In our stable, one of our favorite wheelsets in the last few years is a Bontrager Kovee XXX 29er wheelset that is about three years old. It’s been the workhorse wheelset for exotic rigs and rough and tumble road trips. It hasn’t broken, hasn’t gone out of true and rarely leaks air. It’s a bit pricey at $2300 and not the widest or lightest at 29mm internal and 1600 grams.
So color us excited when they teased us with a new Kovee XXX weighing in at 1290 grams. And although designed for XC, rim width is at 29mm internal and it uses the same, reliable DT internals as the previous Kovee.
As soon as we got it, we put it on the scale right away and the front was 605 grams and the rear 692, for a total of 1297 without rim strips. For a wheel this wide and deep and with bladed spokes, they feel even lighter. They are dead true with every spoke singing the same tune to reveal equal tension. Ratchet is familiar DT-Swiss but a bit quieter when freewheeling.
We took it out on a couple rides already and it was a delight. With the new Bontrager XR2 and XR3 tires, our test bike dropped two lbs. The Switchblade felt like a new bike that dropped even more lbs. Ultralight, lively wheels/tires make a bike feel really lively since the bike spins up faster and changes direction easier.
It was really quite entertaining prancing around on a familiar trail. Wheels gave good feedback and they seemed to have a springy feel to them. Cornered well and a few small jumps were handled with ease. We’ll put significant time on these on our Flow Trail and Braille Trail to see how they feel with that kind of demanding terrain.
We know they’re made for Cross Country but Trail is the new XC as courses become much more demanding. Our test rider weight is 150 lbs and these wheels have now weight limit. Rider discretion is advised but the 2-year free replacement warranty invites confidence in ownership.
Pressures were easier to dial in since there was no tire squirm even when hitting the low end of our range. The wide rims allow this luxury we have in All Mountain rims. Note that there are sub-1300 gram wheels out there like the Stans Podium SRD but they’re usually much narrower. We’ll put it through its paces and report back within a month.
Silky smooth bearings, center lock hubs, and a 54-tooth star ratchet provide quick engagement in a light and durable design. Though not the quickest engagement these days, it’s a great balance of usable engagement and reliability in our view.
The Bontrager TLR rim strip is legendary since it is perfectly molded to mate with the rim and valve and it doesn’t leak or allow to cause problems. But they do weigh 75 grams each. They are shipped with the wheels but that will bump up the wheel weight to 1440 grams (before valves) and lose its key advantage. So Bontrager made some rim tape perfectly suited for these wheels and ship them with each wheelset. They weigh perhaps 10 grams per wheel and seem to work just fine.
Bontrager’s XR4 and SE5 tires are incredible with the latest updates but they’re not the best match for these wheels. Luckily, they sent us their newly designed XR2 and XR3 tires and that’s what we used in our testing. They’re big and the 29mm width of these Kovee wheels give them extra girth. One can actually size down in tires and save weight and still achieve the same internal tire volume as a tire on 23mm rims.
The key advantage is folks can dial in air pressure and get low as sidewall support is isolated from the high pressures needed on narrow rims. The rider can optimize for traction, bump and rolling resistance, even on these ultralight wheels.
Every set of Bontrager carbon wheels is backed by the Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program. In the unlikely event that you damage your Bontrager carbon wheels within the first two years of ownership, we’ll repair or replace them for free.
A sub-1300 gram cross country race wheel with a 29mm rim width that delivers the performance of a wider rim without the weight.
The all-new Kovee Triple X wheels are the perfect upgrade for the dedicated cross country racer looking to maximize speed whether climbing, accelerating, or ripping through technical terrain. At under 1300g these hoops fly up climbs and accelerate like no other, and thanks to the wide profile (29mm inner rim width) they provide improved tire support so you can run lower pressures, with better traction, cornering, and a smoother faster ride.
“We started with the team in mind, to give them every advantage with a light, fast wheel,”
– Bontrager Wheel Product Director Graham Wilhelm
” At 1290g they are crazy light and you can feel that accelerating and climbing, but the wider profile is just as important. Compared to narrower rims, you can run less pressure for a smoother, faster ride that translates to carrying more speed through technical sections and faster race splits.”
Look for Trek Factory Racing XC riders Emily Batty and Jolanda Neff putting these wheels to the ultimate test as they battle it out with the best in the world on the World Cup XC circuit this year.
Bontrager wheels are loved for their performance, value, and durability – and like all Bontrager Carbon wheels are backed by the Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program. In the unlikely event that an original owner damages them within the first two years of ownership, Bontrager will repair or replace the wheels for free.
The wheels can be set up tubeless using either rim tape or Bontrager’s proprietary rim strip system, both included. Rim tape saves a little weight, while the Bontrager Rim Strips provide a solid bead lock with the tire for easy setup and improved performance, especially at lower pressures.
The all-new Kovee Triple X wheels are the perfect upgrade for any serious XC racer. They’re available in 29” diameter with center lock disc compatibility, DT Swiss 240s hub internals, and Boost 110/148 spacing for $2399 MSRP exclusively online at trekbikes.com and through Trek’s global network of retailers.
for more info head over to www.trekbikes.com.