As a company, Trek/Bontrager hasn't embraced the gravel movement as keenly as some of its rivals, but these new Aeolus Pro 3V TLR Disc Wheels aim to address that. They are light and very tough wide-profile carbon rims ideal for big volume gravel tyres, and they are reasonably priced with a good warranty and no weight limit.
Bontrager has considerable experience in the carbon fibre wheel market. We were impressed with the Aeolus XXX 4s and the Aeolus Pro 3s when we tested them last year, and it's the latter that forms the basis for the new Aeolus Pro 3Vs. The V stands for volume; these wheels are designed for big volume tyres.
How are they designed for wider tyres? Internal width is the key; these measure 25mm internally, up from 19.5mm on the road carbon wheels. We're seeing the internal width of most road and gravel wheels increasing over traditional measurements to better suit wider tyres that are fashionable these days. A wider rim provides a better foundation for a wider tyre, providing more stability than a wide tyre on a narrow rim.
Bontrager has made these rims from OCLV carbon fibre using the same D3 Dual Directional Design 35mm deep profile as the road rims they're loosely based on. Like the road wheels, they're tubeless compatible using supplied plastic rim strips which you have to fit yourself. There's no 650B option, it's 700C only for now. We can see that changing soon, given the popularity of the smaller wheels.
Spinning away on smooth sealed bearings are Rapid Drive 108 hubs. They are laced with 24 bladed triple-butted spokes in each wheel with alloy nipples. The hubs are compatible with current axle standards, 100mm front width and 142mm rear with 12mm thru-axles. Disc rotors attach using the CenterLock interface which is preferable in my opinion to six-bolt purely for the time it saves during installation.
Getting the wheels ready for action is a pretty easy job. Bontrager supplies a semi-rigid plastic rim strip which you must install yourself if you want to take advantage of the tubeless beads. Fitting is a bit of a fiddle: you need to make sure the valve hole is lined up before you snap the plastic liner into place because once it's on, it ain't easy to move. My tip is to install the valve before you fully push the strip into place. I learnt that the hard way.
With some tyres fitted, 40mm Panaracer GravelKings in case you're wondering, and tubeless sealant poured in, the tyres inflated first time using my Lezyne tubeless track pump. Throughout several months of testing, air loss has been minimal with only occasional topping up of pressure needed. I've not had any issues with burping at lower pressures or the tyre bead not staying securely seated.
The generous internal width is perfect for a 40mm tyre. The wider rim lessens the 'lightbulb' effect of a wide tyre on a narrow rim and on the road/gravel/dirt/trail this translates to less tyre squirm and improved stability. It's especially apparent at the lower pressures needed for smoothing rough tracks and providing traction in the loose and mud.
Handling is, therefore, more predictable as the tyre isn't going to lean over the side of the rim when you get on the shoulder knobs of the tyre when you're giving it large down a gravel track.
Though I used a 40mm width tyre, Bontrager recommends anything wider than a 32mm tyre so nothing is stopping you fitting a fat slick tyre and using these wheels for regular road cycling instead of, or as well as, the gravel riding I mostly used them for.
One of the reasons you might want to buy carbon wheels for your gravel bike is the durability and strength they offer. These are mightily strong wheels and have stood up to some punishing riding, including on rock-strewn tracks better suited to mountain bikes. Hearing the rim clatter against the rocks does make you wince but the wheels have stood up to it all just fine, with no punctures or damaged rims. I've dented aluminium rims on these same trails but the Bontragers coped with it all just fine.
The wheels display the sort of stiffness you'd expect from a carbon wheel, but assessing stiffness through a low-pressure 40mm tyre is tricky. There is more stiffness detectable when coming from aluminium wheels, though, a generally snappier ride experience especially noticeable when riding singletrack trails with lots of sudden turns.
Carbon is also generally, but not always, lighter. These are reasonably light at 1,540g on our scales, and there's no rider weight limit which some carbon wheels do have, so that's a good thing.
The wheels exhibited very good build quality and durability during my testing. The freehub engages instantly when getting on the gas, whether sprinting for the top of a climb or carefully pushing out power on a tricky technical climb requiring a deft touch and some precision.
The wheels aren't the cheapest but nor are they the most expensive. You can get cheaper carbon wheels from companies you've never heard of, but with Bontrager you are getting a wheelset manufactured to the company's own specifications and design and which you won't find replicated at any cheap outlet that buys its wheels off-the-shelf from Chinese carbon outlets.
They are also covered by Bontrager's Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program, whereby if you damage the wheel in the first two years Bontrager will repair or replace the rim for free. I'm not sure how many of the new wheel brands popping up selling cheap carbon wheels match that.
Such cover can't be overstated in a market saturated by wheel brands we've never heard of with question marks over customer care, after-sales support and, biggest of all, whether they'll still be around when you have a problem with your cheap carbon wheels.
If you thought £1,200 was expensive, they're dwarfed by the £3,100 of the new Enve G23 wheels with Chris King R45 hubs. But they do weigh 1,342g. We've got a review of those coming soon, so watch out for that.
If you want cheaper wheels then check out the FSA Afterburner AGX gravel wheels, but they are heavier at 1,789g.
Costing £900, Mavic's Allroad Pro UST Disc wheels weigh a claimed 1,610g and the price even includes tyres and all the tubeless parts you need to ditch the inner tubes.
Not a gravel wheelset, but with a 21mm internal width ideal for a wide road tyre, the Reynolds AR 41 DB wheels cost £1,100 and also reviewed very well, also from a company with good service and after-sales support.
The high-quality carbon fibre Aeolus Pro 3V wheels are perfectly suited to wide road and gravel tyres, with top-notch performance and durability, backed up by a two-year no-cost replacement or repair warranty.
Tough, wide-profile carbon rims for road and gravel riding
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V TLR Disc Road Wheelset
Size tested: 700C
Tell us what the wheel is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Bontrager says: "Aeolus Pro 3V is the ultimate road disc upgrade. It has a wider 25mm internal rim so you can run lower pressure for better tyre support, added traction, better cornering and a faster, more comfortable ride. Plus, Rapid Drive 108 road hubs add snappy engagement for an all-around better ride."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
OCLV Pro Carbon offers an optimised blend of weight, strength and durability
The D3 Dual Directional Design profile cuts drag at the tyre-leading and rim-leading edges
25mm inner rim width (32mm outer) for added tyre support to suit larger-volume road and gravel tyres
Rapid Drive 108 road hubs provide quick engagement for faster acceleration and increased control
Tubeless Ready (TLR) rims allow for quick transition to a tubeless system
Centerlock disc with 12mm thru-axle and end caps available for 15mm conversion
Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Programme offers no-cost replacement or repair of rim for first two years of ownership
No rider weight limit
Construction quality is up there with the best, no complaints at all.
Excellent performance with wide gravel tyres fitted.
Not had any issues at all in several months of hard gravel riding.
They're light but not especially light.
They're not the cheapest, but they are well designed and produced by a long-standing company with a good reputation and covered by a two-year Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program which is worth having.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
I didn't have to take a spoke key to them.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Fitting tyres was very easy, fitting the tubeless rim strip was the trickiest part of the process.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
No issues to report.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provide a wide base for fat gravel tyres.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Good performance and look good too.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Fitting the plastic tubeless rim strips was fiddly; I'm sure there's a better solution here.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are competitively priced with many rivals at this price point.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They provide a very good performance and compare well to other carbon rims of similar specifications.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.