What's Cool In Road Cycling

Bontrager Race Lites: Get A Holiday Hammering

“Happy Holidays” usually doesn’t spread to cycling as cold tends to make staying under the covers a lot more appealing than strapping on a thin layer of clothes and creating your own wind chill… But it is the time of giving and Bontrager left a set of Race Lites under the test tree that seem pretty well suited to the tougher time of year.

Bontrager are simply under rated.

We found that out a few months ago when we decided to keep our Lynskey Custom bike as American as we could and used Bontrager’s XXX-Lite bars, stem, seat post and fork…

And the test hoops, Bontrager’s Race Lite just happened to show up and not only fit well with the US based theme, but also a nice little “bling” match with red nipples.

The combination suited the bike and rounded things out pretty nicely as every piece of this kit is absolutely of a type that is simply ready to stand up to a pounding. Given the weight of the Triple X component gear, that’s outstanding. It all combines to make what might seem to be an absurd example of a winter training bike.

Click the top thumbnail for a “wallpaper” shot.

But this is no “shy away from the elements” set up at all. The Ti frame is what Ti frames are… pretty much weather proof and the extremely nice paint is just that… Extremely nice, meaning it’s not going anywhere with your wash cloth. The components are rock solid and the wheels…?

There are loads of wheels out there that are designed for visual impact and sales as a priority. While these are absolutely an eye catching set up, Bontrager have succeeded in doing the bling thing but with solid, serviceable everyday parts.

Front hubs get sealed adjustable bearings and get a machining job at the flange that not only looks nice but is also functional by allowing for the straight pull spokes to sit with a reasonable bend and seat well.

The rear hub gets Quad bearings, also adjustable and sealed and with a revised flange spacing. It also gets machining at the flange (which also helps the front and rear weight)…

The stainless spokes go 18 up front and 20 out back and are full 3.6mm blades. The blades seem to be recognized as “aero” but it’s their very good strength that I like as they apply to this wheel set.

Sure it’s easy to see that Bontrager use paired spokes… It’s even easier to see when they’re nice blingy red guys… And the finish of these wheels got mistaken for carbon hoops with metal brake tracks on their first couple rides.

But there are two more important things going on than simply the flash factor.

First is the offset rear rim profile that allows for better strength with the given dish and different tension of drive and non drive side spokes…

Note the right side of the rim flares…

And the rim shot here also helps you notice the eyelets with the nipples…. I know that maybe it’s boring to simply build a solid wheel that doesn’t go for much gimmick in the structure, but I like the tried and true (or easily trued), and durable, and still relatively light method of regular old nipples.

I like that these things are exceptionally easy to service and you’ll find replacement parts virtually anywhere. And I like the fact (though it might not be too important to some of you) that you can swap the freehub body with a cone and hex…

I also like that they give it a proper greasing inside, and think triple engagement should be a minimum for all wheels…

Some of you may have also noticed the Race Xlite Pro tires and Bontrager tubes that also showed. On the inside, with their 290tpi casing they remind me a lot of a certain other brand that rhymes with “mittoria”.

The tread is clearly Bontrager though and as we have a few sets of that other tire in Evo KS here, I can say that I think the Bontrager’s may be a slightly thinner/lighter tread (but that’s complete speculation and its darn close…).

Dual compound, just like my moto race tires make for better center stripe durability and sidewalls that are plenty grippy. And despite the light weight, these should be fairly puncture resistant. That said, for this time of year you may choose the standard Race Lite tires or X Lite AC…

And yep, once we were ready for the road, we did swap over to the standard house tires (which seemed insane because they are the KS’s, but what the hell…)

Rolling Round
Were these blingy enough to catch folks’ eyes? Yes. Durable enough for rough roads and winter miles? And then some. Are the parts not only well put together in the first place, but extremely serviceable and easy to find at any shop? Yep.

Does the fact that they cost $450 bucks surprise the hell out of me? Duh…

The number of better pre-built wheel sets at this price is small… In fact, I’ll try and let you know when the number gets above 0.

For an 18/20 spoke wheel set, they are stiff both in wind-up and in side load. I can’t absolutely say that paired spokes, more so than very strong spokes paired with a very sturdy rim, are the cause. But I have also spent a brief time on their XXX Lite carbons and can tell you that they are also a nice stiff wheel and are (at 1250 grams) not creating the stiffness simply with more meat, so I do think there may be something to equalizing the load closer together at the rim the way paired spokes do that allows fewer spokes but maintains strength and stiffness.

I don’t want PEZ getting sued, so I’ll leave out the details, but I had a lapse of “Madcow” disease and did a few things with these wheels that nobody should do with road wheels (but every set of wheels should be made to survive). The test involved things that make the path through the Arenberg Forrest look like a glass table top… Cobbles? BAH, I pees on your Cobbles!

At 1660 Grams these are not the 1400-1200 gram clinchers that also grace Bontrager’s line up. But I wouldn’t sell them short as only excellent wheels for tough days and great durability. That they look pretty sweet as well is just a bonus.

If your body weight in pounds is similar to the gram weight of these wheels divided by 10, these could easily be considered a performance wheel as well. There are wheels costing more than double the price of the Race Lites that weigh similar to what these wheels do, but these seem to hold their weight pretty well and don’t feel like 1600 gram wheels as much as some 1500 gram wheels I’ve been on.

An insanely good price for a wheel set from a company that takes very good care of its customers. Racers can certainly welcome these for loads of winter miles and roughing things up in spring. Mid to large sized guys looking for a sweet looking wheel set that can stand up to some punishment as a performance wheel set might like em too. That the set cost less than half the price of a single rim (not wheel, just rim) I just purchased also make “sneaking” these into the house much-much easier…

Check out loads of stuff at Bontrager.com

Have Fun,

Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking. We’re happy to bring you lots of large pictures instead of making you click a bunch of extra pages. We would rather make things convenient and entertaining for you than artificially inflate our page views…

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