Aero carbon clinchers with tubeless capabilities that are made in the USA, offer exceptional braking in dry or wet conditions, minimal branding and come with proprietary DT Swiss hubs. That’s a brief description of the Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR wheels, which I might add, are hands down the best carbon clincher I’ve ever ridden but they come at a price…
That ticket is $2849.98, easily the cost of a complete bicycle. Or two sets of handmade wheels with USA-made hubs. You could easily build a training set of wheels with White Industries hubs and a racing set of wheels with White Industries hubs for that price, and buy a twelve pack of beer for your wheelbuilder. Will those wheels be as light? Maybe. Will they look as good? Probably. Will they ride as well? That’s subjective, but having owned plenty of hand-laced wheels, I’d say with confidence: nope.
Now, this website covers a lot of high end products. From custom bicycles, to apparel and accessories, many of which are made in the USA by companies who employ Americans. Sometimes, that results in expensive pricepoints, but almost every time it means the products will last. That is without a doubt the case with the Aeolus 3 TLR clinchers.
Let’s step back a bit before we dive into this corner any faster and check out the technical details of the wheels.
The Aeolus 3 TLR Wheels:
-Utilize the OCLV Carbon rim
-27mm outer width, 19.5mm inner width
-Proprietary, carbon shelled DT Swiss hub
-Warrantied for life
-Compatible with Shimano / SRAM 10/11 speed Campagnolo (freehub sold separately)
-Wheelset weight without my Tune skewers, rim strip or RED cassette: 1,465g
Braking Surface and Wear
These wheels come with Bontrager’s cork pads and at the time, I was told to not use any other pad with the wheels. One of the improvements with the Aeolus 3 TLR wheels over previous versions is the braking surface, which has been designed to work with the cork pads. This most likely has a lot to do with the lack of braking surface wear I noticed after over 8 months of solid use.
I rode these wheels all throughout our rainy spring and summer in Austin, down the steep and slick descents in Hill Country, as well as down mountains in Los Angeles. Even in the pouring rain, I found the braking to be just as reliable and predictable as my normal aluminum clincher wheels. Not once did I have an “oh shit!” moment.
After thousands of miles, the braking surface still appears to have many seasons of use left in it. In fact, I was amazed at how little use they show.
Rim Width and Confidence
27mm is wide for a road wheel and my EE Cycle Works brakes gobbled them up with ease. All it took was a tiny amount of adjustment. With a tire like the 28mm Challenge Roubaix, this results in a nice, plump tire, which after some settling, measures around 30mm!
With a tire and a rim that wide, they are the best wheels I’ve ever ridden. In fact, these wheels don’t simply stay on their line, they rail it. Corners I used to have to scrub speed on suddenly became favorites for straight up pinning it. There isn’t an easy way to describe the feeling of confidence gained by what I would consider a by-product of the wider tire made possible by the rim width.
You see that? Barely visible branding and I like it. In a world where road wheel companies just don’t seem to “get it,” the Aeolus wheels are so minimally-branded that consumers actually recognize them from their lack of branding, not vice-versa. Look, if you’re spending that much on wheels, why on Earth would you want to have the companies logos making your eyes bleed every time you look at your bike?
Black rims, black spokes and those slick DT Swiss hubs.
Speaking of the Hubs
DT Swiss made these hubs for Bontrager. Carbon shelled, with a no-nonsense spoke design and a precise engagement that never leaves you lagging in a pedal stroke. Even after all the rough doubletrack and sometimes singletrack I rode, the hubs never faltered, nor did I ever have to re-true these wheels.
Some wheels have hidden spoke nipples and while that looks great, it can be a pain in the ass to maintain them. The Aeolus 3 have external nipples, making adjustments easy, and if you happen to pop a spoke, replacement even easier. I often found myself on dirt roads, usually only traveled on with cross or mountain bikes on these wheels and definitely took some big hits on them to find them unscathed.
Yes, these wheels are pornographic. They don’t feel squishy on climbs or when you’re leaned in on a turn. They hold their line with confidence and clarity. I am not a machine, nor am I able to quantify just how stiff they are, but I will say that they offer exceptional connectivity to ever pedal stroke.
With the lack of tubeless road tires that fit not only my riding style, but obvious obsession with gumwalls, I didn’t get to spend much time on these wheels set up tubeless. I did however run them on my cyclocross bike for a short period of time, during which I found them to be easy to setup and seat my WTB Nano 40mm tires.
I don’t race, but I’d imagine the Aeolus 3 TLR wheels would champion a criterium or stage race. I don’t care about watts, but I’d imagine they wouldn’t disappoint for maximum power. I do however relish the feel of a smooth ride and durability. If something happens mechanically to one of my bikes, I’m so busy that the bike will just sit there, crippled until I’m forced to rectify the situation. Usually when that happens on my road bike, it’s due to wheel maintenance. Luckily, my road bike was always ready to roll and that’s largely due to the bomb-proof reliability of these wheels.
If you have around $3,000 for road wheels to train, race or just ride on a day to day basis, the Aeolus 3 TLR wheels are for you. If you couldn’t care about carbon, buy two sets of handmade wheels (and the twelve pack of beer), or just buy a new road bike, or save your money and buy a plane ticket to a faraway land (with your bike.)
Yes, these wheels are pricey, but in my experience are well worth the pricepoint. They’re made in the USA, are minimally branded, durable, tubeless compatible and as my extensive testing has found: virtually bombproof. In an age where the disc brake seems to be taking the industry by storm, it’s wonderful to see Bontrager investing so much time in a durable rim brake wheelset.
Naturally, they look perfectly at home on my made in the USA Argonaut Cycles road bike, which sets this bike way over the top in terms of financial commitment and of course, style…
Head to your local Bontrager dealer to spin a set of these wheels in your hands and maybe even on your own road bike. You won’t regret it. Until you get your credit card bill!