Bontrager's New Made-in-USA Carbon Wheels - First Ride

Apr 14, 2016
by Mike Kazimer  
Bontrager XXX wheels

There was a time when carbon mountain bike wheels were the sole domain of the cross-country crowd, a place where the narrow and often delicate hoops were less likely to be hucked into rock gardens or repeatedly slapped into corners. That's no longer the case, and the last few years have seen a massive influx of wider-rimmed carbon wheels hit the market that are aimed at the all-mountain crowd. Not one to sit idly by the sidelines, Bontrager is joining in with their new Line XXX wheelset that's built to withstand the punishments doled out by professional enduro racers and weekend warriors alike. With an an internal rim width of 29mm, the wheels hit that wide-but-not-too-wide sweet spot that allows for 2.3” tires to be run without negatively affecting the tire profile, and for even wider tires to easily be mounted up as well.
Line XXX Details

• Size: 27.5" or 29"
• Intended use: all-mountain, enduro race
• Internal width: 29mm
• Rim material: carbon fiber
• 28 straight pull spokes
• Boost hub spacing
• Weight (29" with TLR rim strips and valves): 1760 grams. Front: 840 grams, Rear: 920 grams
• MSRP: $2,500 USD / @trek

The carbon rims are made in-house at Bontrager's Waterloo, Wisconsin facility, which is part of the reason the retail price for the set is an eye-watering $2,500. According to Bontrager's Alex Applegate, “Simply put, the Line XXX as it is today would not be as good if made overseas, and we aren’t just saying that, we have tested and proven it. We did not want to compromise with this wheel and the best way to build it was down the hall from where it was designed.”

There are a number of carbon rims on the market that use a hookless rim profile, a design that's easier, and thus less expensive, to manufacture. Bontrager went a slightly different route, creating a tiny hook at the top of each rim that works in conjunction with their TLR plastic rim strips. Once installed, the strips are just about the same width as that tiny hook, and at first glance it makes it appear as if the rims are in fact hookless. Those strips make it easy to set the wheels up tubeless, and there's no need to worry about them ripping or tearing while installing a tire.

When it came time to decide what hubs to lace those carbon rims to, Bontrager chose DT Swiss' ultra-reliable 240s hubs, which use a 54-tooth star ratchet system in the rear hub for a quick 6.6 degrees between engagement points. Both wheels use 28 straight pull spokes that thread into nipples that can be accessed without removing the tire, a feature that's not always present on higher end carbon wheels, even though it should be.

Bontrager XXX wheels
A tiny bead hook on each rim is designed to accommodate the TLR rim strips.

Bontrager XXX wheels
DT Swiss' 240s hub uses a 54-tooth star ratchet system.
Bontrager XXX wheels
The carbon rims measure 29mm internally and 34mm externally.

First Impressions

I've only just begun to test the Line XXX wheels, and three rides isn't nearly enough time to comment on durability and strength, but the initial setup was completely hassle-free. I was able to get a set of Bontrager SE5 tires seated and sealed with a regular floor pump, and they popped securely into place right around 40 psi.

At 1760 grams the Line XXX wheelset isn't going to set the hearts of weight weenies aflutter (Bontrager's recently announced 1390 gram Kovee XXX cross-country wheelset takes care of that), but the weight is still very reasonable number, especially if Bontrager's claims of just how tough these rims are prove to be true. I will say that they feel lighter on the trail than the number that shows up on the scale, and even though there was barely a weight difference between the wheels and the alloy wheelset they replaced, I would have sworn they weighed significantly less. There's a very enjoyable snappiness to their handling, with a lively, stiff feeling that doesn't waver no matter how hard they're pushed into tight berms. Cornering was where the wheels' stiffness was the most noticeable - they made the bike feel like it wanted to leap forward, springing out of one corner and then diving into the next with just as much energy.

The big question is, are they worth it? Bontrager have their work cut out for them, especially given the increasing number of less expensive options on the market. The USA-made tag is commendable, and sky high pricing don't seem to have kept other US companies from making their presence known in the carbon wheel world, but it'll really come down to how much of an improvement they make out on the trail. Keep in mind that this is the top tier offering in their carbon wheel line - there are more economical options on the way. Look for a full review one we put more in more hard miles to see exactly what they can handle.

Author Info:
mikekazimer avatar

Member since Feb 1, 2009
1,743 articles

  • 162 3
 Haha I saw $2500 and immediately skipped to the comments.... And go.....
  • 24 0
 Sweet wheels, but does it sound funny to say "Check out my new Gucci Bontrager wheels!"????
  • 49 1
 It sounds like you should wear your helmet turned sideways.
  • 11 4
 @therealtylerdurden: Sorry man! Meant to up vote, hit the wrong arrow!
  • 16 26
flag fantaman (Apr 14, 2016 at 15:11) (Below Threshold)
 $2500 for a pair of plastic wheels??? lol lol
  • 11 2
 Saw ad and thought awesome....saw price and said of course, no thanks.
  • 20 3
 I would buy a set of Nobl TR33's for almost a grand less than those and get Nobl (Onyx) hubs with it.
  • 1 0
 same lol...
  • 2 0
 They make a $1200 carbon wheel set now as well... Wink
  • 4 2
 @MoreBerms: are they made in the USA though?
  • 2 0
 just was ganna do the same exact thing haha you beat me to it
  • 3 0
 @WayneParsons: I just got a set of the 38's, they're really nice, setup with a floor pump, I'm happy with the product. I've had Easton Haven's too.
Only issue, took 9 weeks to deliver. Hopefully that's not a trend.
  • 18 3
 @fantaman: I ALWAYS say to my friends with carbon fibre* bikes, "Nice plastic bike!" just to irritate them. It is a personality failure of mine that I blame on my parents, my schooling, the state legislature and the fact I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in a tiny 2500 square-foot house with no running hot and cold maid service.

It could be worse, I might be thinned skinned and have no sense of humor.

*On the other hand, I DO occasionally show my classiness by spelling "fiber" as "fibre".
  • 2 0
 @bikenmiken: Nope, they went through new ownership and were juggling new product development at the same time. Back on track now.
  • 2 0
 @WayneParsons: Yep, I got some Nox am carbons for a grand less last season on hope pro evo 2 and they have been bomb proof..
  • 1 0
 @bohns1: nice!
  • 3 4
 @WayneParsons: or u can get lb wheels for $500 less then nobl. Nobl Lb Nobl Lb Nobl lb. can u tell the difference?
  • 6 2
 @mojoriders But they smell like communism.
  • 2 1
 Absolute bottom of my list of carbon wheels. Well, except for the crazy jenky ones on eBay that make L-B seem like Enves.
  • 2 0
 I stopped reading at $2,500. Then came to post a comment, saw yours, and it turned into a reply. A $2,500 wheelset caters only to the ultra rich who don't give a crap about value. At 1,760g it's not hyper-light. the dentists will need to think hard about that next Enve purchase.
  • 1 0
 @bbeak: show those snarky Brits we do do have an awareness of irony :-P
  • 1 0
 @RBWebb: YEP!!!
  • 1 0
 Was what I thought!

I have a set of carbon wheels although in 26" flavour and wonder is there any point as tyre movement does come into play and finding right pressure is nigh on impossible to stop them squirming unless I sacrifice grip.

Needless to say I miss my stans flow exs and that for first couple if rides, they were impressive then forgot they were carbon.

Tyre squirm is my only concern with mine. But then they're only 21/22mm iirc inside bead to bead.
  • 1 0
 you are not alone.....
  • 1 0
 @WayneParsons: Shill! Wink

I have almost zero recollection of the events, but feel that I ordered four LB rims and had one set built up with Pro2s for less half these.

Trek should've went with the 36t ratchet.
  • 63 17
 Here in Europe (Sweden) when you say "Made in the USA" most people don't really think of high quality.. We more think of it as mostly overpriced and often of lesser quality. Now German, Swiss or English made on the other hand!
I think a lot of American brands actually would sell more here if they toned down where it was made and put a few fewer flags on there products.
  • 12 4
 Thank you...
  • 27 35
flag tsheep (Apr 14, 2016 at 17:01) (Below Threshold)
 Yay- more Euro's jumping on the bash America train! Sorry buddy, I'll take American or maybe British over German or Swiss any day of the week. I do manufacturing for a living, and if you want the highest quality, it ain't European.
  • 16 2
 No bash here, I'm a CNC machinist with German machining school, plus over ten years of bike shop experience.... Just see more I9 type hubs in the shop, then Hope or DT...
  • 12 17
flag SlodownU (Apr 14, 2016 at 18:20) (Below Threshold)
 @mirzamir: Too bad you can't make reliable cars anymore. My next one won't be German. Maybe someone over there can figure out how to wire an electrical system that doesn't shit the bed after 2 years?
  • 13 2
 That's just funny. You own a car...
  • 6 17
flag SlodownU (Apr 14, 2016 at 18:40) (Below Threshold)
 @mirzamir: No, I would describe it more as an expensive German turd with 4 wheels sticking out of it. If I could load it into a cannon, I would shoot it right back over to you. Wait, I'm in America, so there's a chance so could....
  • 16 3
 @SlodownU: that smell would bother me, also what does it run on? Water I presume since it flushes turds away... Toyota I hear is a good car, we drove one around the states for three months, 13500 miles and spent more money on beers then on gas...
  • 15 2
 @mirzamir: +1 to you for staying above @SlodownU's shit.
  • 7 2
 @SlodownU: if you're implying German cars are unreliable id advise u to look at the current US auto industry: I'd rather get every single European or Japanese car over an American hunk of poorly designed crap. Except for maybe a Jeep Wrangler. Face it man.
  • 12 1
 Throwing stones from a glass house full of IKEA furniture...
  • 4 3
 Yeah, well we have much better teeth.
  • 4 1
 I'm british. I'd only buy a British car (we only make a few sports cars now so doesn't really count), German or Japanse.

I had a french car once. It was so dull.
  • 11 2
 I really like pizza. But also enchiladas and burgers.
  • 1 0
 @blackthorne : dont buy a jeep, had one went through tannys like every other year, 2 gearboxes, brakes and rotors every year, rusted out, windsheilds crack always, etc.....worse vehicle i have ever owned. Never took it off road cause something would break every time. My sister is on her third tranny and second gear box and its a 2013...again never off roaded. ABOSOLUTE JUNK but there cool in the summer.
  • 4 2
 @blackthorne: Imply? That's funny, there's actual data that backs it up. And at least when an American car breaks, I don't have to pay a small fortune for parts and labor. At least the "idiots" at GM and Ford have figured out how to make a direct injection engine that won't build up carbon, or an aluminum block that won't score after 50k miles. And then there's the ridiculously complicated, delicate, and oh, expensive to fix diesel exhaust system (I won't mention the other diesel issue). Having owned all 3 big German luxury brands over the years (yea, I make a decent living, without having to pull teeth or fill fillings), they are just as much shite as a 5 year old Malibou, but just look and drive better. Once the factory or certified warranty is up, beware or trade in.
  • 2 0
 @john42 you're welcome for 99% of computer, communications and Internet technologies - The USA.
  • 2 0
 @blackthorne: Did you just travel here in a time machine from 1995? Have you seen the new BMW M4? It sounds like a cow farting.
  • 13 0
 Those DTSwiss Straighpull hubs are pretty light, how does a carbon wheelset weigh 1760 grams? I have a pair of fortune cookie rims laced to a pair of boat anchor hubs with an internal width of 35mm, and they weight 1742. I am not a weight weenie, just not sure where they are packing on the grams, is it that rubber rim strip? Do the spokes use washers?
  • 9 2
 The TLR rim strips add around 100 grams to the total weight. Claimed weight for the rim alone is 435 grams.
  • 57 3
 If you can't make $2500 carbon wheels that are lighter than a good set of aluminum wheels, then you need to put down the pipe and go back to the drawing board. These are just stupid.
  • 7 2
 I would rather lay off the fried chicken and pizzas for a few months, saving myself more £ and losing more weight than I would if I just bought a lighter wheel set.

I mean if you're sitting at virtually no body fat, have limited your gear weight and then literally the only place you can easily save weight is your bike now then so be it
  • 6 0
 @areyouoffit: True but rotational mass is a bitch!
  • 5 0
 @areyouoffit: ah the old 'take a dump before your ride' thing. Even if I'm hauling 3 cans of beer and my office clothes in my backpack, it feels far lighter riding my road bike home than the commuter with no backpack. Body weight and bike weight are two different things.
  • 2 0
 @SlodownU: these are super high end and the goal wasn't only lightweight. The Kovee XXX is the lightweight wheelset and weighs less than 1400 grams for 29er and are also 29mm internal rim width ...2500 completey made at Bontragers Wheel Works with an excellent warranty. DT Swiss XMC spline 1200 wheels are most similar which are also 2500, although not quite as wide.
  • 2 0
 Along these lines if you can't make rim strips that are less than a few grams (e.g. 3M strapping tape), then you need to go back to the drawing board.
  • 1 0
 Claimed weight is 1535g for 650B and 1625g for 29
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: still a lot, 440gr rims + dt240 SP +sapims for ex without strip is around 1600gr 30mm internal
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: @mikekazimer: They should go with the plugs like Specialized with the Traverse Fattie SL's. I think it drops about 80 grams total weight compared to the rim strips. Geesh, my Fattie SL 29's are only 1570grams with the plugs and valves in, and they're 1mm wider, and still have the 54t ratchet, which is awesome, btw. Oh, and they cost $1150 right now. Less than half as much, for wider and lighter, and still with a great warranty.

These will probably be a good deal on some bikes they come on though. Trek stuff always seems to be overpriced when it's sold individually. Like Trek bikes are priced well, but their frame only prices are ridiculous. I guess it makes it look like you're getting a really sweet deal on a bike when they can say it comes with $2500 wheels...
  • 1 0
 @SlodownU: carbon doesn't always mean lighter, it means stiffer and holding a better line with out all the vibration. I get that $2500 is a lot of money but you are also paying for stiffness and longer lasting rims, and dampening, just like a carbon frame vs an aluminum. I have been lucky enough to ride ENVE M70's and since switching i have not destroyed a wheel in 2 years... not even trued a wheel and im a fat 200 guy who loves to take the nastiest line i can handle. Worth the 2500? probably not but just like everything else in this industry, someone will buy them...
  • 16 4
 Lets put this into perspective. A top of the line full suspension carbon fiber Enduro frame costs pretty much what these wheels cost.
I guarantee you my homebuilt Nextie Wildcats on Chris King hubs are every bit the equal or better of these wheels. They cost me over $1,000 less.

OK. So they aren't made in Wisconsin, USA. Ironically the CEO of the corporation making them in USA (Trek) is firmly behind and endorses all the hostile regulations and liberal policies that create the sad situation that pushes all the manufacturers overseas to make anything cost competitive.

So-FU Trek/ Bontrager. Don't try and play the made in USA card when your CEO is at least partially behind the entire sad state of USA manufacturing.
  • 13 2
 It's even sillier if you look at industry 9 wheels. Made in USA, 100grams lighter, and under a grand. I've been beating the shit out of mine for thousands of miles, still straight as an arrow, and if they ever do get tweaked, I can throw them in the trash, but a new set and still save enough money over the Bontragers to buy a new drivetrain.
  • 4 0
 liberal policies??

elaborate holmes.
  • 4 0
 @schofell84: Probably talking about unions driving the cost of manufacturing in the U.S. through the roof and over to Asia. Which is at least partially true.
  • 1 0
 @dualsuspensiondave: there are plenty of unions in Asia there chum.
  • 9 2
 Didnt even read it, Anyone who had the rythem pro carbons and used some racing ralphs and had them stick to the tire, so much so that three shops and 4 full grown gorillas coudnt remove the seeded bead...then had to cut them, then on the burst of the kevlar had one layer of the carbon rim unwind...on both sides of the rim...and they would not warranty .. do they have this feature? if so im sold ! Best 3000 grand i ever spent...until i had to change tires ;( ... keep me posted.
  • 16 0
 3000 grand? Man that's an expensive wheelset.
  • 12 0
 $2500 awesome I just saved 100 grams. Now how don't tell my wife
  • 4 0
 @tblore: I laughed so hard I just peed my pants. Hey, what do you know? I just saved 100 grams also if I change my underwear.
  • 2 0
 @j-t-g: they were limited edition and thats with the US dollar conversion Wink
  • 3 1
 @tblore: guess what, for $2,500 instead of this wheelset you could get a new frame that's 500g lighter. Mind blown.
  • 2 0
 @blackthorne: does u frame rotate?
  • 11 0
 Any other brand under 2500 thats American made?
  • 3 1
  • 1 0
 @StevieBeats: Don't think they're made in US; all the Spesh/Roval stuff is made in Asia. Not that that is a reason not to get them. They are MUCH cheaper than Bontrager/Enve.
  • 1 0
 Nox are American designed... great product, but manuf. overseas. Derby? Ibis?
  • 8 1
 The xtra xtra xtra expensive line.

or is it just the porn line of wheels... children under 18, it's not going to happen.

i hope you don't enve my xxx line stache.

the branding on this one... :/
  • 14 4
 Go home Bontrager you're drunk.
  • 7 0
 It is utterly fucking ridiculous where component prices are going, and yes, I know I don't have to buy this crap. Not to worry. Reminds me of big pharmaceutical companies and the prices they demand.
  • 3 0
 They aren't demanding anything. They know full well the target buyer of this wheelset, and it ain't you. Or me for that matter. But there is a market out willing to pay stupid prices. Trek would make the same profit selling 10 of these as they would selling 100 shitty OEM wheels, so why wouldn't they?
  • 1 0
 @blackthorne: Clearly they don't know their market or these would be 200g lighter.
  • 6 1
 Just going to leave this here.

ENVE wheels with dt 240 $3000
I-9 pillar carbon $3000
Bontrager line xxx $2500

With better tlr system and rim width ????
While expensive in the land of Gucci kind of a great value interesting almost like a multi million dollar cooperation did research ????
  • 4 0
 For many that's a months worth of salary. If it takes $2000.00 a month to produce each wheelset in labor and production cost then reserve a $500.00 profit for each set than I can live with that. For those who can spring for a $2500.00 wheeset, good on you. My Stans Flow's may be just as fast...maybe even faster.
  • 4 2
 obviously, your not a dentist.
  • 1 0
 Exactly, I just picked up a new Stan Flow Ex wheelset for 1/5 that price and it's only 130 grams heavier roughly.
  • 1 0
 @parallaxid: His not a dentist what?
  • 5 0
 I try to stay calm but god damn it. It's mtb wheels! You are suppose to beat the sh..t out of it on huge jumps and rock gardens, Who pay 2500USD for this ?? You can buy many complete bike for that price.
  • 7 0
 The 54T is a great upgrade for any DT ratchet based hub..... Bzzzzzzzzzzz
  • 3 1
 Yes, but pushing the edge a bit considering the size of those teeth. I needed to upgrade my 18 POE but chickened out ang got 36 instead.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I was not sure of the life either, but still going strong after 2000 miles. They show minimal signs of wear.
  • 2 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I thought the same as well, but I've seen more broken teeth on the 18t. I think it might have more to do with how much you have to wind up the hub before it engages. On the 18t the gap is more and the wind up is as well, so there is likely more stress on the teeth when they finally engage.
  • 5 0
 Don't worry, they are only available for boost 27.5/29 so you don't have to complain about the price because they wont fit on your 26" bike
  • 2 0
 They are out of their f*cking mind at that price. 200g heavier than ENVE M60 HV, about the same price, and only 40% as long of a warranty. I foresee just about only Trek sponsored riders owning these.
  • 1 0
 Hmm, they have some carbon 27.5 40mm rims on their site for much less than $2500 a pair. Why do they have those? They don't have a + bike that they would go on, other than the Stache, but those come with 29+ wheels. Makes me wonder if a FS 27.5+ bike is coming. Remedy 27.5+? Stache EX 27.5+? Do eet!
  • 1 0
 Also, these wheels are only in boost hub sizing. I guess they're moving onto 'wider standard' (for all of the models) with upcoming 2017 steed.
  • 1 1
 for that price you would think they would have a trail in Wisconsin that they built that everyone could ride maybe give back a little to grow the sport at home.... but no ,,,,,built a private track only f trek from the Midwest
  • 3 0
 What about CamRock, Blackhawk, or Pleasant View? Trek has donated money and their in-house trail builder to work on all of those area trails. How about all the money they give to WI Bike Fed and IMBA? $10 for every dualie they sell and 4% of their profit goes to advocacy. Trek works harder and spends more than any other cycling company to grow the sport.
  • 4 0
 light-bicycle hoops $800.
  • 6 2
 Nice work Bontrager!
  • 2 0
 Editor* To be perfectly accurate the wheels are made in Waterloo, not Madison.
  • 2 0

I would be putting $2500 rims on my bike which doesn't even cost that much. Does this make sense to anybody?
  • 2 0
 Roval Traverse sl retails for $1,500
They still on spring sale at your dealer for around $1,200
  • 4 3
 Man, who needs Carbon-Wheels?! Even in Cross Country you can get Alloy Wheels-sets which have similary the weight of Carbon-wheels. And you can save lots of money.
  • 7 1
 said the pumstang that's never ridden them...
  • 3 0
 Weight is not the reason why you buy carbon wheels. It has to do with the rim stiffness/deflection under torque. Ride some carbon hoops, then say carbon isn't worth it.

That said, this is still stupidly expensive for a set of wheels, even if built in-country.
  • 3 0
 Im here for the comments.
  • 2 0
 With a price like that its a good thing the name XXX warns you that your about to take it up the a$$!
  • 1 0
 Lol, you must have a carbon fibre head to want to spend 2500 on these when you can get a bloody good whole bike for that. Sheer lunacy!!
  • 1 2
 haha..I personally love Bontys fore great saddles, some models of tlr tires, lightweight carbon bars BUT what I can see here - $2500 for wheels is shitty price (if these not Enves though), 1700+g weight is shitty weight to be honest and 54t ratchet for DT wheels is shit also because it fails after first steep uphill...perfectly useless product - 5 stars!
  • 2 0
 ill buy a new bike before I buy these!
  • 3 0
 Lb Profile Elite ftw
  • 1 0
 Wow!!! Wait, not wow, I'll take TWO yes two sets of industry nine enduro wheels instead of these. Lighter and half the cost.
  • 1 0
 That is a pig of a wheel set. I'll take the Roval SL Fattie at almost half a pound lighter and almost $1000 USD less.
  • 1 0
 F that, just buy some Derby Rims with Hope hubs and you could easily cut this price in half.
  • 1 0
 Just what the market was asking for, another set of ultra high priced carbon fiber wheels, nailed it Bontrager.
  • 1 0
 $2500???? I'd take Charbon over these any day, for a 1/4 of the cost. #MAXXISTIRESRULE
  • 1 0
 They appear to be laced three-cross.
  • 1 0
 The stickers are made in US.
  • 3 2
 2500 dollars WHAT????

Says the guy that just bought Enve's LMAO
  • 1 1
 I stopped reading when i saw $2500. I'm not even reading the comments - pretty sure it's all the same as mine.
  • 1 0
  • 1 2
 Such a heavy wheel set at such a high price is idiotic. Riding'em like "look at me, I like am a Moran. Hurt hurt dur"
Imbeciles will buy it
  • 2 2
 LB all the way. They can take some punishment. Those little asian kids know how to lay carbon.
  • 1 0
 Another set of incredibly porky $2,500 wheels!
  • 4 4
 I prefer ENVE, enve second enve,.
  • 2 1
  • 3 3
 Production costs are higher in the US. #madeinamerica
  • 1 0

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