Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3
The Aeolus 5 D3 stepped into this test with a slight disadvantage. The set of 50mm rims are shorter than all but the front Psimet rim, and in a trial against the wind, size does matter. While the wheels did lose a bit in the wind tunnel, where they placed fourth out of five, their low rotational inertia and weight helped make up some of the difference. We found the Aeolus 5 to be hyper-versatile: light, stable, and aero enough. If we could only have one set of wheels, Bontrager would get our money.
Though they were fourth in the wind tunnel, the Bontragers were exceptionally consistent across the full sweep of yaw angles, with the smallest peaks and valleys of the bunch. We didn’t see a big dip at 15°, as we did with the rest of the blunt-tailed wheels. Overall, the wheels ended up only 26 grams of drag slower than the winner in the tunnel.
Thanks to their low rim weight, the inertia test was an easy victory for Bontrager. While the rest all sat between 1.75 and 1.83 seconds, the front Bontrager pulled a 1.66 and the rear a 1.68 second moment of inertia. This difference was also noticeable on the road.
Despite their lower height, the Bontragers were not quite as stable as the Hed and Enve wheels. Sharp crosswinds grabbed at the bike more than we expected them to. That said, we still found them on par with Rolf, and miles ahead of Psimet. Relative to anything available a few years ago, the Bontragers are rock solid.
Braking was the second best in this test. Power was a bit on the low side with Bontrager’s cork pads, but modulation was excellent. We experienced no pulsing or other irregularities, and heat had little effect on performance.
While they miss a bit in pure aerodynamics, the Bontragers’ low inertia and excellent brake performance make it unquestionably the most versatile in this test. The jack-of-all-trades mentality behind the design is immediately evident. However, once again we had to take points off because the Psimet wheels are nearly as good everywhere except in a nasty crosswind, for less than half the price.
As the lightest in this test by nearly half a pound, the Bontragers get all five points.