Designed for their top level Trek Factory Racing pro athletes, the all-new Bontrager Kovee XXX wheels tip the scales at a claimed 1,290g. For smaller, lighter riders like Emily Batty and Jolanda Neff, that’s a lot of rotational weight to drop, making it easier for them to drop the competition. We got our hands on an early set to see if those weights hold up on the scale, and on the trail…
Seriously lightweight XC MTB wheels
Bontrager did more than just make a really lightweight set of carbon rimmed wheels. They did it with a really wide rim, made it strong enough that there’s no rider weight limit, and they come with the brand’s two-year no-matter-what free replacement (or repair) warranty.
The OCLV carbon rim comes in at a claimed 365g weight, and it’s 29er only. Claimed internal width is 29mm, external is 34mm, and the depth is 29mm. One of the big differences with these rims is the internal bead shelf height and profile. Bontrager’s tubeless-ready wheels ship with their internal liners, and these do, too. And for all their other tubeless carbon rims, they strongly recommend that you use that liner to provide the best possible tubeless experience as it sets up the proper bead height inside the rim and completely seals things airtight.
With these, their racers wanted the lightest possible setup, so they had to revise the shaping so it could work just as well (or at least, very close) with rim tape, too. Which is good, because there’s a big weight difference (keep reading for actual weights). So, these wheels ship with both liners and rim tape, take your pick.
To keep overall weight super low, they use their branded Centerlock hub shells with DT Swiss 240 hub internals. They’re laced 28/28 front and rear with DT Aerolite bladed spokes.
They use Bontrager 54-tooth Star Ratchets for the fastest engagement you’ll get out of a DT hub, and it’s pretty fast. They’re still using the dual-sprung ratchets, not the new Ratchet EXP one-sided design, which isn’t really shipping yet. Price for the complete wheelset is $2,399.
Kovee XXX actual weights and measures
Out of the box, the wheels weigh in at just 595g (front) and 697g (rear) without rim tape or anything else. Combined, that’s 1,292g on our scales. And that’s with an XD driver body, which is how it comes as stock. That’s a first, but you can still get it with a standard Shimano freehub or the new Shimano Microspline. They come as 15×110 and 12×148 Boost only with tool-free end caps.
Add the included rim tape and weights only nudge up to 602g (f) and 705g (r), so only a 15g gain for using tubeless rim tape.
Add 10g of valve stems and the total for a rideable wheelset comes in at 1,217g. Their rim strips weigh in at 67g each, so they would add 119g after subtracting for rim tape, putting the wheelset at 1,421 if you use the liners.
Our calipers measured about 28.5mm internal and 34.5mm external…close enough to claims for us.
We received these just before their announcement and only got one ride in with them, but the difference is immediately noticeable. With most lightweight carbon XC wheels coming in around 1,500+ grams for the set, dropping ~200g or more (that’s about 0.44lb!) off the unsprung rotating mass is a huge advantage. I felt it most when marching up the grunty little power climbs, with each effort sapping noticeably less power from my legs.
Turning felt quicker, too, and the front end of the bike was really easy to lift. All things to be expected, but to actually feel them is so satisfying.
I only changed the wheels for their first test ride so I could see what they alone were doing. The Kenda Booster Pro 29×2.2 tires ended up measuring about 0.1″ wider on these rims than the prior wheels I had mounted, pushing them out just past 2.3″ wide. They still had a nicely round profile, but that extra little bit of volume let me run a little lower pressure, too.
I’m a full blown weight weenie, but these are doubly impressive for their ability to feel strong and pack a great warranty. I’ll be running them for a while to see how they hold up in the long term under my ~198lb rider+kit weight.