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By Matt Pacocha
If you look closely at the disc wheels on Astana’s time trial bikes, you may notice striations running from the hub to rim; much like those on a Lightweight Disc wheel.
Well, there’s a reason for that. Despite the Bontrager branding, Astana is riding on Lightweight Disc wheels. Even though the wheel sports a large Bontrager logo, the wheel is actually the 850-gram DT Swiss equipped disc is made by Carbon Sports who sells the wheels under the name Lightweight.
For the past two years, Bontrager has touted the prowess of its proprietary designed, HED manufactured Aeolus TT disc. The wheel was one of the most advanced available in the retail market. It had three radii built into its structure and a wide 22mm rim. It was a staple of the Discovery Channel team’s time trial kit and well liked by the riders. Its one problem: it is quite difficult to produce.
“We did a lot of the development and design work and then we had some other people working with us to manufacture them,” said Scott Daubert, Trek’s road brand manager. “That facility is struggling to keep up with our need. It’s also a very expensive product to make. So we decided that we were going to reel our design efforts back in. We’ll do some more design work and manufacturing development to see if we can’t sort things out on our end before we try to do that again.”
Since its introduction at the Tour of Georgia in 2006 only about 75-125 of the specialty Aeolus discs were produced. They were sold on the retail market, but never in major quantities. Because the Astana team is a start up sponsorship endeavor for Trek, it didn’t see a specialty run of disc wheels as its best allocation of resources.
“We had to pick the battles we wanted to win,” said Daubert. “We took on the clothing for the team [this year] and there’s only so many resources we have.”
Trek did, however, help the team pick the Lightweight Disc.
A big factor in choosing the Lightweight disc was reducing the overall weight of the team’s time trial bikes. The practice has been a focus of many of the ProTour teams over the last few seasons. Trek’s TTX time trial package is substantially lighter than the version Discovery Channel had last year. It lost weight with its switch from Shimano to SRAM components for 2008 and the team looked to continue the trend with its wheels.
Lightweight’s 850-gram disc is one of the lightest on the market. Trek purchased and tested a “whole bunch of discs” for the team using four main criteria: Weight and stiffness came first, then aerodynamics and durability.
“We took those results back to the team and said, ‘here’s your options, choose what you’d like and we’ll try to make things happen,’” he said, adding that Lightweight’s disc preformed pretty well in the internal testing.
“There are one or two that are stiffer, but it still comes down to a balance that you’ve got to figure out: How tough the wheel is, because its got to last a whole season or multiple seasons, how light it is, how aerodynamic it is, how stiff it is. So there’s no point in focusing on any one thing, and that’s why designing it and manufacturing it is so difficult.”