BONTRAGER AEOLUS XXX 4 – CORVETTE MEMORIES

There’s something about my long-ago memories of driving a Chevrolet Corvette and my recent experience riding the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 wheels that connects.

No, it isn’t the phallic imagery of a Corvette and the XXX label of the latest Aeolus, though perhaps you could make that connection. (Sorry that I just did.)

Rather, it’s the rush of rolling at speed they both provide. While a lot of cars and wheels roll fast, it’s what happens in the moment of speed that makes life behind the wheel and in the saddle exciting.

Hitting a turn at speed carries more unknows than rolling straight. The Corvette’s wide wheelbase, wide tires, and low chassis provided me the handling performance to confidently hit every turn faster than I’d ever done before.

Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4Similarly, the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 mounted with 25C tubeless tires stick it in the corners. Fellow tester Nate enthused they always seemed so much more planted and stable than any other carbon clincher wheelset he’d experienced, especially in turns with bumpy pavement.

I measured the internal rim width between the bead hooks at 21.1 mm on these and other Bontrager Aeolus XXX series wheels. That makes them the widest rim brake carbon bike wheels we’ve tested, notably wider than most which run 19 mm or 17 mm these days.

Their 27.5 mm external rim width across the brake tracks is as wide as others like the Enve, Zipp, and Easton in this category but this, along with the mounted and inflated tire width contributes more to aerodynamic performance.  Internal width has a greater influence on the superior handling and ample comfort of these wheels.

Many road disc wheelsets have been at 21 mm internal for a couple years now and I can confirm riding them is a similar speed-liberating handling experience. The better support a wider rim provides to the sidewalls of the same 25C tire makes a real difference. It’s nice to see Bontrager bringing this to the rim brake world.

Moose took these wheels for a ride down the 8-mile, 8% average grade asphalt road at Whiteface Mountain, home of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Hitting speeds of 50 mph, he reported that the crosswinds made the riding the XXX 4s “a little sketchy” but not enough to back off his exhilarating speed.

I don’t know if that’s Moose’s daredevil approach to going downhill on bikes (and skis) that he prefers but I do know he arrived safely at the bottom and was so excited after the ride he sent me a half dozen texts about his descent (and climb).

While neither of us could find strong crosswinds, Nate and my experience in moderate ones on these wheels were fine. They did acknowledge the breeze but it didn’t affect our steering or cause us to do anything unnatural.

Unfortunately, you sometimes need to slow down. Fortunately, all three of us were impressed with the braking power and modulation of these wheels on dry roads; they are among the best here.

On wet roads, however, they are no better than earlier generation carbon clincher rim brakes. Like the Vette, leave these Bontragers in the garage when it’s wet outside.

The XXX 4s are “stiff enough” to climb and sprint but they are more in the middle of this all-around carbon clincher pack compared to others on this criterion. They are considerably heavier than the 1400 grams claimed on the Bontrager XXX 4 Aeolus TLR Clincher web page – 1556 grams on my scale. I include the pre-installed rim strips. Bontrager doesn’t. Measured the same way, these XXX 4s are 50-100 grams heavier than most in this rim brake carbon road bike wheels category.

All of this adds up to average, more dampened acceleration than a lively, springier reaction when you want to accelerate. Their DT Swiss star ratchet hub internals provides quick engagement (and quiet freewheeling) but doesn’t improve the acceleration enough to make a difference.

If you’ve got the watts in your legs, you can probably get these wheels up to speed much in the way a Corvette corals hundreds of horses under its hood to get you from 0 to 60 mph faster than most.

It’s what the Corvette and Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 do at speed, more than how fast they get you there, that separates them from the competition.

You can order these wheels by clicking through on this link to Trekbikes.com.

Carbon Bike Wheels

 

This review appears alongside reviews of similar wheels in the post BEST CARBON CLINCHER WHEELS

5 comments

  • This from McB that came in through my e-mail (please ask gear and kit questions in the comment section)

    Steve
    So I have read your stuff for awhile. Little bit of a gear junkie but just a commuter for 15 years out here in Seattle. Hard to justify the fancy stuff but have managed to acquire two carbon fiber Treks and enjoy the time on my bikes.

    I used your site to upgrade my groupset to Di2 and then to buy a couple sets of ZONDA’s. The first set from PBK – total fiasco and glad you have taken them off your list. Still have an unusable rear wheel. Had to buy another set and used Tweeks which was an awesome experience. Still need to get myself some carbon rims but tough to pull the trigger.

    Anyways I started reading your Aeolus description because of the TREK ties and the thing that caught my attention was Moose “riding down Whiteface road.” Is all your testing that I have read about over the years being done in Lake Placid? (But you mention New England) Haven’t been back much in the past 10 years but many many fond memories in that town. Been twenty five years out in Seattle but spent a big chunk of my childhood (12 year old for a certain hockey game) and HS/college years there. Made me smile to read about a place I am so fond of.

    Anyways – 2 questions
    Aeolus XXX 4 or the Reynolds Assaults?
    Will the Aeolus fit my 2014 Madonne? (The stupid brakes underneath vintage) With 25’s or bigger tires even?
    Rather spend money on kids than myself but a ski industry friend in the local “varsity group” laughed at me and said… “Dude, that bike needs some real wheels.” A black project one Madonne with Aeolus wheels would look the part out in front of The Cottage after a ride… 🙂

    Cheers and thank you for the insights over the years….
    McB

    • Scott,

      Moose was vacationing in Lake Placid and had the wheels there. We do most of our testing in New England – MA, VT, NH.

      Sorry about the issues with PBK. Great prices but service is inconsistent.

      Hard to know what’s best for you. Sounds like you’ve got more than a few trade-offs to consider. Would suggest you use the rider profile in the post ROAD BIKE WHEELS – HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST FOR YOU to help you navigate to the best options.

      Best way to tell whether wheels will fit would be to measure the width of the openings in your front forks and rear stays. Ideally, you want 4-5 mm on either side of the tires to allow for lateral flexing of the wheels. A 21C wheelset like the Bontrager is going measure about 29mm wide with 25C Schwalbe Pro One tires. 17C or 19C wheelsets with 25C tires will be more 26 to 28 mm wide. Steve

  • Have you had a chance to ride the Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3 TLR Road Wheel? The price is right and I’m wondering how they might compare with the Reynolds Assault or the Easton EC90s that are on sale. Thanks.

    • Tony, I haven’t. It’s a heavier wheelset with a hub that engages less frequently so I wouldn’t expect it to accelerate or climb as well as the Assault or Easton. Of the 3, the Easton is clearly the better choice. Steve

  • Very helpful measurement info! Yeah on the tradeoffs – decisions on wheels seem tougher than other areas at least for me. To the others on the site – sorry for the yada yada.

Add Your Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.