Rolf Prima To Expand Into Custom Rim Biz Under Astral Brand

Photo: Astral Cycling

Since the launch of the Vector Pro in 1997, Rolf Prima has always been known for their paired spoke hoops that quickly went to the Tour De France two years later. So popular even Trek licensed the technology for some time into the early Y2Ks.

It’s been 20 years since and a lot has happened since. Fast forward to 2013, Rolf began the project of bringing aluminum rim manufacturing in-house to their Eugene, Oregon headquarters. Their first house-made aluminum went into production in 2014. In 2016, they doubled down on in-house manufacturing and announced they would be making their own carbon rims. Pretty ambitious for a company that employed just a little over a dozen people, but they successfully pulled it off.

Astral Cycling Aluminum rim production
Aluminum rim production. Photo: Astral Cycling

With their new expertise in rim manufacturing, Rolf is planning to bring their aluminum and carbon rims under new brand Astral Cycling. They’re still 100% made in Eugene, but they forgo the synonymous paired spokes layout in favor of traditional lacing patterns. So you can now pair these bad boys with your beloved purple Chris King R45s, or whatever you’d like to lace them to really.

Astral will offers a variety of spoke hole options, all drilled in-house of course
Astral will offers a variety of spoke hole options, all to be drilled in-house of course. Photo: Astral Cycling

Pricing is pretty competitive starting at $135 for the aluminum Wanderlust all the way to $900 for the carbon Prevail road rims. There are models for road, dirt and gravel, as well as touring/tandem in various spoke holes and 12 color decals to choose from. All Astral rims are tubeless compatible and there’s even a page on the website to help with wheel building, should you decide to build your own.

Astral rims are available now through dealers, builders and directly from the company’s website.

www.astralcycling.com


Have extra kidney, need Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 Wheels

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The Bontrager Aeolus D3 TLR Carbon Clinchers. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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The Aeolus D3 uses Bontrager hubs with DT Swiss internals throughout and it has been buttery smooth and problem-free this past year. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Subtle AND removable graphics on the rims mean you can go totally stealth if you so choose. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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At 67g front and 70g rear, the included Bontrager skewers are not going to win any weight weenies battle anytime soon, yet they are very comfortable in hand with a smooth and sure-footed cam action that's close to the venerable Shimano Dura-Ace offering. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Still have plenty of cork left after one year of use. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

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Dried sealant and an inverse-patched tire patch. That's what the inside of the Bontrager R3 TLR Hard Case Lite looks like after one year of riding. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Let me make this clear: I did not expect myself to like tubeless road tires. My tubulars work just fine.

Plus, I have plenty of spare tubulars (intentionally) aging in my garage waiting for their turns.

Unfortunately, their call-ups might take longer now that I find myself enjoying, well, smitten over these Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 carbon clinchers that we’ve been playing with this past year.

But my love for tubeless road tires didn’t begin this way. In fact, it was like that very first shitty first date.

When the box showed up this past spring, I was as excited as kids running to their gifts under the Christmas tree on Christmas day. Coming in at 1,439 grams  (644front/795rear) with the tubeless strip pre-installed and with the tire valves, skewers, and brake pads included, the Aeolus 3 was ready to rock straight out of the box. A bit of elbow grease and voila, got some 26mm Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite TLR tubeless tires installed and off we went.

Then I got a flat on the first ride. Boo.

A 2mm cut from a piece of glass went through the tread and I had just enough air to limp back home thanks to a can of Vittoria Pitstop and pumping more air whenever I could.

It wasn’t pretty and the cleanup aftermath was a pain. Nevertheless, I was able to ride home instead of walking home.

Frustrated but undeterred, I repaired the tire following instructions from Stan’s NoTubes and the tire worked like a charm. When I finally replaced the tires about 10 months later with Schwalbe Pro One , the tires had three major repairs and a handful of cuts that would normally spell the end of a clincher tire. But each time I was able to ride home without having to put in a tube (still have to pack a tube and repair kit with tubeless). And in a few instances, I didn’t even know I punctured until I stopped for my mid-ride coffee.

They have won me over since then and they’re now my go-to wheels. Yes, I reckon my tubulars are still lighter and arguably smoother, but I did find the extra peace of mind and the convenience of road tubeless tires pretty hard to beat. I can pick and choose my tires for the ride/weather without worrying about gluing in advance.

But what about the rest of the wheel? Well, one year of abuse did not do anything to the DT-Swiss internals. They’re still smooth and quiet while the wheels remained true the entire time. The 35mm tall OCLV carbon rim also proved to be durable and comfortable throughout the test. One word of caution: the rims on the Aeolus 3 are significantly wider, measuring at 27mm on the outside with a 19.5 mm inner diameter, so make sure your bike has adequate clearance.

In the crosswind, the Aeolus 3 TLR D3 was easy to handle due to its lower rim height and rim shape, but my oh my, these wheels felt just as fast as some of the taller-rim hoops I’ve been on. Regarding the braking department, Bontrager recommends using their own cork brake pad with the wheels. While cork might lack absolute immediate stopping power, it makes up for its shortcoming by providing a very consistent and manageable lever feel that’s not so bad after getting used to it.

I also love the Aeolus’ overall minimalistic graphics. Big enough to show its maker yet not overly obnoxious as if I was a rolling billboard. And for those that want even more stealth, rejoice my friend, the decals on the rims can be easily removed since they are not water transferred decals with a clear coat on top.

If there’s any cleft with the Aeolus 3 TLR, it would be its $2,400 price tag. Pricey, yes, but a worthy prime candidate for those who are looking for those holy grail hoops for both training and racing with the added benefit of being tubeless. This is a set of hoops that could go fast without beating up the rider. I am addicted.