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by Caley Fretz
June 19, 2020
Photography by James Huang
Alongside the release of a new, more aero, apparently faster Trek Emonda, in-house wheel brand Bontrager has some updates of its own. The all-new Aeolus wheel line, which uses carbon rims throughout, spans from 35 to 50mm in depth and from less than US$1,000 for a pair to over US$2,300.
Let’s run through the line, from highest price to lowest.
Aeolus RSL 37 TLR Disc
RSL, in Trek/Bontrager acronym land, stands for Race Shop Limited, so it’s no surprise that these are the lightest of the lineup. They’re made from the Bontrager’s highest-grade, and most expensive, carbon fiber and the set we were sent to check out weigh in at 1,327 grams, a rather impressive 2 grams off the claimed 1,325g weight. Notably, that’s lighter than Zipp’s new 303.
The 37 mm rim profile is deeper than its predecessor, the Aeolus 3, making the wheels a claimed 11% faster. Though the rims are deeper, they’re also lighter than before, by a claimed 55 grams.
The TLR acronym means tubeless ready, and Bontrager sticks with a more traditional hooked rim design in this department – a departure from recent rim designs from the likes of Zipp and Enve. The 28 mm outer and 21 mm inner rim width is wider than previous Bontrager models but, again, not as adventurous as Zipp’s new 25 mm-internal 303. In fact, the 21 mm internal width is identical to the previous 303.
This isn’t to say Bontrager is behind the times or in the wrong here. Wheels like the new 303 come with tire size and pressure maximums that fall well below what most road riders would see as normal – 72psi as a max, for example – whereas the Aeolus RSL has no such tire limitations, and no rider weight limit to boot.
The hubs are Bontrager-branded with DT Swiss 240 internals with 36-point engagement courtesy of the company’s latest Ratchet EXP driver mechanism. This is excellent news for anyone who likes their hubs to work as hubs should, without fuss. Disc mounts are Center Lock and axles are available in 12 mm, 15 mm or quick release options. Out of the box, the wheels are offered with SRAM XDR and Shimano HG freehub bodies, but Campagnolo-compatible ones are available separately.
Price: US$2,400 / AU$3,800
Aeolus Pro 37 TLR Disc
The middle child, stuck in between the pricey RSL and value-driven Elite wheelsets, uses the same rim shape as the RSL but pairs it with a lower-grade carbon, adding a bit of weight and dropping the price dramatically.
Hubs are made a bit heavier, but no less reliable, using DT’s 350 design. Rim dimensions remain identical, as does freehub compatibility. The only real difference between these and the RSLs is in weight, which comes from the heavier DT internals and slightly cheaper carbon used in the rims. The rear comes in at a claimed 820 grams, 95 grams heavier than the RSL, and the front is a claimed 685 grams, 85 grams heavier than the RSL. Total weight is 1,505 grams, claimed. Cost, relative to the RSL wheelset, is cut roughly in half.
Price: US$1,200 / AU$2,200
Aeolus Elite 35 and 50 TLR Disc
The most affordable new offering may sound quite familiar for anyone who’s ridden the previous generation of Aeolus carbon wheels, because the depths, widths, and rim shape are all a mirror image of the Aeolus D3 35 and 50. If you’re wondering how they got them down to just US$900 USD.
That means they’re narrower than the two more expensive models, with an inner width of 19.5 mm. That’s a figure that’s still quite average across the industry and works fine with tires in the 25-28 mm range. The hubs drop in quality, too, losing those DT Swiss internals in favor of a 3-pawl Bontrager design.
Axle and freehub compatibility remain the same – they’ll work with just about anything – and a TLR rim strip comes standard in case you want to run tubeless tires.
Claimed weight for the 35 mm set is 1,685 grams, and the 50 mm option bumps up to 1,730 grams.
Price: US$900 / AU$1,500
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