testing, the R3 offers lower rolling resistance than any current road tubeless option. It will retail for $80.

The R2 uses a 60tpi casing and weights 310 grams, uses the same Kevlar bead and HardCase protection, but only costs $60.

Both tires will be available in 23 and 25mm sizes. The 25mm is a true 25, too, making them the fattest road tubeless option currently available. For a system whose primary selling point is lower pressures, more comfort, and more grip, a 25mm tire fits in perfectly. We’re rather astounded that there aren’t more wide options already available, actually.

Bontrager will sell its own ammonia-free sealant as well, available for $25 for a 32oz bottle or $2 for a 2oz bottle.

Specter helmet

Bontrager’s $200 Oracle helmet has proved popular since its debut a year ago, and now the company is applying much of the same same design and technology to a cheaper package. The Specter adds a bit of weight, and uses an aluminized fiberglass Texallium skeleton instead of the Oracle’s carbon, but is otherwise nearly identical — but for $140.

Weight is a reasonable 270 grams, and like the Oracle, the Specter uses venting designed with computational fluid dynamics to keep as much air flowing over the head as possible. New anti-mircrobial pads should keep it smelling fresh a bit longer, and a brand new smaller, sleeker Headmaster retention system allows for easy adjustment.

Aero road bars

Last, but certainly not least, is a new aero-shaped road bar which uses the same Kamm tail shapes as the Speed Concept and Madone 7 frames. A carbon XXX Lite version will retail for $350, weighs 200 grams, and will be available in 38-46cm widths in 2cm increments. The aluminum Race Lite Aero version uses the same shape but is only $100 and weighs 320 grams.

Both models have 125mm drop, 85mm reach and 31.8mm clamp size, and are fully UCI legal. All cabling is internal, including Di2 or EPS wires, to keep the front end as clean as possible. The bar is compatible with clip-on aero bars as well.

Editor’s Note: Keep your browser pointed to for more from the Bontrager/Trek launch in Belgium.