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Time for new wheels

Road Bike 29 829

I have wanted a new set of road wheels for a while, but I have been putting it off. The Shimano wheelset (I am not even sure which model) that is currently on my road bike is about 3 1/2 years old and has definitely seen better days. After a few mishaps, the rear wheel is at the point where drastically uneven spoke tension is required in order for it to be anywhere near true (trust me, that is never a good feature in a wheel). Yesterday, at the base of the climb up Paris Mountain, the rim started slightly rubbing the brake pads. By the time I reached the top of the climb, it was rubbing so badly that I had to completely disengage the quick release on the rear brake. With no spoke wrench in my seat pack, I had to descend on curvy wet roads with a very wobbly rear wheel and only a front brake. That was not the best part of my ride, but it did help me to decide that I need new road wheels sooner rather than later. Well, NEED is probably not exactly the right word. I already have a few pairs of perfectly good 32-spoke wheels, built with Mavic Open Pro rims around Ultegra hubs. For commuting and on my cyclocross bike, those are the wheels that I use. I built a couple of those wheels myself and I know that they work well, but I have to admit that I still really WANT a new lighter, faster set of wheels for my best road bike.

Show up on a group ride anywhere these days and you will see that most people are riding complete wheel systems from Mavic, Shimano, Campy, Zipp, Easton or some other company. On high-end road bikes, wheels built up from box style rims laced to hubs with triple cross spokes are pretty rare these days. Those cyclists who still ride traditionally laced wheels on the road are generally opinionated about their choice, and I can understand their reasoning. It is certainly possible to build a pretty light 32-spoke wheel with a good rim and double butted spokes. In addition to being fairly light, the wheel will be strong and easy to repair. As I said earlier, I prefer simple, traditionally built wheels for some applications, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting a slick new wheelset for my road bike. Nothing makes a bike ride better than a great set of wheels, so now I just need to decide what wheels are the best choice for me.

Ksyriums would be a safe choice because I think they offer a good balance between performance and durability. They are not the lightest wheels available, but I am pretty hard on wheels, so I don’t want to ride all the time on ultralight carbon-rimmed race-only models. I might still go with with Ksyrium SLs, but there are a few other wheelsets that I would also like to consider. Industry Nine produces wheels right up the road from me in Asheville, North Carolina. I have never ridden on their wheels, but the Ego road wheels (pictured above) look pretty nice and I have heard good things about them. The HED Ardennes also appeal to me for a few different reasons. I have never ridden those either, so I would love to hear from any of you who have. Any additional wheel suggestions are welcome as well. I want clincher wheels that I can use everyday, but weight is still a factor. I am getting older and the mountains around here are not getting any flatter, so I need every slight advantage I can get to make it to the top anywhere near the fast guys. Yeah, I know… I want it all…durability, light weight, aerodynamics, etc. That is why I am asking for feedback on wheelsets. If you can think of a particular wheel that I should definitely consider, let me know… and if you are a wheel manufacturer with a set that I can test ride…well, that is even better.

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  1. Nor-cal’er May 4, 2009 at 9:08 pm -  Reply

    you can get all that you are asking for…And for less money than you’d expect. Check out Williams Wheels. The company is based in Nor-cal and everyone is riding these wheels. Check ’em!

  2. rcpeters May 4, 2009 at 10:46 pm -  Reply

    Running topolino wheels on my tandem in SF (lots of pot holes). Durable.

  3. Anonymous May 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm -  Reply

    The bike snob said it best re: ksyriums: “Franck Vandenbroucke is the Mavic Ksyrium freehub of professional cyclists in that both are constantly squealing and failing, yet people continue to invest money in them for some reason.”

    Get neuvation for value, I9 for pretty, Williams for the middle of the road. Or get the carbon neuvations and be blown away.

  4. mathowie May 4, 2009 at 11:27 pm -  Reply

    I’ve had a set of HED Ardennes wheels since last summer and I love them to death. Super light, super tough (They were a Stallion build since I’m a bit over 200), but the feature I like best of all is how stable they feel. The wider rim gives a nice large footprint to a normal 23mm tire, and ever since I put them on, I could take turns faster and sharper on my normal training rides than any other wheel/tire combo.

    I want to move to wider 23mm rims on all my bikes now.

  5. Bryan May 4, 2009 at 11:57 pm -  Reply

    Hand built wheels often provide a nicer & stronger wheel for a better price. Your requirements sound pretty similar to my own, and I just purchased a set of wheels built with Kinlin 30 rims, DT swiss 240 hubs, and areolight spokes. I did 20 spokes in front, and 28 in the rear. I've been very pleased with the combination: light, decently aero, and very smooth.

    Another option would be to have Tony Ligero build you a set of wheels. He does amazing work, and isn't too far from you. Check out his website for details (

  6. tristan May 5, 2009 at 12:28 am -  Reply

    “Another option would be to have Tony Ligero build you a set of wheels. “

    It’s actually Troy Watson who runs Ligero Wheelworks 🙂

  7. James May 5, 2009 at 7:22 am -  Reply

    Thanks for the comments so far. It is great to be able to throw out a question and get feedback like this. I agree that companies like Williams and Neuvation are worth checking out, especially since I am so hard on wheels. Ligero too. Keep the suggestions coming.

    I probably should have added in the post that I am 6’2 and 185 pounds. Factor in my habit of jumping railroad tracks and you can see why I don’t want the lightest wheels around (or the most expensive).

  8. Jim May 5, 2009 at 8:41 am -  Reply

    There’s always a custom wheelset with Chris King hubs, I have a pair laced to some dt swiss that have been great for me.

  9. The Wrench May 5, 2009 at 8:41 am -  Reply

    Having ridden a number of packaged wheelsets and built a large number of wheels myself, I have to agree with Bryan that you can usually do better building than buying.

    With that in mind, here are some thoughts from my experience:

    The rim profile has a huge effect on the way a wheel feels. Though it may not be noticeable to the eye, a standard depth rim has a lot of flex to it. This flex translates to energy loss (but also to comfort), so even if it is slightly heavier, a deeper section rim will often roll faster. My personal preference is for a mid-depth rim, which allows for good stiffness without having to go to carbon fiber for weight savings. The Neuvation M28SL is a good example of a traditional wheelset with a low spoke count and a mid-depth rim that feels great (and is really cheap). The one beef I have with that particular example is that the alloy nipples used round out very easily. There are lots of options for rims in this category, which one to get is largely up to preference and price range.

    On the subject of nipples (and spokes, by association). DT’s new supercomp spokes have drastically improved the wheelbuilding world for us bigger guys (I’m 6’4″, 175). The 2.0/1.7/1.8 butting yields lower weight than the old competition spokes (2.0/1.8/2.0), while the 1.8 threaded end leaves more metal on the alloy nipple so it rounds less easily (the new competition 1.8/1.6/1.8 might also be a good choice for road wheels, though I have not tried them).

    White industries makes light and solid hubs for pretty short money that are built to stand up to the stress of a larger rider. (ti freehub, steel axle, 252g):

  10. NCVC May 5, 2009 at 11:35 am -  Reply

    Looks like you maybe in the neighboorhood of spending $1000.00. I’ve always loved the Mavic SL Carbones. Probably the best wheelset out there (imo).

  11. Grub May 5, 2009 at 1:20 pm -  Reply

    I’ve been riding on Revolution Rev-30’s this season. I’m ~165 and they have been perfectly bombproof so far. Mine were 1520g out of the box. They’re cheaper than most prebuilts on the market (especially at that weight) plus they’re kinda-sorta aero. If you want big sexy decals, however, they’re not for you.

  12. James May 5, 2009 at 1:30 pm -  Reply

    NCVC, it sounds like I am in that price range from the post, but in reality I am probably too cheap to actually drop a grand on wheels. More likely I will pick up wheels for half that amount or less from somewhere like Neuvation, Williams, or Revolution.

    Still thinking about it though, so thanks for all the suggestions. I have my cross bike wheels on my road bike for a group ride tonight, so I had better decide pretty soon.

  13. Anonymous May 5, 2009 at 2:31 pm -  Reply

    Consider Fulcrum Racing. I have the 5’s and they are fantastic. They have a full range and are usually a better price then the Mavics.

  14. Nato May 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm -  Reply

    The Titan wheels from Performance Bike are exactly the same wheels as the Neuvation R28. They just say “Titan” instead of “Neuvation.” Beware shady rebranding. That said, they’re good wheels, and if you get them from Perfco they’re cheeeap.

  15. Anonymous May 5, 2009 at 7:37 pm -  Reply

    My attitude is: go for the best deal or just go for the best ride quality.

    There is no question in my mind that the Williams line is the best deal out there. I’ve been racing and training on a few of his models this year and they are outstanding. Clean, simple design, well tuned ride, and great hub/rim/spoke quality.

    The HED lineup that uses the oversized “C” rim would be my other pick. The widened clincher technology is not hype. The wheels really do ride like butter. It’s amazing.

  16. Levi May 6, 2009 at 9:22 am -  Reply

    I’m heavily considering some Williams System 19 wheels for my next road wheelset. I’ll second the Williams notion, but that’s partially me wanting to see your review of a Williams s19, s30, or s30x wheelset 🙂

    I’m riding a set of Neuvation M28 Aero3 wheels now, and although they’re an insane value at the current $199, I never felt they lived up to the hype surrounding them.

    Lots of good choices though, it’s a tough decision.

  17. James May 6, 2009 at 11:31 am -  Reply

    On my group ride last night, I talked to a couple of people who were pretty happy with their wheels from Neuvation. Same goes for Fulcrum wheels which could be another option for me. Incidently, I also talked to someone who absolutely hated his Easton wheels (not the first time I have heard that).

    I don’t ever see Williams wheels around here, but I am definitely interested in those as well. For my purposes, I think the System 30 wheels (or maybe even 30x) would be the best choice. I agree with Levi though, lots of good choices out there.

    Thanks again for all the input.

  18. Dirk May 7, 2009 at 9:25 am -  Reply

    My road bike rolls on CITEC 3000 S Aero – they are light and have good aerodynamics. But they might be hard to get out of Germany.


  19. kwc May 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm -  Reply

    I’m a cheapo. I love my Neuvation M28’s (once I peeled the stickers off). About $300 with ceramics, and I have yet to take a spoke wrench to them.

  20. Anonymous May 8, 2009 at 10:24 am -  Reply

    How could Bontrager be left out of this conversation? For less then $1000 you can get the Bontrager Race X-Lite wheelset, light weight, bomb proof and a 5 year warranty! Come on guys!

  21. Anonymous May 8, 2009 at 1:18 pm -  Reply

    +1 on the Bontragers. They don’t have a user weight limit, either. Regardless of your weight, it’s nice to see that they have that kind of confidence in their product.

  22. Anonymous May 15, 2009 at 5:58 pm -  Reply

    I would highly recommend the forgotten wheels of American Classic. I am 6′-0″ and 190 lbs. and I rode and raced on Amercican Classsic 420’s all season. Absolutley no problems and I live in northern Indiana where roads are more hole than pavement. These wheels are light and strong. Highly recommended.

  23. Tyler May 17, 2009 at 9:47 pm -  Reply

    stupid question – assuming at least the hubs are in good condition, can’t you take the existing wheelset to a builder and have him just rebuild the thing, or maybe replace the rims if they are warped or worn out?

  24. James May 21, 2009 at 7:43 am -  Reply

    Tyler, not a stupid question at all, but the hubs are in very bad shape on the wheels I am replacing. They were cheap wheels to start with, so the hub was very low quality. I have a few pairs of wheels that I have rebuilt myself with Ultegra hubs. I even still have a wheelset that I have rebuilt several times over the years around 20 year old Campy hubs. The rear is a 126 mm freewheel hub, but it is still smooth as glass.

    Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions. I ended up ordering a pair of wheels from Neuvation just to try them out. I got a mixed pair, R28 SL5 front and M28 SL rear. 1560 grams for the pair and the price was right at around $250 with shipping. Looking forward to seeing how they perform as everyday training wheels.

  25. Anonymous June 7, 2009 at 9:42 am -  Reply


  26. Anonymous June 7, 2009 at 9:43 am -  Reply


  27. budi June 16, 2009 at 7:49 am -  Reply

    i love this inspired me

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