Check out our YouTube channel to see our independent and sponsor-free video reviews.


I took a bit of a break from cycling this week after finishing my latest post. The review compares eight, top-performing, all-around carbon wheels for rim brake bikes.

That and staying up late a couple nights to watch my Red Sox crush the Astros, go to three of my baby girl’s soccer games, and mix in a little work along the way made it tough to get my riding or In The Know Cycling mojo working.

Have you had one of those weeks recently?

After a couple of good rides late in the week, I feel renewed and ready to roll with a new Know’s Notes…


BEST VALUE CARBON WHEELSET ONLY USD$1155/£960/€1160 – Each time I review a category of products, I rate one Best Performer and another Best Value.

I pick the Best Performer because it rates best in the category against the performance criteria that matter most. The Best Value performs as well as the average product in the category but sells for far less than the others.

Easton EC90 SL

In the review top performing, all-around rim brake carbon wheels I mentioned above, the Easton EC90 SL was my pick as the Best Value. It’s a comparatively fast and stiff wheelset whose acceleration, handling, and braking performance is on par with many others Nate, Moose and I evaluated. You can read my full review of the EC90 SL here.

While the other wheels in this category sell for $2100-$3200, one store I recommend for their great prices and high customer satisfaction ratings is selling the EC90 SL here for USD$1155/£960/€1160.

That’s a great deal for a competitively performing set of carbon hoops that are designed, made, and supported by a well- established company.


GETTING UP FOR FALL RIDING – If you are a true road cycling enthusiast (definition here), you ride all year. It’s the way to stay in form, share your passion with your cycling friends, and give you that needed outlet from the stresses of life.

For me though, fall is a tough time to get up for riding. There is less daylight leaving less time to ride. Temps and winds often change a lot during the course of a couple hour ride. There are fewer road events to choose from. And work seems to shift from that relaxed summer vibe to more of a get-it-done intensity.

Winter, on the other hand, is my time to get into my training program for the coming year. I find doing high-intensity training for an hour or so before going off to work a great way to start the day.

Warming temps and being able to ride outside again in spring provides its own motivation. The first few group rides and events stretching through the spring months are easy to get psyched up about.

Summer is the peak. I’m in shape, the days are long, everyone is riding and you have plenty of group rides and a range of epic riding events to target.

But, fall is hard.

Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of “incoming” these last few weeks to keep me going. The new ENVE SES 5.6 mid-depth aero wheels just arrived and I’m now doing comparisons against the Zipp 404 NSW and Bontrager Aeolus XXX6 that arrived late in the summer. I passed those on to Nate, Moose, and Don, our triathlete testing teammate, while I was evaluating tires and helmets and other wheels. Now it’s my turn to get aero.

Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6, ENVE SES 5.6, Zipp 404 NSW

Bontrager Aeolus XXX 6, ENVE SES 5.6, Zipp 404 NSW

Fall is also a great time to test the aero and crosswind performance of aero wheels. Where I ride, it seems to be windy most days now. Will I get blown off my line, blown off the road or is all of the concern about crosswinds overblown with the new rim shapes?

To celebrate the Sox winning 3 against the Yankees and 3 in a row against the ‘Stros, I took the three aero wheels out for a half dozen 20-minute flat and hilly laps on Friday. The wind was blowing, the sun was shining, the temps were cool, and the leaves were at peak color. A great day to be out and compare what these hoops can do. I’ll share more in a review about this category of wheels in an upcoming review.

So I guess I do have some things to keep me keep me going through the fall.

What about you? What keeps you motivated to ride in the fall? Tell me and your fellow road cycling enthusiasts in the comments section below. We could all use some more inspiration.


DESIGN SPECS VS. PERFORMANCE CRITERIA – My exchange with Matthew below revisits the challenge many have trying to connect design specs and performance measures. Design specs are objective and quantifiable but don’t directly predict performance. Performance measures are subjective and relative but aren’t equally meaningful to different riders.

Take a look.

Comment of the Week

Better specs, like the rotational weight or moment of inertia that Matthew would like to see manufacturers specify, would certainly give us more to chew on. I’m not convinced, however, that better specs would lead to better indicators of performance. As I note in my response, there are just too many design considerations and product characteristics that lead to performance and their relationships are hard to fathom without a lot of testing, which is what wheel designers do for a living.

I readily admit that our approach at In The Know Cycling is subjective. I just can’t draw a straight line from A (design specs) to B (product performance) with any confidence. Instead, I try to start at B with a few humble fellow enthusiasts with very different riding profiles and no commercial interests. Each of us tries to figure out how the performance of the criteria that matter most compares and how it relates to you, our like-riding readers.


That’s it for now. Thanks for reading and supporting the site.

Be sure to follow, like, share, etc. using the buttons to the right to keep up with things going on during the week and get the word out with your cycling friends about what we’re up to.

In The Know Cycling supports you and your fellow enthusiasts by doing hours of independent and comparative analysis to find the best road cycling gear and kit to improve your riding experience.

You support us and save yourself money and time by buying anything at all through the links to stores we’ve picked for their low prices and high customer satisfaction. These stores pay us a small commission when you buy there after clicking on these links. Thank you. 

Read more about who we are, what we do and why.


  • Red Sox? What a terrible disappointment in an otherwise very informative and useful website. Well, let’s hope the Dodgers do the job starting tomorrow.

    From a still bitter Yankee fan


    • Sergio, a great rivalry between the two teams renewed this year. Steve

      • True!

        The way both teams are stacked with young talent I see many years of great baseball ahead. Hopefully we land Machado in the offseason!

        (Sorry for going off topic, btw. Just found your site, I’m loving it!)

  • Hi Steve, just found your blog and loving it. Question: Difference in performance between a Metron 55SL ( could find the old 55 but not the SL) and Zipp 404 Firecrest (2018) with regards to braking performance (wet/dry) and absolute speed. I m an 176lbs, 3.25w/kg rider, looking for some extra km/hr for very fast grouprides (32km/hr +, and 40 km/hr peaks ), dead flat ( the Netherlands really no climbs in sight )

  • Hi Steve, what a wealth of information in here – love it!! I have a couple of carbon wheel related questions. Do you have any experience with the 3T Discus Team or LTD wheel sets? Also the Cannondale Hollowgram by Stans seems to be nice – any first hand experience?


    • Kreseten, Thanks for your feedback. Sadly, I don’t have any experience riding those wheels. There are hundreds of wheelsets being made so it’s hard for me and my fellow testers to cover them all. 3T has always impressed me as a carbon manufacturer first and foremost but their wheel designs and the scant reviews and feedback from others has never motivated me to want to test them. Stan’s does make mountain bike wheels but when they started making road wheels, I tested a set (Avion Disc Pro) and it didn’t seem they brought anything new to the party and still had a few things to learn. Steve

      • Hi Steve, thanks for reply and with that in mind I’m trying to make up my mind between Enve SES 3.4 Gen 1 @ $1,700 and Zipp 302 @ $1400 or Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST @ $1400, all in disc versions. The Zipp 302 is a little heavy – 1695g but get pretty good reviews. Thx Kris

        • Kresten, Between those three, the first generation ENVE is an easy choice. It was purpose-built for disc brake bikes and is a very good performer. I used to rate it the best performer in the all-around road disc wheelset category before the latest generation came out. The Zipp 302 is the couple generation old Zipp 303 Firecrest disc brake wheelset without the dimples and heavy. OK if you are riding mostly flats but a drag if you are doing any kind of varying terrain.The Mavic isn’t a bad wheelset but isn’t terribly responsive.

          You also should be able to get 10% off the ENVE at Competitive Cyclist by using this link and the onetime ITKC10 code they offer exclusively to my readers if you haven’t already used it. Steve

  • Hi Steve, still love your site after years of following! A question on performance race wheels: I have a Road race and TT double event in which I am limited to 60mm deep wheels by the rules. I currently have Enve 4.5 rim brake tubular wheelset (48 deep front, 56 deep rear). Are there any better option at 60mm (Or shallower!) that I should consider? Possibly even considering just searching for a front wheel as there’s 12mm to gain there! Bontrager XXX6 and Zipp 454 are the only ones coming to mind. Thanks!

    • George, Thank for sharing the love! I’m working on an update of my aero wheels post with the above three pictured wheelsets added and compared against those in there now. All of these are best as TT wheels save for the 4.5 which I found can double as a road race wheelset. If wanted to go deeper and more aero and have room between your forks for a wider wheel, I’d check out the front wheel of the ENVE 5.6 wheelset which runs 54mm deep, 28.2 max width. (The rear is 64mm deep so beyond your regs). The 5.6 is the next generation of the 4.5 even though ENVE is keeping the 4.5 in the lineup because so many TT/Tri riders have bikes without frame widths to handle the wider wheels. I found the 5.6 absolutely energizing to ride; Nate favored the XXX 6. Both of us through they were a touch better performers than the new 404s and neither of us or Moose would want to ride the 454s again for reasons you can read in the review. Go here for more on the 5.6 and here for the XXX 6. Honestly though, if you’ve already got the 4.5s, I’d put my money into better training. Steve

      • Thanks Steve! Yes, would have a hard time justifying dropping the money on any of these over training and diet refinements! I can dream of a front 5.6 though 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *