BONTRAGER KOVEE PRO 30 WHEEL REVIEW – TOP-NOTCH SECOND-TIER CARBON XC WHEELS

Cross-country speed and trail bike durability without breaking the bank

BONTRAGER KOVEE PRO 30 WHEEL REVIEW

Bontrager has a cooler history than many know, perhaps because new riders only know it as the house component brand for Trek bikes. The name is traced to mountain bike pioneer Keith Bontrager, whose hand-made steel hardtails were among the most sought after in the early days of mountain bikes for their craftsmanship and acclaimed ride quality. Trek purchased the brand name to replace their uninspiring Icon house-brand components with something that had some more street cred. Since that time period in the early 2000s, when Trek was building some legendarily questionable mountain bikes, they began an ascent to today, when they built some of the best off-road bikes of all disciplines, complete with some really nice components under the Bontrager brand name.

Tech features:

Kovee is the model name for Trek’s cross-country wheelset line and they were redesigned in 2022. These wheels are available in three different versions with different construction components to hit a range of different price points and weights. The Pro 30 version of the wheels is often found on the higher-spec, lightweight models. These wheels can be seen used as original equipment on top-end Trek bikes, but also as an upgrade option for any rider.

The Kovee Pro 30 is designed to be a light and durable carbon XC wheelset with low-profile OCLV carbon rims and lightweight Rapid Drive 108 XC hubs. These carbon rims offer 29mm internal widths, 35mm external width and 22mm rim-depth measurements. Updates on these redesigned wheels include a shallower profile for compliance and wider bead hook for added durability and protection from pinch flats. The wheels come as a tubeless-ready rim with the TLR rim strip and valve pre-installed for easy setup, and are offered in Boost 110/148 spacing with 24-spoke front and rear with Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes and locking nipples. The Pro 30 wheels tipped our scales at 1435 grams.

All Bontrager carbon wheels are warrantied for life for the original purchaser and come with the added protection of their Carbon Care Wheel Loyalty Program. If your wheels sustain damage from riding within two years of ownership, Trek will replace them for the original owner. There is no rider weight limit on these wheels.

The rear hub features a splined drive ring for added reliability.

Field test results:

We set out to put these wheels through their paces aboard an XC bike where they wouldn’t look like original equipment. While many Bontrager wheels are sold this way, Trek is adamant the technology in these is worth a look for any rider looking for an upgraded wheel. We compared the Pro 30 wheels directly to their far more expensive RSL cousins, which cost $2,500 and hit our scales at just 1234 grams.
The setup with both sets of wheels proved easy, with the pre-installed rim strip taking several of the steps out of the process. We tested it to make sure the rims would allow our test tires to snap into place with ease with only a floor pump, and they did. With the wheels installed, there is little to discern a difference between the two setups. The graphics are nearly identical, and while the hub shapes are slightly different, it would take a mechanic’s eye to see the difference. While swapping between sets, we noticed a slight difference in weight. The gram scale confirmed this difference. On the bike, we could certainly notice this in the first few pedal strokes from install, although both wheels felt snappy and responsive from the start.

When set up and mounted, the Pro 30 and RSV look nearly identical. Each wheel provides a relatively wide rim profile to support the tire, with 29mm internal/35mm external widths and hookless beads. This rim profile gives the tire a properly supported feel without the tire squirm that can happen with narrow rim designs.

The primary difference between the rims on each model is in the material they’re molded from. The RSL uses Trek’s most premium OCLV carbon blend for both weight savings and stiffness. The Pro 30 uses a different carbon blend that is optimized for weight and strength, but comes with a lower price point than the top-tier RSL offering. The RSL wheels are just over 200 grams lighter (about 7 ounces less) than the Pro 30 wheels. Much of that weight saving is in the wheel material, which makes for the most notable difference in feel between the two setups. The RSL wheels feel more responsive and accelerate more quickly. This weight savings did not result in a decrease in stiffness, and the ride characteristics felt more rigid overall. The Pro 30 has a sporty feel that we would also call lightweight, although not as shockingly so as the RSL. The Pro 30 has a more compliant feel in addition to the marginal weight increase, making it feel well suited to be a lightweight trail bike wheel option. Both wheelsets have responsive hubs, with the RSL having a slightly more familiar feel of a DT Swiss 240 star ratchet. Both have a pleasant buzz and provide a feeling of quick engagement when we need it most. We’ll give the nod to the DT Swiss spec on the more expensive wheelset, since we’ve had nothing but good luck with those hubs on so many test bikes. However, we had no issues with either hub and felt great riding both.

When it comes to a comparison, it feels that these wheels were designed for two different purposes, despite sharing a portion of the same name. The higher price point of the RSL wheel does indeed come with improved performance, but it may or may not be the performance you’re looking for. The weight savings feel fantastic and snappy on the trail, and do not sacrifice stiffness or efficiency. This is a fast-feeling wheelset built to find its way to the finish-line tape first. The Pro 30, with a price tag that’s nearly half of the RSL, is arguably the better-feeling wheel if you’re going to ride them on a trail bike. The extra bit of mass isn’t burdensome, and the different rim construction felt slightly more compliant and forgiving. The RSL would be our choice for race day every time. The wheels feel flat out faster. However, the Pro 30 feels like the better all-around choice for many, especially if price is a factor in your decision. The 200-gram weight savings between the two wheelsets is significant, and weight weenies will see those gram savings as a bargain. For most trail riders, the tiny bit of extra mass will be worth the more forgiving ride quality.

Bottom line: It’s Trek’s attention to detail in components like the Kovee wheels that makes their bikes so great. The revamped Kovee wheels deliver every bit of performance and technology you’d find in an aftermarket wheel with a higher price tag. Whether you’re looking for an edge on race day, or a new and affordable carbon option for sprucing up your trail bike, the Kovee wheels deliver great ride quality and muted aesthetics that would look sick on a huge range of bikes, not just the ones that say “Trek” on the downtube.

HITS:

• Tuned ride quality is ready for race day or light trail shredding
• Muted aesthetics and excellent finish quality
• Easy-to-use tubeless system makes setup a breeze
• Impressively lightweight considering the price

MISSES:

• All-black wheels are not a flashy upgrade, if that’s your thing

STAR RATING: ★★★★1/2

Price: $1500
Weight: 1435 grams (pair)
Contact: www.trekbikes.com

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