Summary: All-around carbon road bike wheels provide you the versatility to perform well on most any type of road terrain and conditions you’ll ride. After testing and comparing the top models, I recommend the Zipp 303 NSW available at the best prices from my top-ranked stores here and here and the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 available here.

If you are looking to get a new set of carbon road bike wheels for your rim brake bike, you are going to want them to perform well on every measure. For what they will cost you, they better deliver a big improvement in performance over the carbon hoops you have now or transform your cycling experience if you’ve been riding stock or upgrade alloy wheels.

The best all-around carbon wheels are made with 40mm to 50 mm deep carbon fiber rims and should give you sustained aerodynamic benefits when you ride fast and make your climbing easier when you go up long, steep ascents. You’ll expect sure handling and easy rolling on everything from smooth pavement in calm weather to rough road surfaces or strong crosswinds.

They should be stiff, accelerate well, and be responsive enough to keep you competitive in group rides or road races, comfortable enough to ride on for hours and hours in an endurance event, and stop quickly and predictably on both dry and wet roads.

That’s a long list of requirements for a high-performance rim brake carbon clincher wheelset. To help you make an informed and confident decision about which wheels and stores will deliver for you, dig into my reviews below that tell you how the latest group of carbon bike wheels perform, what they cost, and how they compare.

Related: Looking for 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


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The performance of all-around carbon wheels has gotten better recently in four ways

I recommend two Best Performers in this category

Compare wheelset performance, prices, and specs for those I reviewed in one chart

Several other wheelsets provide good options you should consider


With each new generation of carbon bike wheels, there continue to be notable performance improvements. That’s especially the case for the all-around, rim brake, carbon clincher wheelset category that this review focuses on.

Five years ago, cyclists could make compelling arguments for and against the best carbon and best alloy wheels for all-around riding. With the developments since then, however, it’s now pretty hard to put up a credible argument in favor of alloy wheels on anything other than price.

The best carbon road bike wheels are clearly superior against all the key performance criteria.

Which performance characteristics separate out the best carbon road bike wheels from the rest? What developments have there been in recent years that have created this superior performance?

Here’s my short list of the most important ones.

1. Aero performance – Trend spotters go around saying things like “beige is the new black” or “comedy is the new rock’n’roll” or, the one I especially hate, “50 is the new 30”.

That last one, which I think means we’re all going to be working a lot longer, isn’t far numerically at least from what’s been going on with all-around carbon road bike wheels. Whereas the depth of wheels in the “all-around” category used to be 35-45mm, the best ones are now 40 or even 45 to 50mm deep. Deeper wheels are faster than shallower ones when you are riding at aero speeds. (This study is only the latest to reach this conclusion.)

And before you jump to the conclusion that deeper wheels are heavier, and therefore won’t climb as well, I will tell you that the best all-around carbon wheels aren’t any heavier than the 1500 gram +/-50 gram range than they were when I began tracking and updating this category in the mid-2010s.

Actually, these wheels are staying in this weight range while getting both deeper and wider. 19C and even 21C wheels are the new 17C, the “C” referring to the internal width in millimeters between the bead hooks of the rims of these wheels. The external widths have also increased to as much as 27mm and even 28mm across the brake tracks though many 17C wheels are still in the 24-25mm external width range.

Along with these deeper and wider rims, or perhaps because of the added latitude it gives wheel designers to change the shape of rims made of carbon fiber, the crosswind performance has also improved. While you used to have to worry about getting pushed off your line (or even blown off the road) on the best of the old 35-45mm deep carbon wheels, you don’t anymore. The best ones now almost thumb their blunt noses at crosswinds while you continue merrily along at speeds you used to only be able to maintain with time-trial depth wheels.

2. Comfort – The best carbon road bike wheels are now more comfortable than ever. Because the rims have greater internal widths, you can put wider tires on them. And because you can put wider tires on them, you can reduce the pressure you set your tires at and get a more comfortable ride while still providing the same amount of overall volume in the tires to oppose your same weight.

Further, because the outside rims of your wheels are wider, wider tires don’t hurt your aero performance as you go to those 25C tires everyone wants to ride these days for better comfort. That, of course, is as long as the mounted, inflated width of the 25C tire you want to ride is narrower than the external rim width. (More on this in the Topic of the Week section of this edition of Know’s Notes.)

Finally, because your tires are wider on the wider rims, you get better handling with more of the width (rather than length) of your tire in contact with the road.

There may be a practical limit to how much wider wheels go and contribute to your comfort. The front forks and rear stays of many 3 to 5-year-old rim brake bikes won’t fit 28C tires. Older bikes often won’t even fit many 25C tires.

Even where they can fit, 28C tires will wreck the aerodynamics of the wheels that are even 27mm or 28mm wide. Most 28C tires, once installed and inflated, measure a millimeter or two wider than the 28mm width suggested by the 28C tire designation.

28C tires will be the new 25C for the already wider and growing carbon disc wheelset category. And, with many more new enthusiast-level road disc bikes being sold now than rim brake ones, and as that gap continues to grow, I don’t expect rim brake bike makers will invest in designing and trying to sell new rim brake bikes with wider forks and rear stays to accommodate wider wheels and tires.

In addition to wider tires, tubeless ones further add to comfort on the latest generation of carbon bike wheels. You can lower the pressure on tubeless tires another 5-10 psi below your tubed tire inflation levels with little concern for pinch flats.

Tubeless-ready wheels are now nearly ubiquitous among the best carbon wheels. Tubeless-optimized wheels, ones that have rim beds with center channels, side gutters, and bead hooks designed for the width, bead designs and low pressures of tubeless tires are becoming more commonplace.

If you want to read more on all of this, here’s my post on the best tubeless tires.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig to disguise its true nature. By that, I mean that a wheel has to have the vertical compliance built into it in the first place through a combination of its rim, spokes, spoke angles, and hub flanges for it to have a chance of being comfortable. A wider or less inflated tire won’t do it alone.

Most of the best carbon wheel makers have figured out how to make compliant wheels. Your choice of tire width, pressure, and tubeless vs. tubed tires can enhance the compliance they start with but only take you so far.

3. Puncture resistance and resilience – The tubeless tires you can run on today’s best carbon bike wheels are more resistant to pinch flats than tubed tires as they don’t have the tube rubbing against the tire that causes the tube to pinch and flat in the first place. Pinch flats are a bigger risk as you run lower pressures with wider tubed tires.

Tubeless tires are also more resilient, meaning they recover more quickly when you puncture. Most punctures happen at the bottom of tires that are in contact with the pavement. The sealant in your tires will fill holes the size of most punctures while you roll along without you even getting off the bike.

Of course, larger bottom punctures or those in the side may require you to put in a new tube with if the sealant doesn’t close a large puncture or sidewall tear in a tubeless tire.

4. Braking – Big gains have been made in the dry and wet braking performance of the best carbon clincher wheelsets for rim brake bikes. At the same time, big differences remain between wheels within the best category and between the best and many lower-priced carbon wheels.

Wheels with the best braking performance have brake track surfaces that are textured, etched, patterned or treated in some way to create an uneven surface. This surface creates more friction when the brake pad comes up against it and helps slow you down.

While carbon bike wheels that have one of these brake track treatments perform better than those that don’t, there are differences in modulation, pad wear, noise, and wet road performance between those that do. I note that in the reviews below.

The use of resins that have a higher temperature melting point also separates the best carbon clincher wheelsets from the rest. The use of these resins greatly limits the risk of carbon delamination you can get after braking wheels with lower temperature resins or with made inferior carbon wheel manufacturing techniques.

As riders, we have also adopted braking techniques that serve us well when riding carbon clincher wheelsets on rim brake bikes the same way any group of riders adapts to new products that can improve our performance. For example, time trial riders change their body position to use aero bars and enthusiasts train differently and better by using power meters rather than relying primarily on heart rate monitoring.

Specifically, I and others who have learned how to get the best out of carbon clinchers don’t drag the brakes when riding downhill as many riders will when braking on alloy wheels. We also alternate braking the front and back wheels. Doing this should allow you to give each wheel 2-4x the amount of time cooling as braking.

We engage the brakes firmly and get off them quickly rather than ease into it and hold them a bit longer as with alloys. In the rain, we know to give ourselves a little more time and we squeeze the brake levers a little harder when we first brake to clear the water from the brake tracks.

Do you need to use these braking techniques? Not totally. I’ve tested the best current-generation carbon bike wheels of various depths on an 8%, 1 mile downhill stretch while dragging the brakes the whole way and many aren’t even warm to the touch at the bottom.

Should you adopt these techniques? Absolutely. It just so happens that they maximize both your performance and the longevity of your wheels. You don’t go out and buy carbon bike wheels that enable you to go faster just so you can drag your brakes going downhill. That would be like going out and buying an aero bike and seldom getting in the drops or buying a power meter and not having a training program.

On the other hand, if you agree with my fellow tester Moose who says that brakes are highly overrated and seldom uses them, none of this matters much at all.

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For In The Know Cycling reviews, I evaluate product-specific criteria in four groups – performance, design, quality, and cost. The criteria that matter most in those categories for the best all-around, carbon wheels for rim brake bikes are:

Performance:  Versatility, aerodynamics, stiffness, acceleration, comfort, handling and braking. You can read detailed descriptions of each of these here.

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

Quality: Durability, warranty, and service/support.

Cost:  Market price.

The Best Performer wheelset is selected independent of cost and chosen using the performance criteria mentioned above.

Design shows up (or not) in performance so I don’t judge it alone. Two products with very similar designs, for example having U-shaped rim profiles and the same weight, may perform similarly or differently. Design is an intended means to an end but not itself the basis for an evaluation or product choice.

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 but I’m not going to recommend something just because it has superior quality if it under-performs or has higher costs.

My cost evaluation is based on the wheelset’s best available price from looking at what it sells for across all the online stores that have it in stock and that meet my customer satisfaction rating requirements. This is the market price, often less than the full retail price, the manufacturer’s recommended price, or what it sells for at your local bike shop.

I’ve been reviewing the all-around carbon clincher category of wheels since I started this site. I wrote my first review about these wheels in 2014 by sorting through 36 models from 23 different companies largely based on their 35mm to 45mm rim depth. 

This included carbon and carbon alloy wheels from well known and lesser established brands, wheels that varied in performance from truly outstanding to barely acceptable, and wheels that varied in price from a little more than $1,000 to as much as $3,000.

Each year I review this category I seem to narrow the field. I have eliminated some models because it has been 2 to 3 years since they were introduced or updated and their performance is no longer competitive.

Technology and performance has changed very rapidly in this category. Anything more than a couple years old will likely have braking, comfort, handling or other performance below that of the best of the current generation models.

I’ve not considered some carbon road bike wheels in this review because they are distributed and supported only through dealers in one country or region or only sold online and sometimes come from halfway across the globe directly to you. While that in and of itself doesn’t make the wheels perform any less well, if a wheel brand doesn’t have a dealer network or at least a service center in the country or region where you ride or another way to quickly and cost-effectively get your wheels serviced should you have a problem or warranty issue, that’s not a wheelset I want to own or suggest you even consider.

I know this puts the smaller, less well-financed, and regional wheel makers or brands at a disadvantage. Frankly, I don’t care about the disadvantages or advantages of wheel makers and brands that sell wheels to us. I care about my fellow enthusiasts being able to buy, ride and get service for the wheelsets we buy.

This review considers the best performing all-around carbon bike wheels against the performance criteria I laid out earlier. You can read a two-part post (Part 1 and Part 2) covering a wide range of lower-priced, all-around carbon wheels that perform below those in this review across multiple criteria. 

You can read reviews of deeper aero rim brake carbon road bike wheels (here), shallower carbon climbing wheels (here) and lower cost, low profile alloy upgrade rim brake wheels (here).

I am also no longer reviewing or recommending carbon-alloy rim brake wheels. I haven’t seen any new or improved carbon-alloy wheels come out in the last few years. Companies appear to be investing in improving their carbon clincher braking performance as I described above and developing carbon road disc wheels.

If you don’t see the wheelset you are interested in this post, you might want to enter the wheelset name in the search box at the top of this page or look at the list of reviews in the sidebar as they might be reviewed in another category.

Along with each review, I’ve provided you links to stores that carry each wheelset, have them in stock at the best prices, and have excellent customer satisfaction ratings. Using those links saves you time and money and also supports our ability to bring you more reviews.

With that hopefully informative but regrettably long introduction, let’s get onto my recommendations.

For the first time, I’m recommending two wheelsets as Best Performers. After the reviews of each of these, I’ve provided some direct comparisons.

Best Performers


Little more than a year after Zipp introduced its first line of NSW wheels, it came out with an updated line in 2018. The latest 303 NSW is wider (19C), lighter (1510g), and has an updated rim profile. Along with its NSW siblings, the new 303 is the first line of Zipp rim brake wheels that are tubeless.

The hubs and brake tracks that were new with the earlier NSW carry over as does its premium price.

I and my fellow testers rated these the Best Performer the last time we reviewed wheels in this category. I wondered if the changes made them any better.

Zipp 303 NSW carbon road bike wheelsIn a word, yes. They are more comfortable on long rides and mixed terrain than before. They accelerate and climb a tad better. They still have an uncanny way of seemingly ignoring the crosswinds. If you run them at lower pressure with tubeless tires, they seem to be even more surefooted than before. If you run them at higher pressures, they feel as responsive as a whip.

My fellow tester Nate, the all-business, often stoic Bullet Train and A group ride leader at my local bike club who also led his race team to another TTT victory and won his age group up the New England equivalent of the Mt. Ventoux climb this year called the 303 NSW “absolutely dreamy.”

Seems the ability to run this 303 NSW carbon clincher wheelset tubeless at <80 psi for Nate, who is all of about 155 lbs/70kg, created what he described as a super smooth ride with great stability and control, soaking up bumps and harsh road conditions.

I seldom hear Nate or the few other super talented and competitive riders I’ve met talk about comfort and stability. This wheelset brought out that reaction.

At the other end of the spectrum, I was surprised to hear my fellow tester Moose, who weighs about 200lbs/90kg (and thus the reason for his nickname), speak positively about the 303 NSW’s stiffness and responsiveness. Zipps characteristically aren’t as stiff as other wheelsets and under Moose’s frame, I thought they might be a tad soft.

Nope. He found them sturdy enough and really liked their responsiveness. Despite the range of alloy and carbon wheels that were shallower and deeper and the same depth as these we rode this summer, he kept coming back to the 303 NSW as the one he wanted to ride for this event or that long weekend away.

When I ride these wheels, I feel like the Wayne and Garth characters from the old Wayne’s World skits who repeated “We’re not worthy” when someone famous invited them to stick around.

Why? When I get the 303 NSWs up to speed, which doesn’t take long, they seem to hold my momentum without me having to work really hard to keep them there. When I go out on a windy day, my 150lb/68kg body can get pushed around but the NSWs seem to anchor me to my line. The wheels are snappy on legs that haven’t had much snap in them for more than a few years now. They also climb easily for me.

The braking on these wheels is probably their most debated characteristic. The performance isn’t debatable – they are as capable on dry roads as alloy wheels and nearly so on wet ones.

Instead, the noise that comes from these brakes creates the greatest divide in the evaluations I and my fellow testers have had and that some of you have shared in your comments in past reviews about other Zipp wheels that use the same brake track design.

While it’s not annoying like the shrieks you have likely heard from older carbon brake tracks and pads, some don’t like any noise while others think the Zipp brake sound is cool. Perhaps the best analog is the reaction people have to noise coming off of freehubs. Some like it while others want it quiet. Ironically, the hubs on the 303 NSW freewheels without a whisper.

All in, the new 303 NSW is probably the most versatile and complete all-around set of carbon bike wheels a road cycling enthusiast will ever need. A racer might want more of this and not care about that from their wheels but for those of us who enjoy a wide range of riding from individual training to aggressive A and B group rides to long endurance rides to serious climbing to riding at high speeds and want one wheelset to help them deliver great performance and riding experiences, the Zipp 303 NSW is hard to beat.

Am I worthy of this level of performance from a wheelset? Probably not but I’ll gladly take it. And, if I’m going to pay the market price of about $3200/£2600/€3000 for this one, I’ve earned that level of performance or at least bought it. If you want it for yourself, you can find it online at my top-rated stores Competitive Cyclist, Merlin, and others I recommend at Know’s Shop.

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There’s something about my long-ago memories of driving a Chevrolet Corvette and my recent experience riding the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 wheels that connects.

No, it isn’t the phallic imagery of a Corvette and the XXX label of the latest Aeolus, though perhaps you could make that connection. (Sorry that I just did.)

Rather, it’s the rush of rolling at speed they both provide. While a lot of cars and wheels roll fast, it’s what happens in the moment of speed that makes life behind the wheel and in the saddle exciting.

Hitting a turn at speed carries more unknows than rolling straight. The Corvette’s wide wheelbase, wide tires, and low chassis provided me the handling performance to confidently hit every turn faster than I’d ever done before.

Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 carbon road bike wheelsSimilarly, the Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 mounted with 25C tubeless tires stick it in the corners. Fellow tester Nate enthused they always seemed so much more planted and stable than any other carbon clincher wheelset he’d experienced, especially in turns with bumpy pavement.

I measured the internal rim width between the bead hooks at 21.1 mm on these and other Bontrager Aeolus XXX series wheels. That makes them the widest rim brake carbon bike wheels we’ve tested, notably wider than most which run 19 mm or 17 mm these days.

Their 27.5 mm external rim width across the brake tracks is nearly as wide as others like the Enve and Zipp in this category. The external rim width along with the mounted and inflated 25C tire width helps contribute the XXX 4’s aerodynamic performance while its wide internal rim dimension and the wheels’ stiffness lead to its great handling and comfort.

Many road disc wheelsets have been at 21 mm internal for a couple years now and I can confirm riding them is a similar speed-liberating handling experience. The better support a wider rim provides to the sidewalls of the same 25C tire makes a real difference. It’s nice to see Bontrager bringing this to the rim brake world.

Moose took these wheels for a ride down the 8-mile, 8% average grade asphalt road at Whiteface Mountain, home of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Hitting speeds of 50 mph, he reported that the crosswinds made the riding the XXX 4s “a little sketchy” but not enough to back off his exhilarating speed.

I don’t know if that’s Moose’s daredevil approach to going downhill on bikes (and skis) that he prefers but I do know he arrived safely at the bottom and was so excited after the ride he sent me a half dozen texts about his descent.

While neither of us could find strong crosswinds, Nate and my experience in moderate ones on these wheels were fine. They did acknowledge the breeze but it didn’t affect our steering or cause us to do anything unnatural.

Unfortunately, you sometimes need to slow down. Fortunately, all three of us were impressed with the braking power and modulation of these wheels on dry roads; they are among the best here.

On wet roads, however, they are no better than earlier generation carbon clincher rim brakes. Like the Vette, leave these Bontragers in the garage when it’s wet outside.

The XXX 4s are “stiff enough” to climb and sprint but they are more above average in this all-around carbon clincher pack than clearly superior compared to others on this criterion. They are considerably heavier than the 1400 grams claimed by Bontrager – 1556 grams on my scale. This puts these XXX 4s some 50-100 grams heavier than most in this rim brake carbon road bike wheels category.

Why is there such a big weight difference? I measured them with the rim strips you need to ride them tubeless. Bontrager doesn’t include the strips in their claimed weight. It’s unusual to have rim strips weigh so much. Most rim tape adds 5-10 grams per wheel. These rim strips weigh about 65 grams per wheel.

I asked the Bontrager support line and a dealer whether I could run them tubeless with tape rather than the strips. Neither recommended it. The strips add the height and rim bed gutters you need to get your tubeless tires locked in.

If you want to ride them with a tube and clincher, they will be far lighter. But, to gain the versatility, comfort, and handling that we experienced, run them tubeless even though they will be slightly heavier.

The added weight makes for an average, more dampened acceleration than a lively, springier reaction when you want to accelerate. Their DT Swiss star ratchet hub internals provides quick engagement (and quiet freewheeling) but doesn’t improve the acceleration enough to make a difference.

If you’ve got the watts in your legs, you can probably get these wheels up to speed much in the way a Corvette corals the horses under its hood to get you from 0 to 60 mph faster than most.

It’s what the Corvette and Bontrager Aeolus XXX 4 do at speed, more than how fast they get you there, that separates them from the competition.

You can order these wheels online for $2400 by clicking through on this link to Trek.


So what separates the two Best Performers? The Bontrager XXX4 is the stiffer of the two. That stiffness shows up in more precise cornering and the feeling of more direct power transfer when climbing. The Zipp 303 NSW is a more responsive, more lively ride and feels like it is less work going uphill.

They are both comfortable but the Zipp holds the edge here and it shows up on long rides. Choosing to ride them tubeless, which makes both more comfortable, and where you set the inflation pressure will likely have as much or more effect on your comfort than choosing between the wheels.

The XXX 4 and 303 NSW brake extremely well on dry pavement though the XXX 4 does it quietly. Because the XXX 4 is stiffer, you can set up your brake pads closer to the rims and get better modulation in your braking. If you find yourself riding on wet roads often, the 303 NSW will give you notably better braking.

As a light B group rider, I loved both but preferred the livelier Zipp wheelset and it being totally unfazed by crosswinds. While I prefer its quiet freehub, I wasn’t bothered by the brake noise.

I’d have thought the slightly stiffer XXX 4 would win Moose over but he liked the responsiveness of the 303 NSW and the range of things it did so well.

Despite loving the comfort of the Zipp, Nate gave the nod to the XXX 4 for its better handling and brake modulation. He also felt the way it handled varying terrain would make it a great wheelset to use during cyclocross season.

Performance comparisons and preferences aside, the price of these two wheelsets differs by quite a bit. While neither of these wheelsets is a bargain, the Bontragers are about $800 less expensive. That’s an important consideration if you weigh the price of performance in your decision.



Campagnolo is a proud company and a much-admired brand. Most Campy fans I’ve come across are extremely loyal in the same way sports fans are to the teams they’ve been rooted for since childhood.

A friend I’ve ridden with for years only rides Campy wheels and groupsets and isn’t the least bit interested in trying gear from other companies. He owns a half dozen classic bikes, his dad runs a Ferrari dealer, and he’s of Irish heritage.

That last part doesn’t line up but I totally get and see how the rest of it fits together. And he rides away from me whenever he wants to which tells me his loyalty and talent are well suited too.

Campy Bora Ultra 50 carbon road bike wheelsBora is one of the most iconic wheel models in the Campy stable. Always at the top of the Campy line and with great performance to back it up, it was proudly a tubular only wheelset for 20 years. In 2015, the first Bora clinchers were introduced. In 2018, Campy introduced the first disc brake Bora models.

For a company with a great heritage, undying customer loyalty, and iconic models like the Bora, making change is like walking a tightrope between retaining what made you successful in the past and keeping you successful into the future.

The Bora 50 Ultra is teetering on that tightrope. It is changing but the change is slow. Its performance is running behind other wheelsets in this category of all-around carbon bike wheels that have changed much quicker.

The Bora is a reasonably comfortable wheelset with 25C tubed tires on it but no more comfortable than average. It isn’t tubeless-ready. They haven’t widened the rim’s 17mm internal, 24mm external dimensions since they introduced it as a clincher in 2016. So don’t plan on taking it out for a dirt ride or run it in a cross race.

With 25C Continental Grand Prix 4000S II mounted on these Bora 50s, the tire measures 26.9mm wide. This creates a less than ideal aero combination when other all-around wheels are wide enough to exceed the tire’s width. If you are looking for speed, you’ll be better off with 23C tires mounted to these rims.

Its classic, V-shaped profile creates a classic crosswind handling issue on these 50mm deep rims during a time when other wheels have created profiles that have greatly reduced or nearly eliminated crosswind hassles.

If you are a Campy loyalist, I can imagine you are saying to yourself or perhaps yelling out loud at me things like “I don’t care about wide wheels, U shaped profiles, tubeless tires or doing any stinking dirt road riding. I want a stiff, classic Campy race wheelset and I know how to deal with the crosswinds just fine, thank you.”

If that’s your reaction, and you want a classic set of wheels, these may be for you.

The Bora Ultra 50 is indeed stiff, amongst the stiffest around. This is a Campy wheelset characteristic that has been central to the Bora and continues in this clincher model. That stiffness, along with their light weight, shows up when you accelerate and when you climb.

They handle very precisely, though not any better than a few other of the better handling wheels in this category.

A trademark of Campy wheels is their smooth rolling hubs. Very smooth rolling in the case of the Bora Ultra 50 which come with the company’s top ceramic bearing fitted hubs.

Oh, and they look drop-dead gorgeous. I don’t normally comment on the looks of gear because everyone has their own tastes. But, these Boras standout. No stealth looking black on black labels and matte black finish rims for these babies.

The carbon weave is beautiful. The large grey and white or red Campagnolo labels scream your brand preference. It’s hard for anyone to miss what you are wearing… uh, riding. Very Italian indeed.

Campagnolo did make some changes for the 2018 update of the Bora you’d normally associate with faster changing wheel brands. They went to a textured brake track and added in some higher temperature resin to improve performance and reduce the chance of overheating.

While the previous model had pretty good carbon rim braking, this is a touch better and puts them on par with the best dry braking carbon wheels. Like the others with textured tracks, they are a bit noisy but I’ll take that every day for the improved performance. The Bora’s stiffness allows you to set the pads closer to the rims and get better modulation than many other wheelsets.

Like most things Campy, they sell for a price premium to every other wheelset in this category. I guess if I threw a set of Lightweight Meilenstein into the mix the Bora Ultra 50 would look like a bargain. But at Campy’s suggested price of USD$3260, £2620, €2830, they look pricey. Fortunately, you can often find them for a market price far less.

Go to these search results at Know’s Shop to see where you can buy the Bora Ultra 50 from stores I recommend because they have the best prices, customer satisfaction records, and selection on enthusiast-level cycling gear and kit.

An option is to go with the Bora One 50, the same wheels but with Campy’s less expensive ceramic bearing, alloy shell USB hubs. They add back about 50 grams to the wheels but are still perfectly good, smooth-riding hubs that will save you hundreds from recommended stores through this link to Know’s Shop.


The latest incarnation of the Easton EC90 SL carbon road bike wheelset really likes to go. I know that’s not a technical term but that was my initial impression after riding them the first few times and every time after that. They are fast, faster than a 38mm deep carbon wheelset should be or at least as fast as any wheel I’ve ever ridden in the 40mm depth range. They roll very smoothly – light, quiet though not silent freehubs, and kept me going without having to put out a whole lot of extra effort once I got them up to speed.

These are also very stiff wheels. They are right there with me without hesitation when I accelerate and don’t flex when I get out of the saddle to climb. Consistent with this level of stiffness, they handle precisely and confidently in corners.

Not sure if it’s the rims or the hubs they’ve put on these wheels that have wider spacing between the flanges than in prior models, but together (with the spokes of course) these wheels are plenty stiff, responsive and confident.

While they are stiff laterally or side to side, and that’s a good thing, they are also stiff vertically or up and down, and that’s not such a good thing. Vertical stiffness is another way to say compliance which is another way to talk about comfort. These aren’t as compliant or comfortable as other wheels in this category.

If you are a competitive rider that likes to inflate your tires 90 or 100 psi and do 40 and 50 mile long rides, their comfort won’t be much of a consideration. You like a firm ride, it’s a relatively short distance, and you probably put comfort way down on your list of priorities.

On the other hand, if you do long endurance rides and lower your tire pressure as far as you can because you want comfort, these wheels aren’t going to be plush no matter how wide your tires or low your pressure. They just aren’t built that way.

If you fall somewhere in between, the comfort isn’t bad. It’s certainly not going to ruin your ride and it’s just not going to be the highlight of your experience. They do ride more comfortably with tubeless than tubed tires so set them up that way if comfort is important to you.

The latest, 2017 version of the EC90 SL has somewhat improved braking but they have neither a textured brake track or use a high-temperature resin as the best braking wheels do. The brakes perform at last generation levels so give yourself some extra time to stop, especially on wet roads, over what you are used to if you are coming from alloy wheels.

I also recommend you use something other than the Swissstop Yellow brake pads Easton ships with these carbon wheels. The Yellows leave a pollen colored ring on the otherwise very attractively finished and labeled rims and the modulation is somewhat soft. I’ve used ENVE, Zipp and Swissstop Black Prince carbon pads with these wheels. All provide better modulation and no ring around the track.

You can buy the Easton EC90 SL wheels by clicking through this link to recommended stores on Know’s Shop.


When ENVE introduced the second generation SES 3.4 wheelset as “climbing wheels with an aero advantage” it seemed like we were being fed a new product with an identity crisis. The first generation SES 3.4 were all-around wheels. And ENVE also had the SES 2.2 climbing wheels in their lineup, ones I’ve previously evaluated and rated the Best Performer in my first review of carbon clinchers for climbing.

ENVE SES 3.4 carbon road bike wheels

Well, the SES 2.2 is still around but the second generation SES 3.4 is a better climbing wheel. In my latest review of the best climbing wheels, I rated them the Best Performer.

Riding them back to back with the Zipp 303 NSW, Nate and I found the SES 3.4 stiffer and a better climber than the NSW or anything else in this category.

They don’t get up to speed as fast as the 303 NSW and you need to put more work into them to maintain it once your there.

Makes sense; at rim depths of 38.5mm in the front and 42.5 in the rear, the SES 3.4 is shallower than the NSW and Bontrager XXX 4. But they feel as fast or faster than the other wheelsets in this category not named Zipp or Bontrager and they laugh in the face of crosswinds.

ENVE rim brake wheels all use the same textured brake tracks. In my experience, they are top of the charts both in dry and wet conditions. The hub options sold with these new wheels – ENVE’s branded hubs with either an alloy or carbon shell (both which use Mavic’s Instant Drive 360 internals, a DT Swiss 240-like dual ratchet design), Chris King R45 and R45 ceramic – are all first-rate performers, rolling smoothly, engaging quickly and accelerating with the best of them.

Weight, free-wheel sound, rolling smoothness, long-term durability, and price are the things that separate these hubs but you can’t go wrong with any of them. I’m partial to the ENVE alloy hub. They’re quieter, the least expensive option (USD $2550) and need no maintenance. The ENVEs sold through European stores are often speced with Chris King models however and those are some of the smoothest rolling hubs you can find.

Wheelset quality, customer service, and warranty (5 years) are also exceptional.

The SES 3.4’s market price falls in between the 303 NSW and XXX 4 Best Performers. You can find the best prices from the best stores for the ENVE SES 3.4 by clicking these links to Competitive Cyclist, Tredz where you get 10% off w/code ITKTDZ10, Merlin or directly from ENVE by clicking through this link to

USA residents can get a $600 credit for trading in non-ENVE carbon wheels and a $900 credit for trading in ENVE carbon wheels when you order by January 3. Go to this link at ENVE for full details.

If you are torn between buying a climbing and all-arounder, the SES 3.4 is the wheelset that doesn’t force you to choose.


The Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST is an update of the Cosmic Pro Carbon SL C, Mavic’s first medium depth rim brake wheelset using only carbon fiber and resins in its brake track. Previously, Mavic had put aluminum sleeves inside their carbon rims to provide alloy brake tracks that dispersed the heat generated from braking.

In going from the “SL C” to “SL UST” model, Mavic also widened the rims, put on new hubs, and built it to their new UST tubeless standard.

The result? The new Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST is a more comfortable, quieter, and more tubeless-ready wheelset. It’s clearly an improvement over the SL C it replaces that I reviewed previously with the headline – A strong, noisy performer at a good price.

The SL UST is 2mm wider than the SL C, and now 19mm across the inside of the rim (measured between the bead hooks). I could feel added comfort in the ride. This is especially so with the new Mavic Yksion Pro UST 25C tubeless tires that are made for Mavic by Hutchinson and that come pre-installed on the wheels and included in its price. Just add the sealant that also comes with the wheels and inflate.

Compared to the much-heralded original Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tires, tests of these new Yksion Pro show equivalent rolling and puncture resistance (see tubeless tire ratings here). In my experience, these tires also have a better road feel and their aerodynamics are better for this wheelset’s profile (and many others) than the Pro One. The mounted and inflated width for the 25C tire is a millimeter narrower than the Schwalbe and closer to the wheels’ 25.5mm external or brake track width.

Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST carbon road bike wheels

The Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST hubset is also new but, according to the word out among shop mechanics, is a knock-off of DT Swiss 240 hubs used on many other carbon road bike wheels. Whatever its design influence, the new Mavic hub is smoother and quieter than the noise created by the SL C hubs while retaining the distinctive Mavic freewheeling sound.

This is real progress if you care about freehub buzz. We’re talking about going from it’s really annoying; don’t buy it to something like it’s fine if you like to hear your freewheel spin.

Mavic continues with the same version of their textured brake track on this Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST wheelset that was used on the SL C. At the speeds I ride (18-20mph on an average training or group ride), I found it gives you good braking on dry pavement but is not very good on wet roads.

My fellow tester Nate rides considerably faster (23-26mph) and challenges wheelsets a good deal more. He was unimpressed with the braking power and heat dissipation of these wheelsets down long, steep alpine descents. We both noticed they squeal after warming up.

While these Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST wheels climb well enough, this kind of braking seriously dulls the reward you’ve earned climbing when you are looking to cash in doing a long downhill. They do handle well in the crosswinds you often find in high mountain passes or those coming across open spaces.

While they are clearly stiff when you want to turn up the speed or head up a ramp, these wheels aren’t lively. There’s no snap and little giddy-up when you want to accelerate or get out of the saddle.

They do hold their speed well once you get moving but nothing out of the ordinary. The same can be said for their handling – solid but not inspiring of aggressive riding in the corners.

Over the year or so that Mavic improved these wheels, other well-established wheel makers like Zipp, Bontrager, Roval and DT Swiss were also improving the design and performance of their carbon road bike wheels and introduced new or updated wheels in this category. The Pro Carbon SL UST didn’t keep up or catch up with the improvements made by their competitors.

The market price for this wheelset of around $2,100/£1,700/€2,000 puts it in a tough spot as it doesn’t match up against others in a similar price range. You can find and order it using these links to my top-ranked store Competitive Cyclist and compare prices from other recommended stores at Know’s Shop.

You don’t have to spend a whole lot more to get much better performance and you can spend a lot less and get performance as good. If you don’t have the budget for better-performing carbon road bike wheels or if you value Mavic’s extensive dealer network and aren’t going to ride them as hard as a Group A rider like Nate, then this solid if unexciting wheelset may work for you.

If you plan to buy these wheels, make sure you track down the Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST with all of those words and initials in the name in that order. Mavic’s model names are confusingly similar and it’s easy to find a very different wheelset with a very similar sounding name. For example, Mavic makes or, in some cases recently made a Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST CL (a disc model), Cosmic Pro Carbon UST, a Cosmic Pro Carbon, a Cosmic Pro Carbon Exalith, and a bunch of other Cosmic blah blah blah models that are different wheelsets than the one with I’ve reviewed here.

Now you know…


Roval uses the same rim, hub internals, and spokes on its CLX 50 disc and rim brake bikes. The review below is excerpted from my write up of their disc brake model.

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 with ceramic bearings.

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 road disc wheel 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.]

Roval CL 50 Carbon carbon road bike wheels

The Roval CLX 50 has a modern aerodynamic profile and maintains your momentum well. It’s what you should expect from 50mm deep wheels that will set you back US$2400, £1870, €2200 as these will. 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 isn’t far behind.

Perhaps it’s because the ENVEs are 10mm shallower that they handle the crosswinds so 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.

About the rim brake CLX 50 … Reports from other testers found the rim braking on these wheels adequate but not on par with those made with textured brake tracks. Actual weight measurements of these wheels run from 1408 to 1429 to 1438 grams vs. a claimed weight of 1375 grams.

You can buy them using this link to JensonUSA or go through this one to Know’s Shop to see where you can buy the CLX 50 wheels online at stores I recommend because of their superior price, selection, and customer satisfaction ratings.

* * * * *

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.

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Thanks and enjoy your riding safely!

First published on October 14, 2018. Date of the most recent major update shown at the top of the post.


  • Hi Steve, your website is by far the best on the internet to give the cycling enthusiast the information they need to make informed choices. Thanks!
    I am now in market for a wheel upgrade. Going from Fulcrum Racing Zero Alloy (which I have about 20,000 km on) to carbon clincher rim brakes, I am trying to decide between Roval CLX 32 and Zipp Firecrest 303. Based on your reviews I am trying to get the best of both worlds. As a 155 lbs rider who lives in an area with a number of good 12 km 7% – 8% climbs which I ride a half dozen times a year, but also some long rolling rides with short 5% – 10% grades between the flats, trying to see if the weight savings/cross wind performance on the Roval make up for aero/braking benefit of the Zipps. Or are they close enough to both work?

    • Roger, You are very kind. I appreciate your feedback and your support of the site if and when you decide to buy some wheels or gear. I’m not sure why you are picking those two wheels but I’d suggest you take a look at my review of climbing wheels here. There are other choices, albeit some slightly more expensive that outperform these two when evaluating the criteria I use to choose between climbing wheels. Weight can be saved in a number of ways and often much more economically than lighter wheels but things like stiffness, handling, and braking really require choosing between wheels. Steve

      • Thanks for that link to CCC wheels Steve, i missed that one. To answer your question on why those two wheelsets – I spent some time with the rider profile – many 100 km rides in my area will be 1500 meters – 2000 meters of elevation, but most are in the 1000 meters range. A few rides will be 3000 meters, so a real mixed bag. I started with the Firecrest 303 as an all-around wheelset at the top of my budget (Enve a stretch too far) with what appears excellent performance for my weight (stiffness not the primary at 155 lbs). Was looking at the 32 mm depth of the Rovals (friend recommendation) as a way to get some aero benefit but save weight on those very long climbs. If I am thinking about it right – the 20% – 30% of my rides with big climbs probably doesn’t justify going with CCC wheels over an all-around set, or is there a CCC wheel set that gives relatively more aero benefit than the others (not including Enve 3.4 – out of my range)?

        • Ah, I see where you are going now. So, first I would steer clear of the Roval for the reasons I mentioned in my review. But, if you were considering spending $2400 for what the Roval goes for, I’d definitely consider the ENVE 3.4 with the new ENVE alloy shell hub that goes for $2550 (follow this link to Know’s Shop to see). They introduced the hub since I wrote the review so I need to update it. It’s made by Mavic, is similar in design to the excellent DT240 hub and I’ve ridden it on a couple of Mavic wheels and think its as much as most roadies with the riding profile you describe ever needs. And the second generation ENVE 3.4 hits that sweet spot between a climbing and all around wheelset. Yes, it’s more expensive than the Zipp 303 Firecrest which would be a great choice as well but for the money, the ENVE offers enough of a performance advantage going uphill that I think it is worth considering it. Steve

          • Thanks Steve for the insight. Will chat with my LBS and see what they might be able to do between the ENVE and Zipp. Will let you know how it goes. Two final questions – i have heard Zipp is good for servicing, but are there any concerns with Enve (I assume not)? Also, I run Conti GP 4K -those should work well for both Enve and Zipp given rim width?

  • hi i now decided to buy either aelous pro 3/5 TLR or aelous XXX4 is it Worth the price for XXX?

  • I decide to day Ordered aelous XXX 4 disc. I Think it Will be Nice. Got a great superdeal at My LBS so took them over pro 5

  • Steve, have to commend you for the excellent reviews! I wanted to get your take on the new Enve 3.4 AR Disc that was just launched. As someone who has ridden both the 3.4 and the 4.5 AR Disc, can you speak to what the AR designation will bring to the 3.4 in terms of ride quality, etc.? I’m looking to upgrade from Reynolds Assault Disc to a wheelset that straddles the Climber/All-Rounder spectrum, and the 3.4 Disc and the 3.4 AR Disc are my top 2 choices. For context, I only plan to ride on pavement on 28mm tires. I know the AR is optimized for 28s, but the tire option constraints are troubling to me. Any thoughts or guidance would be much appreciated!

    • Doug, The 3.4 AR Disc is intended for on and off road (or “All Road”) and is optimized for that by having wider rims that can take wider tires so you can have a more comfortable ride on rougher surfaces by lowering your tire pressure. If you only plan to ride on paved roads, there’s little reason to get the 3.4 AR Disc. However, if you only plan to ride on 28C tires, you should get the 3.4 AR Disc because a 28C tire on the 3.4 Disc will make the tires wider than the rims and give you far worse aerodynamics than what you can get when the rims are wider than the tires. Running the right 25C tire at the right pressure on the 3.4 Disc will be plenty comfortable and provide better aero performance than a 28C on the 3.4 AR Disc.

      You can see the best deals from the best stores on the 3.4 Disc and 3.4 AR Disc now at Competitive Cyclist and ENVE direct. Steve

  • I have Dura-Ace C24 wheels and I am thinking about getting a set of aero wheels. I live in the mid-west of the united states and typically we have steady wind each day. I am considering Zipp 303 NSW or Zipp 404 NSW wheels, cost is not an issue as I am able to get either as a very good price. Would I notice a significant aero gain by going to 303 NSW or would I be best going to 404 NSW? My friends seem to think I should get the 404 NSW as they look cool and they think that the 404’s will be much better in terms of aero gains at speed. I worry that the 404’s would not be great during days with heavy wind.

  • Hi Steve,

    What would you suggest Campy Bora 50 or DT Swiss 48 dicut?


  • Hi Steve

    I enjoyed reading your reviews but I live in Australia and so some of the brands aren’t available here. I am a female rider of 59kgs – I mainly do 80 > 100km rides about 3>4 times per week in a fairly flat conditions but very windy. I want a new all round wheel set that would be good for a odd triathlon I’m in, hills and windy conditions – the local bike shop suggests Campagnolo Eurus wheels, aluminium not carbon – I suggested the Zipp 303 but he said they would not be good in the local cross winds. Technology is not best and I would like a second opinion to my mechanic – What do you suggest?


    • Hi Ann, Welcome. The Campy Eurus is a low profile, overpriced alloy wheelset that will do nothing for you on flat roads. If you are riding at aero speeds, roughly 30km/hr and better, a good carbon wheelset 40-50mm will help you improve your speed on flats and won’t slow you on hills or in wind. The Zipp 303 NSW (not the Firecrest) performs well in crosswinds for light riders like you. I recommend that one for you over the Bontrager as you don’t need the Bonty’s stiffness at your weight/strength.

      I’d also recommend you get a new mechanic 🙂 or at least suggest he stick to wrenching rather than recommending wheels. Steve

  • Hi Steve,

    I’ll echo everyone and thank you for your thorough reviews. Like many folks asking questions, I have a chance to purchase the Enve ses 3.4 at a decent price with a tubeless set up and want to use it as an all around wheel. The issue is that I weigh a muscular 195lb and ride 18-20mph by myself and sometimes faster in group rides. I do some climbing but as you say, “like to ride fast”. I’m currently on ksyrium elites. I’m not sure when/if I will be able to get a good deal on a more aero wheel in the future. Am I sacrificing too much for the 3.4? Thank you in advance!

    • Will, The 3.4 are stiff wheels so should support your strength/weight/power well. They are also pretty aero for a 40mm deep wheelset but obviously not as aero as a 4.5 or the better ones in the 50mm depth. But, at 18-20 you aren’t going so fast as to feel a tremendous amount of difference between the two at 20+, you will. And in the group ride you are going faster because you are drafting other riders rather than being out in the wind all the time. More aero wheels won’t help you ride any faster in a draft.

      Not sure what the deal is and what your goals and riding profile are so hard to say one way or the other. I’d just check that the 3.4 you are looking at is a 2nd generation one with textured tracks and 38/42mm front/back depths. The 1st generation ones were good but with your weight, you want the improve brake track. If you aren’t sure, you can send me a link to the deal off-line at [email protected] and I’ll look at it. Steve

      • Thanks so much Steve. These are 2018 2nd gen 3.4. I would fit your definition of an enthusiast coming off of a back injury but now back to training full time. My goal is to ride with the A group (fast drop rides). No races in mind yet but I want to see how far I can take it in the next year. I also have little ones at home so most of my rides are shorter, higher in intensity and limited in time.

  • Hi Steve!
    I put new Mavic Cosmic Pro Sl 2019 wheels on my bike and when reaching good speed, it turns into another bike! But not all so perfect – the freewheel is louder and bassy than my Ksyrium Elite, and the brakes are harsh in action. Is the latter normal?

    • Nick, unfortunately so. Here’s what I wrote about the brakes in the above review of this wheelset. Steve

      “Mavic continues with the same version of their textured brake track on this Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST wheelset that was used on the SL C. At the speeds I ride (18-20mph on an average training or group ride), I found it gives you good braking on dry pavement but is not very good on wet roads.

      My fellow tester Nate rides considerably faster (23-26mph) and challenges wheelsets a good deal more. He was unimpressed with the braking power and heat dissipation of these wheelsets down long, steep alpine descents. We both noticed they squeal after warming up.

      While these Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST wheels climb well enough, this kind of braking seriously dulls the reward you’ve earned climbing when you are looking to cash in doing a long downhill.”

      • But Steve, it is not a squealing, rather a grinding sound from first touch, when the wheels are still cold. I installed the pads a bit angled forward ( as on the other bike) – may that matter?

        • Nick, Well good that they are not squealing 🙂 The grinding suggest it is rubbing somewhere off the rim (perhaps the tire) and you may not have the pads aligned to the mid-height of the track. Or it may just be that you are hearing the effect of the pads on the textured tracks as grinding. I assume you are using the recommended pads. A harder pad might sound different. My experience with textured tracks like these is that you don’t need to angle forward or “toe-in” the pads. I would try those things. If none work, take them to an experienced mechanic. Steve.

          • Thanks Steve! The pads come with the wheels and I’m sure they don’t touch the tyres. I’ll align them, but it seems I should live with that sound ?

  • Hey Steve,
    Everything you rightly criticized about the Bora 50 seems to have been addressed with the Campy Bora WTO 45, including price. Any chance a pair are headed you way? Are you still reviewing rim brake wheels? Thanks, Cam.

    • Hi Cam, None headed my way. I’ll try to scare up a set but it might take a while. And you’re right, I’m more focused on disc brake wheels these days but always open to suggestions from fellow enthusiasts. Steve

  • Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the great pages you have put together on this site they have truly been invaluable in helping me decide on a new wheelset! I am currently torn between Zipp 303 firecrest 2019 which I can get for £1495 and Enve 3.4 (with DT Swiss 240) for £1215. I ride in rolling terrain for the most part with weekend ride to more hilly terrain with many steep inclines of 12%+ (but still no climbs longer than 3km). I also do regular group riding at about 40kph+ Originally I was thinking of the 303’s but with the price of the 3.4’s it would be nice to save some money! I am hoping for some advice, in particular how much more work am I looking at having to do in my group rides if I go with the 3.4’s?

    Again thanks for the great site,


    • Louis, Thanks for the feedback. Much appreciated.

      Check that ENVE 3.4 you are looking at is a G2 or second-generation wheelset. Some stores are still selling first-generation versions that have different rim width, depth and brake tracks. That price and the DT240 hubs sounds to me like it may be a first gen version. Check the listings on some of the stores I link you to see the specs for the G2 version and compare with the low price listing you are considering.

      You would likely notice less difference between wheelsets in the group rides than in your solo rides as you draft on group rides a good percentage of the time. For hilly terrain, the 3.4s would be better as your time climbing increases as a % of your overall ride. Cheers, Steve

      • Thanks for getting back to me. It sounds like the Enve’s will be absolutely fine for my purposes then! The price is good as they are cosmetic seconds (I have also checked they are G2 as you suggested). The only drawback is that they are the tubular model but I guess I could live with this. I haven’t had a look on your site yet if you weigh up pros and cons of clincher vs tubulars do you have any advice on this front?

        Thanks, Louis

        • Louis, I highly recommend against tubulars for enthusiasts who have never had experience with them. There’s more in this review from 4 years ago. Steve

          • Having had a look at the page it seems like you’re confirming my suspicions about tubulars! Looks like I will go with the 303 firecrests then, thanks for your help!

  • Steve,

    Long time follower. I own Campy Zonda. I purchased the Assault (2 yr warranty) on 8/18/16 and the LBS told me every nipple is cracked and they suggest replacing all spokes as well. Reynolds will sell me AR41 or X for 900. Assuming I sticking to rim brakes for now…
    1) fix 450
    2) new Reynolds
    3) 2019 Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon UST Wheelset 1199
    4) flow 45 – 1158
    5) EC90 SL 1200
    6) none of the above __________________

    I’m not really into premium wheels for my rim bike.

    Thanks for the help!


    • JD, If you can the latest model EC90 SL for that price, I would do that. The Mavic would be my second choice. Those are both $2000 “premium” wheelsets and far better performers than the others on your list. You can see my reviews of the AR41 and FLO and other low priced carbon wheels here. I am not fans of those wheels and generally of carbon wheels at that price point. Steve

      • Steve, you are a valuable asset. Thanks for your help!

        • Thanks John. Since you put it in financial terms, I’ll take the opportunity to encourage you and other readers to support this asset and its ability to stay liquid enough to buy the gear we review and cover the site expenses by buying your gear through links to stores you see across the site. 🙂 To your wealth and riding health! Steve

  • Hi Steve, I’m planning on buying mid-depth wheels in December. I can’t afford what I want so I’m looking at the Zip 302s or the Bontrager Aeolus 5 pro. I have Zip 202s on my climbing bike. The other bike I use for a flat fast Group ride once a week and and the occasional Saturday Group ride that is somewhat hilly. I weigh 156lb. I’ve not tried Tubeless yet and not really sure I’m a fan but I am open minded. I’m looking for something that allows me to maintain 23-30 mph with a little less wat output. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    • Michael, Creating and maintaining that speed in a group ride is going to depend on your training far more than your wheels or other equipment. As to wheels, there are a lot of tradeoffs including cost, performance (e.g., stiffness, comfort, aero/sustaining momentum), quality (e.g. warranty), and design features (e.g. tubeless) but it’s hard to choose a wheelset by navigating those tradeoffs without being clear on what’s most important to you. I did review the 302 and Aeolus 5 along with other lower-priced wheels and detailed their strengths and deficiencies in this review here. Reading that will hopefully help you sort through some options based on what’s most important to you. Best, Steve

  • It’s interesting about the extraordinary weight of the Bontrager Tubeless rim strips but you’ll be glad you bought them because of the yet-to-be-published ISO 5775 which will standardized rim profiles for tubeless tire and rim interface across the industry. Bontrager is the only maker smart enough to make the inside dimensions of their rims replaceable. When the new ISO 5775 is published and if Bontrager’s wheels need reengineering, they’ll just remake the rim strip. You just buy the new rim strip instead of being stuck with expensive non-compliant Brand Z.

  • What type/brand/model etc. do you recommend for someone who weighs 230lbs.?
    Seems like most wheels are made for people under 200lbs.

    • Ray, some brands sell so-called “Clydesdale” wheels for heavier riders though I haven’t surveyed or reviewed those. Your best solution may be to talk to a custom wheel builder to create something to suit your weight and bike requirements. Steve

  • Hey Steve- I’ve got an old specialized tarmac with rim brakes that I want to convert to an “all weather” bike. I had ENVE 4.5 on those that I’ve since moved to my other race bike. I was considering the shimano C50 wheelset for the tarmac since it has the aluminum brake tracks. Would you recommend them? Are aluminum brake tracks still measurably better than carbon rim brakes? Or should I save my money for all carbon or a disc brake bike? I’m in Seattle so quite a bit of moisture during anytime besides summer. Thanks.

    • Biren, Good wheelset in its time. Durable brake track; great hubs. Replaced by the C60 which is exactly the same wheelset save for the relabeling. If you can get them at a good price, would be an inexpensive way to get a reliable set up for the rain. Steve

      • Thanks Steve. How much should I expect to pay for one on good condition? My biggest question is if carbon tracks have caught up enough for wet weather to not have to bother about a carbon aluminum hybrid

        • Biren, Sorry, I thought you had a new set in mind. I wouldn’t buy a used set of C50s unless it was virtually unused. They have a life of about 20K miles. If it’s just going to be an all-weather bike, I’d buy a new pair of alloy upgrade wheels. See my reviews of those here. You don’t need aero or even all-around depth wheels for an all-weather bike. Steve

  • Steve,
    I plan on getting some carbon wheels for my rim brake bike. My reason for upgrade is simple. I want to go tubeless. That means new wheels. Not many good non-carbon wheels that would let me go tubeless. I have been quite nervous about the braking performance. Also brake squeals and brake wear have been a couple of other concerns. Wanted to know your take on this. Appreciate it.

    • Somu, Carbon braking performance and noise vary from one wheelset to the next. In the reviews above and in the table that compares them, I shared and compared my take on the braking performance of each of these wheelsets. You can also read here my take on how carbon wheelsets and their braking performance have developed over the last few generations and how our braking techniques need to be different for carbon rim brake wheelsets vs. alloy ones. Steve

  • Hi Steve, Great reviews. I’ve enjoyed reading them immensely. I have the opportunity to get the 303 NSWs for a discounted price through your site – but wanted to ask your thoughts about the cognition hubs. I have a race bike, an older BMC SLR02 – but am an endurance/distance rider. Do you think the cognition hubs will hold up under less than ideal conditions, i.e. rain and cold? That’s my biggest concern with pulling the trigger. Appreciate any thoughts you might have.

    • Michael, Thanks for the feedback. Really appreciate it. As to the Cognition hubs, I have a set of the 303 NSW as my benchmark wheelset and have found them very reliable in all conditions. Yes, you need to service them like most other hubs but they don’t require extra service or care. They are also totally quiet and very smooth rolling hubs. Actually are one of the best performing hubs I’ve ever ridden. Steve

  • Hi Steve, fan from Switzerland here. I am thinking of which wheel buy between an Enve3.4 or Zipp303 nsw. I like both them both. But I prefer Enve because I climb a lot on an endurance ride. But my frame is 2015 cervelo which don’t have lot of room for a complete wheel. I mounted my 1 year old Schwalbe pro1 on my 29er mtb rim, same internal like the Enve, 21mm, and it measured 29.2. My current wheel setup old Bont RXL alu rim 17mm-internal,
    tire 28mm. My question is, If I paired the Enve with Conti- which is narrower, does the wheel eventually will rub the stays?

    • Hi Neil, For best aero performance, I suggest you put a 25C tire on 21C rims. Putting a 28C tire on wrecks your aero performance as the tire will be wider than the rim. You can improve your comfort by going tubeless or lowering your pressure. Both the wheels you mentioned are plenty comfortable with 25C tires. 25C tires will generally measure between 26 and 28.5mm depending on which tire you use and how much you inflate it. The old Schwalbe Pro One tubeless (white lettering) was one of the widest tires for its size of all of those I’ve measured. The new one (orange lettering) is truer to size. On a 21C rim, the new 25C Pro One measures about 26.0mm at 80 psi while the old one measured 29.1mm. The new 28C measures right around 28mm on the same 21C rim at 80psi. The 25C Conti GP 5K TL measures around 27mm on the same rim at the same pressure. You want to allow 3-4mm either side of the tire or 6-8mm total for lateral deflection in a hard turn. Measure the opening in your chainstay and seat stay and fork where the tire is deepest in that opening. If you have enough of an opening (about 35mm with the tires and rims you are considering) you shouldn’t get any rub. You will need to open your calipers to fit the tires. Steve

  • Hi Steve,

    Thanks for all the great reviews. I love coming to this site for unbiased and thorough reviews. I recently bought the Bontrager XXX shoes based on your review, and they’re awesome.

    I’m finally ready to take the plunge on upgrading my stock wheels (Mavic Ksyrium). I’m a similar rider profile to you, 160 lbs and 18 to 20 mph average, depending on the route. My area is relatively hilly (Harvard, MA if you’ve ridden through, ~1500 ft/20 miles on most routes). I’m pretty strongly leaning toward the ENVE 3.4s. However, with Zipps latest revision, it seems like the Firecrest now has a 19 mm internal width and is tubeless ready. Is that basically the previous generation NSW rim? If so, perhaps that’s a better choice when staying in the $2500 and under range? I guess the big question is how that new hub performs… I’m also a little torn on whether I like the new Zipp graphics. The old design was so iconic.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work.

    • Alex, Thanks for your kind feedback. Glad to hear you like the shoes I recommended. And, yes I do know the Harvard hills. It’s an outdoor pain cave for sure. Have they reopened the General Store? Last time I went there they were treating cyclists like rolling covid carriers and wouldn’t let me get within 20 feet of the table they had set up at the end of the entrance ramp for curbside pick up orders!

      Anyway, as to the wheels, I’m afraid I haven’t ridden the new Firecrest hubs to say yay or nay. I reached out to Zipp after reading your comments today and they said the new rim brake versions of the 303 Firecrest has the same rim as the last year’s model just with the new graphics. That must have slipped right past me since the last rim brake Firecrest I tested was a 17C and wasn’t tubeless. So I’m afraid I can’t help you much on that wheelset.

      Anyway, yes, the SES 3.4 would be a great choice for the riding you are doing around Harvard. It’s where I go to test climbing wheels and the ENVE is excellent there. I’d choose it over the 303 NSW which is tubeless and 19C. Steve

      • The General Store is still just pick-up based, though I think they’re considering having some outdoor seating soon.

        Ordered the SES 3.4s last week, so I’ll let you know how they turn out.


  • Like your write ups .
    One thing missing in the carbon wheel sales information / industry is information regarding mileage and future rebuild of different carbon wheels . Do you ever look at these issues when considering and comparing carbon wheels ?
    Im 170 lbs riding 2 to 4 times a week , flat terrain , club rides 3 to 8 riders , 18 to 22 mph .
    Bought a set of vision metron 55 wheels to upgrade my trek madone 5.2 . ( although they looked fine , they were used ; I’ve had them 4 years . )
    Rear wheel is shot due to axle deformation from grit buildup . After multiple attempts , Vision informs me that there are no parts to rebuild wheel . And I cant find any after market source for an axle .
    I need a rear wheel.
    But will my front wheel be shot in the near future ?
    Go with a new set or just a rear ?
    The wheels Im considering :
    1) Boyd 44 carbon
    2)Shimano dura ace c40
    3)Vision – very reluctant
    4) Reynolds
    Your thoughts ,
    thank you

    • Richard, The saying “your mileage may vary” applies to carbon wheels as much as anything else. How much you weigh, how often and how hard you brake, how frequently you clean your rims and brake pads, whether or not you ride in the rain or on gritty roads, how often you service your hubs, etc, all contribute to how many miles you’ll get from carbon wheels. Four years out of a set of used carbon wheels that may have been ridden 5K miles or more before you got them is pretty good.

      You can certainly buy a new rear deep wheel to go with your front. I wouldn’t want to go shallower on the back if you’re going to stay with a 55 on the front. See my aero wheelset review here for options.

      I reviewed a few Vision wheels a few years back. Didn’t see that they were very well made so didn’t review them further. Shimano hasn’t done anything new in the road wheel business for years. The C40 is a couple generations old and, while good in its time, seriously lags in performance now. Reynolds makes some good wheels but lots to choose from. Use the search bar at the top of the page to see different Reynolds wheels I’ve reviewed.

      The best wheelsets I’ve reviewed for the depth of the wheels you are considering are in this review. Less expensive ones that don’t perform as well can be found in this review. If you want to consider further options, this post can guide you to the best choice for the kind of riding you do and budget you have. Steve

  • Steve
    I’m a 60 year old cyclist riding a Trek Emonda with a Bontrager Aeolus pro 5 wheel set. I raced many years in my 30’s , 40’s and a bit in my 50’s. I can still manage to average over 22mph in a 50 mile club ride with younger riders. I’ve always ridden on Conti 25 width tires, but notice that many of the other riders are using 28’s. Should I make the change? My bike shop carries Bontrager R3’s tires in 28’s. Is that a good match for my wheelset? I would welcome a more comfortable ride if I do not have to sacrifice to much in the speed and climbing dept.

    • Kevin, wouldn’t recommend it if you want to keep your speed up there without more effort. The rims on those wheels measure around 28mm external width. Putting on a 28C tire is going to measure wider than the rims and negatively affect your aero performance. You didn’t mention which Conti tires but if it makes you feel better, most 25C Contis save for the newest ones will measure 27mm+ on 19C (19mm) internal width rims like yours. I’d suggest lowering the tire pressure in line with current thinking. We used to inflate everything to 110-120psi to feel fast. Testing shows that’s actually slower (and less comfortable) than those inflated far less. Check out this tire pressure calculator from Zipp and this chart from ENVE. Steve

      • Thank you Steve
        Much to consider:)
        I currently ride with the Conti 5000’s. I ride with 100psi and weigh 165lbs. If you think sticking to the 25 Conti’s is the way to go then I will.
        Thankyou so much for your quick response and input.

  • Been looking at various different wheelset sand came across your site. Thank you so much for all the time and effort that has gone into it. An incredible wealth of information and advice.

  • Hey Steve, have you had a chance to read up on the new 303 Firecrest and NSW wheels? I was wondering if you believe the NSW is worth the extra $1,000? The specs seem awfully close and the biggest difference appears to be the hubs used. I took your advice on the Easton EA90 SL wheel set and they’ve been fantastic but they might have to become the winter set soon.

    • Steven, The newest 303 Firecrest are disc brake only and intended for road and gravel riding. So you really can’t compare them apples to apples. I’m a fan of the unchanged (save for the logo) 303 NSW as you read above, but they are pricey indeed. Steve

      • Zipp’s website is advertising new 303 Firecrest wheels with rim brakes, a claimed weight of 1530 grams and a 19mm internal width. Perhaps they recently added this version or they have the new NSW picture posted for the discontinued wheels. At any rate have you tested any wheels with the 6 pawl ZR1 hub (forgive my ignorance if you have)? I would imagine they create a fair amount of mechanical drag but I could be wrong.

        • Steven, What’s new about them is the graphics and the hub. It’s brand new and I’ve not tested them yet. The 303 NSW disc brake wheelset was discontinued all of the other rim and disc brake NSW models live on, with new graphics. Steve

  • Steve, thanks for all the great info. I’d like to ask you more about the the ‘manufacturer’ wheels. I’m a recreational rider and am looking for a good all arounder type wheel set. I have several bikes and as I am looking at wheels for both I’m just not interested in spending 2-4K for a wheel set. It adds up and pretty soon we’re talking real money. I’m looking for my road bike first and it’s steel frame/carbon fork with rim brakes (because everyone should own one!) so obviously weight is not my biggest priority. However I’d like to get a lighter wheelset than what I have and something that’s good on not so great roads. Its fairly hilly where I live – Sydney – with lots of short sharp climbs followed by potholed descents. I just tried the specialized Roubaix Pro 2 Bliss 30/32 on my gravel bike on rims with a 21mm inner width. I’m running them with tubes but even still they are pretty nice on the roads here. Pretty cushy running at 50ish psi and fast enough for me. I’d like to run these on my roadie. So, what’s the best width rim for getting the max benefit out of them? The big names are off my list so I’ve been looking at Hunt, Yoleo and Farsports. Based on lots of positive reviews on the three I’m willing to accept the warranties they offer. I’m leaning toward the Farsports Kaze/Sapim/DT Swiss wheels.
    Thanks, Chris

    • Chris, I may not be the right guy to ask about this as I reviewed and didn’t wouldn’t recommend Hunt or Yoeleo wheels and didn’t recommend Farsports. I also don’t think you buy a wheelset to work with a favored model of tire. Most modern rim brake wheels have an inner width of 19mm, some as high as 21mm. For overall guidance on which wheels to pick for your situation (goals, rider profile, budget), you might want to take a look at this review. Steve

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