Bontrager Cycles was founded in Sunnyvale, California by Keith Bontrager, a motorcycle racer and mechanic who became interested in cycling in 1978. Using his knowledge, education, and experience in motorbikes, he rethought bicycles and built his first mountain bike in 1980. His breakthrough development came in 1984 when he cut 700C (ISO 622) 40-hole Mavic MA-2 tandem rims to the circumference of a 26″ rim, re-rolling them to create a 32-hole 26″ rim. Thus were born Bontrager rims, the first lightweight yet strong mountain bike rims. Since then, he has led innovation and development for Bontrager and Trek, who acquired the former. Keith Bontrager is someone with more races, patents and ideas than a lot of other coveted brands will ever have. The Bontrager Twitter feed may not be prolific, but innovation and product developement is.
Working in a Trek-centric retailer means that Bontrager components and gear are always around. The items are ubiquitous, and the range of their products is incredibly broad. So much so that Bontrager wares risk becoming taken for granted. As go-tos for affordable, high quality products, Bontrager $20 alloy stems, and $90 cycling shoes are unsung heroes. Meanwhile, Bontrager’s higher end products shine brightly, and we should celebrate them. Being “the parts maker for Trek, Bontrager sits in an OEM-like space that can be overlooked by media and sexy brand searchers. But Bontrager deserves all the cred of any niche, small batch manufacturer. Bottom line, Bontrager makes some of the best stuff out there, period.
Below is a small sampling of Bontrager products we sell and believe in. These are products we use, products that show the quality of the brand and products that live up to Keith Bontrager’s most famous and realistic aphorism, “Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two.”
The RL Road Shoe
The big winner is the new Bontrager RL shoe. After some seasons of Bontrager’s shoe evolution, this version is one we enthusiastically recommend. Fit, features, and components are spot on. This carbon soled shoe features the much improved InForm Pro Last for a better fit, as well as a new, more functional buckle and a really clean look. At $180, this is a great price point for a carbon soled cycling shoe.
The Circuit Helmet
Helmets are expensive. It seems that prices just keep rising, and while you can get some amazingly lightweight lids these days, paying 25% of your bike’s price for a helmet seems ludicrous. Here’s where the Circuit comes in. The Circuit features the ventilation and protection of the highest end helmets, yet weighs just a touch more. It’s a pretty good trade off, and one you likely won’t notice unless you’re doing four hour rides. At $99 the Circuit looks at home in any criterium, but isn’t so pretentious that you’re embarrassed to commute in it.
The Serano Saddle
A lot of guys at the shop, including our GM, ride this saddle. It’s not trying too hard, and it doesn’t really need to. No one made up a term like “distrodensity,” and then tried to convince you that you need it. With the Serano, there’s a classic styling that looks good on any bike. The saddle is light, supremely well fitting and subdued. If you miss your SLR, or the Arione isn’t working for you and longer, the Serano could be a great option.
The TLR Flash Charger Pump
This pump is a perfect example of Bontrager innovation. A high quality floor pump that has an air reservoir for seating tubeless tires. The fact is that more and more mountain (and even road) bikes are tubeless, and seating them with a standard floor pump is an exercise in futility. Being able to seat tubeless tires without a CO2 or compressor makes perfect sense, and the Flash Charger does a great job of this. It’s one of those simple ideas that are born from experience.
Keep in mind that this is just a sampling of the multitude of Bontrager products. Items like Aeolus wheels, and XXX stems are works of art and we are happy to talk to you about these in person. Just as Bontrager is so much more than a parts maker for Trek, the depth of the Bontrager line is so much more than one article can contain.