For this year, Bontrager has upped the ante with their venerable carbon wheelsets. Not only are they tubeless-ready, but they have been put on a diet, optimized and widened to be even more capable for both the peloton and local group rides. The workhorse of the line is the Aeolus 3 and I’ve had the capable Aeolus 3 Disc in for several months now. In short, these are expensive, but well worth the price of admission.
Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR Disc D3 Wheelset Features:
- D3 Dual Directional Design profile cuts drag at tire-leading and rim-leading edge
- Versatile 35mm depth
- OCLV is ultra-light, compliant, and durable
- Tubeless Ready (TLR) rims allow for quick transition to tubeless system
- Stacked lacing alignment provides a better spoke bracing angle for a stiffer wheel
- Centerlock® disc hubs with interchangeable axles increase compatibility
- Includes 9mm QR’s (12 and 15mm end caps available separately)
- OCLV Carbon rim (27mm outer, 19.5mm inner width) and DT-Swiss hub
- Compatible with Shimano 10/11 speed, SRAM 10/11 freehubs
- Weight: 1454 grams (stated)
- MSRP: $2399 (set)
The new carbon clincher standard
When it comes to inner rim widths, wider is better, but road wheels have struggled to adhere to that mantra. Most are hovering at or below 17mm, but Bontrager is now stepping up with a 19.5mm inner width. What does this mean? It means a fuller tire with a straighter sidewall. It means the tire will be more responsive since it has more structure. It means that you can run slightly lower pressures with confidence and, since it is tubeless-ready, it means you can run these fully tubeless for worry-free performance in all terrain. Bam.
Trek brought everything in-house with the new D3 rims. The Aeolus 3’s are laid up, drilled, laced, tensioned and stickered in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Because Bontrager believes in these wheels, they come with 2-year warranty and no rider weight limits. The D3 rim structure takes into account the tire/rim combo and specifically optimizes the leading edges of each wheel. According to Trek’s analysis (watch the above video), this rim profile improves crosswind performance and straight-on aerodynamics versus comparable Zipp Firecrest wheels — a bold claim.
Initially mounted with 33 mm Bontrager CX3 tires, the Aeolus 3’s perform admirably for cyclocross or gravel duty. They are built to withstand extreme abuse without failure — no matter how hard you push them. Unfortunately, my cyclocross miles were limited due to injury, but I can say in my limited testing that these wheels are strong and stable under the demanding conditions that cyclocross inflicts.
On the road, these wheels are equally at home and the updated D3 profile immediately comes into play. Honestly, I’ve not tested another wheel that equals their rolling smoothness. They roll forever — a significant distance farther in my roll-to-stop testing that I do with all wheels. Ceramic bearings are not standard, but these do roll extremely well when running 25c Bontrager R3 TLR tires. Bontrager trusts DT-Swiss for their internals, so you can get hassle-free service should you need it.
Climbing wheels usually max out in the 30-35mm depth range, so at 35mm, these are slightly taller for a great combination of light weight and aerodynamic performance. Tell you what, the D3 marketing hype does translate into something special on the road. As I’ve encountered crosswinds, these wheels remain unaffected. And, on long, straight stretches, the wheels roll along effortlessly. Oh, and climbing is like second-nature on the Aeolus 3. They offer instant response when pushed out of the saddle and always make me feel like I can do more.
The whole of my testing miles has been aboard the Santa Cruz Stigmata CC, which has been a surprising all-around performer. And, when it’s outfitted with the Aelous 3’s, it transforms itself completely. It almost feels zippy. Match these with a fast all-rounder like the Focus Izalco Max Disc or the Cervelo R3 Disc and you’ll have something special.
As with any tubeless setup, these are a little bit of a chore to mount. I’ve had harder, but I did have to go to the tire lever to finish up the bead. I filled them with about 1.5 oz of Bontrager tire sealant and went to town with the TLR Flash Charger, which makes seating tubeless tires a breeze.
Of course these wheels feature bladed spokes, tuned to precision by Bontrager technicians. However, I found that the rear wheel had a couple of spokes that were twisted out of spec — something that should have been caught before leaving the factory. I’ll add that Centerlock hubs do have their positives and negatives. Rotor-swapping is a breeze, but it can get more difficult to find compatible rotors. Luckily, SRAM has recently launched Centerline rotors for Centerlock hubs, so I could mount them up with my Force 1 grouppo. All axles are supported (9, 12 and 15mm), so you can rest easy for both cyclocross and road compatibility now and in the future. And, as with all DT-Swiss internals, these hubs engage in a jiffy and roll quietly — no loud freehubs here.
- D3 rim profile is unaffected by crosswinds
- Rolls on like Mick Jagger
- Versatile hubs for all axle standards
- Tubeless, yeah tubeless
- 19.5 mm inner width yields a fuller tire
- Centerlock rotor interface (some love it)
- Some bladed spokes (2 on rear) were set sideways
- Centerlock rotor compatibility issues (some hate it)
The Bottom Line: Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR Disc
A mouthful to say, but I guarantee that the next words that leave your lips will be superlatives like amazing, astounding, fast or mind-blowing because the Aeolus 3’s are that good. In disc-brake form, these wheels are at home on the road, gravel or cyclocross and tubeless is just icing on the cake.
Everyone is making noise with their updated wheelsets, but Bontrager is breaking ground with one of the widest (19.5 mm internal) and most versatile competition road disc wheelsets on the market (tubeless, D3 shape, interchangeable axles). I could find no real faults with these wheels and consider them the new standard by which others will be measured.