Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 Clinchers – First Ride

When cross-shopping wheels, everything comes into play: price, weight, material, aero data, depth, rim profile, braking, hubs, and even looks make narrowing the range of wheels out there to the one for you is a herculean task. Luckily, when the bike course has a climbing profile, Bontrager has an answer that just might work for the flat courses, too in their new Aeolus 3 D3 Clincher – we could certainly be convinced of that.


The Aeolus’ new D3 profile rim carries the trend of a wide, angled brake track forward with 27mm width tracks that veer sharply into the tire; Bontrager’s whitepaper makes the case that this prevents detachment at the point where the tire meets the brake track and smooths out turbulent airflow before it even gets a chance to get started, helping to keep the drag figures for these wheels in the 0-14 degree sweep impressively low compared to what we consider to be its main competitor, the Zipp 303, along with the rest of the “carbon climber” category handily across the entire yaw sweep.


The other departure from the current trend is the trailing edge shape of the rim that is more arched than the current crop of blunt-sided toroidals, with Bontrager claiming that the two together produce a lower drag figure across their entire lineup than their competitors at similar depth. In looking at the drag figures in the combined listing, it appears that this may be something of an understatement – the Aeolus D3 shape tends to push drag numbers closer to the next-level-deep wheels from the rest of the pack, rather than just edging out the direct competition. From our perspective, this seems like an excellent argument for a set, since the weight numbers are good across the range to boot, including our test wheel, the 35mm deep Aeolus 3 D3 tipping the scales at 1440g.


With a wheel that light, and the performance characteristics beating the “aero climbing” category out fairly handily, we expected a wheel that picked up quickly and still gave us that little extra before we needed to really get aggressive in our position on the road bike. What we got were a set of acceleration monsters. The wheels will spin up with a nearly telepathic speed when dropping the hammer at the start of the sprint zone at the local group ride and are shockingly stable well past 30mph; where lesser wheels have become unsettlingly wayward, the Bontragers gave the distinct impression that they could take whatever our legs could dish out and then some.


As for crosswinds, a sustained 10mph crosswind didn’t so much as budge them. Never fear, though, we have some particularly nasty crosswind roads with sustained 20mph winds and gusts up to 30 on the schedule, so we’ll have more on their performance in less placid conditions in our long term review. Until then, we are fairly impressed with how well the Aeolus 3 D3 handles, and seriously impressed with how it accelerates. After just 100 miles, we couldn’t ask for more.

11 responses to “Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3 Clinchers – First Ride

    • We’re of two minds on the Bontragers versus the FLO 30. On the one hand, they appear to be direct competitors, in that they are both wheels explicitly designed for a road bike to excel upon; both are wide wheelsets and offer good braking performance. And yet, it is hard to put them into the same class as one another for purposes of a comparison. The FLOs are less than a third of the price of the Bontragers, and for that money the amount of wheel you get is phenomenal, but they are also a third of a pound heavier – and rotating weight is a real problem for climb and sprint zone racers. The shape of the two wheels is also broadly similar, but the finish on the Bontragers is, simply put, better.

      For a budget racer, the FLO30s will take you everywhere you need to go, including podium. But this is the difference between the WRX and the 911 – they’re both fast cars, but there are just different levels of fast.

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