Unboxing Aero Carbon Fiber Wheels

Good wheels and tires are the #1 keys to speed while cycling – apart from improving the motor (ie the rider). When it comes to road cycling at speeds over 30kph aerodynamics become an increasingly important factor. My “normal” everyday riders have been a set of 50mm rims with an Al brake track and DT240 hubs. For some “special” wheels I’ve just got these TUFF elite 55/65mm full carbon wheels.

Carbon fiber wheels for a Clydesdale?

Normally I wouldn’t recommend carbon clincher rims for Clydesdales. The main reason being braking. Carbon fiber rims are not known for good braking, specially if there is a lot required. The Carbon fiber matrix is not good at transferring the heat generate from rim braking. With heavy consistent braking the heat build up can cause safety problems.

Now I can’t yet comment on how well these wheels will hold up under severe braking, but the initial power under braking is impressive. Possibly better than my “normal” wheels. I suspect they don’t work well with the brake pads I’ve been using. However carbon fiber wheels need specially developed brake pads so I had to swap the pads when fitting these wheels. I might now try some different Al rim specific brake pads to see if it helps with those wheels.

Are These Aero Wheels Strong Enough?

You may look at these wheels and think I’m going against my advice that more spokes make stronger wheels, which of course us Clydesdales need. But let me explain.

  • The rims are 55mm deep on the front and 65mm deep on the rear. This makes them very stiff, so loads get spread between the spokes much better than shallow Al rims used in most wheel sets.
  • The rear wheel has 24 spokes (gasp!) using a 2:1 spoke layout. This means 16 spokes on the drive side (the cassette side) and 8 spokes spaced very wide on the non drive side to balance the loads laterally. This balances the spoke tension in all the spokes. (Typically non drive side spokes are rather loose compared to the drive side). It also allows 16 spokes to be doing all the torque transfer and load carrying on the drive side. Drive side spokes typically fail first from the pedaling loads as well as any vertical and horizontal loads the wheel experiences. Compare this to just 12 for “normal” 24 spoke rear wheels and the load carrying is improved by 30%. Campagnolo and now Shimano use 2:1 spoke layouts in their wheels. But only use 21 spokes (14:7) and often with lower profile Al rims which don’t spread the loads over the fewer spokes used as well. I had a set of Campagnolo Zonda wheels which I loved, until the drive side “pulling” spokes started to crack the rim around the nipples.

So I’m very confident that these wheels will be stiff and strong enough for me. I specifically went for the TUFF hubs rather than the lighter weight options because I wanted the 2:1 spoke pattern.

The unboxing of the wheels

Here is the video I made and put on the Clydesdale Cyclist YouTube channel

The box was surprising light compared to what you’d expect for the size. But some people might find it awkward to carry so it was nice to have hand holds in the sides. Barely any sign of shipping damage on the way to Australia.

Inside taped to the box were brake pads, the quick releases, and the Shimano cassette body because I want to be able to swap these wheels to Shimano as well int he future (the Ti Tank runs Campagnolo). As with other wheels I’ve had shipped from overseas, there was a cardboard frame top and bottom holding the wheels apart. Each wheel was then also wrapped in foam shipping material.

Carbon Fiber Appearance

carbon fiber wheelsThe rims look really pretty. They reflect the light and glisten despite being a matt finish. Very hard to see any CF weave on the exterior. I believe if you want a gloss CF pattern appearance you can request this, you just might have to wait a touch longer before they are built and shipped. The decals are also very bold and look like they won’t ever peal off. Don’t want RED? Choose a different decal color. You can even request colored nipples but depending on the model that might cost a few extra $$s.

The hubs look nice, but they are not the lightest. The TUFF magentic hubs come in at 350g a set. Still lighter than the DT350s which are 375g but cost more, and for a few more $$ again you can have a 300g set of DT240s. Again if there is a certain hub you really want – just ask and TUFF will see what they can do for you. All wheels are custom built so they can provide plenty of choices.

Weight of these pretty Aero Bicycle Wheels

Total wheel weights without QRs or tires etc were 780g front, and 1,040g rear for a total of 1,820. Not super light when you consider you can get $500 sets of wheels for that weight, but they won’t have deep aero rims, and would likely not last long under a Clydesdale. I have seen a 100kg rider brake 3 rear spokes on a set of Shimano 550s at the end of his first long distance ride on his new bike.

To compare to some market leading wheels, ZIPP 404 firecrest clinchers weight 1690g (claimed) for the set, a 130g saving. From a Clydesdale point of view – so what? But if you really want to compare apples to oranges, the 404s are 58mm front and rear compared to 55/65 for the TUFFs. Oh yeah the ZIPPs will likely cost you twice as much as well.

Final Conclusion for the TUFF Carbon Fiber Wheels

So are these wheels for everybody? What wheels are right for each person is very much “horses for courses” as the saying goes. For us Clydesdales we have to be very careful when selecting high end gear. While I am confident for the roads I ride, and when I will use these wheels, they will be awesome and meet my durability requirements. But if you ride bumpier surfaces and want just one set of wheels to ride every day and every where……strong/stiff rims and lots of spokes are still my recommendation. Custom built wheels from somebody who understands your needs are a HIGHLY recommend upgrade for any rider – not just Clydesdales.

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