This past year I’ve been riding an amazing new set of wheels and I’d like to share my experience doing so. I’ve always run aluminum rim wheelsets in the past thinking that my style of riding didn’t leave much room or have a real need for carbon, but I believe I’ve been proven wrong.
I had heard about the revamp to Bontrager’s lineup of carbon fiber rims and wheelsets, so I decided to give it a shot. Knowing that deep dish wheels weren’t for me, I purchased the Bontrager Aelous D3 TLR wheelset, which is the lowest profile option from Bontrager’s Aelous wheel line.
The wheels are tubeless ready, wide rimmed, stiff and crazy light at ~1300 grams (your average aluminum wheel set could be 400-500 grams heavier). Based on those specs alone I was already sold, but a bonus was the hub internals were DT Swiss, known for high quality, simplicity and reliability as well as being intuitive and easy to service. To top it off, Trek (Bontrager's parent company) builds all their high-end wheelsets at their Bontrager Wheelworks facility in Waterloo, WI.
It’s always easy to talk about something looking good on paper, but how did they actually perform? Like I said, I’m a first time customer to carbon rims, so I expected something altogether different than what I’ve experienced on the road. Immediately I felt a dramatic improvement in the way my bike rode.
It sounds like hyperbole, but I can’t think of another component I could upgrade on my bike that would simultaneously improve the weight, stiffness and handling of my bike all in one shot. The bike felt faster as a whole, and I am extremely impressed with these wheels.
Since they are much stiffer than my aluminum wheels of old, I expected the ride quality to suffer accordingly, but setting them up tubeless eliminates this issue. By being able to run 80psi in my tires rather than 100 I can counterbalance the added stiffness while improving the way my bike handles bumpy roads, because of the softer tires.
My one concern was the notorious stopping power of rim brakes on Carbon wheels, but I felt the cork brake pads that came with the wheels provided adequate braking power for my needs as a cyclist in Northern California. For the rider who loves to reach for their bike when the rain is pouring down, carbon wheels may not be the right choice.
The price tag on these (and many other carbon wheelsets) can be intimidating, but as I mentioned before, there is no other upgrade I can think of beside a whole new bike that can improve so many factors in one go. I thought I was a grouch who didn’t want or need Carbon in my wheels, but after 500 miles of amazing riding, these wheels are holding strong and proving me wrong.