THE BEST AERO BIKE WHEELS

Aero bike wheels look fast, ride fast, and race fast. At 55mm to 65mm deep, they are the wheels of choice for most flat and rolling terrain for those who ride at average speeds well above 20mph/32kph. They are well suited for road races and crits, and can also work as time trial and triathlon wheels.

For those of us who don’t race but want to go our fastest in training and on competitive group rides, the best aero wheels can give you that extra aerodynamic performance when it’s your turn to pull or sprint for the town line. They provide the stiffness, handling, and comfort you’ll find in all-around wheels 10-20mm shallower while maintaining your speed better than those.

In this post, I review, compare, and recommend some of the best aero bike wheels available today and say more about why riders and racers should consider them.

Related: Looking for all-around carbon wheels for your road disc bike?  Click Best Carbon Disc Wheelset

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

In The Know Cycling is ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported. If you want to help keep it rolling without any added cost to you, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links on the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish our independent, comprehensive, and comparative reviews. Thank you, Steve. Learn more.

 

BEST PERFORMER – ENVE SES 5.6

Unique in our experience testing aero wheels, the ENVE 5.6 disc wheels ride almost like a blend of the best performance characteristics of wheelsets in both the all-around and aero categories.

They’re stiff, responsive, fast accelerating, confident handling, superior in crosswinds, and climb well. While they don’t maintain your speed quite as easily as deeper aero wheels, we’d pick them first for crits and lumpy time trials and most any road race or fast group ride.

You can order them for US$2550/£2800/3300 from stores I rate highly for US/CA readers using these links to Competitive Cyclist, Performance Bike, and for readers in the UK, EU, and other countries from Merlin and Sigma Sports.

Read my full review here.

 

BEST VALUE – ENVE 65

ENVE 65 aero wheels

 

If you’re not all-in on aero but want some aero benefits, the ENVE 65 wheelset provides a solid foundation for aero riding without making a maximal investment. And the ENVE 65 is more focused on flat terrain speed, similar to most aero wheelsets, than speed across a range of terrain like the ENVE SES 5.6

The ENVE is also as stiff and compliant as the best we’ve reviewed in this aero category. Its performance on the remaining criteria are on par with the average wheelset in this group, neither better nor worse.

Its US$1750/£1850/2200 price sets it apart, hundreds less than the others and makes it a clear choice for Best Value.

It’s available at my top-rated stores using these links to Competitive Cyclist in the US and Canada and Sigma Sports and Merlin in the UK, EU, and elsewhere.

Read my full review here.

 

BEST PERFORMANCE-PRICE COMBINATION – ZIPP 404 FIRECREST

Nearly as versatile though not with the snap or breadth of performance strengths you’ll get from the ENVE SES 5.6 on the flats, rollers, and climbs, the Zipp 404 Firecrest is a podium-level finisher among the aero bike wheels we tested.

But if you want an aero wheelset that performs as well or better than most on a wide range of road terrain at a price less than many that excel over a narrower range, the Zipp 404 Firecrest is there for you.

You can order the Zipp 404 Firecrest wheelset for US$2025/£1600/€1930 using these links to Competitive Cyclist in the US or at UK stores Sigma Sports and Bike-Components.

Read my full review here.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AERO BIKE WHEELS

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

Unlike weight, aerodynamics almost always matters

See our ratings and reviews of the best aero wheels

 


Find what you’re looking for at In The Know Cycling’s Know’s Shop

    • Compare prices on in-stock cycling gear at 15 of my top-ranked stores
    • Choose from over 75,000 bikes, wheels, components, clothing, electronics, and other kit
    • Save money and time while supporting this site when you buy at the store after clicking on a link*

Check out Know’s Shop

*While there’s no added cost to you, some stores pay commissions that support our product review and site expenses.


 

WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER AERO WHEELSETS

The world that most cyclists know is flat. Pancake flat for the most part and even flatter than an IHOP pancake in the case of a half-dozen US states according to researchers. Unless you live in or near the foothills of the Rockies, Sierra Nevada or the Appalachian Mountains, those of us who ride in the United States and Canada are going to be on pretty flat roads most of the time with no more than an occasional and short hill that exceeds a 5% grade.

And despite the wonders of the Alps and other mountain ranges featured in the summer pro stage races, Europe is mostly flat too. The European Plain, which runs from the Pyrenees along the Spanish and French border all the way to the Ural Mountains in Russia “gives Europe the lowest average elevation of any continent” according to no less an authority than the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific? Pretty much flat, flat and flat. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that “after more than four years” work, the final topographic maps, covering Australia, New Zealand and more than 1000 Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Ocean islands” developed from radar data taken by the space shuttle showed that “Australia was the flattest continent in the world.”

As for the mountains, I’m told by some well-placed elves that only 12% of the world’s population actually lives there.

So why do so many of us look to buy (and read my post recommending) climbing wheels? Perhaps it’s because many of the most famous cyclists going back to icons Eddy Merckx and Fausto Coppi to the modern-day heroes like Egon Bernal and Chris Froome conquered the cycling world while climbing mountains.

And why do we focus so much on wheelset weight when choosing between them? Perhaps because weight is one of the most quantifiable differences between wheels. Yet for most riders, reducing our own body weight by 2.5kg or 5lbs would save us a whole lot more in both road time and pocket change than replacing our stock wheels with a good set of climbing ones.

If you are a serious regular cyclist or what I call a road cycling enthusiast (see here for definition), you need to focus on aerodynamics and aero wheels, two things that are critical to cycling fast on the mostly flat earth we ride.

Weight only matters when you are accelerating and when you are going up steep hills and climbs beyond 7% or 8%. But, as explained above, the weight that matters most is your body weight and how much power you can crank out relative to your weight. Your bike and wheelset weight have little relative effect when accelerating and climbing until you are super fit, well trained, and looking for incremental gains.

Unlike weight, your aerodynamics almost always matters except when you are drafting off of someone in front of you or slowly going up steep grades. And the faster you go, the more it matters. Aerodynamics even matters more than weight when you are accelerating, though the measured difference between the two is marginal.

If you regularly average about 20mph/32kph and faster on your rides, aerodynamics matters a lot and can save you minutes on a 50 mile/80K ride based on how you position yourself on your bike and what gear (wheels, frame, tires) and kit (helmet, jersey, etc.) you use.

If you are averaging anywhere near 25mph or 40kph on your road rides and races, you are leaving a lot of time on the clock and drag on the road if you aren’t locked into what better aerodynamics can be doing to save you time and power.

The chart below summarizes this; the posts on training and technique (here) and gear and kit (here) go into more detail on how to go faster including the role of aerodynamics.

Aero bike wheels

So if you want to go faster, an aero wheelset is part of what will make it happen.

But aren’t aero bike wheels just for time trialists and triathletes, those poor fools that bend over with their hands out in aero bars for miles at a time, not having to worry about making any sharp turns, with no other riders near them to maneuver around, and going so ridiculously fast that those freakishly deep rims they ride on really make a difference?

Yes, deep aero wheels are certainly for those riders. They will be on a 60-65mm deep front wheel and an 80mm deep or completely covered disc wheel in the rear. But aero bike wheels, those in the 55mm to 65mm range are also road racing bike wheels and regular riding wheels for fast roadies riding on flat and rolling terrain. Some can also climb.

In 2010 Zipp introduced the 404 Firecrest carbon clincher, a product that changed the direction of high-performance wheelsets of all depths. The Firecrest rim had a rounded “nose” where the spokes attached to the rim and toroid-shaped rim sides. This profile differed greatly from those pointy-nosed, V-shaped ones that deeper rims had at that time. It was also several millimeters wider at the brake track than most other wheels and was 58mm deep.

Testing showed the Firecrest had less aerodynamic drag than wheels much deeper and weren’t buffeted by side winds the way even shallower wheels were. As a bonus, you could actually slow these carbon-rimmed wheels down without growing old waiting for it to happen and losing your hearing from all the screeching coming from the braking action.

The Firecrest wheels set a new standard for rim and wheel design.

Most of the leading wheelset companies followed with carbon clincher wheels that emulated the Firecrest 404 shape and depth. Many also introduced triathlon wheels in the 70mm+ range to compete with the Zipp 808 Firecrest for the speed-demon, TT and triathlon riders. Another group of shallower, 30-45mm deep carbon clinchers also came out for “all-around” riding and climbing led by the Zipp Firecrest 303 and later the 202.

In the last several years, more and more 55-65mm deep, carbon-clincher wheelsets with “blunt” noses and either toroid or U-shaped rims with 17mm, 19mm, and even 21mm internal widths and 26mm to 30mm external widths have been introduced. Tests show these aero bike wheels are nearly as fast as the very deepest triathlon wheels.

The best of these don’t get pushed around by crosswinds, are stiff and comfortable, handle well, and are faster yet nearly as responsive and light as carbon all-arounds that are 10mm to 20mm shallower. They compare well or better against many of the same performance criteria that I find matter when choosing wheels (see here).

Below, I share with you the conclusions I and my fellow evaluators reached after riding many of the best aero wheelsets you can use as racing bike wheels or for riding fast without needing to race. At the end, I also list the aero bike wheels we haven’t reviewed and why.

RATINGS AND REVIEWS OF AERO DISC BRAKE WHEELSETS

Aero wheelset comparison ratings

 

Best Performer

ENVE SES 5.6 DISC – A STANDOUT DISC BRAKE AERO AND ALL-AROUND WHEELSET

For a wheelset that was first introduced in 2016, the ENVE 5.6 disc still stands apart from the competition.

It’s not just the design characteristics that make it distinct, most notably the different front and rear rim depths, widths, and shapes. Rather, it’s the performance the design attempts to deliver that separates this wheelset on the road from others in the aero wheelset category with rims that go 55-65mm deep.

Conventional thinking about wheelsets (or at least the way I’ve always thought about them) is that there are low profile wheels, all-around wheels, aero wheels, and deep aero wheels.

All-around wheels, as the name suggests, should do a bit of everything. While not optimized for any single type of riding, the best are light enough for climbing, aero enough for fast riding, and stiff enough for quick acceleration. They are typically the best choice when you’ll be in the saddle for hours at a time riding a mix of flats, rollers, and climbs. Nimble, precise handling is a hallmark of all-around wheels and crosswinds are either not an issue or easily managed.

Conversely, aero wheels have typically been those we road cycling enthusiasts want when riding and maintaining speeds in the mid 20mph range (high 30kph range) is our priority above all else. While dedicated time trialists and triathletes might ride an 80mm or so deep aero wheelset or rear wheel, roadies go for 55-65mm aero wheels when most of what we ride is flat, straight, doesn’t involve a lot of big speed changes or accelerations, and lasts for no more than a couple of hours.

Good handling is a bonus for aero wheels. Since the rides are relatively short, comfort is nice but not a priority. Crosswinds and climbs are to be avoided.

Unique in our experience testing aero wheels, the ENVE 5.6 disc rides almost like a blend of the best performance characteristics of wheelsets in both the all-around and aero categories. The parallel that comes to mind is what’s happening more recently with bikes that are combining an aero bike’s speed, road racing bike’s responsiveness, climbing bike’s weight, and endurance bike’s comfort into one bike that delivers all of that performance.

This ENVE 5.6 disc is as stiff as the best of the road disc wheels we’ve tested in the aero or all-around wheelset categories. Its responsiveness and acceleration are unmatched by most others in the aero test group and on par with the best in the all-around field.

While most aero wheels demand the kind of effort that convinces you to bring them up to speed gradually, you can sprint up these snappy ENVE 5.6 discs without feeling like you are burning through your limited number of matches.

These wheels also climb like champs, a level above other aero wheelsets we’ve reviewed and on par with the best all-around ones. Nate, my fellow tester with serious climbing palmares, noted this strength. Road racing tester Miles took it a step further saying they turned his Giant Propel aero bike into a capable climbing one going up a long, New Hampshire ascent that topped out at 14%.

ENVE 5.6 Disc

Miles’ aero bike rides like a climbing one going up steep hills with the ENVE 5.6 disc wheels

The ENVE 5.6 disc handles as well as any of the aero wheels we’ve tested. Miles railed corners at high speeds with them and said he could often put in gaps to other riders during turns. He was also “totally confident diving these wheels into hairpin downhill turns.”

Though these wheels are easy to bring up to speed, holding that speed is one of the few places they are average compared to their deeper, heavier aero wheelset competitors.

Crosswinds are not an issue for the ENVE 5.6 disc. Their comfort is better than most, making 3-hour rides easy assuming your fitness also supports that long and fast a ride.

For those of us who take a close look at specs, this wheelset’s actual weight (1576g) stands out against other aero wheels with all but the Reynolds Aero65 DB (1611g) measuring between 75 and over 200 grams more. But, the Reynolds rims alone weigh 100 grams more than those on these ENVEs.

While the ENVE 5.6’s lighter weight may help you on climbs, that along with a 3-10mm shallower front wheel than others in the aero category may owe to its more average ability to maintain your speed. It’s not subpar but it’s also not up there with the best.

The finish on this wheelset and most ENVE wheels I’ve tested is a little disappointing. ENVE doesn’t use paint in their rims and the powdered curing agent they use in the resin can pool in spots near the surface of the rim during the molding process. When this happens, you’ll see some white markings when looking closely, typically along the spoke edge. They can become more pronounced over time.

It’s never been a big enough issue that I wouldn’t recommend ENVE wheels and I wouldn’t think it has any effect on their performance. ENVE replaced one set of wheels I bought where I thought the marks were particularly pronounced and they handled it professionally.

We tested the 5.6 disc with ENVE’s alloy hub, one that uses Mavic’s Instant Drive 360 internals. It’s a similar ratchet design to the DT Swiss 240 hub and engages well, spins smoothly, freehubs with a moderate amount of noise, requires next to no maintenance, and at $2550, is the lowest-priced option. ENVE also offers these wheels with Chris King R45 alloy and ceramic bearing hubs or I9 Torch ones, all of which make the wheelset marginally heavier and significantly more expensive than with the ENVE hub.

If you’re looking for a wheelset to help you in time trials, flat crits, or flat solo and group rides, a more traditional design aero wheelset may be better for you. But if you are an enthusiast who wants to ride fast all day, spinning up quickly from a variety of speeds, on all grades of terrain, handling precisely through corners and switchbacks, the ENVE 5.6 disc stands alone in being able to do all of that.

You can find the ENVE 5.6 disc, or more properly the ENVE SES 5.6 Disc Carbon Fiber Wheelset through these links to the wheelset’s page at my recommended stores Competitive Cyclist, Performance Bike, Merlin, and Sigma Sports..

 

Best Value

ENVE 65 – AN AERO FOUNDATION

If you’re not all-in on aero but want some aero benefits, the ENVE 65 wheelset provides a solid foundation for aero riding without making a maximal investment. For that reason, I recommend it as the Best Value for disc brake aero wheelsets.

What is all in? Aero frame, aero components, aero kit, 23-25mph/37-40kph, TT and crit racers, where every bike length matters.

What is want some aero benefits? Race bike, aero aware, 20mph/32kph and up, fast group rides, occasional races, where going fast on flats and gently rolling terrain matters.

Most aero wheelsets, the ENVE SES 5.6 disc wheels being an exception aren’t versatile enough to ride on all terrain. But on the right terrain and in the right riding situations, the best aero wheels make a decisive speed difference when compared to shallower, all-around ones.

ENVE 65 aero wheelsIf you want the benefits of the best aero wheelset performance but can’t quite justify the investment, the ENVE 65 will get you close and for a lot less. At $1750/£1850/2200 for the ENVE 65, that’s $800/£950/1100  less than my best-rated aero road disc wheelset performers.

The ENVE 65 is as stiff and compliant as the best. That’s a great combination to have in any wheelset, one that other aero and all-around wheelsets I’ve ridden priced in the same range as the ENVE 65 almost never pull off.

Aero performance is, obviously, the critically important measure of an aero wheelset. While we can’t test them in a wind tunnel, I and my fellow testers Nate and Miles can and have judged and compared several indicators of aero performance across the range of wheelsets we’ve ridden. And on those indicators, The ENVE 65 is on par with the average higher-priced aero wheelset though slightly off the pace of the best.

Specifically, the ENVE 65 holds its momentum well once at aero speeds though not as well as the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6, Reynolds Blacklabel Aero 65DB or Roval CLX 64. It also holds its own or, perhaps better said, holds you reasonably close to your line in crosswinds, something that most >$2000 wheelsets do these days and just the aero wheelset category’s Best Performers ENVE 5.6 and Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 do better in our experience.

The ENVE 65’s 28.3mm outside rim is wider than the tire per my measurements with the ENVE hookless rim compatible and approved/recommended 25mm Schwalbe Pro One TLE, Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 11Storm, and 26mm Specialized S-Works Turbo RapidAir tubeless tires.

Acceleration, handling, and climbing performance are on par with the average aero disc wheelset in this review but off the pace of the best performers. Whether those performance differences would be noticeable in a flat to rolling TT or crit is debatable. They would if you were to take them on hillier terrain or races with more demanding cornering.

As with the ENVE SES 5.6 option we tested, the 65 uses the same ENVE Alloy hub internals. They engage and roll very well on the road and emit a low-frequency, hollow sound. The 65 uses the Foundation hub shell, only 6 grams heavier than the one on the 5.6 which is milled in such a way to allow for its paired spoke lacing. You can also order the ENVE 65 with a distinctively louder Industry Nine hub if that’s your preference.

So how do the aero category’s Best Performers ENVE 5.6 and Bontrager XXX 6 differ from the Best Value ENVE 65 and is that performance enough to justify the price difference?

The ENVE 5.6 is more responsive and versatile, a better handler, and less affected by the crosswinds. I can ride the 5.6 confidently as a very fast, everyday wheelset on any combination of flats, rollers, and climbs either riding solo or in a collegially competitive group ride. Fellow testers Miles and Nate would choose the 5.6 ahead of the rest for a road race on anything with a sustained 7%+ grade hill or three in the course profile.

While it takes longer up to speed, the ENVE 65 is a touch faster at full throttle than the 5.6 and would be the better choice for a flattish solo outing, bullet train group ride, or sprint finish race. Its wider internal, hookless rims, more basic layup, and standard spoke lacing might be what makes it a bit more compliant if less snappy than the 5.6 at the same tire pressure.

Though not as refined, the ENVE 65 has a more similar performance feel to the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 than ENVE 5.6. The XXX 6 is faster, quicker, handles better, and is less moved by the crosswinds. But the 65 and XXX6 are both focused on raw speed, are best on the flatter rides and crit races with only small or short rollers.

The choice is up to your aero performance id and cycling budget ego to resolve.

You can order the ENVE 65 wheelset at my top-rated stores using these links to Competitive Cyclist in the US and Canada and Sigma Sports and Merlin in the UK, EU, and elsewhere.

Join KNOW'S CLUB - GET MORE VALUE FROM IN THE KNOW CYCLING

BREAKAWAY membership – Be the first to see reviews

  • Get 7-day advance notice of newly published and updated reviews
  • US$29/year

PACESETTER membership – Help choose what we review

  • Nominate and vote on wheelsets and other gear for review 4x/year
  • Includes all BREAKAWAY member benefits
  • US$59/year

LEADER membership – Get personalized product recommendations

  • Get Steve’s recommendation on wheelsets and gear for your situation
  • Includes all PACESETTER AND BREAKAWAY member benefits
  • US$199/year

Best Performance-Price Combination

ZIPP 404 FIRECREST – PERFORMANCE FOR LESS

While you can find better-performing wheels and lower-priced ones than the new Zipp 404 Firecrest Tubeless Disc Brake, it’s the performance-price combination that makes this wheelset stand out.

As road disc wheels move into what I’ve identified as their 4th generation, it’s become harder to apply the traditional climber, aero, all-around, etc. labels to describe what type of terrain a wheelset performs best on or what type of rider it would be best suited for.

The latest generation Zipp 404 Firecrest is fast on the flats like its predecessors and as you would expect any wheelset with its 58mm rim depth should.

But, it also climbs and rides across rolling terrain better than most wheelsets this deep and as good as many 10mm to 15mm shallower. Add to that its ability to hold its line well in crosswinds, a welcome performance characteristic whether going all out on an exposed flat road or a fast downhill after a good mountain climb.

No, the Zipp 404 Firecrest is not the all-everything wheelset that I and my fellow testers fell madly in love with riding the Zipp 454 NSW. But the 404 is less than half the price of its US$4000/£3200/€3600 upper-crust, heart-throb sibling.

Nor is it quite the performer or as expensive as the snappier, smoother riding ENVE SES 5.6, a US$2550/£2800/€3300 beauty that is also one of the best on flats, rollers, and shorter climbs.

But if you want an aero wheelset that performs as well or better than most on a wide range of road terrain at a price less than many that are best over a narrower range, the Zipp 404 Firecrest is there for you.

As with any wheelset with a deep rim that’s intended for speed, you don’t want to go out and reduce your aero performance by putting a 28mm wide tire on the Zipp 404 Firecrest’s front wheel instead of a 25mm one if you don’t have to. You already get improved comfort and handling thanks to the 404’s added volume and straighter tire sidewalls coming from its 23mm inside width, hookless rims.

Note: If you weigh more than 175 lbs, you are better off going with a 28C tire. The recommended inflation pressure for your weight and a 25C tire would put you above the recommended inflation pressure for this rim (74psi).

While not the plushest or best handling wheels on the block, my fellow tester Miles and I found it’s plenty comfortable enough and handles just fine with our top-rated 25mm wide Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite and Schwalbe Pro One TLE tires that we tested on this wheelset. (The discontinued Zipp tires you see in the photos were used only to soothe my aesthetic sensibilities.)

For the Zipp 404 Firecrest, your tires need to be both tubeless and hookless compatible. And if you are partial to riding 28mm rubber, you can be both aero and comfortable if you are willing to work with me. Put a 25mm tire on the front wheel where aero performance is crucial and a wider tire adds little extra comfort. Then mount up a 28mm on the rear where aero is less decisive and you’ll feel the comfort of a wider tire more.

Zipp 404 Firecrest

Unlike the hubs used on the Zipp 454 NSW or ENVE SES 5.6 and many other performance-carbon wheelsets these days, the ZR1 freehubs used on the Zipp 303 and 404 Firecrest wheels are loud. They’re just as audible but not as rich sounding as the Chris King or even the Industry Nine hubs you can select or build into some wheelsets.

The freehub noise Miles and I heard may be beautiful music to your ears. Just know that you can’t coast in the wheels of your group ride mates or a competitive race peloton with 404s rolling underneath you without being noticed and likely encouraged to take more than your share of pulls or be more easily marked if you try a breakaway.

But the way this US$2025/£1600/€1930 wheelset performs, your buds may think you’re riding a more expensive set. And with how well you move across all pitches of paved roads, they may think you are fitter than you may actually be.

With the Zipp 404 Firecrest’s performance and its 1521 gram weight per my scale, it’s hard to see a reason to buy a 10-15mm shallower, more typical 40-50mm deep wheelset for so-called all-around riding. The latest Zipp 303 Firecrest falls in that depth range but my experience suggests it’s better for very hilly terrain and mountain road climbs as an all-arounder.

Certainly, it’s not a budget wheelset. There are many available from established and new brands that sell for less. But the Zipp 404 Firecrest clearly outperforms all of those we’ve tested in that price range and that performance, in my humble opinion, justifies the added spend.

In our experience, this is a wheelset that performs comparably to or better than many aero or all-around ones that cost more and can do so across a mix of terrain that few more expensive wheelsets can.

You can order the Zipp 404 Firecrest wheelset using these links to Competitive Cyclist in the US or at UK stores Sigma Sports and Bike-Components .

 

BONTRAGER RSL 62 – TRUE AERO WHEELS WITH A FEW TWISTS

The Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62 performs best as traditional aero wheels.

Go fast, as in at least 20mph/32kph and probably a lot faster, or cruise around at a tempo pace and be happy.

Stay on flat and rolling terrain, and don’t expect much help from them on climbs.

Use stiffness to your advantage in crits and sprints, but don’t expect rim weight or hub engagement to help you.

Be sensitive to tire choice and pressure, but not about wheelset acoustics or aesthetics.

Unlike the ENVE 5.6 and Zipp 404 Firecrest which are versatile aero wheelsets with a range of strengths that can be applied in a variety of situations, the Bontrager RSL 62 seems to operate best in the aero lane as do most of the other wheelsets in this comparative review.

My fellow testers Nate and Miles rode the RSL 62 and reached some similar and different opinions about them, in part owing to preferences and styles.

Nate rode them first and took a bit of time to get them settled in and adapt to some of the newer aspects of these aero Bontragers. The rear wheel emitted some clicking sounds initially, my guess due to spoke or nipple tensioning issues but that disappeared after a few rides.

Nate and Miles also found the DT Swiss 240 EXP freehub on the RSL 62 quite loud when coasting, something we all experienced riding this same, new hubset on the RSL 51 and a few other wheelsets earlier this year but not to the level of what they heard on the RSL 62.

More significantly, tire pressure, and perhaps tire selection, seemed to affect how well the RSL 62 carried the wheels’ momentum on the road.

The RSL 62’s 23mm internal and 31mm external width on these hooked rims keep most 28mm tubeless tires narrower than the rim for optimum aero performance. Yet at the suggested tire pressure where Nate rode the Bontrager R3 Hard-Case Lite tubeless tires I mounted to these wheels, he was underwhelmed by their cruising speed in the fast group rides he leads.

Miles, perhaps due to his inveterate racer’s mindset, pumped the tires up above the suggested level and found more speed and good maintenance of his momentum once well into the aero speed realm (22mph/35kph).

Both agreed the Bontrager RSL 62 cut through direct and crosswinds without any issue. And despite their slightly different tire inflation approaches, both also enjoyed comfortable rides with great handling on the wide wheel and tire combination.

Stiffness is another strength of the RSL 62. Miles was able to translate that characteristic into sprints where it seemed to him that every watt he put down translated to the wheels that also held the bike right on his line.

Yet neither Nate nor Miles felt the wheelset’s stiffness translated to better than average acceleration and noticed the added effort to take these relatively light wheels (1539 grams with tape but no valves) up even 5% gradient hills.

The RSL 62 are best-ridden fast and probably raced on flat and rolling terrain. Bontrager makes the RSL 51 for more versatile, all-around riding and the RSL 37 for climbing in the mountains.

Selling for US$2700/£2100/€2500, you can order the RSL 62 direct from the Bontrager site.

 

REYNOLDS BLACKLABEL AERO 65 DB – STIFF, FAST GLIDERS

If you are looking at aero wheels like the Reynolds Blacklabel Aero 65 DB, you should be all about going fast. You likely race and may even live to do so. But you certainly have speed as your top priority and there’s nothing else in your top 5.

You’re probably doing the whole aero thing – an aero bike, aero position, aero road helmet, racing kit, shaved legs, etc., etc. You don’t much care about things that don’t matter when it’s all about going fast for you. Things like comfort, climbing, even the occasional crosswind are distractions at best.

If that doesn’t describe what you are looking for, you’re in the wrong aisle (or wrong review).

If it does, come a little closer and let me tell you about this Blacklabel Aero 65 DB wheelset from Reynolds.

Reynolds Aero 65 DB

Bottom line, this is a stiff, fast wheelset. My fellow tester Miles, a P/1/2 crit and road racer who finishes top 10 in his age group at the US Masters Nationals reported that “once in a full sprint, these wheels just simply fly.”

Riding the Aero 65 DB wheelset enabled him to snap a bunch of sprint-oriented Strava KOMs and make his Giant Propel Advanced SL Disc go about as fast as he thinks it can.

Speed comes from a stiff wheelset that responds when you tell it to go with rims that cut through the air on smooth-rolling hubs. That’s the make-up of this wheelset.

The Blacklabel Aero 65 DB uses i9 hubs. They’re louder than most but engage quickly and roll easily. The rims have a V-shaped profile with internal spoke nipples that trades-off crosswind performance and easy spoke tensioning adjustment for straight-ahead lift.

Remember, it’s about the speed with this wheelset. If loud hubs and the need to keep both hands on the bars in the crosswinds isn’t for you, neither are these wheels. They also aren’t the most comfortable wheels at the 75-80psi that Miles rode them at or the 60psi that I did on Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL tires that mounted easily but took a few iterations to seal and hold air.

For these Reynolds wheels, it’s not just about going fast in a sprint or straight line. Both Miles and I experienced the momentum the Aero 65 DB gave us to quickly punch the kind of 100 meter climbs up to about 10% you’ll often find on circuit races. We were also impressed with how well their aerodynamics assisted on extended climbs up to a 5% grade.

Oh, and they corner very well at speed too. While crits and road races are only a dream in the age of Coronavirus when we tested these wheels, Miles reported he “was able to confidently whip through some corners at around 30mph” in his non-race testing.

I don’t often ride that fast even on a straight but, when I do, I felt the sensation of gliding along at such pace and with such ease that I could block out the stresses of life around me.

If you’re all about going fast and doing crits and rolling road races and time trials – and everything else be damned – you should consider the Reynolds Blacklabel Aero 65 DB. At US$2300/£1800/€2160 it is also competitively priced among others in the aero wheelset category.

You can get it through this link to Competitive Cyclist, one of my top-ranked stores, and at others I recommend for their low prices and high customer satisfaction ratings by clicking on this pre-sorted link to Knows Shop.

 

WHEELSETS WE’D LIKE TO REVIEW NEXT

Full Priced Carbon

Campagnolo Bora WTO 60 – I’ve not been able to get a hold of one yet to test. If I do, I’ll add it to this review. (link to Know’s Shop).

DT Swiss ARC 1100 Dicut DB 62 Another one I’m hoping to test. The rims are designed by Swiss Side, made by DT Swiss, and use DT’s 240 hubs and Aerolite spokes. The wheels are typically discounted from their original high asking price to bring them in just under some of those I’ve reviewed above.

HED Vanquish RC6 – Chalk this up in the column of haven’t but hope to ride it soon. I’ve tested the Vanquish 4 (read the review here) and hope to ride the Vanquish 6 at some point. If you can’t wait, you are in good company and can follow this link to Know’s Shop to buy it online at stores I recommend.

Value Carbon

Many brands sell 55mm and deeper wheelsets in the $1000-$1500 range. I’ve been digging into the broader group of wheelsets I call “value carbon” in a multi-part examination and set of reviews starting with my post The Best Carbon Wheelset for the Money.

While that post focuses on 40mm – 50mm all-around value carbon wheelsets, many of the same companies also sell deeper wheels at similar prices. I believe much of what I’ve found in my research for that review extends to those selling aero bike wheels.

It’s a broad generalization but from what I’m finding so far, the saying that you get what you pay for appears to hold true among value carbon wheels. The question we roadies each have to ask ourselves is whether we need all that the full-priced wheels provide.

There are 10,000 words about this in the post I linked you to above so I’ll stop here and encourage you to go there if you are interested in reading more.

* * * * *

Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think of anything I’ve written or ask any questions you might have in the comment section below.

If you’ve benefited from reading this review and want to keep new ones coming, buy your gear and kit after clicking the store links in this review and others across the site. When you do, we may earn an affiliate commission that will help me cover the expenses to create and publish more ad-free, subscription-free, and reader-supported reviews that are independent, comprehensive, and comparative.

If you prefer to buy at other stores, you can still support the site by contributing here or by buying anything through these links to eBay and Amazon.

You can use the popup form or the one at the bottom of the sidebar to get notified when new posts come out. To see what gear and kit we’re testing or have just reviewed, follow us by clicking on the links below or the icons at the top of the page to go to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and RSS pages.

Thanks and enjoy your rides safely! Cheers, Steve

Follow us on facebook.com/itkcycling | twitter.com/ITKCycling | instagram.com/itkcycling

First published on April 23, 2019. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.

121 comments

  • Hi Steve! Great review…spot on! My take on the Roval 64s is exactly as yours. This confirms my credibility on all your reviews. Keep up the great honest work!

    • Rasssssp….I have set of Roval CLX50’s on my madone 9…and they were initially the cause of serious issues.
      Very funny story will follow. After just getting them I used them in a criterium heading for first(not a word of a lie) the front of the bike started to wobble. I had to back off it was scary. This happened when gunning it in training and in few more races….I thought it was my set up or some sort of oscillation issue causing the bike to shimmer. The Trek shop pointed the set up out and the commission salesman got me to change my set up by swapping out the integrated bar/stem to another that was shorter at a cost of $1000. Problem solved..Nope.
      A bit of investigation via youtube and Google had my buy a Silca Speed balance kit for $60. Once i got the weight balance sorted….these wheels transformed and morphed into a different thing altogether.
      The brake tracks are average, and in the wet very shoddy. But the wet never bothers me as I don’t ride in it. I do get a tad of flex out of the saddle up hill doing efforts…
      But these are now a very compliant wheel, and they handle. I raced them on Goat Tracks crits and in Criteriums held on motor racing circuits. Their lightness makes for snappy acceleration. I can hit 1450-1500 watts in a sprint. Im not the worlds fastest, but its enough to test a set of wheels. On the flat i don’t get flex that is noticed. The hubs are really nice. I have Chris Kings on my Enve’s. I have other wheels i use regularly to compare against.

      I have Bontrager & Enve wheels. Did have 4.5’s. I have 7.8’s on my TT bike. I have the XXX4 on a Madone SLR. They are stiff that’s for sure. I put the Speedbalance kit on these too.
      It should be noted that the Enve’s don’t need balance kits. That’s because I think they add weights to where the bladder is removed from the rim opposite side of the valve hole.

      I have lots of bikes and bits, no allegiances. I just love bikes. When reading this I thought Mmmma bit hard on the Rovals. I cant say they are as good as the Enves or others, but if retested with a balance kit on….they may get a bit more love. I have no problems with them. I prefer them on two crit circuits that are Goat tracks over my Bontragers.

      My point is that a lot of Wheel manufactures don’t send product out balanced. If you balance unbalanced wheels…..there is a noticeable difference in how they ride. The Roval balancing out of the box is atrocious.

  • I’m surprised to read your findings on the Roval CLX 64’s. Coming of a pair of handbuilt Enve 4.5 G2 (from StradaWheels which do very nice work) I most certainly know how a reference wheel should ride – flawless with no flex. Now although I don’t have the 64’s, I do have the CLX 50’s (on S-works Tarmac SL6) and I can honestly report that wheelset rides very much like my old custom build 4.5’s. So kinda odd there’s such a big difference between those 2 wheelsets…?!

    In addition, I’m riding tubeless with a pair of 28 mm S-works turbos. It took me 2×10 minutes to install without any fuzz. I used Schwalbes tire blaster to fit the tire – succes on first short front and rear without any extra. Added the milch, span the wheels, installed and gone. Zero issues to date (14 days now). It was very easy…

    I’m not a Spesh fanboy – at all – but I do like to highlight products that just works. And the CLX 50’s are very well made. So maybe sonething was wrong with the pair you borrowed? For what it’s worth, I did send my Enve’s to a rebuild since they out of the factory was so soft they did rub the brake pads constantly. After the rebuild the issue was gone. So soft wheels can also happen to them too… Just saying

    • Thomas, not sure what to tell you. We evaluated different models of Roval and ENVE than what you’ve ridden so maybe that’s part of it. Also, ours came from the company rather than a wheelbuilder. Glad to hear your tubeless install went well. I’m not the only reviewer to report issues with the Roval tubeless install. In one review, Roval spoke to some issues they had with plugs they use instead of tape. Perhaps they’ve straightened that out for your new CLX 50s. Cheers, Steve

  • Great review as always Steve and very easy to follow. Thank you for continuing to educate all of us. What are the key differences between Aeolus xxx and Pro series. What will you loose by going with the Pro vs XXX.

    • Ahmed, The Pro series uses the last generation Aeolus rim molds, with a lesser carbon, a heavier and lesser performing hubset, all (versus some) made and assembled in Asia, for about $900 less. I’m evaluating the Pro 5 db wheelset now and performance – especially responsiveness, acceleration, comfort – not anywhere near the same level as the XXX4 or XXX6 I reviewed recently. Stiffness on par. Braking on the last gen rim brake Aeolus wheelset was subpar whereas the current XXX generation braking is excellent. Steve

  • Hi Steve, thanks for your articles! I have read the Trek white paper and separate reviews for the XXX wheels, but you and your team appear to be the only ones on the web who have actually ridden and reviewed both the XXX 4 and XXX 6 wheels. My riding profile is similar to yours described in the article, so I’d like to hear your opinions for choosing between them for use as an every-day-wheel. Did you feel significant differences between them for: aero/speed, cross wind stability, responsiveness, or “overall joy to ride” that would make one a clear choice? Or, did you feel it is down to a matter of preference with small differences?

    • Hi Peter, Thanks for the feedback. The XXX 6 and XXX 4 (and the XXX 2, which we also rode and reviewed) are different on the characteristics you mention. The XXX 6 are faster than the XXX 4 but the XX4 are clearly better in the crosswinds and in their responsiveness. For the kind of riding I do, I much prefer the XXX 4 to the 6. If I were racing tris or TTs or riding a lot of flatter terrain, I might prefer the sheer speed of the XXX 6. Steve.

      Help keep our reviews free of ads and bias by buying your gear through links on the site. Thank you

  • Hi, Steve,
    Do you know if there are many differences between Cycleops PowerTap Carbon Enve G3 46 mm and ENVE SES 4.5?
    I think in first case they are older model and using same profile 45 (or 46) in both wheels instead of combine 56/48. But, aparting from that, could behaviour and quality be very different than ENVE SES 4.5 you tested some time ago?
    Thanks for all the effort maintaining this website with high quality content.
    Kind regards,
    G

    • Gustavo, probably very different. The ENVE 45 is three or four generation old wheelset. ENVE brought in a new engineering team to design the SES 4.5 and its updates so its aero performance, braking, width/comfort, etc. are all different. With a different hub, the stiffness is probably different as well as the G3 hubs have a reputation for not adding much stiffness to the hub-rim-spoke mix. It’s also quite an old hub and Powertap was recently sold as Cycleops wasn’t putting any development money into the hub power meter platform instead focusing on the pedals and not too successfully I might add. And ENVE also developed the SES 5.6 as an update on the SES 4.5. So while I’ve never ridden the wheelset, I’d expect its a lot different, and probably not in a good way compared to the SES 4.5 and other, newer wheelsets that I’ve reviewed here. Steve

      • Thanks, Steve. You stated G3 hubs could be a disadvantadge. I saw there is a SES 4.5 version with Powertap G3 hub. Are the comments the same that for ENVE 45 or in this case hub could be more reliable because they are newer? Do you know which generation could be Powertap G3 ENVE SES 4.5? (I asked in one shop and they said they were tubeless ready, but couldn’t confirm the same information in the web…)

        • Gustavo, Sounds like you are getting bad info from whatever shops or sellers you are talking to. Beyond what I’ve already commented on above, here’s what you need to know to make a good decision.
          – The ENVE SES 4.5 rim brake wheelset is not tubeless ready. Never has been and likely never will. ENVE is not doing any new development on that wheelset, having moved on to the 5.6 as its successor
          – Powertap was doing development on a G4 but stopped it last fall when its parent Cyclops started looking for a buyer for the business
          – SRAM bought Powertap from Cyclops and will integrate into their Quarq power meter business
          – Quarq may resume development of the G4 but not likely until after they revamp the overweight, disposable battery operated Powertap pedal system which was the main reason they bought the business.
          – ENVE SES 4.5 wheelsets with G3 hubs are made by independent wheel builders. Each independent wheel builder builds to their own standards so there is no way for me to evaluate how good a build it is. The rims and hubs are knowns. How they are built could affect their performance, good or bad.

          I don’t see a lot of good reasons to buy a hub-based powermeter on a last generation wheelset unless you can get it at half the price of what a current wheelset with a more versatile crank or pedal based power meter. You are making too many performance and usability sacrifices and adding in a few unknowns. You’ve got my recommendations on wheelsets in the review above. You can read my review and recommendations of power meters by clicking this link here. Steve

          Help keep comments and reviews free of ads and bias by buying your gear through links on the site

          • I can get ENVE SES 4.5 with G3 hub for 2000 dollars, but maybe if it’s a big risk with the unknowns you flagged.

            Thanks for all the information.

  • Hi Steve, I have learned a lot from your website about selecting wheels based on one’s own profile and different priorities to ride fast. Thank you!

    In the Best Carbon Disc Wheelset article, you chose Enve 4.5 AR as All Around Best Performer and 3.4 as an all around + climber. Since 4.5 and 5.6 weigh very similarly in the 1550g range, how would you compare 5.6 vs 4.5 AR for climbing? Also, while you stated that 5.6 handles crosswind excellently, I understand that as compared against wheels of 55-65mm. Would crosswind handling of 5.6 be comparable to that of 3.4 disc?

    I am asking these questions since I live in the SF Bay Area where climbs often exceed 7-8%. I am riding 3.4 disc and definitely enjoy climbing on them, but I’m also lured by the aero advantage offered by 5.6 on flats (but 5.6 will not climb so well), so I am weighing the trade off between the two. Would love to hear your comments on this. Thanks!

    • Mark, The 5.6 doesn’t climb as well as the 3.4. You’ll notice the difference with all the climbing you do around SF. They both handle crosswinds well but if it is really blowing, I’d want the 3.4 underneath me for anything over 20mph of crosswind. If you are riding or racing in a flatter area (Palo Alto?), you’ll definitely notice the speed difference of the 5.6 for the same amount of power output. Steve

      You can click here to link to Know’s Shop for the ENVE SES 5.6 to compare prices and order online from stores I recommend because they have the best prices, customer satisfaction records, and support for this site and our readers with the best deals.

      • Thanks Steve for your comments! Almost every ride I do has some steep climbing, plus crosswinds are quite frequent. With your comments in mind, I probably will just stick with my 3.4. Thank you!

  • Nice review.

    May I know the Enve 5.6 you tested, is Chris King ceramic or steel bearing?

    • Peak Cake, The ENVE SES 5.6 rim brake wheels I tested only comes from ENVE with the Chris King R45 hub w/steel bearings. That’s the one we tested. The ENVE SES 5.6 disc brake wheels only come with the R45 CL hub w/ceramic bearings. Steve

      You can click here to link to Know’s Shop for the ENVE SES 5.6 to compare prices and order online from stores I recommend because they have the best prices, customer satisfaction records, and support for this site and our readers with the best deals.

  • Hey Mate, currently run black inc 50’s disc and had the 3.4 rim brake on the previous bike. Both run ceramic bearings and both great wheelsets however found the Enve incredible for everything here and wanted something a little more aero. Got the 50’s and found them not as comfortable and a little prone to wind on the fast descents here (V shape) and it’s a little unsettling. I’m based in Mexico City most of the year so plenty of climbing but also in Melbourne, Australia and eventually back there and so (as you mentioned) it’s reasonably flat and rolling. Getting to brass tacks – I want to feel that comfort and performance again from the Envés esp in tubeless format. What would you be picking here? 3.4 discs or the 5.6? Yes, this is probably the longest comment in history but really value your opinion.

    • Denver, I evaluated the rim brake version of the SES 5.6 wheelset so can’t say for sure on the disc brake one but would expect it would be faster/more aero back in Melbourne than the 3.4 with much the same comfort if you ride it tubeless. Steve

      Help keep comments and reviews free of ads and bias by buying your gear through links on the site

  • I’ve just found your site and it is wonderful, thank you for all your efforts. I wondered if you have any experience or thoughts on the new Campy Bora WTO 45 wheels? Thank you in advance.

  • Nice to read a comprehensive and thorough overview of more than just one or two sets of wheels and without apparent manufacturer influence. I especially appreciated the detail in the differences between the Enve 5.6 and Bontrager XXX6. Waiting with bated breath for thoughts on the Bora WTO 60s, whose performance I’ve found puzzling (personal experience). Nice work!

    • Thanks Bob. I’m still working on getting the new Campy Bora in for testing. But now you’ve got my curiosity up 🙂 What are you finding with the WTO 60? Do tell! Steve

  • OK, here it is: Disclaimer – I am a total Campagnolo fanboy, especially of their wheels, which I have found without exception, to be the highest quality, most bomb-proof wheels I’ve ever ridden. They are built to perfection. I’ve owned neutrons, eurus, bora ultras (still have those), and now the bora WTO 60s. Because of my past experience with the brand, I did not hesitate to buy, sight unseen, the only set in the US (so I was told). BTW, switching these over to shimano/sram is an extremely simple operation, so one should not hesitate to get either campy or shimano freehub and just swap out as needed.

    What I found, running these on a 2019 Trek Madone SLR rimbrake frameset, 2 negatives: they get blown around a lot. I was surprised at this, and probably spoiled from running mainly Aeolus 5s for the past 4 years. OK, whatever; they’re deep section, to be expected I guess. More concerning: massive rear brake rub, even under moderate efforts. To the point where I said there’s just no way Kristoff is using these wheels like this. Granted, the madone rimbrakes don’t have a wide range of adjustment, but I had the brake pads as far away as I could get them and still get enough braking power to stop. I haven’t experienced this much brake rub in, actually, ever. Unacceptable; I’m sending back to Campagnolo to see if there’s a problem with the build, hopefully can find an acceptable resolution.

    On the plus side, the materials, the finish and overall appearance is typical campy: without peer. That’s all I got. Would love to see if there’s correlation from anyone out there.

    • Bob, Thanks for sharing your take on your Campagnolo WTO 60 wheelset though sorry to hear about their performance. I’ll try to get a hold of a set to test. Meanwhile, as you suggested, would be great to hear from other readers who have ridden the WTO 45 or 60. Steve

      • An update on my WTO 60 experience, and my conclusions vs. ENVE 5.6s: After a ton of back and forth between Campy USA, my LBO and me, I finally got the WTO 60s back in my possession to try them again with my Madone SLR, this time built up with a D/A 9100 group. Result: the WTO 60s no longer experienced the level of brake rub I noted with my campy chorus group. I think this was just a matter of being able to move the brake blocks far enough away without losing braking leverage at the lever. Another lesson in component compatibility, which seems to be much more a factor these days than “back in the day”. Things just are not as interchangeable as they used to be. OK, so end result is that I’m happy with the WTO 60s, they’re working as I would expect, which is to say, fast, smooth, and campy brilliant. THEN, I swapped back in some ENVE 5.6s (yes, I am wheely spoiled), and the difference was clear. The ENVEs were much more snappy, felt lighter, and ready to pounce. Like race wheels. I had previously weighed the WTO 60s at 1700g, the ENVEs are at least 100g lighter. Conclusion is that while the WTO 60s are typical campy – the most beautifully finished wheels you’ll ever own, with superb performance and an overbuilt manufacture, the ENVE 5.6s are staying in the Madone. They’re simply overall better wheels at going fast and racing.

    • I also experienced unacceptable flex with the Bora WTO wheels. I really couldn’t get the right braking performance if I moved the pads far enough away. I put my Bora One wheelset back on my bike and do not have any flex.

  • Noting your views on the CLX64, have you ridden the CLX32? Any views on those?

  • Steve, I switched from a 2007 S-Works Roubiax to a 2014 S-Works Roubaix Disc. I already am planning on getting the 2020 S-Works Roubaix Frame when they come out with a color that I like. I sold my Enve 3.4 with Chris King Hubs and my Zipp 404s because they where Rim brakes. I am now considering either the Enve 5.6 Disc with DT Swiss 240 hubs or the Roval CLX 50 Disc. I have no plans to tubeless. My biggest concern is having a wheel that is good on the flats, fairly easy to spin up and maitain speed, but not to much of a weight penality when climbing. What are your thoughts between the Enve 5.6 vs the Roval CLX 50? Thanks in advance.

    • Vince, I review the ENVE SES 5.6 above albeit in the rim brake version and the Roval CLX 50 disc here. Underwhelmed by the Roval, over the moon about the ENVE.Steve

  • Question about the Mavic Cometes – on the one hand these are described as + stiff, and on the other, slow to accelerate. I’m a heavy (210# +/-) rider, and wheel stiffness is a prime attribute for me.

    Are these challenged because they are heavy (which I won’t notice), or because they flex? Mavic, on SOME of their wheels, uses really, really thick spokes, which helps – but on others, not so much.

  • I’m very interested to see your test results for Campagnolo WTO wheels. The specs show them as lighter than competitors for similar size, and the Campys do not need a rim strip (I think), making the difference even greater, since the other guys never include rim strips in the weight specs. I think the WTO is finally a “modern” profile. Campy hubs are always fantastic.

  • Hi Steve,

    I’ve been reading your website for the last 2 years. I learned so much. Thank you so much for putting lots of effort in it. I have three questions for you. It’s kind of chicken and egg question. being Aero is more important than the weight of the wheel but when there is a decision time it’s hard to pull the trigger. Would you at least share your opinion so I can make a better selection. Here are my questions:

    [remainder of the message read but edited or deleted for brevity and relevance – Steve]

    1- If I pick [wheelset A, which I’ve not reviewed – Steve] with 23c tires, would it be dangerous to descend from mountains with these wheels? I am a very fast descender(40-50mph) but not a quick climber (166 lbs 5-7″ FTP 215) usually around 8-9 mph. I live in the Bay area, California.

    2. Which brings my second question. If you want to pick two similar wheels [A and B, neither of which I’ve reviewed – Steve] does little lower weight make any difference? I think [one] is more Aero than the other because the nipples are hidden.

    3.And my last question is, If you say [A] is too deep for climbing and descending because the front tire is thin and it’s too deep sections for sharp cornering, go with all 40mm wheels; which of the below you prefer the lightest or the AERO one?

    [Wheelsets A, B, and C, none of which I’ve reviewed – Steve]

    Thank you and I look forward to your answer even though I can not purchase these wheels from your website. But I refer your site to many of my friends who can benefit from it.

    • Cha-tie, As noted in your comment above, I edited it down to your essential questions rather than a choice between wheelsets that I haven’t reviewed.
      Answers here:
      1) Riders have been descending mountains very fast on 23c and narrower tires for years. Equipment helps but technique is paramount.
      2) Aero is more important than weight until you get up around 7% grade and obviously more important going downhill
      3) I don’t buy your premise that a wheel is too deep for climbing or descending based on the tire width and I haven’t evaluated the wheels you listed in your original comment.

      Thanks for your candor in noting that you are asking questions about wheels that you can’t buy through the site. You certainly aren’t obligated to support the web site. I try to answer all reasonable questions and comments without knowing whether you and others do. If you want to support the site, however, you can do so without buying anything cycling related using the links to Amazon, eBay or through a simple Paypal donation as noted in the GET MORE UNBIASED REVIEWS section in the sidebar of every page on the site.
      Steve

  • I am stucked at making a decision to pull the trigger on either ZIPP FC 404 with texture brake track or the WTO 60.
    The setback for the Zipp are internal is not 19mm and the wheelset is not tubeless ready. I been using 25mm GP5000 clincher. Thought of getting the WTO 60 as it is newer and the rear spoke layout is unique. I riding a Lynskey with full shimano R8050 di2 setup…Just cannot be seen to ride a shimano setup with a campy wheelset.

    Headache!!!!

    • PW, for $300 more than the Zipp FC and the same price as the Campy, you can get the ENVE 5.6, the rim brake wheelset I found to be the best performer. It’s also tubeless-ready, wider than either and brakes very well. Steve

  • Hello Steve,
    I am astounded by the work you put into this website! Great job…
    I have been reading a lot of your research into carbon wheelsets and also the article above on the best aero wheels. I have a question about a wheelset I didn’t see mentioned anywhere on your website and wondered if you have any experience with them to date.. they are the 3T Discus C45. I have recently bought myself the 3T strada due frame set and these wheels attracted me as they have a 25mm internal measurement. Any input you have would be very helpful!
    Thanks
    Taz

    • Taz, Unfortunately, I don’t know that wheelset. While I hope not to light a brushfire with this comment, I don’t think of 3T as a leading wheelset company. There are other companies making wheels similar to this one with a 25mm internal width and for a road and gravel purposes that I’m reviewing currently. All are from companies that have established wheelset innovation credentials. If this type of wheelset is of interest to you, please check back in June or sign up to receive email updates or to one of my social media accounts to see when the review is published. Steve

      • The wheels were developed by Gerard Vroomen one of the founders of Cervelo. He definitely knows a thing or two about aerodynamics and that’s why I wanted to consider them. Although, now I’m looking forward to your upcoming review of similar spec wheels in June so I’ll have some other options! Thanks again..

  • HI. Question about the Enve 5.6 wheelset you tested? Are they heavy to spin them up? Are you spending more time or energy to get them moving? I’m riding Cosmic Carbon SL UST w/rim brakes. They feel easy enough to get moving to me. Also I’m using an 11-28 with the Mavics. I’m going to drown to an 11-26. Would that ave much bearing on how the Enve 5.6 would feel? Maybe make them feel a little slower to get moving?

    Thanks
    Matt

    • Matt, No, didn’t find the ENVE 5.6 slow spinning up which to me means accelerating. Actually found them one of the snappier wheels, i.e. quick accelerating wheels I’ve ridden. As to your cassette choice, a 28 tooth cog will make climbing steep hills easier than a 26 but won’t affect acceleration. One thing that will make a wheelset feel harder to get moving is what gear ratio you have it started in. If you are starting your acceleration from a dead stop or slow pace in your 53 tooth ring and 11 tooth cog, it will feel harder to spin up than if you have it in a 50-11 or a 53-16. Steve

      • Hi Steve. They arrived today! They are impressive. The detail to the packing, accessories, decals…. to be honest I’ve wanted these for some time. So pardon the excitement. I was able to mount the Schwalbe Pro One TLE 25CM in less than one minute. Front and rear were both very easy. (I used a nice pair of soft work gloves to assist.). The bead seats with a floor pump/charger. I like to dry fit tubeless before using sealant and these lost 2psi of air over 10 minutes. Added Orange Sealant and we will see if there any leaks over night. All that I need to do now is install new cassette and chain later today. I’ll wait for the roads to dry a little and spin these up. Ill come back with my unbiased thoughts.

        • Well I’m at a loss. Rim brake, ceramic hub and bearings. Very light wheelS. These are fast. I’m getting used to them. The thing I have a hard time getting used to is this…. I feel lazy. I can keep up my efforts with less watts. So yeah its messing with me. I think you are going to get some speed with these. Spinning them up to 28mph is kind of effortless. The challenge is keeping them there. In all seriousness. These roll smooth. Brake better than the Mavic’s. And have lots of speed in store. Maybe you can get the same results with Zipp? Or HED? All I know is Enve does something pretty special.

          • Yeah, “keeping them there” is up to you or maybe their new ENVE Legs product is worth getting to go with your new wheels. Enjoy ’em.

      • Steve I am very interested in the new Roval Rapide clx wheelset. It is disc break only and not tubeless. 51 mm front depth and 21 internal with 35 mm external width. 60 mm rear , 21 mm internal and 30 mm external width. Will you be reviewing this. I have seen some first ride reviews of the new Tarmac Sl7 with these wheels, and the reviews for the wheelset were very Positive. Comfortable, 1400 grams. Very stable handling, Good in the crosswinds, aero and quick to spin up. What do you think?

        • Ed, Honestly, it’s a head-scratcher. Clincher only and a front rim width that won’t fit between some/many forks. That said, Specialized does some very forward-looking things and others just to get a lot of looks. They are able to make speed/aero claims about the new Tarmac SL7 that they wouldn’t without that wheelset. I remember them doing something like that a few years ago with a new Venge that included a wheelset that they never really promoted in the aftermarket and was replaced within a couple of years with the CLX series intended for that market. I’m not doubting this wheelset, I just don’t know whether it’s the future or a flash. I’ll watch it but don’t have any plans to test it. Steve

  • Hi, Steve

    Which one would you recommend the enve 5.6 disc or the reynolds aero 65 disc ?

    • Koh, We’re currently reviewing the disc brake models of the Roval CLX 64, Zipp 404 NSW, ENVE 5.6, and Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6 and will be better able to answer your question later this summer. Steve

  • Hi Steve. Thank you for the awesome reviews you put out. I noticed that Flo Cycling is offering some new wheels. I was intrigued by the Flo 77 AS Disc. Will you be reviewing it. I just finished building my triathlon bike and in search of some aero wheels. With races cancelled I have been using some basic shimano disc brakes wheels (RS770 I think) but now I am looking to upgrade. Thanks again for your great work.

  • Hi Steve,
    Have you managed to try Bora WTO 60-s? Any feedback you can share?

    Thanks for the great review 🙂
    Juhan

  • Excellent article. Yes, all these differences add up. When I switched from Zipp 303 to ENVE 4.5 SES, I gained 2 km/hr. 2 sumemrs later, I was at 3. How come? tens of thousands of kms on 303? well, simple: 303 are TOO SOFT and too AERO with TOO LOW ANGULAR MOMENTUM. I thought they were fast, but by 1990s standards.. First, the rears kept needing trueing every 2-3 months… ENVE? NONE IN # SUMMERS. even hitting bumps.. So internal spokes rule! Two the Zipps have AND ALWAYS SHALL yawww, S S S S every so gently. Never a straight line. Zipps behave like a wing foil, they WANT TO turn into wind.. Rider must ever so compensate… In a peloton one might notice it less, but cross winds and a low inertia make them oscillate. ENVES are ANCHORED, doing a V but the contact point traces a much much straighter line. Now, fatique is another factor. Hour 2 or 3 riding Zipps, constant adjustments fatigue. not ENVE. When I communicated the math and science to Zipp 303, no answer except ‘muffled’ NSW. BUT the NSW was only MARGINALLY better than the Firecrests, whereas ENVES crushed them. Now, clearly, DT SWISS rises the stakes with numbers slightly better than ENVE…

    Yes, I even had the Zipp rebuilt with Chris King and Sapim, atching the enve, they still yaw..

    In practical temrs, would you prefer a burst at 45 or 42 km/hr? syustain 50 for 1 km? 40 vs 38? 38 vs 36? As that is the difference that ENVE does. My next set for next bike, Disk, DT Swiss. But my ENVES will remain preserved on my current one.

  • Great review, best overview for wheels out there, thanks for the continuous effort.
    About the NSW 404 you write “ Miles is down with the front hub but experienced some serious issues with the rear during his testing.” This makes me curious as I own a NSW 303 wheelset with the same cognition hub. After riding them for about 2000km the rear hub developed some play when the magnetic ratchet engages. This increased until I had zero engagement! The crank would spin without resistance. Upon consulting with Zipp and having done the routine maintenance to the letter, the customer service told me to replace the Magnetic Ratchet. Not a cheap replacement? It’s about 200$ here in Japan. After another 1000km the issue is back. Any thoughts? The wheel is in for warranty check now.

    • Christoph, Bummer! I don’t have any experience with the issue you are dealing with. Warranty is definitely the right path to go on. They should stand behind this. Let me know how it goes. Steve

      • Hi Steve
        I have learned a lot with your blog/site.
        I will buy a Tarmac sl7 in a few days and i want your suggestions for whellsets.
        I need solution for mix cycling
        Some climbs and flat.
        DT Swiss Arc 1100 dicut 50’ ou Enve Ar Dic 4.5 ?
        I will prefer 28mm tyres.
        What is your opinion or other suggestions?
        Many thanks !

        • Paulo, Between those two, I recommend the ENVE (review here). However, I wouldn’t suggest you choose a wheelset based on tire preference or width. I’d also recommend you better define your rider profile, goals and budget (see here) to help you choose the best wheels for you. Steve

  • Steve,

    Curious if you have had a chance to try or have an opinion on the rim brake Fulcrum Racing Speed 40C‘s with the AAC braking. There are some good prices on them now and the depth and supposedly improved braking make them look like a good mid point between climbing with some aero.

    Thanks again.

    Chris.

    • Chris, I haven’t tested either the Speed 40C (rim brake) or 40 DB (disc) so don’t know how they ride. I’d categorize them shallow, narrow all-around wheels too heavy to be considered pure climbers. Steve

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.