Aimed at aggressive trail and enduro riders, Bontrager's Line Elite hoops incorporate a medium-wide (by modern standards) alloy rim and some interesting design features to produce an impressively stiff wheelset.
The rim measures 28mm internal – similar to ‘conventional’ DH rim widths. This width holds even very large tyres far more securely than the usual 21-23mm width rims, providing a noticeably more precise cornering quality. Yet unlike with super-wide 30mm-plus rims, even fairly square profile tyres can be used, without suffering a knife-edge end to the cornering grip. It's a good compromise in our book.
The hubs stack the spokes one above the other, rather than side-by-side, in order to bring them as far outboard as possible to maximise the spoke bracing angle. Combined with the offset spoke bed, this evens up the spoke angle and spoke tension between each side to increase lateral stiffness further.
A relatively hefty 1908g total mass (including rim tape) makes this less surprising, though. The 28 straight-pull spokes lace the rims to Bontrager’s own hubs, which feature cartridge bearings throughout. The freehub uses three pawls, each armed with three teeth to ensure they don’t skip when delivering power to the wheel.
They mesh with a 54 tooth ratchet ring, delivering usefully fast 6.7-degree pickup and a pleasant freewheeling whir. After three months' testing, we’ve had no issues with the hubs so far, but the large bearing on the rear driveside is exposed to the elements and may be difficult to replace if need be.
On the trail, the high lateral stiffness is noticeable, allowing crisp cornering and precise line-holding through random rocky tererain. The fact that this stiffness derives from wide spoke geometry rather than an overly rigid rim allows some compliance in the vertical plane. This means they aren’t excessively harsh or chattery over bumps, and the fairly wide rim allows for lower tyre pressures than most without excessive squirm or burping.
All this adds up to a nice, compliant feel on the trail that provides plenty of stiffness and tyre support, keeping them precise through the bends. Our only real gripe is the weight.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.