Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc Road Wheelset
Review: Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc Road WheelsetBy Scot Jarchow | Published Dec 29, 2015
We LikedFacts Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc Wheelset:
- 1680 Gram Tubeless Ready Disc Wheelset (Tested weighed in at 1671 grams)
- Each wheel has 24 14/15 DT Swiss spokes, with stacked lacing with outset spoke beds.
- Rim is made from 6061 aluminum, tubeless ready rim with 23 mm outer and 17.5 mm inner width
- Durable DT Swiss Hubs, with compatible 3 paw free hub that is Shimano & SRAM 10/11spd.
- Includes Bontrager TLR rim strip, TLR valve Stem and internal cam quick release.
- Spin up nicely, offer a comfortable ride and can handle the rigors of cyclocross training.
Mechanically what I like about the Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc wheelset, from a cyclocross rider perspective, is the ease of tubeless tire setup and the ability to quickly change out the rotors. I have been playing with tubeless set up for about four years now, and I have found the Affinity Elite TLR Disc wheelset to be one the easiest wheelsets for setting up tubeless tires on. For road tires it only took a couple minutes to set up a set of Schwalbe One Tubeless tires on the Affinity’s. As far as cross tires go, I was able to set up the following tire sets up successfully: Specialized Tracers, 2014 Victoria Cross XG TNT tires, and Bontrager CX 3 tubeless tires. Unfortunately my Clement PDX could not be successfully mounted tubeless on this wheelset. Mind you I have only managed to mount tubeless Clement’s on one rim set, it was set up ghetto style, and I rode it for about five minutes before it started hemorrhaging at the seams! On cross terrain, I was running the tubeless set ups without any burping at between 29 and 34 psi, given that I am close to 200 lbs, that is as low as I would go! The second feature I liked about the Affinity Elite’s was how easy it was to remove the centerlock rotors. It literally takes 15 to 20 seconds to remove each one of the rotors. So that last minute swapping of the rotors at races is possible with the centerlocks.
The physical attributes that I like about the 1680 gram Affinity Elite wheelset for cyclocross are: The higher spoke count on the front wheel, the more durable steel freehub, and the mechanically durable DT Swiss Hubs. Over the years I’ve ridden plenty of 18 to 20 spoke front wheels, where I can laterally flex them when jumping up steep inclines or sprinting out of a corner. With the Affinity’s I haven’t experienced any noticeable flexing from either the front wheel or the back wheel when jumping out of the saddle uphill or sprinting out of corners with this wheelset. The front wheel’s 24 spokes as well as the more lateral placement of the spokes on the rim, contributes to more lateral stiffness. The second characteristic my wallet really appreciated, is the Elite’s use of a steel freehub instead of an aluminum one. Sure a steel freehub comes with a 50g to 60g weight penalty, but over the past year I’ve realized that the combination of Shimano Ultegra 10 or 11 speed cassette and aluminum freehub just is not durable enough to withstand the constant high wattage accelerations that cyclocross presents. Last fall I destroyed the splines on an aluminum freehub in just about 400 miles of riding cross. I literally needed a pry bar to remove the middle gears off the freehub! Thus far I have ridden nearly the twice the mileage on the steel DT Swiss freehub and it doesn’t have any marks! Finally over the past 12 years I have had many pairs of wheels with DT Swiss hubs I always appreciated how durable and mechanically sound they are. In fact my DT Swiss hubs have been so durable; I cannot remember a time that I had to perform maintenance on any of them! With that said, this set of DT Swiss hubs easily pulls apart to seamlessly transition with an optional front (100 X 15) and rear (142x12) thru-axles kit. The added bonus to pulling apart hubs is riders have easy access to service or replace the bearing. You know there is a certain peace of mind being able to access the bearing especially living in water logged area like Portland!
So how did the wheels ride? On the road the Bontrager Affinity Elites TLR Disc wheels are really nice; they spin up quickly, as well as being quite comfortable on 3 hour rides on chip and seal farm roads. Although I will admit, I do wonder if a millimeter or wider wheel might make them even more comfortable and maybe add few watts in aerodynamic savings. Probably what I like most about the riding the Affinity on the road, was climbing steep hills, there is very little lateral play, so your energy is definitely translated to forward momentum.
On cross terrain aka gravel, sand, grass, and mud these spherical Bontrager Affinity Elite wheels are rock steady! One of my favorite places to test cyclocross materials is my local high school that has a bit of sand, some off camber hillsides, a bit of a sketchy downhill, a punchy uphill with a bumpy-gangly approach, some tight high speed turns, and barrel racing through fragmented twenty year old trees for good measure. Oh I forgot to mention a whole lot tractor pulling, energy sapping mud! In other words a great place to test the validity of a wheelset to withstand cross terrain. Previously I have tested wheelsets at this school and ran them through the ringer, and when I was done the wheels needed to be trued or worse they all needed their bearings overhauled because of the mud! How did the Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc Wheelset hold up? The Affinity Elites held up fantastically! Most recently I rode the Affinity’s with my favorite mud tires, the Clement PDX 33C tires over this course, since seven inches of rain had fallen on Portland the past few days and 15 inches over the past five weeks, I wanted a high volume 33mm tire added stability. On the Bontrager Affinity Elite’s, I felt confident rolling down the muddy serpentine downhill, easily maintained a balanced upright position on the off camber sections, and had no issues sliding through turns around those pesky trees. Like on the road, throwing 500 watts uphill seemed very efficient since the Bontrager hardly flexed at all. Likewise I did not have any problem railing 180 degree turns, with the Bontrager & Clement combination, it was just point and go! After an hour and half of a muddy cyclocross workout, I was happy that all I had to do was clean them up. Meaning the wheels were as true as the day we received them! Well having ridden through tons of mud, I decided after washing them that it would be prudent to see if any of the slimy mud made it into the bearing. I pulled apart the axles and I am happy to report the wheelset kept the mud and water at bay and the grease and bearing were in perfect order!
Overall I give Bontrager Affinity wheelset high marks for using quality materials which that resulted in a wheelset that is stiff, responsive, comfortable and accelerated admirably for a mid-priced aftermarket wheelset.
We Didn't Like
Dislikes: Thus far my only issue with the Bontrager Affinity Elite Road TLR Disc wheelset has been getting these things on the road. The Affinity wheelset uses a centerlock rotor system, which under most circumstances would only require a simple SRAM or Shimano cassette lockring to secure the rotors to the rim. Unfortunately in the case with Affinity Disc wheelset it was not that simple, because the medial side of the axle’s end caps has a high flange, which prevents my Park cassette lockring removal tool (FR-5 and FR-5G) from seating on the lockring to tighten it. I had to go into five different shops before I found a shop that knew what I was looking for, or that carried either Bontrager Centerlock or Shimano SM-HB20 Centerlock. I really feel that for an aftermarket wheelset, the manufacturer should include special parts in the final product. Especially for a lockring that probably cost a buck to manufacture!
The Final Say
If you are looking for durable aftermarket wheelset with quality hubs, then consider the Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc wheelset. Yes there are lighter wheelsets available for less money; however, there are only a handful of wheelsets that are lighter and will last as long as the Bontrager Affinity Elite TLR Disc wheelset. I feel if you are Cat. 1 racer, you would find the Affinity’s to be a great set of tubeless- disc training wheels to compliment your racing tubes. While mid-packer crosser’s looking to upgrade from the absolute boat anchors that came their $3,200 cyclocross bike, will enjoy the Bontrager Affinity’s as both a training wheels and as a wheelset that can be raced hard over the weekend!
Final Comment: I would like to take a moment to thank Sil; she is one of the mechanics at Beaverton Bike Gallery, for her tenacity and great customer service in finding the correct centerlock lockring. I did not time her, but I bet from the time I walked to the service department to the time I am checked out, it must was well over half an hour. After about 20 minutes despite Sil’s doggedness, I felt pretty certain that I would be trudging over an East Portland bike shop. I was impressed with her zeal for finding the correct part. Thanks Sil!