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Bontrager Aeolus 5 TLR D3 carbon clinchers review

Lightweight, aero, tubeless clinchers with DT Swiss hubs

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Bontrager's Aeolus 5 TLR wheels, as the acronym implies, are tubeless-ready carbon clinchers

Bontrager's Aeolus 5 TLR wheels, as the acronym implies, are tubeless-ready carbon clinchers (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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The Aeolus 5 wheels accelerate well and handle predictably in crosswinds — but you don't want to use the supplied cork pads when it's wet

The Aeolus 5 wheels accelerate well and handle predictably in crosswinds — but you don't want to use the supplied cork pads when it's wet (Image credit: Bo Bickerstaff)
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DT Swiss hubs front and back are hard to argue with

DT Swiss hubs front and back are hard to argue with (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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The configuration and build of the 24 rear spokes make for a satisfyingly stiff wheel laterally. The DT Swiss star ratchet hub has earned its reputation for high performance and durability, and our testing did nothing to contradict that

The configuration and build of the 24 rear spokes make for a satisfyingly stiff wheel laterally. The DT Swiss star ratchet hub has earned its reputation for high performance and durability, and our testing did nothing to contradict that (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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A small but appreciated detail: internal-cam quick release levers with good leverage

A small but appreciated detail: internal-cam quick release levers with good leverage (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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DT Swiss' star-ratchet hub is easy to service - not that I have had to

DT Swiss' star-ratchet hub is easy to service - not that I have had to (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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I tested 24 and 26mm Bontrager R3 TLR tyres. The rear 24mm bubbled up like this after a long, steep descent, as air somehow escaped the inner butyl layer and started to push into the tread

I tested 24 and 26mm Bontrager R3 TLR tyres. The rear 24mm bubbled up like this after a long, steep descent, as air somehow escaped the inner butyl layer and started to push into the tread (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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Bontager staff said they have reworked the construction process on the 24mm tyres to address this problem

Bontager staff said they have reworked the construction process on the 24mm tyres to address this problem (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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I checked the air pressure on the bubbled R3 tyre just to make sure there was nothing out the ordinary due to brake-generated heat from the descent

I checked the air pressure on the bubbled R3 tyre just to make sure there was nothing out the ordinary due to brake-generated heat from the descent (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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Tubeless tyres with sealant can be great because you don't have to stop mid-ride. But... there is a price to be paid

Tubeless tyres with sealant can be great because you don't have to stop mid-ride. But... there is a price to be paid (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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The last month of testing was done on the 24s, which do feel lighter (if only in my head) to accelerate, and not quite as plush as the wider tyres, which is to be expected

The last month of testing was done on the 24s, which do feel lighter (if only in my head) to accelerate, and not quite as plush as the wider tyres, which is to be expected (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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The first few months of testing were done with the 26s, with equal measures of dirt-road riding and spirited fast rides on smooth pavement. I only had one temporary puncture — and that sealed before I was able to pull over and come to a complete stop

The first few months of testing were done with the 26s, with equal measures of dirt-road riding and spirited fast rides on smooth pavement. I only had one temporary puncture — and that sealed before I was able to pull over and come to a complete stop (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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Bontrager's R3 TLRs are a good tyre, erring more on the side of durability than suppleness, but still providing decent grip and overall feel

Bontrager's R3 TLRs are a good tyre, erring more on the side of durability than suppleness, but still providing decent grip and overall feel (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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Bontrager recommends two types of brake pads: SwissStop Black Prince pads for more bite, or the Bontrager Carbon Stop Cork options for a softer feel

Bontrager recommends two types of brake pads: SwissStop Black Prince pads for more bite, or the Bontrager Carbon Stop Cork options for a softer feel (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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I really appreciate the feel and the sound — or the lack thereof! — of the cork pads. Although not quite as grippy as the SwissStop Black Prince, the cork gives solid, predictable contact with the rim. I tested with the mighty Dura-Ace 9000 calipers, which may skew my perspective, but I felt braking power to be plenty adequate

I really appreciate the feel and the sound — or the lack thereof! — of the cork pads. Although not quite as grippy as the SwissStop Black Prince, the cork gives solid, predictable contact with the rim. I tested with the mighty Dura-Ace 9000 calipers, which may skew my perspective, but I felt braking power to be plenty adequate (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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Installing new tyres on new wheels is a clean process, with the sealant going in through the valve. Changing tyres, however, is a different story

Installing new tyres on new wheels is a clean process, with the sealant going in through the valve. Changing tyres, however, is a different story (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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These rim strips snap into place, then require a little further seating with a tyre lever. Changing tyres can mean having to install a new rim strip as well

These rim strips snap into place, then require a little further seating with a tyre lever. Changing tyres can mean having to install a new rim strip as well (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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A new, installed rim strip

A new, installed rim strip (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Following the current trend of aero wheels, the Aeolus 5s have rounded-off spoke beds and new, wider shape that's 27mm at the brake track

Following the current trend of aero wheels, the Aeolus 5s have rounded-off spoke beds and new, wider shape that's 27mm at the brake track (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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Between the two sets of wheels we tested, the brake tracks proved even, with no discernable seams. These new rims are approved for use with the SwissStop Black Prince pads, which you'll definitely want over the cork pads for wet rides

Between the two sets of wheels we tested, the brake tracks proved even, with no discernable seams. These new rims are approved for use with the SwissStop Black Prince pads, which you'll definitely want over the cork pads for wet rides (Image credit: Jason Sumner)
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The high pressure of road tyres exacerbates the sealant spray. On this puncture, I did not even realize there was a puncture until I went to hang my bike up in the garage post-ride

The high pressure of road tyres exacerbates the sealant spray. On this puncture, I did not even realize there was a puncture until I went to hang my bike up in the garage post-ride (Image credit: Jason Sumner)

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

Many big wheel brands now offer aero carbon clinchers, and road tubeless-ready alloy wheels are becoming more commonplace. But tubeless aero carbon clinchers?

That narrow sliver is held now by a very few, including Bontrager with the new Aeolus 5 TLR D3 carbon clinchers or Easton, with its EC Aero 55 hoops. With a wide-stance 19.5mm internal rim width, DT Swiss internals and snub-nosed 50mm carbon rim, the Bontrager Aeolus 5 TLR D3 wheelset has proven fast and durable in our testing, with a good road feel.

Bontrager claims these wheels match the aero performance of Zipp's venerable 404s and exceed that of the 303s. The D3 in the wheels' title stands for-dual directional design, referring to the fact that Bontrager engineers studied how the rim and tyre affect aerodynamics at both the leading and the trailing edge of the wheel.

Our experience with Bontrager's tubeless tyres has been a mixed bag — self-sealing punctures are nice if messy; one tyre casing bubbled up when air escaped the inner chamber — but we will focus first on the wheels themselves, which are generally very good.

  • Pros: Fast, stable in the wind, light, good braking, high-quality DT Swiss hubs, durable, wide rims
  • Cons: Tubeless system requires new strips for each tyre change and is messy to deal with, cost
  • Buy if: You want a single carbon wheelset for everyday riding and racing — with tubeless compatibility

We tested the wheels is a variety of conditions, from rough dirt roads to the high mountains to rainy criteriums

The braking surface is even, without noticeable seams. The cork pads provide a great feel without screeching, but you'll want the SwissStop Black Prince pads for the rain

The wheels come with cloth rim strips for use with tubes and plastic strips for tubeless tyres. As stated above, the tubeless strips add about 45g per wheel, and they also add a bit of a hassle. More on that in a bit. They are pretty easy to install: simply stretch and snap into place, then run a tyre lever carefully around the inside to get the strips fully flush with the inner rim. Installing tubeless tyres isn't as easy as standard clinchers, but for road tubeless isn't too terrible.

Make sure to start opposite the valve (counterintuitive for many roadies), sliding the tyre into the centre channel, then working your way around the last piece snaps into place near the valve. We had to use a lever for the last bit, despite using soap suds. Still, not that bad for road tubeless. The removable valve cores make for easy installation of the sealant, too: just remove the core and squirt in about 30ml.

Inflating tyres — with new strips — is simple. We were able to get six tyres to easily seat with a standard floor pump.

The hassle comes when it is time to change tyres. In rotating through a few different tyres, we were able to reuse a rim strip once out of four times. In addition to dealing with sealant splashing around, you also have to peel the strip out (we used a screwdriver, carefully, to extract the thing), clean the rim, then start again. This is notably different experience than working with Easton's EC 90SL's solid inner rim — no strips required.

Of course, you don't have to run tubeless; the Aelous has this as an additional option to the standard clincher/tube setup.

The Aeolus 19.5mm rim with the tubeless strip and valve stem installed

We tested the wheels with Bontrager R3 TLR tyres in 24 and 26mm widths. The 26mm tyres were great for all-conditions riding, from butter-smooth tarmac to rough dirt roads.

We experienced a few punctures over the course of testing, but never had to stop on the road to install a tube. Every time the sealant did its job, filling the hole and solidifying. Towards the end of one long group ride we heard the telltale 'pss-ss-ss' of a puncture, and the group instinctively slowed to the side of the road. By the time we had stopped, so had the air leakage, and the ride continued. Perhaps the best example of 'thank you, tubeless!' relief was riding home from a friend's house in the dark. The same sound of a puncture, then the quick seal, and an unabated happy ride home.

The piper must be paid at some point, though, and with sealant in tyres at road pressure that price is extracted in cleaning time. Sealant sprays out of the tyre, and your frame gets messy, fast.

I did experience one situation where a tyre failed in a funny way. After coming down Pikes Peak in Colorado, from 14,000ft to about 9,000ft, a friend noticed that my rear tyre appeared to have the mumps. Air had worked its way through the inner air retention layer of the tyre and was seeking ways out through the tread. I noticed nothing while riding, but perhaps the sustained braking and resulting heat had something to do with it.

We never experienced any burping or any safety issues with the tyres.

This is a wheel review, and the rating does not reflect the performance of the tyres themselves. Still, we wanted to include our experiences as road tubeless is still fairly new and novel for most riders, and is obviously a notable feature of the wheels.

Not having to stop for a flat on the road? Fantastic! Having to clean up the goopy mess from sealant? Less so 

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