CAMPAGNOLO ZONDA C17 – A STIFF WHEELSET COMFORTABLE ENOUGH FOR MOOSE AND SQUIRREL
This review is part of my post the Best Road Bike Wheel Upgrade Options.
The newest model Zonda C17 introduced in 2017 increases a couple of millimeters to 17mm wide inside (measured between the bead hooks) and about 22.5mm outside (across the brake tracks). Little else about the wheelset has changed. The Zonda still has a box rim profile, steel bearings and aluminum body hubs, signature 3-spoke groupings around the rear wheel, low profile alloy rims (measured 24.4mm front, 27.2mm rear), middle of the pack weight (measured 1537 grams) and not tubeless. It also still remains a bargain at a market price of about USD$450/£320/€390/AUD$490 (Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Tweeks).
The good news for stout riders is that the new, wider Zonda remains a very stiff alloy wheel. My 200lb/90kg (or so) friend and fellow tester Moose reported that it has the best out-of-the-saddle stiffness while climbing of any alloy wheelset he’s ridden. And I call him Moose for both his strength and weight so that’s saying something.
For a squirrel like me at 150lbs/68kg who finds many wheels plenty stiff for what I do to them, the Zonda is noticeably stiffer and seems to transfer every last watt I can put out with utmost efficiency.
The big question before riding these new Zondas was, would the extra width make them less harsh than the 2016 and earlier models, ones that only a heavier ride could love and for their stiffness rather than their compliance.
I mounted them up with 25C Michelin Power Competition tires and at 85 psi front and 90 psi back and found them middle-of-the-pack comfortable. Neither harsh or plush. Moose, who rode them closer to 100psi, felt they rode pretty smoothly on the typical unevenly paved and occasional bumpy roads he normally rides.
While they might handle better with 23C tires at 5-10psi higher pressure or be more comfortable on 25C tires with 5-10psi lower pressure, the size, and pressures that Moose and I ran them provided for a great combination of handling and comfort. I also recognize that with all the hype around wider tires, few are going to buy these wider Zondas and put 23C tires on them. That’s ok because they are too shallow to get any real aero benefit out of them, even if the inflated tire width was narrower than the rim width to improve airflow.
The hubs are also middle-of-the-pack performers. They certainly aren’t the fastest to accelerate but aren’t slow. They aren’t super quiet but also don’t put out the clickety-clack of louder hubs that some riders love. Overall, reasonably good accelerating, rolling and sounding hubs that aren’t going to set themselves apart from the others for these qualities.
In summary, the Zonda C17 addresses one of the biggest issues with stock wheels – lack of stiffness – with a solution that works for riders large and small, the latter thanks to the little bit of added width.
Perhaps the best news for Campy and Fulcrum fans (I’m a fan of good wheels, not of brands) is that almost all of the variants of the Campy Shamal and Fulcrum Racing lines have moved to 17C widths over the last couple of model years and I expect the rest likely will.
The new, wider Campagnolo Shamal Ultra C17 (available at Amazon, Wiggle, Chain Reaction) and twin Fulcrum Racing Zero C17 aka LG or 2017 (available at Wiggle, Tweeks) are the flagship alloy models from Campy, essentially the same wheels and from the same company under different brand names.
They are part of lines that include the Campagnolo Zonda C17 /Fulcrum Racing 3, which run at half the market price of the Shamal Ultra/Racing Zero, to the Campagnolo Shamal Mille C17 (Amazon, Wiggle, Chain Reaction, Merlin)/Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite C17 (Tweeks, Wiggle Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10), the models with blacked out brake tracks that sell for more.
These wheelsets all share the same rims and spoke patterns with differences in rim etching, brake treatments, spoke materials, hub shell materials and bearings, freewheel and flange materials. Whether you would notice any performance differences between these wheels or could justify the price difference is for each of you to decide. I, for one, can’t and am just happy to have a decent upgrade option at a great price.
I recommended the last, narrower model Zonda as the best alloy upgrade for 175lb/80kg and heavier riders. If you need or want a stiff wheel and budget is your first consideration, the new Zonda C17 should be your first stop for riders of all sizes and my recommendation as the Best Value among alloy upgrade wheels.
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