What Is Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber originated in the aerospace industry. It is made of loose fibers composed of carbon atoms that are then suspended in resin to create a solid material. Carbon fibers or carbon fibres are fibers about 5 to 10 micrometers in diameter and composed mostly of carbon atoms. Carbon fibers have several advantages including high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion.
Bike Wheels From Iconic To Cutting Edge
When Steve Hed handcrafted his first composite aero disc wheel in 1984, it was the start of a revolution in cycling performance. Over the years, HED wheels like the Jet and Ardennes have gone from trendsetters to icons, shifting the course of cycling worldwide.
At HED, we dont just build wheels, we set the industry standards. Were break new ground, with wheels like the Vanquish RC Pro Series and Emporia GC3 Pro. We create tomorrows icons.
Dt Swiss Cr1400 Dicut 25
Adam Gasson / Immediate Media
- £700 / $1,047 / 827 as tested
- Wide, robust alloy rims
- Excellent hubs and freewheel
DT Swiss describes the CR1400 as an all-road wheelset. Its built around DTs lightweight, aero 240s hub with its sophisticated freewheel ratchet. The 25mm-deep, 22mm internal/26mm external alloy rim works well with wider tyres.
Tubeless setup is easy, with a secure seal to the rim, and the 1,746g a pair weight is good for a wide alloy rim. We rated the ride feel, it had no lateral flex under load and not too much rigidity for a comfortable ride.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
- Great performance and high-quality construction
- Hookless tubeless rims
These are pricey for aluminium wheels, but when you consider they have a similar rim profile and weight to carbon options, they start to look like much better value.
Our tester found this wheelset to have excellent rigidity, meaning they accelerate and climb brilliantly.
Tubeless setup was a breeze too, though the hookless rims means you need to be careful in selecting compatible tyres.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media
- ENVE quality at a more affordable price
- Light and fast, although subject to cross-wind buffeting
ENVEs 65mm-deep wheelset offers you the prestige brand at a lower price than its SES wheels. Unlike the SES wheels, the Enve 65s 21mm internal/28mm external width rims are identical front to rear. Theyre tubeless-ready with hookless beads.
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Before You Buy Carbon Fiber Road Bike Wheels Make Sure You Check The Following
Prior to purchasing carbon fiber road bike wheels, it is crucial to understand all the options available on the market. Various products may be available at a lower price than others. Several factors must be considered before purchasing a product.
Before making a decision, you should know what you need and don’t need. As a competitor, it is also necessary to stay up to date on what your competitors are doing.
In order to find the best carbon fiber road bike wheels, you should consider the following factors:
- What is the cost of carbon fiber road bike wheels?
- Can you tell me how long carbon fiber road bike wheels is expected to last?
- How can I clean carbon fiber road bike wheels the easiest?
- Can you tell me how long the carbon fiber road bike wheels product is expected to last?
- Is carbon fiber road bike wheels covered by a warranty?
- Can you tell me how long carbon fiber road bike wheels’s warranty is?
These questions should be asked before purchasing a product. Other questions and concerns may also arise.
Following is a brief list of factors discussed. Several of your questions can be answered online or in store.
Zipp 303 Firecrest Performance
I tested the 303 Firecrests through winter and early spring and in some pretty challenging windy conditions, and have been impressed with the ease with which they remain controlled in high crosswinds.
You do feel pressure on the front wheel but its easy to counter by leaning into the wind, no bar grappling required.
The 303 Firecrests have fast become my favourite road wheel option, replacing even the oh-so impressive technical marvels that are Cadexs 42 Discs with their ultra-stiff carbon spoke construction.
The 303 Firecrest get my highest marks for weight, ride quality, climbing, and out-and-out speed thanks to exemplary control.
Warren Rossiter / Our Media
If youre a slim tyre user , maybe the wide 25mm internal measure of the Firecrest isnt for you and there is no rim brake option on Zipps new generation wheels either.
However, for the modern endurance rider, the 303 Firecrest will enhance any bike you fit them to, and for gravel and cyclocross riding the Firecrests will continue to be one of the best options around.
The usual downside of Zipps wheels is price, but with these new 303 Firecrests, Zipp has that covered.
The previous-generation 303 Firecrest retailed at £2,250 a pair, but these new, improved versions slash a huge £650 off of that.
Zipp does have a rider weight limit but its a pretty generous 115kg.
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Clincher Vs Tubular Vs Tubeless
There are three types of wheels available: clincher, tubular, and tubeless. If you’re looking at wheels, they will be listed as one of these types. Each type of wheel is compatible with a specific type of tire. When purchasing an aftermarket wheelset, this is your first decision. Wheels at The Pro’s Closet can be filtered based on the tire they are designed to use clincher, tubular, or tubeless.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Tubular wheels cannot be used with clincher tires or tubeless tires.
Clincher wheels are the most common type of wheel/tire on road bikes. They use inflated rubber or latex inner tubes to support the tire. Clincher wheels and tires are less common on cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes, but some older models may still be equipped with them.
For novice mechanics, clincher wheels and tires are easy to change, repair, and maintain. Most recreational riders wont need anything more complicated than a clincher setup.
Clinchers don’t sacrifice much performance relative to a comparable tubeless wheel. However, if you cannot run tubeless tires, you’ll be more prone to flat tires, especially on mixed surfaces like gravel or mountain bike trails.
Also, serious road and cyclocross racers might consider tubular wheels, as we’ll explain below.
Zipp 303 Firecrest Wheelset Review
Lighter, cheaper, but faster?
May 7, 2021 at 7:00 pm
The 303 Firecrest has always been Zipps go-to all-rounder wheelset, in pre-gravel days it was the cross riders choice and with the advent of gravel its been pretty much adopted as one of the premium gravel choices.
Laying out the 303 as just a gravel wheel does it a disservice though, because the new design, which incorporates a new wider hookless rim shape with a 25mm internal width, is the optimum width for 28mm road tyres, according to Zipp.
My testing of the 303 Firecrest has predominantly been on the road using Michelin Power 28mm tubeless tyres, and the first thing Id say is that Zipp has nailed it when it comes to ease of tubeless set up.
I was able to seat multiple brands of tubeless tyre with just a track pump no need to resort to air-chambers or compressors etc. The wheels are on a par with Cadex when it comes to ease of use.
Warren Rossiter/ImmediateWarren Rossiter/Immediate
Zipp claims a reduced weight of 1,352g for the latest 303 Firecrests without tubeless tape, valves and rotor lock rings. My test set tipped the scales at 1,409g including those vital extras .
Weight reduction is one thing but what really sets apart the Firecrests from most of the other wheels around this depth is ride quality.
Dont fret though, Zipp hasnt created a bending, flexi wheelset, in fact the 303 Firecrests impress with just how taut they feel on the road.
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Factory Vs Handbuilt Wheels
The merits of factory vs. handbuilt wheels are often argued.
Confusingly, factory wheels are, in fact, commonly built at least partly by hand. The key distinction however is that factory wheels are built to an exact specification and you buy them as an off-the-shelf item, often with proprietary spoke and rim designs.
Handbuilt wheels take a more classical approach, where the hubs, spokes, nipples and rims can be bought separately and chosen to best suit a riders individual needs.
Generally speaking, race wheels are mostly sold as factory options. The big wheel brands dominate this space due to their research, development and marketing through sponsored teams.
Handbuilt wheels are commonly kept for training, long-distance and everyday uses. However, there are of course examples where the opposites are true.
Best Road Bike Wheels In 2022
Below, you can find the best road bike wheels in 2022, as rated and reviewed by our expert testers. While disc brakes are becoming increasingly common on road bikes, further down the list we have the best rim brake road bike wheels.
Below the best list is our extensive buyers guide to road wheels, too. It will help you with what to look for in wheels, understanding the various features and what commonly used terms mean.
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Enve Ses 56 Best Aero Performance Wheelset
Unique in our experience testing aero wheels, the ENVE 5.6 disc wheels ride almost like a blend of the best performance characteristics of wheelsets in both the all-around and aero categories.
Theyre stiff, responsive, fast accelerating, confident handling, superior in crosswinds, and climb well. While they dont maintain your speed quite as easily as deeper aero wheels, wed pick them first for crits and lumpy time trials and most any road race or fast group ride.
You can order them for US$2550/£2800/3300 from stores I rate highly for US/CA readers using these links to Competitive Cyclist, Performance Bike, and for readers in the UK, EU, and other countries from Merlin, Sigma Sports.
See my full review and ratings of the ENVE SES 5.6 and other aero wheels.
Carbon Wheels And Aerodynamics
Because carbon wheels are made with a mold, they can be produced in more complex shapes than alloy wheels. This tailoring allows for improved aerodynamics. While weight used to be king of all considerations, more recent studies show that aerodynamics play a more significant role than weight in terms of speed except when continually climbing steep gradients of 12% or greater. If you only have a short section with steep grades, aerodynamics win. A wheels aerodynamics is more important than weight by a factor of 60:1.
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Road Bike Wheels Sizes
Depth and width of the road bike wheels will dictate the way it feels and rides.
The tendency is for rims that are modern to be wider, so leading to aerodynamics and relaxation that is enhanced throughout bicycle air quantity that is greater. This coincides with the change into tires that are said to increase rolling resistance together with comfort by operating in a lowly pressure.
Rim width could be measured externally or externally, which provides some amounts. On average, when a new describes to some accompanied with aC, this really can be definitely an inside measurement. By existing expectations, a narrow road rim when quantified internally is anything under 15mm, although a wide rim is anything measured internally greater than 17mm. Any such thing under 19mm is deemed thin while anything over 22mm may be contemplated extensive when measuring externally.
While closely tilted, the border width will generally influence the aerodynamics of the brakes, whereas the inner rim width can influence comfort efficiency, or bicycle form.
Wheels that are deep-section will typically measure at least 40mm into the nipple in the rim.
Are Carbon Bike Wheels Faster Than Alloy Wheels
If the shape and weight of an alloy wheel and carbon wheel were the same, the aerobenefit would be the same. However, it is much easier to shape carbon into the needed shape than it is a full alloy rim. Carbon fiber wheels are often faster because of the construction methods used, especially on full carbon rims. Full carbon wheels do not have a carbon and aluminum bond joint and the spokes are connected to the rim where in the aluminum + carbon wheels the carbon fairings have holes that the spokes pass through. This can allow the wheel construction to have a reduced Cda and thus, they are typically faster.
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Types Of Road Bike Wheels
Just as road bikes are now increasingly being designated according to their use , wheels also fit into similar categories.
Knowing what type of rider you are and what you want out of your wheel upgrade will simplify and narrow your choices.
Weight is felt most when ascending, so a wheel suited to climbing is usually designed with low weight in mind. Such wheels generally feature a shallow-profile rim and a low spoke count.
Another benefit of such a wheel is seen in ride quality. Typically, the deeper a rim gets in its shape, the harsher the ride therefore climbing wheels are often more compliant.
Where a wheelset is below 1,500g and doesnt claim to be aerodynamic, it can often be put into the climbing category. When budget is no issue, a super-light climbing wheelset should weigh between 900g and 1,300g.
Mid-section aerodynamic wheels
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
Aerodynamic wheels have quickly become a popular choice for adding some free speed and creating that pro look. An aerodynamic wheel will usually feature a deeper section rim, with a rim depth of around 35mm being the typical starting point. Theyre typically made of carbon, although there are alloy options available too and the majority are designed for disc brakes.
Deep-section aerodynamic wheels
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
When speed is a priority, a deep-section rim of 50mm or more can potentially cut through the air with less aerodynamic drag.
Zipp 303 Firecrest Bottom Line
Are the 303 Firecrests perfect? Well, not quite.
Id like to have seen the rim graphics come printed into the carbon, like on the premium NSW line or even water-transfer decals like the previous generation instead of the stickers, which will eventually show signs of age.
But, when the only thing I can find to criticise a wheelset is the graphic finishing I know Im onto something good.
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Are Carbon Wheels Worth Getting
A carbon wheelset is a great solution for most cyclists. The benefits included more speed at less power, a lighter weight at rim depth, better handling, less vibration, stiffer for better power transfer, and a more comfortable ride. With many carbon options available and affordable, it should be one of the earliest upgrades a cyclist makes to their bike. This is especially true if your bike is a budget or mid-line bike, as most bike manufacturers use cheaper alloy rims to save on costs.
Zipp 454 Nsw Best All
If you dont want to pick between wheels that would be fast on flats vs. on rolling hills vs. on climbs or in a training ride, group ride, road race, or crit, I recommend the latest Zipp 454 NSW Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset. It will be fast in all those situations and the fastest around in many of them.
At US$4000/£3200/3800, it better be. But if top performance in a single wheelset in nearly every situation and against nearly every criterion is important to you, it just may be worth it.
Its a stiff, deep , and light wheelset. Those three attributes along with the 454 NSWs quick engaging rear hub make it so responsive that it redefines the term snappy and make it an ideal breakaway partner from flats to all but the steepest of slopes.
Combine all of that with a very smooth rolling hubset, an almost silent and fast engaging freehub, and its varying depth rims, and youve got a unique riding and looking set of wheels.
Its available using these links to Competitive Cyclist and Merlin, stores I recommended and rate highly for their prices, customer satisfaction, and support.
See my full review and ratings of the Zipp 454 NSW.
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Swiss Side Hadron Ultimate 625 Disc
- Swiss Side claims its new Hadron² Ultimate 625 wheelset offers maximum aerodynamic performance with the widest operational range. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- More aero than Swiss Sides original Hadrons
- Stable for a deep section wheelset
Swiss Sides wind tunnel tested 62.5mm deep section wheelset isnt too heavy for its depth, coming in at 1,687g taped up. Theyre 20mm wide internally and built up on DT Swiss 180 Dicut hubs with SINC ceramic bearings.
More aero than the original Hadrons, theyre also more stable than many other deeper section wheels weve tested and their lateral stiffness makes for a keen ride.
- Spectacular ride quality
With superlative ride quality, impressive levels of stiffness and wonderfully smooth hubs, Zipps 202 NSW wheels have a lot to offer.
The tubeless-ready rims, with their 21mm internal width, offer a great tyre profile with the recommended 28mm rubber.
This not only improves grip and smooths out the ride, but also apparently optimises the aerodynamic performance of the wheel/tyre combination.
The relatively high price is likely to be a stumbling block for some, but our tester felt the 202 NSWs excellent performance lived up to the billing.
Boyd Prologue Series 44mm
- Boyds Prologue wheel borrows the wind-tunnel optimised rim shape of the brands premium line, Podium. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £762 / $1,050 / 905 as tested
- Well priced with 44mm-deep carbon rims
- A comfortable ride thats not over-stiff
Available for either disc or rim brakes, the Prologue wheels are 44mm deep with a 27mm external/19mm internal rim with the same profile as the brands premium Podium wheels. Theres a 28mm-deep disc brake version available too. Theyre tubeless-ready and laced with J-bend spokes to hubs with a 10-degree engagement freehub.
At 1,745g, theyre not light but feel more lively than that, with enough give to be comfortable without dulling the ride.
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