Bontrager Race XXX Lite Wheel Review

Bontrager Race XXX Lite Wheelset 300x300 Bontrager Race XXX Lite Wheel Review

Bontrager Race XXX Lite Wheelset

Bontrager ‘Race’ series wheels have an established reputation as reliable, affordable, and of high quality. In the past, though, serious racers have shunned the upper end Bontrager wheelsets in favor of more popular racing wheel manufacturers, like Zipp or Mavic. Nowadays though, there are several wheel manufacturers competing for both the entry level and the racer ends of the market, and producing a lot of really high quality racing wheels.  Bontrager falls into this category. Well known for the entry level wheelsets they make lower down the ‘Race’ line, they are now investing in the technology for their higher priced racing wheels. Even though Bontrager teamed up with Trek in its glory days of Tour racing and had some pretty impressive riders using their components, it’s only recently that Bonty has made a real effort to try and knock Zipp, Mavic, and Reynolds off the race wheel podium. And you know what? They’ve done a pretty good job of it.

The Race XXX Lite is the top of the Race line, and this wheelset had better be good with a price tag of around $2250 for the tubular and $2650 for the clincher model.  Bonty markets the Race XXX Lite wheelset as their ‘ultimate climbing wheelset’ so we should expect a stiff but seriously lightweight wheel. If aerodynamics are what you’re after, the Race XXX Lite won’t be for you. They’ve shaved off every gram to get down to an impressive 1190g (tubular version), so there isn’t any unnecessary carbon lying around as a wind deflector. If these wheels can go fast, it will be because they are light.

Test Ride

All too often ‘climbing wheels’ are a nice idea gone wrong because they are so spidery they can’t handle heavier riders, they flex and bend under power, or you have to be so careful with them you lose all the time you made climbing by tip-toeing down the descents. Not so with the Race XXX Lite wheelset. We put a powerful rider on board, nearly 200 pounds, and sent him up our local ‘wall’. Did these wheels creak, flex, or spit out valuable watts under the strain? No chance. The compressed OCLV carbon technology Bontrager uses on their carbon wheelsets really does the trick. By pressing out any air trapped in the carbon fiber, you end up with a super tight weave that really keeps the wheels together. The lack of grams really was noticeable; these were just about the smoothest, easiest climbing wheels our tester had ever had the privilege to ride.

On the descents too, our rider started cautiously, but after these wheels took a few bumps and knocks, and proved they could stay honest in the corners, he let the reins out a bit. He had nothing to worry about. The Race XXX Lite wheels held the road and didn’t wobble on the turns. Sure, being stiff, they can jump a little if they hit a bump, but the return is when you go into a corner they do what you expect them to.

Worth the money?

These wheels aren’t cheap, but they are light, and they do what Bontrager promises. They are stiff enough for racing, you’ll glide up the hills, and they’ll take your power when you sprint to the finish line. The technology is first rate, including super light aero spokes (and not many of them), flangeless carbon hubs with a weight-saving ratchet design, and the compressed carbon OCLV rims. Looks matter too – and the Race XXX Lite wheelset looks great.

That said, if you are spending over $2000 on a wheelset, you are serious about racing so it’s worth shopping around.  If you really need to keep the grams down, but you plan to use your wheelset for tough road races and maybe even some training, then the Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheelset is likely to hold up better than other super-lights in the same market, like the Reynolds 32. Frankly, the wheelsets n the same range from Mavic , Fulcrum and Easton aren’t anywhere near as light as the Race XXX Lite. The only downside is there is no clincher version, but really, who’d want it? The Bontrager race XXX Lite is for riders looking for the lightest wheel they can get – and that means they are really for race day. Who’d want to slow these wheels down with a clincher rim? Not me!

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