Learn More About Bontrager

Meticulous Wheels
from a
Brilliant Engineer

Bontrager aluminum rims are joined by welding, then
machined to flawless perfection for ultra-smooth braking.

If you look at your mountain bike, there is very little of it that Keith Bontrager did not influence. The suspension fork? Keith and RockShox founder Paul Turner built the first of those forks together, using Bontrager's clamp-together aluminum fork crown.

The saddle? Keith had the gumption to change how we think about saddles by chopping off the ears so that we could slide off and on the back easier.

The TIG-welded frame with reinforcing gussets? The automated fatigue tests that Bontrager performed determined the best gusset shapes and helped set the standards that assure the soundness of all bikes.

There are many more invisible Bontrager influences in your mountain bike, such as rim
and hub designs that drop weight without sacrificing stiffness and strength. But what's up with Bontrager road wheels and components?

The Bontrager road program borrows from many of the lessons Keith learned off-road. For example, in 1998, Bontrager took the Valiant rim he had developed and incorporated it into the Race Lite wheelset. It was the lightest mountain bike wheel on the market for a number of years and indicated the potential for making cool road wheels as well.

Accordingly, Keith's front and rear road wheels are different from anything you'll find anywhere else. They use specific rim extrusions, lacing patterns and spoke diameters because front and rear wheels do different tasks and carry different loads. It never made much sense to Keith to use the same rims for each.

Chris Horner of the Prime Alliance team kicking off the season with Bontrager Race Lite bars, stem and X-Lite Carbon wheels.
The Race X-Lite Carbon, Bontrager's ultimate tubular-only race wheel, was ridden by Danny Pate
to his espoir World Championship TT medal.

Part Two

The Race X-Lite, Bontrager's flagship aluminum road wheel, has a high-profile front rim (23 mm tall) laced with 20 bladed spokes for improved aerodynamics. Since the front wheel represents the leading edge of the bike, aerodynamics are critically important.

The rear wheel, on the other hand, is tucked behind the seat tube and less affected by the
wind. But as part of the drivetrain, it needs to be substantially stronger.

For this reason, you'll find offset spoke beds on the X-Lite rear wheels. Offset spoke beds, which move the spoke holes in the rim off center, substantially improve the spoke bracing angle of the non-drive-side spokes, giving the drive and non-drive spokes more equal tension. Equal tension is crucial to building durable, long-lasting wheels. Offset beds have been popular in Bontrager off-road wheels for years, but this approach is relatively new in the road world.

The Race Lite and the Select wheelset models round out the Bontrager road line. The Race Lites are very similar to the X-Lites, but they have straight, 14-gauge bladed spokes front and rear. The result is a wheelset that is not quite as light, but a bit stiffer, perfect for training and sprinting. The Bontrager Selects are a great combination of Bontrager design, high durability and terrific value.

Yet to be released is a new wheelset for high-tech tandems. The Race Lite Tandem is a unique aero wheel that has a super-strong deep-section aero rim coupled to a tandem hub with 24 paired spokes.

In addition to the aluminum road wheels, Bontrager is also introducing a Race X-Lite Carbon for tubular tires. This wheel has an extremely light and stiff carbon-fiber OCLV rim made in the same facility that produces the U.S. Postal Service frames. You may have already seen it: Danny Pate used one for his espoir World Championship TT ride last fall, and three of the top ten 2001 Hawaii Ironman finishers were equipped with X-Lite Carbons.

All Bontrager wheels are produced in Wisconsin, at a facility that has been cranking out high-end wheel goods for over 15 years. Says Bontrager wheel product manager Chad Price, "Our Matrix rim factory was already making good products, but we took it to another level when Keith got involved. It was his attention to design issues and manufacturing challenges that helped work out many of our rim welding and machining processes. Our rim manufacturing now is state-of-the-art, and Keith is our best rim engineer."

Race X-Lite road wheels have a high-profile front rim for aerodynamics, and offset spoke bed at the rear for strength, and Bontrager's careful hand-tensioned construction for durability.
Roland Green on his way to his World Championship victory at Vail aboard his Bontrager Race Lites. Rocks, ruts and high-speed descents -- these wheel can handle anything!

Part Three

Bontrager aluminum wheels start as 30-foot aluminum extrusions, sourced from one of the only extruders in the world that can hold Bontrager's strict dimensional tolerances. Each 30-foot section yields three rims, whose ends are joined by welding. While most rims are still glued and pinned together, each Bontrager aluminum rim has a flawless braking surface with no perceptible seam due to the post-weld machining process.

Each wheel is then laced by hand, meticulously trued, tensioned and stressed to seat the spokes. This attention to the build process, combined with Bontrager's high spoke tensions, helps the wheels stay round, and keeps trueness touch-ups rare.

Bontrager mountain bike wheels are just as well thought out. Lately, Keith's attention has been focused on making tubeless models more user-friendly. The Bontrager approach to tubeless is a rim and rim-strip sealing system that allows the use of tubeless tires as well as a conventional tube and tire set-up. It's as easy as changing your tires. All Bontrager tubeless wheel systems have this adaptability, keeping the tire choices for Bontrager mountain wheels wide open.

If a complete tubeless-compatible wheelset is not in your financial future, Bontrager offers tubeless rims as a stand-alone item. Lace them yourself to whatever hubs you like. They're perfect for single-speeders, too.

Look for Bontrager wheels and components under some of the world's best riders, on the road and on the trail. Bontrager-sponsored teams include Trek/VW, Subaru-Fisher, Prime Alliance, Lombardi's, Go-Mart, Tokyo Joe's, Sycip, Snow Valley and more.

While Bontrager components have achieved a good deal of notoriety since Keith's start in his Santa Cruz garage, the man continues to be his brand's harshest critic. He rides hard and often. Last fall, he raced cyclocross on the Carbon X-Lites, even riding a lap or so with a flat rear tire - not a recommended usage but a good indication of Keith's determination to test products in the real world.

Keith Bontrager is not a pocket-protector engineer; he's a pin-back-his-ears-and-ride-fast type of engineer. Whether that means racing 24-Hour mountain bike events or climbing steep passes on a road bike, he is often out on his wheels finding inspiration.