BEST ALL-AROUND WHEELS FOR ROAD DISC BIKES

If you bought a road disc bike recently, you may be looking for that one set of all-around wheels that perform well across a wide range of terrain.  It’s a fair bit of work to sort through all the ones out there now because, along with the rapid growth of road disc bikes, there’s been a quick evolution or road disc wheels that do it all and do it all really well.

The latest generation of all-around wheels is the first group developed uniquely for road disc bikes and independent of design or manufacturing considerations that go into their often similarly named rim brake siblings.  They are faster, more comfortable and more versatile on a wider range of terrain than either the rim or disc brake wheels that came before them, many of the latter which are still being sold.

In this post, I’ll take you through the rapid evolution of disc brake wheels, tell you how I rate each of the latest generation of all-around ones against the criteria that really matter, and recommend a Best Performer and Best Value wheelset.

Related: Not sure what kind of wheels to get? Read How To Choose The Best Road Bike Wheels For You

Related: Looking for all around wheels for your rim brake bike? Click here

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ALL-AROUND WHEELS FOR ROAD DISC BIKES

Click on any red statement below to go directly to that part of the post

Third generation all-around disc brake wheels now outperform rim brake ones

A handful of performance criteria matter most when choosing between different wheelsets

You have a half dozen good options including a Best Performer and Best Value

This chart compares wheelset performance, market prices, and specs for the wheelsets I reviewed

I chose not to review a group of second generation all-around wheelsets and suggest you don’t buy them

You can share your comments and read those from fellow enthusiasts here

WHY TRUST AND SUPPORT THIS SITE

In The Know Cycling is for road cycling enthusiasts like you and me who want to know what gear we should get next and where we can get it at the best prices from great stores.  I and my fellow In The Know Cycling testers do hours of analysis on an entire category of cycling gear and incorporate insights from other independent reviewers and riders I trust for each review.

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ALL-AROUND ROAD DISC WHEELSET DEVELOPMENTS

I wrote about the developments across all categories of road disc wheels (upgrade, all-around, aero, and climbing) in a review of the best upgrade wheels for road disc bikes.  Here are some of the headlines.

Sales of New Road Disc Bikes For Endurance and Racing Overtaking Rim Brake Ones.  There are now as many if not more models of endurance road bikes with disc brakes available and being sold to road cycling enthusiasts like you and me than those made with rim brakes.

Stock Wheels No Better on Road Disc than Rim Brake Bikes. Continuing the practice from rim brake bikes, the wheels that come with most new road disc bikes – aka “stock wheels” – are the weakest link on the bike.  The stock wheels are underperformers that limit the potential performance that exists in the new bike’s frame and components.

Compatibility Exists Even if Standards Don’t.  Most (though not all) of the newer road disc wheelset hubs are designed for TA (through axles).  Road disc wheels generally come with QR (quick release) axles and in many cases end caps that allow you to use QRs and different size front TAs.

Hub-rotor interface is more binary.  You can order some wheels either with a CL (CenterLock) or 6B (6-Bolt) hub. Others come in CL (aka AFS) with adapters to make them 6B compatible.  Still others come with only a 6B interface.  In those cases, you have to buy a 6B rotor if you’ve been using a CL one and get shims to allow your disc brake calipers to fit 160mm 6B diameter rotors.

Tubeless is Ubiquitous (Almost). Wider and tubeless suitable rims are one thing that most all road disc wheel makers seem to agree on.  Some have rim brake tire beds that are made to be “ready” to accept tubeless tires with the help of tape while others are clearly “optimized” for tubeless in their shape and often hookless design.  You don’t have to use tubeless tires on these tubeless ready or tubeless optimized wheels but you can get a more comfortable ride and enjoy a wider range of uneven road surfaces with tubeless tires.

You can read more about these developments across all road disc wheelset categories here.

In addition, there are a number of developments specific to the all-around wheels for road disc bikes that are summarized here and further discussed below.

All-Around Road Disc Wheelset Evolution 2014-2018

The most notable takeaway for me after assembling this chart is how quickly things have changed and how much the latest generation of all-around wheels for road bikes are different than those for rim brake bikes.

These changes have made all-around road disc wheels faster, more comfortable, more durable, and more versatile than all-around rim brake wheels without any effect on stiffness, acceleration or handling.

Remember when better braking was all that most people fixed on when talking about the benefits of going to road disc bikes?  Well, the ability to get all the benefits I just summarized is a whole lot more than better braking, which was enough of a reason for many people to go with a road disc bike in the first place.

Let me go through some of these benefits a bit more.

FasterWider rims mean you can run 25C tires to gain more comfort without incurring additional drag.  Most of the Gen 3 road disc rims were designed using 25C tires and produce vertical tire sidewalls that are narrower than the external rim width.

Putting 25C tires on many Gen 2 wheels will increase drag as the tire sidewalls will be more rounded and measure wider than the rim where the two meet.  This creates a turbulent airflow from tire to rim and rim to tire.  When the flow is less interrupted or laminar, it moves from one surface to the other more smoothly and creates less drag and more “lift” when you are riding at >18-20mph or 29-32kph.

Wider tires also will give you marginally lower rolling resistance when inflated to the same pressure as a narrower tire.  Without the need for the rim to include a brake track, road disc rim profiles are also being designed with less limitation and more attention to crosswind management and reducing losses at the tire-rim intersection, both of which improve aero performance.

More Comfortable – Tubeless allows you to run your wider tires at lower pressures without pinch flat concerns.  Lower pressures make for a more comfortable ride.  You certainly can run wider tubeless tires on all-around rim brake wheels but most of the best of those wheels are still 17mm wide internally and several aren’t tubeless ready (see this chart).

More Durable – The best carbon rim brake wheels are using resins with high melting points to make it much harder for riders to warp them when they drag the brakes.  The trade-off is that these resins can make the wheels a bit brittle.  While I can’t quantify the difference, dedicated disc brake wheels use lower melting temperature resins that are less brittle.  Tour magazine ran some tests that showed the relative impact resistance of different carbon road disc wheels though didn’t specify which had what kind of resins.

More Versatile – Because these all-around road disc wheels are wide, tubeless friendly, and more durable, you can comfortably ride them at lower pressure to enjoy dirt, fire roads and the like or use them for cyclocross.  Doing so can save you having to buy another set of wheels for those kinds of surfaces.

A few words about the elephant in the room…tubeless tires.  You’ll notice that tubeless tires are mentioned quite often in my description of developments and the benefits they bring.

Those of you who have read my posts carefully over the years (thanks Mom!), may know that I haven’t recommended road cycling enthusiasts use tubeless tires.  They have historically been a hassle to mount and can leave you with a difficult and messy repair job if your puncture is so nasty that the sealant doesn’t close it and you need to install a tube during a ride.  Further, tubeless tire rolling resistance and prices have also historically been higher than going with a traditional tube and tire clincher on your wheels.

Well, some of that is changing and I’m changing my tune along with it.  Yeah, this is next-gen Steve reporting to my fellow roadies now.

While I hope to bring you a complete post on tubeless tires in 2018, I can tell you that much has changed since I shared my initial views on this kind of rubber.

Removable valve cores, easier to mount rims, and a whole lot more experience with tubeless tires while testing all these road disc wheelsets has made installing them easier and cleaner, and mellowed me somewhat to the added work they bring over standard clincher tires.  Lower prices, lower rolling resistance (equivalent now to the best clinchers), the ability to run lower pressures, more comfort, and having every puncture seal so far has made me look past many of my previous objections.

While tubeless still requires a learning curve, I can now say the benefits they bring with the right rims can outweigh the diminishing disadvantages and make it well worth getting up that curve if you want those benefits.

WHAT MATTERS MOST

For each In The Know Cycling review, I evaluate category-specific criteria in four groups – performance, design, quality, and cost.  The criteria that matter most in those groups for the best all-around wheels for road disc bikes are as follows:

Performance:  Versatility, aerodynamics, crosswind management, stiffness, acceleration, comfort, and handling.

Design:  Wheel weight and material, rim depth, rim inner and outer widths, rim profile, hub and spoke design or selection, and wheel finish.

Quality: Durability, warranties and service/support.

Cost:  Purchase price, cost of ownership and replacement cost.

I detail what I mean by these criteria for rim brake all-arounds here.

Most of those are common with the ones I used for disc brake all-arounds with a few exceptions and changes in emphasis that I’ll point out below.

While all these criteria are important, some are more important depending on what kind of riding you do and what kind of bike you have.  Braking performance, for example, is an especially important wheelset criterion for riders descending steep pitches or riding in the rain on rim brake bikes.

Braking is hardly even part of the disc brake wheelset evaluation since most hub and spoke systems on disc brake wheels effectively transfer the braking responsibility to the rotors and calipers.  Rotor selection – both size and material – and hydraulic brake components are key to road disc brake performance but largely independent of wheelset choice.  For this reason, I’ve dropped braking as a criterion in this review.

Other criteria, like stiffness, are equally important whether you are talking rim or disc brake wheels or all-around, climbing or aero wheels regardless of your braking method.  Still others, like acceleration, need to be looked at a bit more closely on disc brake wheels rather than rim brake ones since the former tend to be a tad heavier when you include the weight of the rotors and have road hub designs that haven’t had as many years of refinement as the off-road ones they may have been born with.

Since the latest all-around road disc wheelsets are deeper than earlier ones (some closer to 50mm versus most Gen 2 being 35-40mm), I’ve added crosswind performance as a criterion for this review.  And since these all-around wheels are ideal for both a wide range of paved road terrain and for mixed or unpaved surfaces and for cyclocross racing, versatility is even more important when evaluating all-around disc brake wheelsets than all-around rim brake ones.

Design specs like weight and rim width are worth noting but may or may not deliver the intended performance those specs are often associated with.  A wheelset’s actual acceleration, stiffness, and comfort on the road, for example, are far more important than the design specifications that we often get so hung up (and sold) on and that we too easily equate to those performance attributes.

Considering the range of options the road cycling enthusiast has to choose from in all-around wheels for road disc bikes, I’m recommending Best Performer and Best Value wheelsets.

I pick the Best Performer using the performance criteria mentioned above independent of cost.  My Best Value wheelset pick considers both performance and cost criteria.

Design shows up (or not) in performance so I don’t judge it alone.  Two products with very similar designs (e.g. U-shaped rim profiles or equally low claimed or measured weight) may perform similarly or differently.  Design is a means to an end but not an end from which to choose a wheelset in and of itself.

Quality is either a go or no go in my recommendations.  I won’t recommend anything that doesn’t have an acceptable level of quality according to my criteria.  I’m also not going to recommend something that has superior quality but under-performs or has higher costs.  When two wheelsets perform more or less the same, I do consider quality and cost criteria in recommending one as a Best Performer.

With all of that noted, here are my evaluations of the best all-around road disc wheelsets for road cycling enthusiasts.

REVIEWS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

BEST PERFORMER

ENVE SES 4.5 AR DISC – PERFORMANCE AND VERSATILITY THAT’S HARD TO BEAT

If versatility is one of the key measures of an all-around wheelset, ENVE’s SES 4.5 AR Disc is the most versatile of any disc or rim brake wheelset.

It does more things better than any of the other all-around wheels I’ve reviewed.  At a market price of US$2900, £3100, €3500, it also costs more than others.

This sets-up the ever-present question we roadies face – is it worth paying more to get the best performing gear for the kind of riding I do?

That’s for each of us to decide individually.  If you are a full-on road cycling enthusiast who likes to come out and play aggressively and comfortably on rough roads or in the dirt, sand or grass of cyclocross races as well as go really fast and smoothly on good roads in individual and group rides or races, the ENVE 4.5 AR is the place where your money will have the biggest payoff.

You probably already know that at 25.0mm measured width, the 4.5AR has a far greater internal front width (by 3-6mm) than any other road disc wheelset.  Its front wheel (50.2mm deep per my measurement) is as deep or deeper than the other all-around wheels for road disc bikes.

It’s the only one of the all-around wheels that are designed to run a 28C tire without negatively affecting the aero performance.

[Note that not all 28C tires will measure the same width when mounted and inflated on this or any other set of rims.  I ran the 28C Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires that have a low rolling resistance that compares favorably to Conti GP4000 clincher tires.  Unfortunately, the tire I ran on the front wheel measured a mm wider than the rim. At the suggestion of ENVE customer support, I also ran the 28C Maxxis Padrone tubeless (available at Tredz ITK10, Amazon, JensonUSA, ModernBIKE).  It measured a mm narrower than the front rim but I have no comparative rolling resistance data on this tire.  It certainly felt fast to me, for what that subjective, quantitative assessment is worth.]

The 4.5AR’s performance does bear witness to those design factoids.  It is as fast or faster on flat, rolling and descending terrain, as comfortable on the good roads, more comfortable on rough roads and unpaved paths, and handles better than any other set of all-around wheels for a disc or rim brake I’ve ever evaluated.

I’ll just let that last statement sit there and breathe for a minute.

It accelerates, climbs, and deflects crosswinds on par with all but the best wheels in those categories that I’ve reviewed here.  With the more than capable DT240 hubs, the 4.5 AR weighs remarkably little given its size, no more than all but a couple other wheels in this review of largely Gen 3 all-around wheels.

Yeah, their width makes them stand out against other bikes when you are riding in a bunch or stopping for a break.  And you only should plan to ride them tubeless, which takes a bit more work than tube and tire, if you want to get all the benefits of these wheels.  You’ll also want to check the clearance on your frame if you’ve got an older road disc bike.

But, if you want great performance from one wheelset that you otherwise might need to have two different ones for the range of riding do, the 4.5 AR stands alone and probably is a price competitive option vs. the cost of buying two wheelsets.  You can find it at the best prices as of April 22, 2018 from stores with top customer satisfaction ratings and help support this site at the same time by clicking on and buying through these links to Competitive Cyclist, Sigma Sports.

If you don’t need all of this wheelset’s versatility, you can save a good deal of dough with one of the other all-around road disc wheelsets below.

BEST VALUE

FULCRUM RACING QUATTRO CARBON DB – Gen 2 Value Option For Those Who Prefer Carbon over Alloy

While its 17C width makes the Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon DB a Gen 2 all-around carbon road disc wheelset, its market price of under <US$1000, £850, €1000 is half to a third the price of the best of the new generation ones.

Other 17C carbon road disc wheelsets sold by widely distributed wheel designers and manufacturers like Mavic and Reynolds and from respected wheelmakers with smaller sales and service networks including AX Lightness, Vittoria, and Knight sell well above the Fulcrum market price.

Many enthusiasts want the stiffness-to-weight ratio, rim depth, and look of carbon that an alloy wheel can’t match but have a hard time paying extra for those attributes.

One option has been to buy wheels sold by companies that specialize in marketing carbon wheelsets they don’t design, make, assemble or test but instead contract all or most of those functions from others.  These “open-mold” or more derisively labeled “Chinese” wheels are often sold at prices far less than brand-name ones because of the lower overhead costs they incur and smaller profit margins they are willing to accept.

Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon DiscWithout the reputation or customer service network of a well-established company, it’s often hard to know what you are getting and what will happen if you buy a defective wheelset from one of these contracting marketers.

At the $1000, the Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon Disc wheels match the price of the best alloy upgrade wheels (here) and are no more and often less than many of the contracted carbon wheels I’ve seen while offering the reputation and service network of one of the largest volume wheel makers.

I don’t how or why they are selling it at these prices but they have been doing it for a while.

So that’s the value equation.  What about the performance?

The Quattro Carbon Disc is laterally stiff, gives you a good feel for the road yet is compliant and not buzzy or harsh underneath you. The hubs ride very smoothly.  The feel (but not the performance) is more like a ready-to-go racing wheelset than a ready-to-cruise endurance one.

This wheel does many things well and some less so than the best.  It accelerates well on the flats but hesitates a beat when you try to increase your speed going uphill.

At about 1600g (1605 claimed, 1590 measured), it’s about 40 grams lighter than only the far wider and deeper Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubeless Disc of all the all-arounds I reviewed in this post.

The Quattro Carbon Disc is plenty comfortable but at its width (17mm/24mm) and with its overall good responsiveness and good handling, it’s at its best on the road with nothing wider than a 25mm tire.  You’ll get the best out of these wheels riding them aggressively and fast with 23mm tires on a flat or somewhat hilly paved route.

It wouldn’t be my choice for dirt, gravel or cyclocross riding.

Fulcrum says it is intended only to be used with clincher tires with tubes.  They will work on most any frame and caliper system as you can order them with quick release or through axles and for CenterLock (or what they call AFS) or 6-Bolt rotors.

Because the spokes screw into the top of the rims rather than through them, you can disregard everything I just wrote and set them up tubeless, run 28mm or wider tires on them, deflate and run them off road or for cyclocross races (as a fellow reviewer has proven).

While they are 40mm deep, their profile once again proves that wheels of a similar depth do not produce the same aerodynamic results.  It doesn’t hold your speed like other wheels of this depth and is pushed around by crosswinds as much as wheels 5-10mm deeper.

The Quattro Carbon Disc’s rim profile may explain some of this.  It is what I’ll generously call a rounded V profile – mostly flat and narrow with rounded edges at the inner spoke edge and widening linearly toward the tire edge until it hits the brake track where it flattens out.  It shares the same rim profile as the rim brake version of this wheelset, lacking the brake track treatment of course.

Used in a way that gets the most out of them, the Fulcrum Racing Quattro Disc wheelset provides the combination of good road performance at a great price that equates to the best value in this category.

Here are the page links for this wheelset at the stores I’ve found have them at the best prices as of April 22, 2018, have them in stock and have top shelf customer satisfaction records: Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10, Chain Reaction, WiggleMerlin.

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DT SWISS ERC 1100 DICUT 47 – PREDICTABLY GOOD PERFORMANCE 

Even though they sell a ton of wheelsets under their own brand name and as stock wheels for leading bike makers including Giant and Specialized, DT Swiss has never been known for the performance of their more expensive wheelsets.  Hubs and spokes? Yes.  But, high-end wheels? No.

DT Swiss seem to have always been behind the curve with rim shapes, widths, carbon and whatever else goes into making rims that combine with their ubiquitous hubs and spokes to make top performing wheelsets.  They seemed to lack a design point-of-view about how to make great rims that, right or wrong, is clear and consistent at companies making high-performance wheels.

Perhaps realizing this deficiency, DT Swiss has gotten aero design and testing help for the ERC 1100 DICUT 47 and other new DT Swiss products from the wheelset design company SwissSide.  The latter is a relatively new company led by race car designers that sell mid-depth and full-depth wheels targeted to triathletes and time trialists.  As for DT Swiss, their new line of endurance wheels are only made for road disc bikes. Very Gen 3!

Has this collaboration brought the ERC 1100 to the performance level of the best all-around wheelsets?  Not in my evaluation, but they seem to be getting closer.

Overall, I’d say the ERC 1100 is predictable.  That word can have both positive and negative connotations of course, but it best sums up for me what I find in this wheelset.

It is certainly fast and stiff, as you would expect from a wheelset this depth.  Anecdotally, and I say that since construction on the In The Know Cycling wind tunnel is not scheduled to start until 2038, I’d put the ERC 1100s in the range of the faster wheels of this group on the flats and hills. Tour magazine put their aero performance only behind the ENVE SES 4.5 AR amongst the wheelsets we both evaluated.

Though their weight measures middle of the pack and they certainly can climb, they wouldn’t be my first choice for a long ride with a lot of hills and steeper climbs in them.  They just don’t go uphill as well as others all-around wheels I’ve reviewed in this post.

The ERC 1100’s ride is firm, even at the 70 psi pressures that I ride tubeless wheels.  Firm is not harsh and it’s not cushy.  You’ll get the kind of response from the road you would expect based on what you see in front of you.  You won’t get jarred nor will you float above it.

If you want to go off-road and not get tired out riding on dirt or mixed surfaces, I’d suggest dropping the pressure on these wheels another 10 or 20psi from the level you normally ride.

Wind conditions are manageable with the ERC 1100.  When the winds come, you can comfortably steer through them.  You certainly won’t get blown over nor can you plan on the wheels totally taking care of the crosswinds for you.

Finally, handling is confident, precise and … predictable.  So are the hubs, which use the very solid DT240 internals I’ve  come to know and very much enjoy.  They are used on many top performing wheelsets.

Predictable for me means you are going to get what you expect and not be let down.  Applied to the ERC 1100, it means you aren’t going to get any special thrill or surprise, good or bad, from these wheelsets.  They are solid performers that do what you expect.

Perhaps it is surprisingly good to get a predictably good top end wheelset from a company that has, for me, turned out only average wheelsets in the past.  I’ll take it.

Despite an MSRP/RRP that is as high-end as the wheelsets they aspire to be, you can find the ERC 1100 DICUT 47 at a far more competitive market price closer to USD$1850, £1650, €1900 at by clicking through to recommended stores Bike24, Bike-Components.

ENVE SES 3.4 DISC – AN ALL-AROUND WHEELSET THAT DOUBLES AS A CLIMBER

If you want a top performing Gen 3 all-around road disc wheelset that climbs extremely well, the ENVE 3.4 Disc is the one you want.

ENVE claims the 38mm deep front rim weighs 390 grams and the 42mm rear one just 10 grams heavier.  I measured the complete wheelset with DT240 hubs at 1410 grams with tape.  These kinds of weights for clincher rims and wheelset scream climber.  Yet, their rim widths (measured approximately 21mm wide internally and 28mm wide externally, a little more for the U-shaped front and less for the V-shaped rear) and depth (38mm front, 42mm rear) put them just over the line as all-around wheels.

Specialized’s Roval wheelset division makes the CLX 32 Disc which runs 6-10mm shallower than this ENVE 3.4 and claims to be about 60 grams lighter with the same rim widths and tubeless ready platform.  The Roval CLX 50 Disc (reviewed later in this post) is 8-12mm deeper than the ENVE 3.4 and measures 1450 grams, roughly halfway between the weight of the ENVE 3.4 and 4.5 AR Disc wheelsets.

The German wheelmaker Tune sells the 41mm deep Airways Disc wheelset that is slightly narrower (19mm x 26mm) and lighter still (1342g measured).  While tubeless, Tour Magazine gave it one of its worst impact resistance ratings.  The wheelset currently comes only a with a hub that connects to 6-bolt rotors and uses quick releases.

There were only two other road disc wheels in this 1400g weight range that could pass as both all-arounds and climbers.  Both the AX Lightness Ultra Disc 45C (1404g measured) and Knight 35 Clincher Disc (1460g measured and 445g claimed rim weight) seem to be of an earlier vintage – 16.5 and 17mm wide internally respectively and neither is tubeless ready.

All this talk of specs is probably a bit unnerving for all but us tech nerds and doesn’t determine performance or my recommendations.  It is just one of my considerations in choosing which wheelsets to buy or demo, evaluate and write up, etc.  For reasons that I explain more fully at the end of this post, I chose not to review any of these wheels other than the Roval CLX 50 Disc.

Perhaps I will do a dedicated climbing road disc wheelset review at some point.  For the time being, the ENVE 3.4 Disc and Roval CLX50 currently look to have the combination of light weight, stiffness, aero performance, handling, and comfort with wide, tubeless optimized rims that best suit the kind of all-around, varying road quality surface you are likely to encounter as a versatile, road disc bike cycling enthusiast that goes climbing.  (Phew, that was a long sentence!)

As all-around/climbers go, I found the ENVE 3.4 Disc wheels to be excellent performers.  While only 100 grams lighter than the ENVE 4.5 AR Disc, all of it is in the rims and made climbing notably easier when I rode them back to back.

The 3.4s seemed almost immune to crosswinds and they accelerated with the best of the other wheels I’ve reviewed here.  They handled confidently making high speed turns.  This combined with their no-worries attitude around crosswinds made me very calm going fast downhill.

They are also stiff and comfortable, though on par with most of the other wheels in this review for those criteria.  If I was doing a lot of dirt and gravel riding, I would probably go with the ENVE SES 4.5 AR Disc for the similar volume of air at a lower tire pressure the wider rim allows.

Using the same hubs and trying to keep in the same riding position, I don’t find the 3.4 hold their speed as well as the similarly profiled 4.5 AR rims.  That’s to be expected due to the depth difference and isn’t an issue in group riding.  If you are racing or doing long pulls, you might want to go deeper so you don’t need to work as hard.

The one disappointment with these wheels was strictly cosmetic.  I noted some white markings along the spoke edge of both rims that seemed to get worse over time.  The carbon in the rim’s side walls and spoke beds appeared well laminated and structurally sound.

As these were wheels I bought rather than demoed, I tried to look at this with a “glass half-full” attitude.

How?  I used this situation to see how ENVE’s customer service would deal with my inquiry as just another paying road cycling enthusiast rather than trying to impress the marketing or PR folks with my reviewer status for some kind of special treatment.

An ENVE “consumer experience” agent got back to me the morning after I submitted my comments along with a couple of photos I attached on their web product support form.  He explained that what I was seeing was powdered curing agent that normally dissolves into the resin but had pooled up in the molding process.  The agent said this happens to various degrees in all their wheels as they don’t use paint, filler or cosmetic weave layers but their tests showed no affects on performance.  I can’t confirm that independently but I didn’t notice any performance changes as the markings grew more evident.

After responding that I didn’t much care for the look of these markings and would like another set, the agent pulled my product registration information and sent me a shipping label.  While he said the markings on my wheels were particularly obvious and expected the replacement set wouldn’t exhibit them, he couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t but would again replace them if the situation re-occurred.

I was fully satisfied with the service response.  While I would have preferred there were no markings in the first place or that they replace them overnight, I think this was about as good as it gets if you ever have a problem.

If you see the value for this combination of all-around and climbing performance together with good customer service and are willing to pay the added price, you can pick up these wheels at Competitive CyclistMerlinstores with customer satisfaction ratings that have these wheels in inventory at competitive prices.

ROVAL CLX 50 – ANOTHER GOOD OPTION THOUGH AT A HIGHER PRICE THAN MOST OTHERS

The Roval CLX 50 is one of those all-around road disc wheels that makes me smile.  Not because it does anything notably better than other road disc wheelsets I’ve reviewed in this post, except perhaps accelerate, but because it does so many things well just like other wheelsets in this post.

I couldn’t have written that paragraph above a year ago.  Not just about Roval but about a good sized, competitive collection of carbon all-around road disc brake wheelsets we enthusiasts now have to choose from.  Like the Roval CLX 50 Disc, there just weren’t that many all-around wheelsets that really did road disc bikes justice a short while ago.

Now there are.  And that makes me smile.

Interestingly, the Roval CLX 50 rim and disc brake wheels share the same profile – width, depth, shape, tubeless ready, rim bed, etc.  Sure, the two wheels have different spoke counts and hubs but even the hubs have the same DT Swiss 240 internals.

While many of the first two generations of road disc wheels were optimized for rim brakes and tweaked for discs, this one appears to suit both formats well, if not necessarily optimized for either.  It may straddle the Gen 2/3 characteristics I laid out earlier, but these compete on performance (and specs) with the latest Gen 3 all-around wheels.

Yes, these road disc wheels are heavier than their rim brake brothers, but the CLX 50 disc brake wheelset, at a measured weight of 1457 grams, is one of four wheelsets in this review coming in at under 1500 grams.  So, it’s not sacrificing anything by being a rim twin with its rim brake brother.

[By the way, the 1415 gram claimed weight is probably without rim tape.  I and several others that have reviewed this wheelset and actually weighed it all come in somewhere between 1440 and 1460 grams, likely due to whether we ran the tape around once or twice.]

The Roval CLX 50 is and maintain your momentum well.  It’s what you should expect from 50mm deep wheels that will cost US$2400, £1870, €2200 like these.  Not all wheels deliver speed even at that price that but these clearly do.

They remain stable and easily handle in the crosswinds.  These will tell you they are feeling the wind but they won’t jerk around on you.  A light steady touch on the tiller will keep them on course.

They also accelerate and climb better than most.  While the weight difference between the CLX 50 and ENVE 3.4 is a minimal 50 or so grams, I felt a little more comfortable on the ENVEs on a blustery day of climbing and descending.  But, the Roval aren’t far behind.

Perhaps it’s because the ENVEs are 10mm shallower or the handle the crosswinds amazingly well. On the flip side, the Rovals are faster on the flats if you are riding at speeds where aero really matters – >20mph or 32kph.

The CLX 50 is stiff but not overly so.  Likewise, they are compliant and handle well, on par with many of the wheelsets in this review.

Run them tubeless and lower your pressure if you want maximum comfort.  Toss the plastic spoke hole plugs they come with and run rim tape if you want minimum hassle installing tubeless tires.  The tires can get hung up on the plugs and make installing and removing them a whole lot more work than anyone should have to do to enjoy cycling.

If you are a local bike shop supporter, you are in luck.  That’s the only place you can find them in many countries.  Those of you who live in the UK or EU countries and want to support this site can order them online by clicking through to Tredz 10% of with code ITK10, Evans.

STAN’S NOTUBES AVION PRO – DOESN’T STAND OUT IN THIS FIELD

For Stan’s NoTubes Avion Pro wheelset, my effort to find distinctive performance qualities came up empty.  It’s a solid wheelset but I couldn’t find anything about its performance that sets it apart from others to the point I would say “buy it if you want this or prefer that.”  I’m happy to have another good set of all-around wheel to join the road disc club, but at a US$2000, €2050 I’d like something special.

That was disappointing for me as I spent several months riding these wheels in different types of terrain and road conditions and with different tires to try to find a sweet spot.  The wheels also look great (IMHO), as though they were made for my Parlee frame, but of course, that doesn’t make them (or me) perform any better while riding them.

Stans Avion Disc Pro all around road disc wheels

Wheels look great on my bike but ….

Stan’s is perhaps best known to roadies for their tire sealant and their support of all things tubeless.  As tubeless tires have been slow to catch on amongst road enthusiasts and amateur racers, I wanted to see how well the Avion Pro rode with regular tube and clincher tires, something that the wheelset’s feature list promotes as an option.  And since this is a mid-depth wheelset (41.6mm deep by my measurement), I wanted to try a tire that would measure narrower than the wheel’s outside width to maximize its aero performance.

My benchmark 23C Continental Grand Prix 4000S measured 0.5mm narrower than the Avion’s 27.8mm outside width but was stretched too round across the 21.8 mm inside width of these wheels to provide a good sidewall shape.  The handling and compliance were awful with this combination.

The 25C version of these tires made the wheels handle much better and were more comfortable though not nearly as comfortable as I like on 50 mile/80km and longer rides with the range of good and uneven pavement I typically ride through, even at low tube and tire pressures (80-85psi) for my weight.

Setting up the Avions tubeless with Schwalbe Pro Ones at 25C (Stan’s minimum recommended width) was a no grunting, no mess, normal vigorous manual pumping non-event.  The wheels come with valves that have removable cores making it much simpler and cleaner to get the sealant in the tire when you run these tubeless.  The rims also come with plastic rim strips already installed so you don’t have to tape them yourself to cover the spoke holes.

Regrettably, the sealant didn’t stay in the tire as well as other tubeless wheels I’ve run.  Within a couple of rides, it was weeping out multiple spoke holes on both wheels and even along the junction between the tire and rim on one of the wheels.  I cleaned it all up and expected the sealant to dry in those spots and that would be the end of it.  Unfortunately, I saw leaks at the spokes most every day and it was a bit embarrassing to show up at a group ride one Saturday morning and have a fellow rider point out a fresh white streak of sealant across the rim of my rear wheel.

The wheels rode much more comfortably tubeless at 70-75psi than with the 25C tube and tire clincher set up I described earlier.  But dropping the pressure 10psi or so on a tubeless tire below where you would run it on a tube and tire combo will make most every wheelset more comfortable.

Anyway, lesson learned.  Run Stan’s NoTubes wheels with no tubes!  Duh.  I’m a dummy for not starting there.

With tubeless tires in place, the handling was very confident rounding corners going fast down 6-8% and higher grades.  The wheels were a little buzzy on downhills and riding the flats, however, regardless of whether I had the Contis or Schwalbes on for reasons I can’t explain.

The Avion’s stiffness and acceleration was good going uphill and on the flats but didn’t stand out or compare favorably to some of the best road disc wheelsets on these performance criteria.  The set I rode measured 1494 grams on my scale,  but they didn’t feel as light and lively as the ENVE 3.4s going uphill.

I also found that they didn’t hold their speed or momentum particularly well on the flats, perhaps owing to the inflated width of the 25C tubed clincher (30mm at 100psi benchmark) and 25C tubeless tire (29.7mm at riding pressure of 70-75psi) being wider than the Avion rim width (27.8mm) or to other factors in the hubs or rim shape.

The best mid-depth and aero wheels do a better job of quickly deflecting the crosswinds than what I experienced with the Avions.  While manageable, at 150lbs (68kg) I found myself getting pushed around a good deal more than I would have liked or experienced with the best wheelsets in the 10-15 mph April winds I experienced for many days during my testing.

The hubs engage quickly, ride smoothly and give off the classic rear-wheel ratchet sound like what you hear when you cast a fishing line.  My personal preference is for a quieter hub but if you like your hubs audible, the Neo Ultimate hubs on these all-around wheels will identify you and tell fellow riders in the paceline that you are coasting behind them or slowing without you having to say a word.  The Avions come set up to attach to the Shimano standard CenterLine 140mm disc rotors and the end caps to go thru axle or quick release.

You can find this wheelset online at Bike24.

ZIPP 303 FIRECREST CARBON CLINCHER TUBELESS DISC-BRAKE – ZIPP GETS ROAD DISC WHEELS RIGHT

Every Zipp Firecrest wheelset comes with an image built up over a decade.  I associate the words innovative, fast, expensive, and status with the Zipp brand.  And I’ve always thought of Firecrest as the aero standard that is also comfortable and brakes well but is flexier and heavier than other all-around wheels.  One other connection I make – Zipp always seems to be updating the hubs they put on Firecrest wheels, perhaps to try to rid themselves of whatever quality demons possessed earlier models.

Road disc, wide and tubeless were never words I’ve associated with Zipp and Firecrest.

Yes, Zipp has made disc brake Firecrests for years but earlier models were essentially the same as rim brake Firecrests just with a few more spokes and a way to bolt on the rotors.  Their rims were wide externally but never wide enough internally to go with a 25C tire if you still wanted their best aero performance.  And tubeless? Nah.

So, when Zipp introduced the 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher Tubeless Disc-brake wheelset (yes, that’s its full name) that also had a 21mm internal width, I was curious to see if this was still a Firecrest or it was just using the name.

This tubeless disc brake Firecrest is still fast and comfortable, among the best in both categories from my anecdotal experience and as measured on machines by the independent Tour magazine.  Only the ENVE 4.5 AR performed better along these two dimensions amongst the road disc wheels they tested.

I rode the 303 Firecrest with 25C Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires at 70psi which measures a few tenths narrower than the outside rim width where the air will come off one to meet the other.

Zipp has also introduced tubeless tires which, while I haven’t tested them yet, I expect will be narrower than the Schwalbe.  Zipp designs its tires to provide optimum aero performance when mounted on its wheels.  From my measurements, their 23C and 25C Tangente clincher tires run closer to actually measuring 23mm and 25mm than Contis and Michelins, which typically run a mm or two wider depending on the wheelset.

True to my Zipp 303 Firecrest and 303 NSW rim brake wheelset experiences, the 303 Firecrest disc brake wheels aren’t the stiffest or flexiest in this category.  As a light rider, this isn’t a huge issue for me.  If you are a heavy rider you might want a stiffer wheelset.

Despite the average stiffness and being one of the heavier wheelsets (1632g measured) among those reviewed here, I found they accelerate well.  Perhaps it’s the hubs which I found to roll comfortably and easily with only a little ratcheting sound coming from the rear.

Note that the hubs only come with 6-Bolt fittings for your rotors.  I have 140mm rotors in both 6-Bolt and CenterLock that work fine with my Shimano disc calipers, though I prefer the later.

While not as versatile as the ENVE 4.5 AR for off-road riding or as suitable for climbing as the ENVE 3.4, this tubeless disc brake Zipp 303 Fieldcrest is still one of the better all-arounders and costs about 20% less than those two.

So yes, it’s a Firecrest. You can find them in stock at the best prices from stores I recommend based on their customer satisfaction ranking by clicking these links to Competitive Cyclist, Tredz 10% off w/code ITK10Slane.

WHEELSETS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW – WHICH AND WHY

I considered roughly two dozen wheelsets for this review.  While it would be fun, I and my fellow testers don’t have the time to spend several months riding and reviewing that many wheels in one category.  Nor can I afford to buy all the wheels from companies that aren’t able to provide me a demo for a few months, which is many of them.

So, while I’d prefer to ride each blindly and rate them on performance alone regardless of their specs, the all-around road disc wheelset evolution chart did provide me some guidance on which to start with in my search for the best performers.

First, I considered just all-around wheels.  As the category name suggests, all-arounds should help you do a wide range of riding well.

Other wheelsets specialize in riding extremely well on flats and rollers at high speeds (aero-wheels) or in the mountains (climbing wheels).

Another category of wheels (alloy upgrades) will give you notable performance improvement over stock wheels for riders who can’t budget the money or won’t get the benefit that an all-around, aero or climbing wheelset will bring.  If that describes you, take a look at my review of the Best Upgrade Wheels for Road Disc Bikes.

All-around road disc wheels these days have rims that are roughly 40-50mm in depth.  Climbing road disc wheels are typically 30-40mm in depth and aero wheels are usually at least 55-60mm deep.  All of these use carbon rims.  Upgrade wheels have alloy rims that typically measure 25-30mm deep and cost under USD$1000, £800, €900.

Because In The Know Cycling is fortunate enough to have readers around the world (thank you!), I don’t typically review gear that isn’t sold and doesn’t have a robust service network in at least a couple of the major geographic regions.  It just isn’t worth the time of the majority of readers to hear about a great wheelset that is sold in limited quantities with a distribution and service network that can support riders in just a few countries.  That is also one of the reasons I don’t consider wheels from custom builders, the other being that they are one-offs (that’s why they are “custom”).

OK, with those provisos up-front, here are the wheels I haven’t reviewed in this latest post and why. For the most part, I don’t think you should consider buying any Gen 2 wheelsets unless their performance is good enough for what you want to use them for and their price is half of what Gen 3 ones are selling for.

Give me a moment to put my helmet and face shield on before you throw up on me in the comments section for not reviewing the wheelset you are curious about.

Gen 3 wheelsets I hope to review and add to this post when they are available

  • Zipp 303 NSW Disc-brake – will review in spring 2018
  • Reynolds Assault LE  – this 21mm internal, 28mm wide external “limited edition” Assault is available now only on a Canyon bike. I have no knowledge but would expect this to be available as wheelset alone in 2018
  • HED Vanquish 40  – Again, no knowledge but I would expect they will introduce a model with this name in 2018 now that they have introduced the Vanquish 60 all carbon road disc clincher in fall 2017
  • Hunt 50 Aero Disc – happy to review it if they can send me a demo

Narrow Gen 2 – AX Lightness Ultra Disc 45C, Knight 35 Disc Clincher, Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL C Disc, Vittoria Quarano 46 Disc, Fast Forward F4D FCC, Giant SLR 1 and 0 SLR 0 42MM Carbon Disc Road. These are 17mm wide internally (the AX is actually 16.5mm) and all but the Vittoria and Giant aren’t tubeless ready

Early/Wide Gen 2 – Boyd 44 Clincher Disc (weight, network), Tune Airways 41 Disc (network), HED Jet Plus 4 Disc Brake (new Vanquish 40 will likely succeed it), Easton EC90 SL Disc Clincher (weight), Bontrager Aeolus 5 TLR Disc D3 (weight). These were introduced early in the Gen 2 era, most are 19mm wide internally, have rim brake rims and weigh too much to be competitive against Gen 3 all-around and/or don’t have a very wide distribution and service network.

Previously reviewed Gen 2 (here) – Reynolds 46 Aero Disc Brake, Reynolds Assault SLG Disc Brake, Prime RP 38 Carbon Clincher Road Disc, Vision Metron 40 Clincher Disc. Not included in this review because they are Gen 2 specs and performance not competitive with those in this review.

Gen 2 reviewed in this post – Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon Disc.  My best value pick of the Gen 2s with no announced successor that’s even less expensive and roughly on par or not a whole lot worse than the other Gen 2s previously reviewed ones listed above. If you don’t need the versatility or performance of a Gen 3 wheelset, want a carbon all-around from a well-established company with a good service network, but don’t want to spend more than you would on an alloy upgrade wheelset, this is the one for you.

Previously reviewed Gen 2 (here) with Gen 3 successors reviewed in this post – DT Swiss RC 38 Spline C DB, Roval CLX 40 Disc, Zipp 303 Firecrest Disc-brake (but not tubeless and with a different rim shape).

Announced but not yet available – Campy Bora One 50 DB (tubular only), Shimano Dura-Ace C40 Carbon Road Disc. Large wheelset makers Campy, Fulcrum, Shimano, and Mavic are behind the curve in road disc wheelsets.  Not a big surprise.  They typically focus on the higher volume, lower priced wheelset segments.

* * * * *

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238 comments

  • Steve,

    Trying to educate myself on what my next step should be. Currently riding the OEM disc wheels that came on my Specialized Ruby Elite, which are tolerable I guess, and currently have Compass extra light 28’s mounted to them. I’m 150 pounds, ride almost exclusively on the flat prairie, cause that’s what’s available, but am always…always riding in a 15mph wind on a good day, to a more typical 20-20+mph wind, and more often than not, riding alone, so no drafting. Rides are typically 20 mile training rides with 40-50 mile longer rides when the weather warms up. When I ride out of my local training area, I do encounter hills, but they aren’t a regular training occurrence. Is the best upgrade wheelset (HED Ardennes), a better choice than the best value of your carbons in the best all around, aka the Fulcrum Quattro db? I’m just not sure how aero is smart for someone like myself that is always riding in wind, but that wind can be coming from head on, tail, or either side, and maybe all of the above in one ride! I’m ok spending more than the $1,000 mark that the two choices I’ve noted sell for, just in a quandary with all of the choices out there that are available, thanks.

    • Hi Tracey, You ask a lot of good questions. Without knowing your rider profile better, it’s hard to answer definitively. It may be that a deeper all around or aero wheelset that manages crosswinds well would be great for you riding the flats like you do or a lower priced, low profile wheelset is all you need to meet your goals, performance and riding conditions. May I suggest you read my post How to the Best Road Bike Wheels for You to help you figure out what would be best for you from the rider profile you can put together inside the post. After you’ve worked through that post, feel free to come back to me if you still have any questions. Thanks, Steve

  • Hi Steve,

    Read a few of your articles now and I’m very impressed with the clarity and level of detail.

    I’m looking for a set of wheels to replace the stock Maic Aksiums on my Cannondale Synapse Ultegra Di2 Disc. For the RRP of the bike (which I didn’t pay) the Aksiums come up woefully short.

    If money was no object I would be looking at a set of ENVE SES 3.4s (and probably a new bike) but money is an issue. I would pick the above wheels the majority of my riding (or at least the rides I care about) are between 70-110 miles with 800-1000ft of climbing per 10 miles. I do most of my riding in the Yorkshire Dales in England and regularly enjoy climbs climbs >10% average of a 1 mile or 2, with sections greater than 25%. I want a new wheelset as I’ve been riding more regular for 18months now and covering 4000miles per year and feel a new wheel set would be a better investment than a new bike with another stock wheelset. Ideally the new wheelset I get will be for summer riding and may find their way on to a new bike in the future. I’d be happy to spend about £1000 for a carbon all-rounder (a bit more for the right wheel). I keep coming back to the Hunt Carbon Aero Disc 30 or 50 (ideally I was looking for something around 40mm for aesthetics but hey ho), they seem really good value (<£900) and really light weight compared to the competition. What are your thoughts on Hunt? Could you suggest an alternative? Am I better with the 30 over the 50 mm being as climbing is a big part of my riding.

    Love the site,

    Cheers,

    Sam

    • Hi Sam, Thanks for your kind feedback. I’ve not ridden the Hunt wheels. They follow a similar strategy to other direct to consumer wheelset companies now – little/no design input, open mold rims, contracted components and assembly, pre-order financing, big marketing effort. Prime from Chain Reaction follow a similar strategy and have 40mm deep disc wheels (RP-38) which are even less expensive and they stock though not as wide or light as the Hunt claim to be. I reviewed rim brake version here and RP 28 disc brake here. Like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.

      If your rides are mostly climbs and with the amount of climbing you are doing, yeah, I don’t think you get a whole lot of benefit going to deep wheels. If you are doing a mix of flats and climbs, a light, 40 to 50mm deep wheelset with a rim shape that handles the crosswinds well is ideal, but that takes you to the more expensive wheels. That’s the dilemma for budget conscious cyclists! Steve

      • Thanks for the reply Steve. It’s a funny one isn’t it, I would actually be comfortable stretching to say £1200 or slightly more for a set but there seems to be a gap between what is considered genuine brands as given in this article (>£1600 gen 3, wide, U profile) and the direct to consumer wheelset companies (<£900). I guess looking into it, the latter don’t have quite as good component such as hubs, etc… or maybe not as much testing. But then if you accept that then what is the risk with going with one of these “brands” as an upgrade wheelset. Take Hunt for example, other than potential component quality, what would I be missing in terms of product performance compared to the more expensive brands? I mean spec wise they are very comparable. Is the main risk that I could be paying more than if I bought something like the Prime wheels or another Chinese carbon rim wheelset? And even then, how do these shape up to the big boys? What makes a wheel sluggish or not stiff enough etc…?

        It is difficult reading reviews as I’m yet to find a bad one on any wheelset I have read, from super cheap to super expensive (if anything super expensive are worse for not living up to cost).

        I guess whatever I get should liven up my Synapse by ditching the 1950g Aksium’s right?

        • Sam, bottom line, less expensive wheels usually don’t perform as well along the characteristics I use to rate performance. Yes, some of the best performing wheels are way overpriced in many people’s minds and the lower priced wheels are often horrible performers and not worth it at any price. But there’s a market for every wheelset out there, at least as judged by the fact that they are being made and bought.

          The key is finding a wheelset with the performance and price that fits your goals, budget, riding profile etc. I’d suggest you take a step back and read or re-read my post How to Choose the Best Road Bike Wheels for You. I wrote this for fellow cyclists working through all the considerations and trade-offs of buying a wheelset and looking to separate out the various hype and claims and myths and all-good reviews from what is best for them. Hope it helps. Steve

          • Steve, I think i’m going to pull the trigger on the Roval CLX50 disc wheels. While the CLX32 would probably be better for my hill climbing exploits i dont think the weight penalty of the CLX50 is that much for an all round wheel. I just dont have the money for the ENVE wheels and think the Zipp are a bit heavy. This got me to DT Swiss ERC 1100 and potentially the new 1400, or the Rovals, the Rovals get some great reviews and are lighter then the DT wheels and I have managed to find them on a 20% RRP discount so that makes them more affordable. coming from my 1950g £175 Aksium wheels they cant climb any worse. I was considering Hunts earlier in the process but now see some value in the use of quality, readily available components used on the likes of the DT and Roval wheels. I am definitly in the catagory of want more than need though i do train hard and i’m always seeking to improve. Last year i got as good as i could have got in my club competitions and would like to do better this year. What do you think?

          • Sam, As per my review above, I see little difference in performance between the DT and Roval. Neither are great climbers but they will do. Weight is only one consideration in climbing and there is so little difference in weight between these you won’t notice. For anyone reading this that’s focused on weight, you might want to take a look at Myth #1 in my 5 Beliefs About Choosing Cycling Gear I’ve Dropped post. Stiffness, aero performance, handling are much more important than weight in considering road disc wheels for climbing – but they aren’t much different there either. Price, looks are considerations too. Can’t decide for you. Don’t know enough about you to recommend which is best for you. That’s what post I referred you to earlier is all about. Steve

  • I am a new owner of the Reynolds Assault LE wheels which came with 28mm Contis. Outside rim width is 30mm and the 28s measure 31.5mm at 70psi front and 90psi rear. I notice that you tested 25mm tires on wheels with internal widths similar to the LEs. I am considering testing some 25s (clinchers) myself and wondered how you felt about recommendations from ERTO and wheel makers that 25mm would be too narrow to run on that rim.

  • Just a quick followup, I mounted the 25mm contis at 90/70 psi (rear/front) and their width was approx 28mm (rim width 30mm at tire/rim interface).

    • Thomas, I wrote a post about tire widths on wider wheels here which is probably worth looking at for a fuller context in addressing your question. ETRTO guidelines are based on rim and tire technologies that are many generations old and don’t relate well to modern road bike wheels.

      In your situation, the Assault LE has a 21mm internal width to go along with the 28mm external width. Depending on what you are prioritizing (speed or comfort), how fast you ride (above or below aero speeds) and to what extent you plan to ride on and off road, your tire width, type and model choice will change.

      If you prioritize speed, ride >18mph/29kph on relatively good roads, you want inflated tire width about 95% rim width at the “brake track” and can go with a tubed or tubeless clincher. If you are riding for comfort, don’t average aero speeds and on a mixture of paved and dirt roads, go tubeless and don’t worry about the tire measuring wider than the rim.

      Contis and most other tires inflate far wider than the “C” designation, which was developed when rims were 13 and 15mm wide. So as you found a 28C tire is going to measure nearly 4mm wider when mounted on a 21mm wide internal width rim. It will measure about 1.5mm wider on a 17mm wide rim. You could also go tubeless and probably should for that rim as they are optimized for tubeless clinchers. I believe it’s also a hookless design – I’ve only seen photos of the LE – which would favor tubeless tires as their beads are designed with that in mind.

      I’m working on a post on tubeless tires now but the Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless (SPOT), whose rolling resistance is in the same low region as the Contin GP4K, is a great choice and also measures wide. I’ve used 25C GP4K and 25C SPOT tires successfully on wheels of similar inside and outside widths. The Maxxis Padrone TR 28C tires measure closer to size once inflated so would be an option if you want a 28C tire without affecting aero performance.

      If you want to stay with the 25C Contis tubed clinchers, that will optimize speed similar to the 25C SPOTs. If you want to lower your pressure down to 70, you run a chance of getting pinch flats on the tubed clinchers where that isn’t a concern on the tubed clinchers.

      The only other comment is your 70/90psi combination. I’ve never heard of someone having that big a variation and can’t think of a good reason to do that. I’ve run 5 or 10psi difference front to back but I think your handling would be quite inconsistent with a front wheel that much softer than the rear. Your tires will also measure about a mm wider at 70psi than 90psi. Steve

      • Thank you for the reply. That all makes sense. I’m a relatively new (but old) cyclist and have been intimidated by tubeless based largely on folks commenting about the mess involved with the sealant and difficulty in getting the tires on. I need to gather some more real world information as I understand that tubeless tires, rims and methods are improving all the time. I got the pressure combination from the Jan Heine/Frank Berto research on pressures that produce a 15% tire drop, and assuming a 60/40 rear/front weight distribution on the bike. https://www.compasscycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BQTireDrop.pdf. 70 is a little higher and 90 is a little lower than called for by this method (assuming roughly a 200lb rider/bike combination, I’m about 80kg and the Endurace is about 7.6kg for the 58). It may be wise to increase the front tire pressure perhaps to 75psi. Thanks again for your reply….

        • Thomas, Tubeless tires with removable valve cores can make for much cleaner installations. And both newer tires and rims are making it easier to get tires on and for them to seal up with a regular pump. I don’t know how it goes on the Assault LE but I’ve installed tubeless on the standard Assault rims with no need for tools.

          As to the Heine/Berto research, theory and practice are two different things. Taking a turn at speed on pavement with soft front wheel and a firm rear one isn’t something I wouldn’t encourage. At your weight and riding at road speeds, 80/90 or 75/85 is the biggest gap I’d suggest. 80/85 would probably be a good place to be. Heine sells tires and is focused on rolling resistance and comfort in most of his publications. His market (for readers and tires) is mostly touring bikers and others who want off road tires. Most of his tires are wider than you’d ever put on a road bike wheelset. Indeed, I’ve never seen a pair on a road bike wheelset. He always recommends lowering pressure which certainly makes for a more comfortable off road ride and a more forgiving tire when turning on the dirt. He makes handling claims but I’ve not seen any road testing of such claims. And he, and most everyone on the wide tire bandwagon don’t consider the relationship between tire and rim width and the effect on aero performance or the trade-off of improving rolling resistance and aero performance. Steve

          • Thanks very much for the help!

          • Steve, thanks for the articles, they make very interesting reading. I too ride a Canyon Endurace model fitted with the Reynolds Assault LE wheels and have covered nearly six thousand kilometres on them so far. I weigh 80 kg and ride pretty aggressively and find that 50 psi front and rear is fine on all surfaces, from smooth tarmac (plenty of that here in Austria) to pretty bumpy fire roads. This pressure is just enough that there is no noticeable deflection of the tire walls. I have tried higher pressures, too, but to be honest I don’t notice that the rolling resistance is then any less (I don’t ride with a power meter, so this is a purely subjective opinion). What I certainly do notice, however, is an enormous improvement in comfort and a more secure feeling in corners at low pressure. I generally average between 27 and 32 km/h, depending on the number of hills, and while aero performance is important to me, I don’t feel that going down to a 25c width would bring enough benefit to counter the loss of comfort and grip and puncture protection.
            I have recently installed Schwalbe Pro 1 28 mm tubeless tires on the wheels and have to say it wasn’t easy. The tires go on a treat, but then getting them to seal requires the patience of a saint… A track pump with a high pressure chamber or a compressor is an absolute must. This is not really a problem, though – I’m not expecting to have to change tires all that often.
            The rims are not a hookless design, by the way. 😉

          • Alan, Thanks for sharing your experience. Much appreciated. You are in the “comfort is my priority” camp and what you describe makes good sense with that priority. I’m in the “speed is my priority, but not at the expense of comfort” camp and, as a 150lb/68kg rider (in season, which I hope is coming soon!) find 75 to 80 psi to be my sweet spot. Comfort also depends on the compliance of the wheels too and that varies all over the lot. Assaults are not the most compliant wheels but they are stiff which makes them great for riders up to 90-95kg.

            I look forward to testing the LE version of the Assault if Reynolds ever starts selling it without you also having to buy the bike (which I’ve thought about doing because it looks like a great value). By the way, rolling resistance for the 25C Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless tire increases by about two watts as you go from 80 to 60 psi per Bicycle Rolling Resistance. Steve

  • Steve, thanks for the reply – if there is only a 2 watt difference per wheel, it’s hardly surprising that I don’t notice it! I haven’t raced for 25 years so it really doesn’t matter much if I lose a couple of seconds or minutes over the course of a ride. As long as I can keep up with my riding partners, who are getting older, just like me…
    I notice that Reynolds now have a new ATR model available to buy (without a bike attached!) which seems very similar to the Assault LE, only it’s even wider at 23 mm internal width, 32 mm external. It is aimed at gravel bikes, but looks like it might also be ideal for wide road tires. Maybe this means that the Assault LE really is just that – a limited edition.
    All the best,
    Alan

  • Looks like Shimano Dura-Ace C40 Carbon Road Disc wheels are out. Can’t seem to find any opinion on them on the internet. Sure, lots are complaining about the rim brake version as it seems like those use the previous model’s rims but the disc brake version looks to use a completely new rim that has no brake track.

    • Eli, not sure why it has taken Shimano so darn long to get the disc version out. It seems like it’s been 2 years since they announced it. We’ve seen a whole new generation of wheels come through in almost that amount of time. I’ll see if I can get a hold of a pair and test them out. Steve

      • Thanks. Just feels strange how they haven’t pushed for any media outlets to cover them. (Think of all the first rides media outlets had with the new ultegra parts when that came out) Granted those are mostly puff pieces so not all that useful. But lack of coverage makes it seem like its either:
        – they aren’t all that confident in the wheels so don’t want the scrutny
        – they don’t expect the disc only wheels to be that popular and the rim brake version hasn’t really changed so not worth the effort. (Could explain why the naming between the two doesn’t make they seem that different)

        • Eli, Shimano doesn’t send around demo wheels for reviewers to test so no reviews unless the pub buys them to review (uh- hum). They did a big hoo-hah for reviewers a the major pubs a couple years ago when they announced the new Dura-Ace line but didn’t have the wheels then and didn’t do any mass demos that day. At least that’s what I read. I don’t go to those marketing boondoggles on the manufacturer’s dime to drink the kool-aid.

          I don’t think Shimano are investing much in any kind of wheels these days, judging from what they’ve introduced. They’ve had a couple tough years financially and seem to be putting their money in groupsets to hold their lead there rather than wheelsets where they’ve always been a good value alternative but not a tech leader.

          I also don’t think these Dura-Ace C40 Carbon Road Disc wheels are going to be in much demand. 37mm deep, 17mm internal width, 1586 grams claimed and probably over 1600 grams actual at a $2000 MSRP and probably a $1500 market price once they get to market in volume (not available in UK, EU, AU yet) is not exactly a combination that is going to get anyone excited these days. Very much last-generation design. Shame, because their prior Dura Ace 9000 C24 and C35 wheels really filled a hole in the market for riders who wanted good wheels but didn’t want to/couldn’t afford to spend for the best.

          There are a lot of other good wheels to consider that I’ve reviewed in my post above. The Fulcrum Racing Quattro Carbon Disc is probably the closest thing to what the DA will likely be and is a heck of a bargain right now. Steve

          • The only thing last generation seems to be the narrowness which may be more from them being a big company and slower to pick up new fads. (I agree wide is good but have a feeling they don’t want to push against the norm)

            But does seem to have the advantage they are disc specific with the sides bulging away from the brake track so better aerodynamics and not using high temp resin which seems to make cf more brittle and less absorbent of shock (thinking comfort of vibration dampening). Granted, going by their rim brakes using aluminum brake tracks they may not have high temp resin technology to use. Not to say they are good wheels but not sure why you think they are last generation.

            Also seems like C60 disc rims aren’t really out yet which they may be waiting for before trying to push them.

          • Eli, Width makes them last gen. And you are right, big companies (Campy/Fulcrum along with Shimano) are moving very slowly into road disc wheel. Steve

  • I have a older pair of enve 3.4 clincher disc on my canondale super x. After reading your article am thinking. About getting a pair of enve 4.5 ar tubularz so I can have my cake and eat it to. I run continental s 28mm on my 3.4s instead of 23s and love it. So I think the ar.4.5 tubular rims would give me the lightness of the 3.4s better aero and more comfort with a 30mm tub. What do you think have you road the ar 4.5 tubularz yet. ?

    • Keith, That would be some tasty cake! Haven’t ridden the tubular version but loved the tubeless 4.5AR. Steve

    • I always thought getting a flat with tubulars was too much of a pain to make it worth using tubulars if you have to do all the work yourself

  • Thanks for responding so fast . I love my enve 3.4s as an all rounder and climbing wheel set . if a tubular ar 4.5 would be better it might be worth the money. I bought the 3.4s after reading one of your articles a couple years ago where you recommended them. They did not dissapoint. Loved them so much bought a pair of 3.4. Rim betake tubulars for my road bike both upgrades have brought endless smile to my face. Thanks for sharing your biking knowledge.

  • Hi Steve, thanks for your in-depth articles. Did you find any of these wheel sets noticeably easier for fitting and removing tyres? Or is that too subjective? That would be an additional selling point for me. I’m attracted to the Mavic Cosmic pro carbon SL UST (claimed 1,570g) for the promoted ease of fitting and removing tubeless tyres without levers. Thanks for your views. Craig

    • Hi Craig, I’ll usually note in the write-ups if I found the wheels particularly easy or hard to mount. It’s often a function of some combination of the tire, wheel, and person trying to mount the tires. Some tires are tight by design, at least when they are new, which should be the only time you really need to mount them if you are going tubeless. Most stretch after riding them a little though the beads shouldn’t.

      Some wheel rims, especially wider ones, have a nice center channel that you can put the first bead into that can make it easier to get the second bead on. Others don’t. The center channel gives you a smaller wheel diameter. And, you can always sponge some soapy water onto the beads to make it a bit easier to get them on.

      Finally, some people have more skill/experience/thumb strength than others in getting them on.

      In parallel with this, some tubeless tires and rims will seal up with a track pump no problem while others require a compressor. Some of that is due to how well you position the tire beads next to the hooks or rim edges once you get it on and before/while you pump, how well you spread the sealant, and, of course, how well you pump (really).

      Regarding UST specifically, I’m doing a little experiment now with a couple different UST wheels. I mounted up and have been riding a Ksyrium Elite UST wheelset. I’m expecting a Comete UST Disc wheelset tomorrow and will mount that over the weekend. They actually come with the Yksion tires mounted without sealant so you need to take them off to do the experiment or if you want to put on another set of tires (or measure the wheels as I do). I will mount and seal both of these wheelsets with Yksion tires, ride them for a bit and then dismount, mount and seal them with some other tires to get a better picture of how relatively easy it is or isn’t to mount UST rims. I’ve got other new wheels and tires that we are testing now and have in the past for comparison.

      Could (should/will) write a post on all of this but will get back to you on the UST experience in the next week or two. Please remind me if I don’t. Steve

      • Hi Steve, thanks for your generous reply! I think I’m lacking in the skill/experience/thumb strength department. I’ve watched other riders changing a flat where the tyre appears to melt like butter in their hands because of their technique. A deeper centre channel would help. I’ve even put new tyres in the drier to soften them up!

        I’m looking forward to reading about your experiments with UST wheels and tyre combos. How well UST wheels work with other brand tyres would be a critical decision point. I’ll also be interested in your thoughts on the Yksion tyres – there aren’t a huge number of reviews on them. I’ve been using IRC x-guard tubeless tyres which have been good.

        Thanks again for your articles and the time you invest in research, writing and responding to questions. Your site is making cycling more accessible. I bought a Focus Cayo disc following an article you wrote a while back about road disc bikes. It has given me a lot of enjoyment and your comments about the bike following the rights trends in terms of specs has proven spot on.

  • Hi Steve,

    What advice can you give on Tubeless Rim tape width and type? I notice you used rim tape instead of the plugs on the Roval CLX 50 wheelset you tested, what width tape did you go with for the 21mm internal rim? Also does it matter what brand of tape or are they all similar, is the higher pressure of a road bike tire a factor? I’m looking to mount 25C Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless to mine, and just trying to find some solid info on rim tape selection. I assume the tape that comes mounted is not tubeless despite the tubeless valve also coming installed through this tape. Thanks again Steve.Sam

    • Sam, Good questions. I’ll take this up in more depth for a review on tubeless tires I’m working on now. In short, pull the plugs on the Rovals (even Roval now admits these don’t work real well) and go with rim tape instead. For wheels that don’t already come with the plastic insert equivalent of tape or already pre-taped or with tape for you to put on (most come in one of those three ways these days), it matters less about what type of tape you use and more about how you put it on. Key is to keep it really taught as put it on. Steve

  • Steve still looking for all around carbon disc upgrade last yrs mavick cosmic pro sl vs Roval Clx 40

    • Went with the rovals seemed like a good deal, $650 for a new set.. any advice on tubular tire .. I am making the jump from clincher

      • Boruch, I don’t review tubular tires or recommend most enthusiasts buy tubular wheels because they are a hassle to install and replace on the road. Steve

  • what would your assessment be of the Roval CL 50 vs the CLX

  • As follow up also looking at Reynolds aero 65. How do you think it would compare.

    • Hi Chad, If I haven’t reviewed it, I can’t give you a good opinion of it. I should also add that I consider a ton of wheels for review before I pick the handful I end up reviewing. I went into detail above on why I ruled out those I did for this review. It’s likely that if I ruled it out, it’s not likely I would recommend it or it’s been introduced since I last reviewed the category or it doesn’t fit in this category or I haven’t been able to get a hold of one to review.

      While it’d sure be fun, I can’t respond to every request about every wheelset a fellow enthusiast might be interested in that I haven’t reviewed and get anything else done. I’m responding to your request in the hopes that others see this exchange before asking me about another wheelset I haven’t reviewed.

      You can always use the search box at the top of every page to see if I have reviewed whatever you might be interested in. I also can’t find the time to help you choose between two wheelsets I have reviewed. You can go to this post on how to help you choose the best wheelset for you to help you do that. Thanks for understanding and for reading and supporting the site. Cheers, Steve

  • Just a word of thanks Steve. Based on your review and comments I went with Roval CLX 50 Discs over the DT Swiss ERC’s. External nipples on the CLX’s were a further incentive.
    Initial impressions are that they are fast and accelerate really well in UK weather conditions.
    I have noticed that sudden gusty side wind does give the steering a good shove but I don’t think ANY front wheel would be immune from those conditions. I have invested in a CLX 32 front for long windy days in the saddle.
    I gave up on the tight Schwalbe Pro One fitting attempt and reverted to GP4000’s. Schwalbe Easy Fit liquid has arrived now so I will try again.
    Keep up your great work and independent reviews.

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