Just about every major bike brand has their in house component company. Specialized has Roval, Pinarello has MOST and the list goes on and on. The majority of these component brands are designed to maximize profitability. It’s horizontal integration if I remember 11th grade Economics correctly.
Rarely do these secondary brands have much of an after market life and frankly, it’s because their components rarely offer innovation. We say rarely because Trek and their in house brand, Bontrager, are changing this paradigm. Their new line of carbon clinchers, the Aeolus D3s, are proving to be some of the fastest wheels ever made and a worthy addition to any brand of bike. For 2013 Bontrager wheels are tackling a new target and this one just may change everything.
Peruse the new Treks at the bike shop and chances are, unless they have carbon wheels, they have new tubeless ready wheels. This may be the final kick in the pants, the tipping point, tubeless has been waiting for. Bontrager has the reach to introduce riders everywhere to the benefits of tubeless and more importantly, the ability to remove the confusion and barriers through integration.
With three aluminum tubeless ready clinchers hitting the market Bontrager has set aggressive price points and combined them with aggressive weights. The Race R wheels weigh 1720 grams and cost only $500 while the Race Lite wheels weigh 1518 grams and cost only $700. We’ve been testing the Race X Lite, a 1440gram wheel for $1000. These are lightweight tubeless ready wheels at website blowout prices for traditional clinchers.
The Race X Lite wheels are simply phenomenal. The hubs spin on smooth DT 240 internals while the rim is a generous 23mms wide to let your tires shine. To keep that wide rim light and reliable they use an offset spoke bed and reinforce the rim only at the spoke holes. Because of this they spin up faster and are more durable than the 1440 grams would lead you to believe. Bontrager also made the wheel very stiff because the wide rim and tubeless technology do the heavy lifting when it comes to comfort, and the wheel is comfortable, magic carpet comfortable.
So what about these benefits and barriers? While rolling resistance is low, recent testing has shown a good tube and tire can perform just as well, it’s two other factors that make tubeless so special - comfort and flat resistance. Tubeless is un-pinchable so if your bike is too stiff, a set of tubeless wheels can be run at 80psi or below to smooth out the ride. Which will also give you the added benefit of a big contact patch for fantastic handing without increasing rolling resistance. But the flat resistance is the real magic behind tubeless. With Bontrager’s new sealant punctures up 6mm can be sealed and thorns are simply not a problem. The reality is, you will most likely wear your tires out before you flat them, it is that effective. It’s leave your spare tube at home confidence. As the road bike dirt culture grows, those rider craving more adventure than the typical highway loop presents, tubeless will continue to grow. The benefits a tubeless tire presents on the road are magnified exponentially when you decide to turn down that gravel road you’ve been eyeing all season. Run a set of new Bontrager 25mm wide R3 or R2 TLR tires and you’ll be more than ready for the dirt.
What about those barriers - what tire to run, is my rim sealed, sealant, valves, install issues? Bontrager has tackled every one of these with a simple solution. They make it all. The tubeless rim strip and the valves are even included with each tubeless wheel they sell. They designed their own tires, R3 TLR and R2 TLR, to ensure easy install and maximum performance with their rims and they created their own sealant to eliminate the corrosion issues some other sealants create. Each piece is designed to work as a system, and the install is incredibly simple. Bontrager even has Tubeless Ready kits with everything you need, from tires to sealants for $200. You will need to use a tire lever to get the tire over the rim wall, but there is no tube to pinch, so you can confidently put elbow grease into it. If you want to run another brand of tubeless tire, Hutchinson or Maxxis, the wheels are compatible.
It appears tubeless may be finally ready for prime time. You won’t need industry geeks like us to tell you how great it is. You won’t need to cobble together the parts, you won’t need to spend a huge amount of money. And perhaps most importantly, if you don’t like it, you can go back to a tube and a tire. The wheels won’t mind. But, our money says you’ll fall in love with tubeless, and like us, forget how to change a flat.Price: $1000 Weight: 1440 grams R3TLR Tires – Price: $80.00Weight: 270 grams (23mm)
Road TLR Conversion Kit – Price: $200 Includes two R3 TLR Tires, rim strips, valves, sealant, valve tools. More: bontrager.com