Bontrager’s Affinity Elite TLR wheel set is listed as Road disc, but this time of year for us that means they double as a cyclocross wheelset. Bontrager seems to think so to as the wheels were shipped with their new tubeless CX0 and CX3 cyclocross tires.
A lot has changed in the world of cyclocross technology recently which means buying a new wheel set can be a tricky proposition if you want them to have any chance of being future proof. Fortunately the Affinity wheels are a versatile design that are equally at home on your bike or in the pits…
Carbon may still be the choice of demanding racers and gear junkies, but aluminum remains a durable rim choice that is also affordable. The Affinity uses a 6061 alloy rim with an Offset Spoke Bed that measures 23mm externally and 17.5mm internally and most importantly is Bontrager TLR compatible. Inside the box are the plastic rim strips and valve to make the wheels tubeless.
Clearly, tubulars still have a foothold in the cross scene but tubeless is catching up. In the brief time we’ve had the wheels and tires in the office they have seen a few races and more training rides without a single burp (running around 30-35psi with 150lb rider). Tubeless cyclocross tires offer all of the benefits of tubeless road and mountain tires, but with the added benefit of being able to easy change tires for conditions compared to tubulars.
As with most Bontrager wheels at this point the hubs use their stacked lacing concept with 24 DT 14/15G double butted spokes and locking alloy nipples. Using a fairly standard 3 pawl freehub body, the wheels are compatible with Shimano/SRAM 10/11 speed as well as having a Campagnolo freehub body available separately. In order to allow the use of Shimano’s Ice Tech rotors, the hubs are Centerlock only.
Along with the introduction of disc brakes to cyclocross (and road bikes for that matter) comes new axle standards. Just like mountain bikes when thru axles started becoming prevalent, few bikes are using the same standards currently. Bontrager avoids any headaches in the matter by equipping the Affinity Elites with a modular axle system that can run standard QR front and rear, 15TA front/QR 135 rear, or 15TA front 142x12Ta rear. The end caps are a simple swap and cover the bases for different configurations.
At 1648g the wheels without the tubeless kit aren’t the lightest but do come in under claimed weight.
Bontrager has always been good about releasing tubeless compatible tires with their wheels, and cross is no different. Adding two new tubeless cross tires to the pile, Bontrager offers their take on a file tread with the CX0 as well as the mud/loose oriented CX3. While both tires are offered as standard clinchers, it is the TLR casings that we’re interested in since they join just a handful of other tubeless cross tires.
Both tires are based on a 120 tpi carcass that measures 33mm when inflated and use Bontrager’s Hard-Case lite protection to keep flats at bay. When mounted to the Affinity Elite wheels with all of the TLR parts and Bontrager TLR sealant, the tires easily snapped into place indicating a tight fit (with the Bontrager Flash Charger pump). Fortunately they aren’t so tight that it makes them impossible to remove.
Both tires have a claimed weight of 410g which is conservative for each. In the case of the CX0 it’s quite a bit lighter at 384g.
Due to current climactic conditions we’ve spent much more time on the CX3 than the CX0, which we’ve found to be a great tire on the more technical courses. We have yet to ride it in real CX mud so we’ll hold out our final judgement until then.
Bontrager Affinity wheels retail for $349.99 for the front and $449.99 for the rear which includes the TLR rim strip, Valve stem, and a quality internal cam quick release skewer. Both TLR CX tires will run $89.99 each and need sealant such as Bontrager’s TLR ($2.99/$24.99) to run tubeless. In case you’re wondering – Bontrager’s sealant works down to -5 degrees f which should be good for all but the most insanely cold races.