Often better known for its cross-country and road equipment, Bontrager today launched several impressive trail and enduro-focused products with the all-new Rhythm Elite trail wheels and specially reinforced tires. Also, we spotted some Rhythm walkable trail shoes that seem equally suitable for pedaling and scrambling.
Meet Rapid Drive
Bontrager has packed some impressive features into the new US$999 Rhythm Elite trail wheels. Highlighting the list is the Rapid Drive rear hub with its speedy 54-tooth ratchet ring and trio of hardened steel pawls, each with three teeth. The resultant 6.67-degree engagement speed is more than twice as quick as DT Swiss’s standard star ratchet driver while the multiple interface points should hopefully yield good reliability over time.
The surrounding hub is novel, too, as it uses just three bearings instead of the usual four. The oversized aluminum axle is supported only at the very ends via one pair of bearings while the third is a massive cartridge connecting the freehub body to the enormous aluminum hub shell – there is no axle contact there.
Bontrager contends that the middle bearing’s huge contact area allows the freehub body and hub shell to effectively act as a single unit, thus allowing just the two smaller bearings to support the axle. In addition to saving a little weight, there should theoretically be less drag, too.
Bontrager has borrowed some features from its Race X Lite TLR road wheelset for the new rim – namely the brazed-on spoke hole reinforcements that prevent pull-through while still allowing for a thin extrusion to reduce weight plus offset spoke beds for more even tension throughout. The 22mm internal width should provide good casing support for high-volume tires, too, which can be mounted tubeless thanks to Bontrager’s long-running airtight molded plastic rim strips.
Joining the two are straight-pull, butted stainless spokes set in ‘stacked’ flanges that effectively push the them further apart for better bracing angles.
Claimed weight for the 26-inch set is 1,685g while the 29ers will reportedly weigh 1,815g per pair. There is unfortunately no 27.5-inch version set for release just yet but at least the interchangeable hub end caps will easily convert for use with most common axle fitments. SRAM XX1-compatible XD driver bodies will also be available when the wheels arrive in stores beginning in early June.
Bontrager will offer a new Rhythm Comp trail wheelset, too, which offers the same tubeless compatibility, interchangeable hub end caps, and stacked spoke flange configuration but with a more conventional rim and rear hub design. Claimed weights for the 26-inch and 29er versions are 1,855g and 1,935g, respectively, both with an asking price of US$599.
Reinforced tires for enduro racing
Joining the new wheels is Bontrager’s new SE4 Team Edition tire, specially reinforced for the rigors of enduro racing and designed by MTB tire icon Frank Stacy. The so-called ‘Core Strength’ reinforcement uses three separate strips of polyamide fabric: one underneath the crown and the others providing cut protection to the sidewalls. Space is left in between each strip, which Bontrager says allows for more casing flexibility than running a single reinforcement layer from bead to bead.
Core Strength will be included in a single SE4 Team Edition tire model, which uses an aggressive, full-knob tread for good grip and reasonable rolling edition in a variety of conditions. Bontrager will offer the new tire in 26×2.2-inch (819g, US$65), 26×2.35-inch (941g, US$65), and 29×2.35-inch (1,033g, US$75) sizes.
New Rhythm trail shoes
Bontrager didn’t formally introduce any footwear here but we spotted brand manager Michael Browne wearing a new pair of Rhythm trail shoes. Built with a lightly armored upper, fiber reinforced nylon midsole, and full-tread outsole, Browne says the new Rhythm shoes will offer efficient pedaling but with excellent grip for safely managing hike-a-bike sections.
Styling leans more towards the traditional racing shoe end of things although with so much rubber on hand, we expect the new Rhythms to pack on a few extra grams as a result. Official weights, prices, and availability have yet to be determined.