I can remember the first time a rode a bike with carbon wheel rims. I had the opportunity to try Kate Potters world cup race bike, while we were on holiday in the Pyrenees with the Potters holiday company AQR. Even during the short sprint up the street it was obvious to me that compared to my bike at the time, it was like stepping from a Ford into a Ferrari. The acceleration was instant and the handling more responsive, everything about the bike was yelling that it wanted to go fast!
This experience was over 4 years ago. Since then I have switched to a Carbon S-Works frame and upgraded components to a point where I am not far off the level of Kate’s bike I rode in Luchon. The only item missing up to now has been the carbon wheels. Carbon rims were a rare sight (on a mountain bike at least) until recently. Over the past couple of years technology has advanced and prices of carbon products has dropped from stratospheric to affordably expensive! In terms of mountain bike wheels, I see the Specialized Roval SL’s as the benchmark here. A pair of Rovals as raced by Spesh’s pro riders will set you back £1200 with a weight of around 1400g. Speaking of weight, carbon wheels don’t offer a weight advantage over a quality set of aluminium race wheels. In fact they are often heavier, but the advantage of carbons lateral rigidity is a reduction in flex across the wheel. In theory this should allow the rider to pick their line more accurately, when turning in and carving through a corner. That’s the marketing hype anyway, and I have read endless reviews supporting this view!
At the weekend I received a parcel from China in the post. Inside were two matt black carbon rims from Light-Bicycles. The profile of the rims is identical to the 2013 Roval SL’s and the weight 370g. My current aluminium Crest rims hit the scales at 380g so there is a marginal gain. With my budget around half the cost of the Rovals, the rims are being built up on some Stans 3.30 hubs using CX Ray spokes. Am I going to notice the difference? Will I be riding a Ferrari next weekend? Expect a ride report soon!