By Drew Rohde
Video by Brian Niles/Treeline Cinematics


Few components on your bike are as vital to on-trail performance as the wheel. The speed and flying sensation that got us hooked on bikes is all because of these beautifully round circles. They carry our bikes and bodies at speeds we couldn’t achieve without them. And while cheap wheels can still be round, we all know that the harder you ride and push your bike, the more important a good set of wheels become. Aggressive riders know that to be true every time they lean into a corner. Total faith is placed on sticks of unspooled wire unifying precision-machined hubs and thermoplastic molded carbon fiber donuts. Despite their critical role, so long as our wheels are spinning in circles, we actually don’t think about them all that much. At least, maybe not as much as we should.

The crew at Bontrager don’t necessarily view that as a bad thing, because if you’re not thinking about your wheels, that means they’re working. These self-proclaimed cyclists with a design problem are not only tasked with outfitting Trek’s massive bike lineup with industry-leading wheelsets, but are motivated to build one of the best wheels riders of any bike can enjoy.

Bontrager’s new Line 30 wheel group is the brand’s strongest yet, and actually inspired Bontrager to build a new guillotine impact anvil to deliver more aggressive impacts just to see if they could make their best wheel yet. The wheels are designed to deliver unmatched performance for enduro and trail riders, and according to Bontrager, “These are the strongest wheels we’ve ever tested, of any brand! And we’ve tested a lot of wheels.” While they come stock on many of Trek’s performance mountain bikes, the reality is, Bontrager is hoping to show riders that Line Pro wheels are worthy of being a desirable upgrade no matter what kind of bike you ride. Available at two price points, both versions of the new Bontrager Line wheels offer significant improvements in durability and impact strength while focusing on affordability. Read on to learn more as we Dissect Bontrager’s new Line wheels.

Bontrager Line wheels come in two versions at two different price points. The Line Pro 30 is the ultimate in performance with an all new OCLV Pro Carbon hook-bead rim that Bontrager claims is best in class for impact strength for long lasting durability and flat protection. The carbon hoop is built with a 29mm-wide inner rim width and a 27mm height. The hoops are then laced with J-bend spokes to a Rapid Drive hub with 33 degrees of engagement with Boost spacing and drivers to work with SRAM XD, Shimano 11-speed or Micro Spline.

The Line Elite 30 wheels come with a more affordable carbon layup that still uses Bontrager’s OCLV technology, but with a focus on durability and value rather than shaving grams.

Both wheels bring down the price from what we would consider the standard sticker shock of a set of carbon wheels. And who wouldn’t like the fact that Bontrager’s Line 30 wheels are warrantied for life and come with two-year crash replacement with their Carbon Care program.


Bontrager set out to take their already lightweight and sharp handling Line wheels and improve durability and ride quality. Typically, that is par for the course for any design (and marketing) team. But, Bontrager set to raise the bar even further by keeping these new wheels built with their proven OCLV carbon manufacturing all while reducing, yes REDUCING, the retail price. The new wheel is designed to meet both the on the trail performance needs as well as the budget concerns of a huge cross section of riders.

To achieve the Line 30’s new, and quite remarkable impact strength, Bontrager looked to the rim profile to set the new Line wheels apart from the rest. The OCLV hoops sport a wide but shallow profile that leaves enough room for a hook wall thickness of 4.6mm. That means that while the rims are wide and light, they still put ample material in the right places to keep strength high. Like the age-old question of the chicken and the egg, wheel engineers have wondered if a flat tire comes from the wheel failure, or if the wheel failure comes a split second after the flat when the air no longer protects the rim from sharp rocks and the earth below. Whatever tge order may be, the result is still the same, a broken wheel and a bummer of a ride. By adding more material to the hook bead, Bontrager is both reducing the chance of flatting, and adding more carbon to the part of the wheel that most frequently sees damage from rocks and roots. This works to give a 300% larger outside hook radius. Something Bontrager claims  helps to keep the tire sidewalls protected from punctures in a wider variety of terrain by spreading the forces of sharp impacts across a larger surface area. To compliment that extra material is a shallower 27mm depth. The shallower wheel works to offer better vertical compliance, further reducing the chance of pinch flats, deflection off your line while increasing comfort to the rider.


When Bontrager set out to test the new Line wheels, they not only found the performance hit the mark, but far surpassed it. In fact, the new Line 30 carbon wheels required the design of a new angled impact anvil to deliver even harsher blows to complete the fail tests. The new tool was lovingly dubbed “the ERIMINATOR.” To say that it’s the strongest wheel that Bontrager has ever made is fair. To say that it’s the strongest wheelset we’ve ever ridden is a bold statement, although a possibly true one. Bottom line, as long as the wheels can deliver on long lasting durability with a planted and confident feel on the trail, they are welcome on our test sleds, but based on our preliminary ride experiences, the price tag and lifetime warranty and Carbon Care assurance, we feel pretty good knowing that if we don’t see a rock until it’s too late, our wheels will handle it.

The Line 30 wheels may look right at home on any Trek bike, but they are equipped with the performance to hang with any high-performance wheelset out there and sport a pretty stealthy look that shouldn’t turn off the cool guys. The 3.3-degree engagement hubs offer a plenty snappy feel without much of a dead spot. The hub engagement noise “TicTicTicTics” though its 108 points with a hum that’s loud enough to let you know it’s there, but not so obnoxious that it will scare away wildlife on the trails.


After our first outings on the new Bontrager Line Pro wheels we reached out with a few questions to learn a bit more about the offerings and development.

TLW: Could you explain your Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program?
Bontrager: If you damage a Bontrager carbon wheel while riding within the first two years of ownership, we will replace or repair it for free*. It’s that simple. This coverage applies to Bontrager carbon wheels that come stock on bikes as well as aftermarket wheel purchases.

They also come with a 30-Day Unconditional Guarantee. If for any reason you’re not satisfied with a Bontrager aftermarket purchase, return the item, along with the original sales receipt to the original place of purchase within 30 days for an exchange or refund. Think of it as a 30-day test ride.


TLW: Was there a major catalyst that started the new Line wheel development or just the quest to always improve your products?

Graham Wilhelm – Director of Product – Wheels and Tires: We are always looking for ways to improve our products in order to deliver the best experience for our customers. The reality is that as bikes get better, more people are riding harder, and faster. Riders are carrying more speed through rough, rocky sections, spending more time in parks, and getting away with poor line choices – and the wheels are taking all of that abuse. We wanted a better, stronger product that could keep pace with bigger, better bikes.

TLW: What were 3 of the most important factors for the new Line Pro wheels?
GW: Hook shape: We designed the hooks to be ~4.6mm thick; that’s almost 2mm thicker than the previous design- This make the rims a lot stronger against square edge impacts that are the big enemy of carbon rims.

A great side benefit of the thicker hook design is we could put a large outer radius on the hook and that really helps reduce pinch flats.

Manufacturing method: We use an OCLV process on our rims that allows for optimum molding of the complete rim section including the hooks. I can’t get into the exact details on our manufacturing method but if you section one of our rims you would be hard pressed to find any voids in the carbon layers that make up the hooks. If you section some other brands rims you will likely find voids in the hooks and those voids can lead to inconsistent strength around the circumference of the rim. Our process also ensures that the materials stay in the right place when molded and not flash out or move to create inconsistencies.

Material: For the Line wheels, our OCLV carbon relies on a resin system that is optimized for impact.


TLW: What sort of lab tests make Bontrager so confident in your strength claims about the wheels?
GW: We started with a standard impact test as we wanted to be able to compare with past test results. We also developed a new impact test head to better simulate field failures we were seeing with warranty and carbon care returns. The new impact head looks like a guillotine and is pretty abusive to the rims. The new rim is 4 to 5 times stronger in this new test. This testing is fun, we get to smash stuff, but the real benefit is what we learn from each design and how it behaves when impacted. This testing has helped us build better, stronger rims. The new Line wheels are actually the strongest wheels we’ve ever produced, and also the strongest we’ve ever tested, of any brand.

TLW: After lab testing was complete, we imagine you sent the wheels out for some real-world R&D. Were there any key athletes or riders involved in this project?
GW: Yes, we have designated test riders we’ve been using for quite a while and not only are they talented riders, but they are very knowledgeable and provide great feedback. For controlled tests we used Ely Woody, Zach Graveson, Brad Jalolen and myself (no talent but I like to show up and pretend, ha). For general miles on these wheels we used the controlled test crew in addition to employees from both our SoCal and Waterloo office, Travis Brown’s Durango crew, Charlie Harrison, Pedro Burns, and some of the C3 guys as well – Cam McCaul, Casey brown, and R-Dog. These wheels were also heavily used on Trek trail bike test mules.


TLW: What sort of feedback was given off the bat, were major changes requested along the way?
GW: The feedback we received off the bat was pretty good. Riders were really impressed with the abuse they were able to take. A lot of that strength came from designs that were tested and tweaked from our in-house testing. But rider feedback helped validate it and drive tweaks on the layup and overall build, such as spoke spec to improve impact performance, wheel stiffness, and overall ride feel.

TLW: How vital is having professional rider’s input when developing a product?
GW: It depends on the product. For wheels and tires that will be on a professional’s bike during race day it’s critical we have their input in the process and we perform controlled tests with these athletes. For product that they don’t race we will use them just to put hard, abusive miles on them such as Charlie Harrison rocking these wheels on his trail bike and getting the C3 guys like Cam and R-Dog lapping them in parks or on their local trails. All that ride time and feedback really help validate all of the work we’ve put into them and ensure the final products will stand up in the field.

TLW: Will the wheels still be comfortable and compliant for riders who aren’t slam-banging berms and landing huge drops like R-Dog?
GW: Definitely, even though these rims were designed to take abuse, we targeted the overall wheel compliance to be similar to the previous wheels, as we’ve found this to be a good balance for trail bikes.


TLW: Sounds like you got a head start on getting some miles in on the new Line wheels from Bontrager.  How long have you been playing around with them?
R-Dog: Yea dude some really cool stuff from Bontrager this year. I’ve been riding the Line wheels for the past 6 months and have had zero problems with them.

TLW: What’s your size of choice?
R-Dog: Line Pro 27.5.

TLW: You digging them?
R-Dog: Yea for sure. They are going to be running on all my bikes for this year!

TLW: You digging anything else lately?
R-Dog: Well since I can’t go to Canada this summer I’ve been taking advantage of being home. Trying to ride lots and surf mid-day when it’s too hot. Also trying to work on some video projects for the summer that I’m pretty stoked about!

TLW: Why carbon wheels?  What do you like about them?
R-Dog: They are super strong, nice and light and I don’t have to worry about them.  They feel good, snappy, berm slapppy. Plus they look good!


TLW: Ok serious question for you.  Are you, or is your truck older?
R-Dog: Pfffft good question… We are actually the same age! The truck probably runs better than me though…

TLW: What about your scooter?
R-Dog: The scooter is a 1984 CT 110 and I’ve had it for about 12 years. Even ran it out of oil once and she came back to life. Trooper!

TLW: Ok in all seriousness, what bike are you riding most these days?
R-Dog: That’s a tough one. The main reason I love MTB is because we have so many options for riding and bikes. But I do spend a lot of time on my trail bikes. Hopefully some bike parks open soon so we can get out on the DH rigs though!


TLW: E-Bike? Do you have the new wheels on it as well.
R-Dog: Love the e-bike.  I don’t have the wheels on yet, but there is a set on the way, and they are going to make that bike even more insane!

TLW: What is your favorite thing about Aptos?
R-Dog: There is always something about my hometown that keeps me here. Great group of friends, the riding is awesome year around and the Mexican food is next level.

TLW: Favorite trail?
R-Dog: Anything at the Coast Gravity Park.

TLW: Tacos, Thai, or Sushi?
R-Dog: Tacos for life.