The Best of Both Worlds? Light and Aero 972 gram wheels

We’ve put on hold, at least temporarily, our quest to build the lightest wheels in the world. (See our 715 gram wheel project.) For our next few wheel projects we thought we’d explore what reasonable wheels could be built for all around road racing — wheels that are sturdy enough to use on rough roads, light enough for climbing, aero enough to be efficient at higher speeds, and reasonably priced. For the first set we decided to use the new EDGE 1.45 tubular rims, and later this week we will do a set using EDGE 1.68 tubular rims. The 1.45 rims were recently introduced (replacing the great EDGE 1.38 rims) and while we’ve sold a few sets of the clincher version, this is the first set of tubular rims we’ve had the chance to play with.

Front wheel:

  • EDGE 1.45 tubular rim, 20 hole
  • ExtraLite SX front hub with ceramic bearings
  • Pillar 1422 bladed titanium spokes
  • Pillar internal aluminum nipples

Rear wheel:

  • EDGE 1.45 tubular rim, 24 hole
  • ExtraLite SX rear hub with ceramic bearings (Shimano cassette)
  • Pillar 1422 bladed titanium spokes (non-drive side)
  • Sapim CX-Ray bladed steel spokes (drive side)
  • Pillar internal aluminum nipples

We decided to use steel spokes on the drive side of the rear wheel rather than titanium spokes to build a stiffer and stronger wheel. The Sapim CX-Ray spokes are about 1g heavier per spoke than the titanium spokes, so this adds about 12 grams to the weight of the wheel set, which seemed like a worthwhile trade. We used silver Sapim CX-Ray spokes so as to match the look of the titanium spokes and I must say, I think they look great.

We chose the ExtraLite SX front hub over the M5 flanged or straight-pull because it nicely matched the rear, and because it feels smoother and more robust than the M5. Again, if our goal were to make the lightest wheels, we would have opted for the M5 flanged, but that’s not intent with these wheels. Going with the M5 flanged front hub would have shaved another 17 grams off of the weight of the wheel set.

We went with 20/24 spokes for strength and stiffness reasons. My gut feeling is that these wheels would be fine for someone up to about 180 lbs, and beyond that you’d probably want to go with 24/28 spokes, and maybe ditch the ti spokes in favor of all steel spokes. And on the other end, for riders under 160 lbs, you could probably go with 18/20 spokes and maybe ditch the steel spokes in the rear wheel. Unfortunately it’s not a simple equation of rider weight, it also comes down to riding style and longevity expectations.

In the past we’ve mostly posted photos of wheels we built up for customers, but these wheels we built as stock wheels and they are available for purchase if someone wants them. And if no one buys them then I’ll just have to use them myself — drag…. (Please don’t tell my wife)

There are other wheels out there that have a similar profile, and similar weight, but not similar price. As far as I know, there are options from Lightweight/CarbonSports, but they cost considerably more money, and they weigh a tad more, too. And there were options from LEW Racing that were slightly lighter, but he appears to no longer be making wheels for the public, and they were also way more expensive.

I’ve been trying to think of a name for these wheels and it just came to me — “Morgul-Bismarck“. For those who don’t know, the Morgul-Bismarck was a classic Colorado road race with some very tough climbs, fast descents, and howling wind — the exact type of race for which these wheels were designed.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make a better all around set of racing wheels? We will be posting some photos, and weights, of a nice set of EDGE 1.68s in a few days, but we’d love to hear what you think of these…