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Verdict: 
Versatile wheels that are lightweight and stiff with excellent stability
Weight: 
1,420g

Bontrager's Aeolus XXX 4 TLR clincher wheels are stiff, lightweight and steady in use and offer good braking in both wet and dry conditions. This is a great all-round aero wheelset that's suitable for a wide variety of conditions.

  • Pros: Stiff, lightweight for their depth, stable
  • Cons: Braking is good but not the best

Bontrager has completely redesigned its aero wheel range with the Aeolus XXX, available in three flavours:

* Aeolus XXX 2 with 28mm deep rims

* Aeolus XXX 4 with 47mm deep rims

* Aeolus XXX 6 with 60mm deep rims

Each of these is available for both clincher and tubular tyres, and for both rim brakes and disc brakes.

> Find your nearest dealer here

> Buy these online here

The rim shapes are completely new, developed using CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software and wind tunnel testing (Trek used the wind tunnel at Wichita State University, Kansas), which is what you'd expect.

bontrager_aeolus_xxx_4_tlr_clincher_road_wheel_-_spoke_nipple.jpg

The external width at the brake track is the same as previously at 27mm (28mm on the Aeolus XXX 6), but the internal width is up to 21mm, offering plenty of support for the 25mm tyres for which these wheels are optimised (the minimum width you should run is 23mm). You could, of course, fit much larger tyres for gravel or cyclo-cross use. Depending on the wheels you're replacing, you might have to let some brake cable out to accommodate the width.

bontrager_aeolus_xxx_4_tlr_clincher_road_wheel_-_rim_bed.jpg

The Aeolus XXX 4 TLR clincher wheelset is lightweight considering the rim depth, ours coming in at 1,420g for the pair. That compares with Bontrager's claimed weight of 1,400g and Zipp's claimed weight of 1,500g for its 45mm-deep 303 NSW Carbon Clinchers. These wheels are more focused on aerodynamics than weight but you're never going to turn down a saving.

Stiffness and stability

The first thing I noticed about these wheels is their stiffness. With the brake pads set up stupidly close to the rims I could get some rub when throwing the bike around in a massive gear, but I got virtually none in normal use, not even when sprinting or leaning hard into a tight corner. No worries at all there.

The next thing to mention is their stability. Some aero rims can get knocked about by sidewinds, even when the yaw angle is quite shallow. Fluctuations in the speed and/or direction of the wind can have a large effect on the steering, making your bike's front end feel like a handful, upsetting your confidence and ultimately affecting your speed.

> Lightweight vs aero: which is best?

The Aeolus XXX 4 TLRs have behaved well on super-windy rides recently. Crosswinds do have an effect, of course, but it's not massive considering the 47mm rim depth and, even more important to my mind, the wheels behave predictably. There's none of that twitchiness that you get with some.

Bontrager has produced a whole white paper dedicated to the Aeolus XXX range that I'd certainly suggest you check out if you're interested in buying a pair of aero wheels. In it you'll find Bontrager's own data comparing the Aeolus XXX 4 (the front wheel only, because that's the one that has the largest influence on overall aerodynamics, at 30mph, and yaw angles from 0° up to 20°) with other key rivals.

bontrager_aeolus_xxx_4_tlr_clincher_road_wheel_-_front_hub.jpg

Bontrager says that the Aeolus XXX 4 has lower drag than the Zipp 303 NSW at all angles from 0-17.5°, with the Zipp slightly lower at 20°. Bontrager also says that the wheels 'are close to matching the speed of Zipp 404 NSWs while being 155g lighter per wheelset, 13mm shallower, and having 20 per cent lower front wheel side force'.

Comparing the Aeolus XXX 4 with the 48mm-deep Enve SES 4.5, Bontrager says that the Enve has the lower drag at more points than the Aeolus, but that the Aeolus has the lower average drag. We're not in a position to check that for ourselves and both Zipp and Enve might have a different story to tell. We could talk forever about statistics and which yaw angles are most important (Bontrager hasn't provided a yaw weighted drag), but check out Bontrager's white paper yourself and see what you think.

Braking

Bontrager has introduced a new feature to the rim brake versions of its Aeolus XXX wheels called a Laser Control Track. It says that automated laser machining 'roughens the brake track to an optimised level that maximises braking performance when used with SwissStop Black Prince pads' (which come as part of the package). Mavic, for example, does something similar, finishing the brake track with a laser process that removes the resin while leaving the carbon fibre intact; Enve uses a moulded-in brake surface texture and Zipp has its Showstopper technology on its rim-brake NSW wheels where grooves in the braking surface are designed to improve braking performance.

bontrager_aeolus_xxx_4_tlr_clincher_road_wheel_-_rim.jpg

When we reviewed the Aeolus 3 D3s, we said that the braking was 'fine – not amazing, but fine'. I've fitted the Aeolus XXX 4 wheels to several bikes but used them most on a Bianchi Oltre XR4 with Shimano Dura-Ace 9100 direct mount brakes, and I would say that the braking is considerably better, especially in the wet. There's no heart-stopping delay before the braking kicks in like you get with some wheels in damp conditions, no grabbiness, and the brake pads don't wear out particularly fast. Mavic's iTgMax technology is still better in the wet, though.

The Aeolus XXX wheels come with DT Swiss hub internals, the rear one using the brand's 36-tooth ratchet (two 36-tooth star ratchets bite together when you pedal) which engages in 10 degrees after coasting. I have only good things to say about the DT Swiss design – it works beautifully. A great choice.

bontrager_aeolus_xxx_4_tlr_clincher_road_wheel_-_rear_hub.jpg

Like the Aeolus D3s, the XXX models are tubeless-ready, coming with the necessary rim strip, valve stem and a sealant refill kit if you want to go down that road.

The wheels are made at Trek HQ in Wisconsin and the quality is excellent. After a couple of months of regular riding the only signs of use are a bit of gunk from the road and a very slightly worn brake track – no more than you'd expect. The wheels are still bang on in terms of trueness and spoke tension.

Value

The Aeolus XXX 4 front wheel is £899.99 and the rear is £1,099.99, a total of £1,999.98. That's exactly the same price as the Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 wheels were when we reviewed them back in 2012. The Aeolus XXX 2 and Aeolus XXX 6 wheels are priced the same regardless of whether you go for the rim brake or disc brake version, clincher or tubular.

> Buyer's Guide: 26 of the best road bike wheels

A Zipp 303 Firecrest carbon front wheel (45mm deep, rim brake) is £907 while the rear one is £1,079, a total of £1,986 – so there's not much to choose between these and the Aeolus XXX 4s in terms of price. A Zipp 303 NSW carbon front wheel (rim brake) is £1,160 and the rear one is £1,518, a total of £2,678 – considerably more than the Bontragers – while Enve SES 4.5 clincher wheels (48mm deep front, 56mm rear) are more expensive again.

The Aeolus XXX 4 is a great wheelset. I wouldn't say the wet weather braking is outstanding, although it's good, but these wheels are lightweight and stiff. Best of all is that they combine a medium rim depth with excellent stability, making them suitable for a whole range of terrains and conditions. You can even keep the hammer down when the wind is gusting. With a high build quality and a good price (compared with rivals of a similar ilk), these are a great buy.

> Why riders like you need to go aero, wheel weight doesn't matter — and how the wind tunnel proves it

Verdict

Versatile wheels that are lightweight and stiff with excellent stability

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 TLR Clincher Road Wheelset

Size tested: 47 mm depth

Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Bontrager says, "The do-it-all workhorse. A carbon road wheel with a 47mm depth that is fast and stable for everyday aero.

"Confidently run a deeper, faster wheel with Aeolus XXX 4. Industry-leading crosswind stability combines with best-in-class aerodynamics for an incredible speed advantage, all while being the lightest in its class. The 47mm depth provides classic Aeolus ride quality, and Laser Control Track enhances braking performance. Tubeless setup is hassle-free and virtually eliminates flats."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?

Bontrager lists these features:

* OCLV XXX carbon uses premium materials and high-temperature resins with industry-leading domestic manufacturing

* Speed Stability Shaping reduces side force, allowing for a deeper depth and faster profile

* Laser Control Track ensures confident braking performance in all conditions

* The 47 mm rim depth provides unmatched stability and confidence for an all-conditions aero wheel

* Tubeless Ready (TLR), with 21 mm inner rim width for enhanced tyre support

* DT Swiss internals for a buttery smooth ride feel and reliable 36-point star ratchet engagement

* Laser-etched graphics provide a fast, finished look with no added weight

* Includes TLR rim strip and valve stem, Black Prince Carbon brake pads, quick release and a traditional rim strip

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
 
9/10

These haven't gone at all out of true during a month or so's testing (you wouldn't expect them to). The hubs have tried and tested internals from DT Swiss. The wheels are made by Trek in USA (production isn't farmed out). I've had no worries at all with the construction.

Rate the wheel for performance:
 
9/10

These are stiff, lightweight (for their depth) and they accelerate fast. They also feel stable in a crosswind.

Rate the wheel for durability:
 
9/10

This is linked to the construction (above). Signs are that these will last.

Rate the wheel for weight
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for value:
 
7/10

£2,000 is a lot to spend, of course, but compared to direct competitors these are a good price.

Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?

No issues whatsoever.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

Straightforward.

How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?

Didn't have to give any of that a second thought. Just got on with the job.

Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose

These are great wheels.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

Light weight, stability.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

The wet weather braking is good but I wouldn't say it's up there with the very best.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

These are about the same price as a pair of Zipp 303 Firecrest carbon wheels, and considerably less than Zipp 303 NSWs and Enve SES 4.5s. Yes, £2,000 is a lot to spend on a pair of wheels, but compared to the price of direct competitors the Aeolus XXX4s are a good price.

Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes

Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes

Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

I've no hesitation in giving these a 9. They're exceptionally good wheels.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 190cm  Weight: 75kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

2 comments

Avatar
iso2000 [109 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Nice review, thanks. Added to my lottery win list.

Avatar
veloriderkm [1 post] 2 months ago
0 likes

I got a set of these last week and agree with the comments above especially the bit about keeping the hammer down in a crosswind. Overall very pleased.