CAMPAGNOLO ZONDA C17 – A STIFF WHEELSET COMFORTABLE ENOUGH FOR MOOSE AND SQUIRREL

This review was recently added to my post on the Best Road Bike Wheel Upgrades – 2017.

The newest model Zonda C17 for 2017 increases a couple of millimeters to 17mm inside and about 22.5mm outside width.  Little else about the design has changed.  The Zonda still has a box rim profile, steel bearing and aluminum body hubs, signature 3-spoke groupings around the rear wheel, low profile alloy rims (measured 24.4mm front, 27.2mm rear) and middle of the pack weight (measured 1537 grams).  It also still remains a bargain at a market price of about USD$350/£340/€415/AUD$475 (Wiggle, Tweeks CyclesProBikeKit UK code ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles).

The good news for stout riders is that the new, wider Zonda remains a very stiff alloy wheel.  My 200lb/90kg 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 were narrower than the rim width to improve air flow.

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 Wiggle, ProBikeKit UK code ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles) and twin Fulcrum Racing Zero C17 aka LG or 2017 (available at Wiggle, ProBikeKit UK code ITK10, Chain Reaction Cycles) 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 (the latter still made only in the narrower, 15C width), which run at least half the market price of the Shamal Ultra/Racing Zero, to the Campagnolo Shamal Mille C17 (ProBikeKit UK code ITK10, RibbleMerlin)/Fulcrum Racing Zero Nite C17 (ProBikeKit UK code ITK10, Tweeks), 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, free wheel and flange materials.  Whether you would notice any performance differences between these wheels or could justify the price differences 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.

11 comments

  • So considering comfort, stiffness, compliance, and overall quality, how would you rate this against the Bortola? I weigh around 168 lbs.

  • Pete, sorry, I didn’t put the performance comparison chart in this post. It’s in the one I linked to at the top. They are very similar along those performance dimensions. The Zonda is less expensive and has a distinctive look that some like; the Bortola can be run tubeless which the Zonda can’t. Otherwise, it’s a toss-up. Steve

  • Thanks again for a great review Steve !
    I did in fact order a set from ProBikeKit (thanks for great ITK10 discount too)

    I have owned Hyperons & Nucleaons in years past & know Campy wheels are tough & reliable.
    When I heard your initial report on these I thought they sounded liek great training/all around wheels

    Then when I went to one of your suggested links & found I could grab a set + your ITK discount
    AND…. they include free shipping….Well I was sold 🙂
    They are incoming now & should be here in a day or two.

    I think these represent a really nice deal & look forward to riding them.
    Judging from your review I know they will be more than fine

    Thanks again really appreciate your site!
    Mike

  • Claude Dufresne

    Hi Steve. I always appreciate your reviews! I’m looking at Shamal C17 wheelset. Considering they have some similarities with the Zonda, should I expect the same result on the road but with better acceleration and rolling capacity because of better hubs made of ceramic?

    • Claude, ceramic bearings can extend the life of hubs but don’t improve the acceleration of a wheelset. Not sure what you mean by rolling capacity. Ceramic bearings can be made to tighter tolerances and therefore might roll smoother than steel ones but Campy’s steel bearing hubs are well made. What you get with the Shamal Ultra is a marginally lighter but I would suggest indistinguishable weight difference and a little more exclusive wheel. The Shamal Mille gives you the same Zonda and Shamal rim with a blacked out brake track that makes it look like a carbon wheel but gets closer to the price range of what some value priced carbon wheels actually cost.

      What Campy, Fulcrum, Mavic and Shimano do here is akin to what the auto companies do by offering upgraded trim packages and feature sets (heated seats, nicer sound system, etc.) on the same car and engine platform. While I enjoy some of those features in cars, I would suggest that it makes no difference in their performance and doesn’t cost 2x what it does to get some less noticeable features on bike wheels. Steve

  • Thanks for the review Steve. Maybe you could clarify why “[w]hile they might handle better with 23C tires at 5-10psi higher pressure”?

    • Andy, It’s a relative statement and probably incompletely phrased on my part (and quoted on yours). The full explanation on the speed, handling and comfort effects of the combined choice of tire and rim size and pressure is here: https://intheknowcycling.com/2016/04/03/best-wider-road-bike-tires-wheel-sizes/.

      In brief, you want a more vertical than rounded side wall for best handling, all else being equal. Rounded sidewall (or light bulb) will occur on tire too wide for the rim, especially at lower pressures and create mushy handling. Some go with wider tires in hopes of bigger contact patch for better handling but choice has to consider inside width of rim and tire pressure to maintain sidewall structure.

      My statement was “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 was trying to say that, given the rim size was fixed (17mm internal width), Moose and I could have experimented with tire size and pressure (and tire model) considering our different weights (200lbs and 150lbs) to maximize either handling performance (say for competitive ride) or comfort (for an endurance one) but that the tire size, pressure (and model) we ran worked well in providing both good handling and comfort. Steve

  • Would love to find something like the Bortola with disk compatibility and tubeless! And the price is amazing!

  • Hello Steve,
    Did you have the chance to try the hadron wheels from swissside?

    I have seem some tests where it overperforms (or in some tests have the same pergormance as) big names in the aero tunnel for half of the price (a little bit heavier tho). They also have some very positive reviews

    It got my attention, trying to find anyone who owns the wheel or has tested.

    Thanks

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