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By Ophir Sefiha
When Trek’s new top-of-the-line Top Fuel 9.9 SSL was unveiled earlier this month at the company’s mountain bike product launch, arguably one of the most attention-grabbing components was a Bontrager-branded carbon wheelset. As it turned out, this was not the only new set of wheels Trek will unveil for 2009. Bontrager will offer updated versions of its Race Lite wheelset for the cross-country crowd as well as its all-mountain Rhythm line. Both models will be offered in 26-inch and 29-inch versions.
As with all things carbon, weight (or lack thereof) is typically the most discussed feature. The new Race XXX Lite wheelset weighs in at 1450 grams for 26-inch and 1570 grams for the 29” version. The carbon hoops are constructed of Bontrager’s new High Compression Molded process, which creates uniform thickness throughout the rim. As clinchers, the rims feature what Bontrager calls Hard Tooled Hookbead Technology (HTHT), which creates precision carbon hookbeds and rim walls that require no additional machining after the rim is molded. They can be run with traditional tubes but will come with Bontrager-designed tubeless rim strips and valve cores for those wanting to run Bontrager’s Tubeless Ready tires or UST tires.
Although pricing for the Race XXX Lite has not been announced, ballpark estimates place most Bontrager carbon road wheelsets in the $2000 price range.
Sharing much of the XXX Lite’s technology, including the same hubs and spokes, is the scandium-rim Race X Lite, which is just 90 grams heavier. The Race X Lite will show up on most of the Top Fuels and will also be available for aftermarket sale. These wheels are tubeless-compatible but Bontrager claims they are optimized for use with its Tubeless Ready system. Alas, only the carbon XXX Lite’s will enjoy white spokes for 2009.
All Race Lite wheels come with center lock rotor attachments as well as adapters for those wanting to run 6-bolt attachments.
Also new for 2009 is the redesigned Rhythm line of all-mountain-oriented wheels, which will be featured on most of the new Fuel EX’s and other Trek bikes. They will also be available for aftermarket sale. This line features 28mm rims, which Trek officials claim improve performance of large-volume tires by providing a wider contact patch with the ground (most mountain bike hoops are 23-25mm). Aaron Mock, the product manager for Gary Fisher, said the wider rim adds 2mm of ground contact to a 53mm-wide tire. As the tire is more “open” than on a traditional rim, it decreases the likelihood of pinch-flatting.
The Rhythm’s will be tubeless-ready. The 28-hole wheelset will feature DT butted spokes, a three-pawl freehub body and will be available in 20mm thru axle or QR front wheels. They will use a six-bolt rotor pattern and will be available in 26- and 29-inch versions.
The top of-the-line Rhythm Pro model sports scandium rims while the rest of the line will be made of aluminum. The Rhythm Pro hubs also share the same DT Swiss-manufactured Star Ratchet internals as the Race XXX and Race X Lite, which offers a significant weight reduction from last year’s model.
Bontrager’s new wheels do not require proprietary replacement parts. The standard spokes and nipples found on each of the wheels mean repairs can be made from parts found in nearly all bike shops.
As with the Race XXX Lite, prices have not been announced, but with a significant upgrading in materials and technology expect an increase from last year’s $500 price tag.
As with Trek’s carbon road wheels, there is no weight limit.