Bontrager Launches New Lightweight XC Wheels

Aug 11, 2022
by Mike Kazimer  

Bontrager's Kovee RSL carbon XC wheels have gotten even lighter, and now check in at a featherweight 1199 grams thanks to a new rim profile. The rim height has been reduced to 22mm (the previous version was 29mm) to improve compliance, and the rim bead is wider to help prevent pinch flats. They still have a 29mm internal width to allow them to work well with modern cross-country tires.

The Kovee RSL wheels sit at the top of the lineup, and are laced up to DT Swiss' 240 hubs with a Ratchet EXP freehub body. Those hubs have a Centerlock rotor mount, while the other wheels in the lineup use 6 bolt hubs. These are the wheels of choice for Trek's World Cup athletes (Evie Richards and Jolanda Neff raced them for the entire 2021 season), and their light weight construction and high end hub results in a $2,500 USD price tag.

Riders looking for cross-country wheels that are significantly less expensive than the Kovee RSL have have two carbon and one alloy wheelset to choose from in Bontrager's lineup. The carbon rims all share the same profile, and all the wheels use 24 spokes, but different layups and spokes are used to adjust the cost for different budgets. All of the wheels in the Kovee line have a 29" diameter, since that's the go-to wheel size for XC racing and riding these days.

Bontrager's carbon rims are covered by a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects, and for the first two years of ownership Bontrager will repair or replace any wheel that gets damaged free of charge.

The rims have a asymmetric spoke hole drilling, and measure 29mm wide internally, 35mm externally, and 22mm high.


Kovee RSL – $2,500
Wheelset weight: 1199 grams
Rim weight: 315 grams
DT Swiss 240 Centerlock hub
Straight pull spokes

Kovee Pro 30 - $1,500
Wheelset weight: 1385 grams
Rim weight: 375 grams
Rapid Drive XC 108 hubs
Straight pull spokes


Kovee Elite 30 - $1,000
Wheelset weight: 1585 grams
Rim weight: 425 grams
Rapid Drive XC 108 hubs
J-bend spokes

Kovee Comp 25 – $400 (alloy)
Wheelset weight: 1675 grams
25mm inner rim width


More information: trekbikes.com


80 Comments

  • 54 5
 I'd save the $1000 and take a tiny little 186g XC sized shit before riding the Pro 30s and calling it a day.
  • 9 6
 Yeah. Those prices with that mediocre warranty? Hard pass
  • 3 0
 Bontrager wheels not great?
  • 8 1
 @VtVolk and @schlockinz: That excuse doesn't make sense... If you have a big poop and use these wheels you drop even more weight...
  • 8 0
 @billreilly: but he’d save thousands, while also not riding with a turd ready to pop out.
  • 3 0
 The most important thing to save is probably the proof of purchase.
  • 3 0
 @schlockinz: utterly brilliant saves me crapping in a bag now and weighing it before every ride thanks buddy
  • 4 0
 186g of rotational weight saving isnt equivalent to a reduction of static mass from the rider, but dropping a 0.5-1kg steaming brick should be enough offset the difference
  • 9 0
 I already shit myself looking at the price
  • 1 0
 @nickfranko: 2500 isnt that bad and they have a 2 year crash replacement which is quite good
also they are light asf
  • 1 0
 @tacklingdummy: nah they are quite nice
  • 1 0
 @xrob: this
  • 24 0
 The elite 30's look like pretty good value, but I can't get over the fact that the alloy ones are less than 100g heavier and only cost $400.
  • 7 0
 And no rider weight limit on the alu rims either!
  • 6 1
 are they narrower, though (25mm maybe)? maybe doesn't matter for that application as much as the enduro-y side of the spectrum however.
  • 2 0
 @twonsarelli: I mean, these aren't built for enduro anyways.
  • 8 3
 @twonsarelli: they are, but for XC, 25mm is plenty
  • 15 2
 @twonsarelli: I would argue that the current light, supple 2.4 XC tires have a greater need for wide rims than the equivalent 2.4 enduro/DH tire. With paper thin tires you need all the support you can get
  • 5 0
 @Arierep: I suppose the wide rim gives the thin casing more air volume while it gives more sidewall support for the gravity disciplines. Seems like a good approach across the board
  • 16 4
 @danielfloyd: @twonsarelli: I think it's been proven that 25mm is plenty for the most aggressive riding out there, i.e. Wold Cup DH, not just for XC.

Loic Bruni took the top DH podium in 2020 on 25mm rims. Finn Iles took the top DH podium in Mont Sainte Anne this past weekend on 25mm rims. Albeit most likely with inserts, but I think for enduro insert usage is pretty common as well.
  • 1 0
 @privateer-wheels: "25" for real? I thought 27 from a vid he did. Where is that information found?
  • 5 0
 @likeittacky: Both were aboard DT Swiss EX471 rims. They are 25mm internal width. Easily verified on DT Swiss website.
  • 1 0
 @privateer-wheels: been awhile since i watched Bruni's bike check. Pretty impressive; i wander if they run narrower rims on their trail rigs.???
  • 2 0
 Yeah, the Comp 25s look decent. It is the hubs that are probably the big difference between the elite 30s and Comp 25s, but for $400 it may be worth a try. I had Easton Haven wheels that were similar specs to the Comp 25s and they held up darn good in hard technical trail riding, but I'm only 135lbs.
  • 4 0
 For a thousand bucks, imo the elites are worth it for the 2 year no questions asked and lifetime manufacturer defect policy.
  • 1 0
 @ratedgg13: theres no rider limits on the rsl
  • 1 0
 @j-t-g: just get fact carbon wheels at that price bracket
  • 13 4
 Bontrager wheels seem to be good wheels. Maybe it's just me, but they just seem out of place on anything that isn't a Trek.
  • 8 0
 Yeah, I have them on my specialized which seems kinda wrong but I love how they ride.
  • 22 2
 Meh, Roval makes great wheels, Santa Cruz makes great wheels. Its fine to use them on a different brand. No one cares but you.
  • 9 0
 Bontrager wheels + tires are incredibly good, road and mountain; arguably better than the bikes they come stock on.
  • 1 0
 @HB208: Agreed. My Open has Reserve 650b and Roval 700c. Although Santa Cruz admitted changing to Reserve because many didn't like another bike brand label.
  • 1 0
 @HB208: roval makes some stupid claims about there wheels though
  • 4 0
 Launches like this are annoying. Don’t tell us the product is light weight without telling us how strong it is relative to your other products. Can I run them on my trail bike? Enduro bike? Do they flex more? Just labeling it ‘XC’ doesn’t help.
  • 4 0
 The launch did tell us this stuff, Pinkbike just didn't. Trek has said these wheels are a fit for pure XC bikes to 120mm bikes. They've also changed to an asymmetrical dishing so there is more spoke tension where you need it. So the RSLs will be stronger than the outgoing XXXs. Trek gave exact percentages for the stronger/stiffer improvements but I can't remember them off the top of my head.
  • 1 0
 there are no standardized strength tests in the bike industry (the bike industry lowkey sucks)
  • 3 0
 Burying the lede. The star here is a $1000 wide, fast-engaging, and light wheelset with a lifetime warranty from a major brand. The import wheelsets run about $700 with slower hubs and $1000+ with faster ones, and they won't be nearly as easy to replace if you break them.

I do wonder about these 24H builds though. Lateral stiffness will be down significantly from 28H and 32H. Maybe we've decided it doesn't matter? I'd also expect less load capacity and a higher probability of breaking on overload.
  • 5 0
 Choose a dick and be a freehub about it...
  • 4 1
 So these are almost as light as the light bicycle wheels I've been running for 2 years with no problems so far? And 2x the price?
  • 1 0
 how much do your wheels weigh?
  • 3 1
 Is it just me or is the RSL version a bit expensive? I have Newmen Advanced SL A.X. With DT 240s on my Epic HT. Same weight but I paid 1200€.
  • 1 0
 Bontrager did not replace my 8month old Kovee XXX front wheel. They also wanted to charge me shipping to ship the wheel back to them....really?? I purchase the wheel set new and had the receipt.
  • 2 0
 Wish they’d go further down the ladder with DT hubs. Bontrager ones have some driver issues.
  • 2 1
 Every second wheelset i've sold had issues! Slipping ratched ring, broken ring, pawls shave off and get round. They said in their newest release the problems are solved but its exactly the same again. Same with Trek Slashes - these bikes creak out of the box like a 15 year old bike. You have to strip them down and grease every single contact point.
  • 6 1
 @DoctorWatson: I never had the creak issues, but did blow 3 reAktiv rear shocks in under 2 seasons.

It’s just frustrating because companies like Trek have enough warranty claims to know what needs fixing, but it’s cheaper do throw some warranty stuff out than fix the problem.

Don’t get me started on Giant frames cracking and their unwillingness to call warranty them anymore……
  • 2 0
 @wyorider: The good old reAktiv shocks.......yep also a known issue. The creaking is on the 2022 Slash's! The previous gen´s were way better build.

Yes you are right. Trek is like the big S - they are not making bikes with passion + money - they are numbers driven. Trek Rail - we canceled this bike - cause it would take another 7 month(from yesterday on) to get it(ordered in february this year). We got a mail back - it would not be possible to cancel the not existing bike because it will be a discontinued bike by the time it will arrive and Trek does not want to put it in their inventory back.

Giant:Ha good to know. And i thought they throwing frames out like they cost 10bucks - thats what i heard!
  • 3 4
 Meh on the RSL, you can build a similar wheelset from Farsports or Light Bicycle for half the price. Hard to justify these ridiculous prices from the big names when smaller companies have proven quality and Light Bicycle has a North American warranty presence and Farsports is pretty awesome getting stuff to you.
  • 1 0
 farsports is built quite nice but yeah chinese companys are the way to go
  • 1 0
 wonder what the weight limit is on those RSL rims. bet they flex just a little bit.
  • 1 0
 no weight limit
  • 1 0
 Assuming it is still a hooked bead. Guess I'll click on the Trek link to find out.
  • 1 0
 hookless
  • 1 0
 The trek store just called me saying my 2nd replacement is there. 2nd wheel broke even with an insert -_-
  • 2 0
 Some wheels will be better without certain inserts. E.g Roval control SL you're not supposed to use an insert with. It can transfer the impact from the side of rim where the rim is stronger and has more material to the centre where the rim is already partly compromised from spoke holes. Not sure what Bontragers stance is on inserts
  • 1 0
 user error
  • 7 6
 No Shimano option... if you're not a fan of eagle, you're out of luck
  • 13 0
 Just out of pocket more $$$. These run on DT Swiss hubs that have easily swappable freehub bodies
  • 1 0
 The $2500 version can swap DT Swiss microspline ($70-ish USD), but wondering if the $1500 msrp version can as well. Same deal as the Roval Control 29 XD.
  • 1 0
 e13 cassette is a pretty solid solution for this, works well with shimano 12spd in my experience
  • 1 0
 @bikewriter: Trivial to swap roval hubs to some other freehub body
  • 5 0
 I have the old Kovee pro with an XT cassette, and all high end Trek’s come in both sram & shimano, so this is definitely wrong.

Companies will sell stock wheel sets as XD as default, and offer Microspline freehub for purchase. A shop should swap that for you free of charge on a high end wheelset.

Giant is the same, the shimano 12 speed freehub costs a touch more, so the msrp for the xd variant as a whole is therefore less.
  • 5 0
 @linds0r: it's just shitty that you have to spend extra money on a freehub... especially on such an expensive wheelset
  • 3 0
 @zahava: Trek does not swap the freehub out for the dealer. They charged them. So, I don't believe the dealer should have to eat the cost. I would rather see the wheels not come with a freehub and you just buy the one you need. Just like bikes that don't come with pedals.
  • 2 0
 From my understanding, you can still use a Sram cassette with Shimano drivetrain. I have done that a few times with 11-speed drivetrains. Right now running a Shimano cassette with Sram drivetrain. Best to double check, though.
  • 1 0
 11 speed xx1>
imo
  • 1 0
 1199 grams? Engineer must have been a fan of Stevie Smith! tehe.
  • 1 0
 elaboration?
  • 1 0
 Cute hoops but Nobl for the win.
  • 1 0
 they heavier?
  • 1 0
 I can't help it but always read: Covfefe
  • 1 0
 Lightweight is a brand. Light weight is a description.
  • 1 0
 I'll take my BTLOS carbon wheels with DT 240s over these any day.
  • 3 3
 Prices ain't too bad
  • 4 5
 Whoa- no shimano option.
  • 8 2
 You buy a shimano 12spd freehub
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