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Bontrager Kovee Elite 30 Review

Trek’s Kovee Elite wheels are super cheap for carbon but are they actually better than even cheaper alloy wheels?

Bontrager Kovee Elite 30 TLR wheels
(Image: © Bontrager)

Our Verdict

Instant pick up and good ride feel, but their difficulty to fit tyres makes them hard to live with

For

  • Great price for a wheel with genuine carbon ride character
  • Fast reacting, reliable hubs and decent warranty

Against

  • Heavier than several alloy options
  • Not as wide as the name would suggest

Construction

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(Image credit: Santa Cruz)

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Bontrager were early adopters of tubeless technology, but their rims have always been tight to get tyres onto, the Kovee wheels are not an exception to this rule. 

Here at Bikeperfect, we pride ourselves on our mechanical ability and being able to get pretty much any tyre on or off a rim barehanded, but even with our stiffest levers, fitting tyres to Kovee rims is a long and patience stretching process. That makes the addition of tyre plugs to your inventory a very wise idea as trailside tubing is not a quick process. While it’s labelled as a 30mm rim, our calipers called out a 28mm internal width at the narrowest point so it can pinch 2.6in+ tyres slightly.

The upside is that you’re extremely unlikely to ever burp pressure in corners or rip a punctured tyre clean off the rim. The unique ‘snap-in’ plastic rim liners are also a lot tougher than taped rims when it comes to removing and refitting tyres over time.

Mechanically the plain gauge (same thickness throughout) Alpina spokes add weight but the wheels are laced consistently and have taken a ton abuse without any slackening. The DT based hubs also get an upgraded 54-tooth ‘Rapid Drive’ freehub for almost instant engagement.

Performance

The instant pick up helps hide the chunky 1880g mass of the Kovee Elite wheels when you’re topping up speed on the trail. Once they’re rolling, though, the ride feel is surprisingly good for plain gauge spokes and a mid-level price point. There’s a definite ability to shrug and soften sharp impacts without feeling dead and numb like many mid-price carbon wheels. Having heard reports of failures on early examples, we’ve properly thrashed two sets of wheels well into the realms of reckless Enduro use without any issues yet. 

Bontrager’s free Carbon Care warranty also gives full cover for 2 years with the option to extend for longer if you want. This means that while crackable carbon rims are always going to make you feel more nervous (than bendable alloy rims) as you barrel into a boulder field, Bontrager at least has your back. The ride feel also gives a definite carbon character for less than some premium alloy wheels and if the weight bothers you then the lighter rim, spokes, nipples and hubs of the Kovee Pro wheels make them 220g lighter for £300 more.

Tech Specs

  • Price: £699.98
  • Weight: 880g + 1000g = 1880g
  • Freehub: 6.6
  • Width: 28/35mm