There might be lighter wheels with quicker engagement but not at this price point. During the ride, the disadvantages in the specs fall away.
Pre-assembled for tubeless setup
Lifetime warranty only applies to original purchaser
Included valve stems aren't high quality
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Bontrager has updated its wheel lineup with options covering price points from high to low. We take a look at the value-priced Elite level 50mm carbon, tubeless, disc wheelset. This is full carbon - not an aluminium wheelset with fairings - that retails for under $1000. The value is clear but does it have the performance?
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The rim used in the Aelous Elite is a full carbon design without any additional aluminium structure. The rim profile is a design referred to as D3 directional design. This design was first introduced with the Aeolus wheel in 2015. With a 19.5mm internal width, there are wider wheels on the market but a width of around 19mm has started to become the standard of most road wheels. The slightly wider internal width paired to a 27mm external width helps cut drag at both the tyre-leading and rim-leading edge. It also matches well with a 28mm tyre while taking advantage of trickle-down technology to keep the price competitive.
The hubs Bontrager has employed are an in-house Bontrager 3-pawl design. This is a cost-saving compared to the Aeolus Pro and Aeolus RSL which use a DT Swiss designed internal hub. The Elite level hub is a bit heavier, with fewer pawls, but is a tried and true design that has been in the Bontrager lineup for years. In this incarnation, it's a centerlock disc design using a 24/24 spoke setup and a 12mm through-axle. There is freehub compatibility for Shimano 10/11 speed and SRAM 10/11 freehubs with SRAM 12 speed available for order.
When it comes to tubeless wheels the first step of evaluating performance has to be fitting a tyre. Every tyre and wheel combination will be a little different but hard to fit tyres can be a sign of sloppy attention to detail in the wheel design. The Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50mm wheel came already taped with tubeless valves installed. When fitting Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance tyres, the bead seated without even a need to use a blast of air from a charge tank.
Once out on the road, the wheels faced a range of familiar climbs both long and short. Weight never felt like an issue when climbing and the deep profile holds speed well on the flats. Even in turbulent airflow on the side of a highway, the Bontrager wheels remained stable and confidence-inspiring. This was also the case when hit with unexpectedly-strong crosswinds.
Deep carbon rims can sometimes be overly stiff vertically and soft latterly. The lateral stiffness of the Bontrager wheelset was not an issue. Brake rub under acceleration was among the best I've ever ridden. They were, however, a little bit stiffer vertically than I prefer. Even at 60psi on a 28mm tyre, rough country roads were more pronounced than other wheelsets.
The Bontrager Aeolus 50mm wheelset is a budget wheelset that doesn't feel like it. There is a precision in the manufacturing that makes for easy tyre fitment and the profile works well with modern 25mm and 28mm sizing. For those that are looking to go tubeless, the fact these wheels come taped up is a bonus.
Using a combination of hubs and rims that have been a part of the Bontrager lineup for years gets high quality without excessive cost. There are lighter wheels available and there are hubs with faster engagement but at this price point, the performance on offer is on par. There's nothing cutting edge here but it's well-tested technology.
The quality is as good as anything available on the market, there is no weight limit and the wheelset is backed up by a generous lifetime warranty from a major company. The Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program provides free repair or replacement within the first two years of ownership and original owners can feel secure in a lifetime warranty.
Tech specs: Bontrager Aeolus Elite 50mm TLR wheelset
- Weight: 760g front + 960g rear = 1,720g
- Depth: 50mm
- Material: Carbon
- Width: 19.5mm (internal)
- Price: $429.99 front + $469.99 rear = $899.98 combined
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Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx
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