This report covers the news and scuttlebutt from Treks component and apparel arm, Bontrager. Specifically the news on 29″er stuff.

Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheel in 29

The Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheel has already made a bit of a splash recently. I got to check this light weight racing wheel out a bit more closely here at Trek World. The wheel’s big attraction is the carbon rim. It is not an OCLV rim, as the road wheels use, but rather a “High Compression Mold” process that is done in Asia. Bontrager folks told me that the rim tests out stronger than their aluminum counterparts, so there is no need to worry about them not being tough enough for off road duty. As one employee put it, “If you chip a (Bontrager) carbon rim, you would have crushed one of our aluminum rims anyway.”

The wheels also sport a five year warranty, (as all Bontrager wheels do) against defects and there is a crash replacement program.

A Bontrager hubs guts. Eeeew!

Bontrager also has now developed their own hubs for use on the Race XXX Lite wheels and on the new Rhythm Pro wheels. (More on those in a bit) The hub features no tool tear down and assembly, so it was easy for Josh here to show me the hub internals a we stood there chatting. (Thanks Josh!) The hubs are based off the preceeding DT Swiss hub that was used on the Bontrager Race X Lite and other Bontrager wheels. The hubs have a better engagement, and more strength because of the optimised dimensions on the hub internals. The axle is a 15mm aluminum affair that Josh told me had been beefed up quite a bit from DT Swiss’ design. All in all, it looks as if Bontrager has improved upon a classic hub design.

The Rhythm Pro wheels now feature a Scandium enhanced aluminum rim extrusion and are lighter, yet stronger than their predcessors. Still retaining the 28mm rim width, these hoops will help spread out the tires tread pattern and will be the better choice for trail riders on 29″ers. Along with the new hub, (which will trickle down through the entire Bontrager off road wheel line up) the new Rhythm Pro hoops are a big improvement over the first generation.

The new XR 1 tires from Bontrager

I know what you are thinking. “What are Small Block 8 tires doing on this post?“. Well, first of all, they are not Small Block 8′s, and it is funny that you should mention that. As a matter of fact, this is the new all out, no holds barred racing tire from Bontrager called the XR 1. This tread idea began with the brainstorming mind of Travis Brown. The idea was to take some cues from the Small Block 8, and tweak it to optimize it for racing. Travis brought his creative ideas for such a tire to the engineers at Bontrager who put it through their science filter and brought this whole thing to reality as the XR 1.

In my talks with the Bontrager folks, they tell me that the goals were light weight, low rolling resistance, and yet retain traction. The word from some of the racers in regards to the rubber compound was that it needed to be sticky, and that it didn’t matter if they wore out quickly. In the end, we have a tire that in the 29 X 1.90 size should weigh in at less than 500 grams each. The tires will not be Tubeless Ready, as the racers were willing to sacrifice all for the lightest weight, which was deemed possible by using this tire with an ultra light tube, instead of a slightly beefed up casing/bead and sealant. Sounds like an XC whippets tire to me!

The Team Graphics on the XR 1

The tire will be available in two flavors: The “Expert” and the dual compound “Team” version, shown above in 26″er size. The 26 inch tire will be offered in two sizes, but the 29″er tire is currently slated for only a 1.90 size run. These tires will be available soon.

The Future: I got to probe the minds of the product developers and sales guys in regards to the future of 29″er product from Bontrager. While it was no Vulcan mind melding session, I did find out some pretty cool things that are going to make there way onto 29″ers soon.

First off, yes…….the Rhythm Tubeless Ready rim strips are in fact coming……very soon! Okay, ’nuff said there! Next up we have the news that Bontrager is going to revamp the entire 29″er tire line up. With the addition of a couple of key product developers, the fruits of this project have already become evident in the XR 1. Bontrager is saying that 29″er tires need their own individual tire designs, not designs translated from 26″ers over to bigger diameters. Bontarger suggests that in six months there will be more tire news and that by the time they are through with it, the tires will all have been completely redesigned and won’t really resemble anything in the 26″er side of Bontrager’s tire line.

The next new tread? A “free ride” type tire that will be more aggressive and that will feature a new radical “center ridge” design. This should be interesting!

Fork Change?: Bontrager has confirmed for me that a new G2 offset Switchblade 29″er fork is “in developement now.” The folks were tight lipped about this and all I could drag out of them was that it wouldn’t really resemble the current offering and that it would probably show up on “some testers bikes” by spring ’09. Stay tuned for any more later, but I am suspecting that this will be a big hit with the Superfly single speeders and Rig owners. Not to mention anybody that just needs a nice rigid fork to spice up and lighten their steed!

Did I say “Superfly single speed?” out loud? Oh oh! Yep, it is true. Trek offered a one time shot to shop employees to pick up a specially priced Superfly frame, Fox fork, headset, and seat collar. The framesets will not be offered for public sale. (But I’m betting you just might see something like it in the 2010 Fisher line up. Rig re-do anyone?)

Okay, that last bit wasn’t really Bontrager related, but hey! Its okay.