- Bontrager Rhythm Elite wheels
Bontrager’s Rhythm Elite wheels are the company’s entry into the “all-mountain” stakes – they’re designed for big, long rides with a bit of rough and tumble thrown in. The long-ride friendliness is dealt with by the entirely agreeable weight – the test pair came in at 1,780g for the pair. That comes courtesy of the low spoke count (28 per wheel), lightweight DT-built (but Bontrager-branded) hubs, 14/15g butted spokes and alloy nipples.
Two main features help the Rhythm Elites tackle sturdier riding. First up, the front one takes a 20mm through-axle to fit to your burly fork of choice. You can’t convert the hub to a QR, though, so you will need a through-axle fork. Secondly, the rims are a healthy 28mm wide, letting you run bigger tyres and reducing the chance of pinch flats.
The rims are also “Tubeless Ready”. TR is Bontrager’s take on ditching inner tubes. Like the UST system, TR specifies a “locking” tyre bead/rim interface, but relies on a special rim strip and liquid sealant in the tyre to keep the air in rather than UST’s hole-free rim and extra layer of rubber in the tyre. In common with other rims of this type, if you run conventional tyres and tubes you need to pay attention to getting them properly seated all the way round, otherwise you can end up with a distractingly wobbly tyre.
In the interests of enhanced wheel strength, the rear rim also boasts offset spoke holes. Rather than the spokes joining the rim at the centre, they’re pushed slightly over to the non-drive side. The effect of this is to make the spoke angles more symmetrical and the spoke tension in each side of the wheel more even. Conventional rear wheels are heavily dished to make room for the cassette – the drive-side spokes are nearly vertical and have to have much higher tension than the non-drive-side ones.
There are certainly no complaints once out on the trail. We’d prefer the slight weight penalty of 32 spokes, if only to make them easier to true, but the tension is good and they’re unlikely to need any attention. Despite the low spoke count they feel plenty stiff, and the wide rims work well with big tyres.
We’ve yet to encounter a “factory” wheel that looks like markedly better value than shopping around for a custom build, and, well, we still haven’t. The Rhythm Elites hold up pretty well in the value stakes, though – a Hope/Mavic/butted spoke setup would be a bit cheaper, but not by a huge amount.
Ups and downs
Positives: Very respectable weight, good looks, stout feel, good value by factory wheel standards
Negatives: Front hub can’t be swapped between 20mm and QR, Tubeless Ready rims a snug fit with regular tyres
We’ve never been huge fans of “factory” wheels, but the Bontrager offering doesn’t have any of the weird proprietary features – unique spokes, unorthodox lacing, unevenly-distributed spoke holes – that make some wheels difficult to live with. Really, these are decent but largely conventional parts combined into an effective pair of wheels. It’s perhaps not a coincidence that the price is more than usually competitive with the custom-built options too. We like.