If the wide-rim movement was a drop in the proverbial bucket a few years ago, it's now a veritable downpour if this year's Interbike trade show was any indication. Companies like HED and Zipp (and quietly, Shimano and Velocity) have already been on board for some time but now American Classic and Rolf Prima have entered the fray as well.
The benefits are tough to argue with – more air volume for a given casing size, better sidewall support for surer cornering, fewer pinch flats, and improved road feel. In some cases, aerodynamic performance is claimed to improve, too.
Other trends include a growing number of road tubeless-compatible options (from Campagnolo and American Classic) along with some enticing new disc-ready road models for 2012 as well.
HED's 'wider and rounder' rim shapes and new disc-compatible wheels
HED have been at the forefront of the 'wider is better' approach to wheel design. They're once again wasting little time waiting around, with new disc-ready versions of their Ardennes alloy clinchers and tubulars, and Stinger 5 carbon tubulars to accommodate the new wave of disc-equipped 'cross bikes.
Both variants feature Center Lock alloy hubs with grease ports and 135mm rear axle spacing that add just 35g each as compared to the company's non-disc hubs, according to HED "repository of knowledge" Andy Tetmeyer. Add in some lightweight rotors and the expected full-hydraulic setups soon to come from SRAM and Shimano, and it seems that overall weight penalties might be more modest than some have feared.
HED has decided to go with the Center Lock interface on its disc-compatible hubs. Six-bolt rotors will also work with the appropriate adapter
Unfortunately, HED won't have those disc-compatible wheels available for another six to eight weeks so they'll miss out on most of this 'cross season, but we're still looking forward to trying out a set later this year.
Coming in November is the expanded and revised Jet range, with the same wider-format C2 aluminum clincher and tubular rim beds and brake tracks as before, but with new unidirectional carbon fiber aero caps that are both lighter and more aerodynamic thanks to their more rounded nose shapes borrowed from the Stinger family.
HED gives its Jet series of aluminum and carbon-rimmed aero wheels the same wide rim profiles as its Ardennes models
Claimed weights for the Jet collection range from 1,643g for the 46mm-deep Jet 4 FR up to 1,965g for the 90mm-deep Jet 9 FR. Pricing varies between US$1,900-2,000 depending on rim depth.
Also new to the Jet family for 2012 is the lower-priced Jet 5 Express, built with the same rim technology as the rest of the collection but with slightly heavier hubs, thicker spokes, and a versatile 55mm-deep profile for a total claimed weight of 1,681g. Cost is reduced by around US$500 per set.
The Stinger range of wide-format, all-carbon tubulars see the biggest change this year, growing from three models to six. The new 33mm-deep Stinger 3 is the lightest in HED's company catalog at 1,188g per set, owing in part to the 25mm width as compared to the other Stingers' broader 28mm measurement. Tetmeyer says HED easily could have made an even lighter wheelset for pure climbers but instead opted for a slight compromise that still offered some aerodynamic benefits on the way back down.
HED bills the new 50mm-deep Stinger 5 FR as its toughest and most impact resistant model, designed for a wide range of typical road conditions but also cyclo-cross and cobbles. Despite the toughness, claimed weight is still only 1,545g.
Finally, there's the new 75mm-deep Stinger 7 FR at 1,626g, aimed at riders looking for a little more speed while still being manageable in crosswinds. Pricing for all Stingers ranges from US$2,200 to US$2,400 depending on model and save for the Stinger 3 FR, Ardennes GP, and the three-spoke wheels, all of HED's wheels are also available with optional Powertap hubs for an additional charge.
American Classic ditches ETRTO standards
New for 2012 from American Classic are the Road Tubeless road wheels
American Classic is celebrating their 30th anniversary with six new wheel models for 2012, highlighted by new tubeless variants in both road and mountain formats.
Rather than simply use the currently available UST or Stan's NoTubes rim shapes, American Classic's Bill Shook has decided to create his own rim profiles, which – interestingly enough – toss aside industry standard ETRTO dimensions in favor of a more progressive approach that works more like automobile or motorcycle rims. "ETRTO is crazy," he told BikeRadar. "I just want to make stuff that works."
Shook says his rims use a slightly bigger bead diameter than typical along with a gently ramping internal shape and a pronounced ridge that actively wedges the bead into the hook for safety. That hook is also lower – similar to what NoTubes has been advocating – so that the tire casing is less restrained. American Classic still recommend proper Road Tubeless tires to match, though, for their safer no-stretch carbon fiber beads.
Despite the Road Tubeless wheelset's broader 22mm-wide rims (19mm internal width), claimed weight is still just 1,179g thanks to American Classic's ultralight Micro 58 and RD 205 front and rear hubs. Retail price is US$1,399.
Lighter yet is American Classic's reintroduction of their magnesium-rimmed road clinchers, which share the Road Tubeless model's 22mm external width but omits the tubeless compatibility. Claimed weight is 1,108g for the pair – on par with many carbon tubulars – and retail price is US$1,599.
American Classic's new MTB Race wheels – available in both 26" and 29" diameters – adopt the same philosophy as the Road Tubeless model with a larger-than-typical bead seat diameter but an even-wider 28mm external width. In fact, Shook claims it's so wide that most riders should be able to drop down a tire size – thus saving weight – while still maintaining the same footprint and casing volume.
American Classic unveiled new tubeless-compatible MTB Race wheels at this year's Interbike show in both 26" and 29" sizes
Even with those more generous dimensions, the rims themselves are ultralight at just 310g for the 26" size and 340g for the 29ers. Claimed weight for the complete wheels is similarly svelte at 1,321g and 1,419g per pair, respectively, and both are built with American Classic's Disc 130 and Disc 225 six-bolt hubs with convertible axle standards. Suggested retail price for either is US$999.
Shook cautions that the MTB Race wheels' bead diameters are specifically designed for tires with tube-type beads and in fact, he says that ones with true UST or even tubeless-ready beads likely won't fit.
Shook has designed a less aggressive profile into the new mid-range Terrain 26" and 29" tubeless mountain bike wheels, however, and all tires should readily seat. Rim width is a more modest 26mm (external dimension) and weights are more average as well at 1,782g for the 26" size and 1,895g for the 29ers. Both are built with American Classic Terrain Disc hubs and retail price is US$470 per pair. All of American Classic's new wheels should be available by January.
Campagnolo launches new alloy-carbon road clinchers with Road Tubeless options
Campagnolo will offer the Bullet wheels in three depths – 50, 80, and 105mm – and all of them will be offered in either standard clincher or tubeless-compatible 2-Way Fit rim profiles for use with either format. In addition, buyers will also have their choice of CULT steel bearings or the company's USB hybrid ceramic setup.
Campagnolo's new Bullet Ultra 80 uses an 80mm-deep profile to slice through the wind
Differences between the Fulcrum and Campagnolo versions go beyond skin-deep, however. Both share anti-rotation bladed stainless steel spokes for easier truing, pierceless outer rim walls that require no rim tape, rims that are balanced with the valve stem in mind for more stable running at high speed, and special aluminum internal nipple seats for more precise spoke alignment. Both also use two-to-one lacing patterns on the rear wheel for more balanced spoke tension but the Campagnolo wheels will get the company's unique G3 spoking pattern on the rear wheels as compared to Fulcrum's more conventional looking setup.
Claimed weight for the lightest Bullet Ultra is 1,590g; the mid-deep Bullet Ultra 80 weighs 1,790g; and the most aggressive Bullet Ultra 105 is 1,960g for the set.
Campagnolo also showed off some of their new component offerings for 2012. In addition to the much-hyped electronic system (which is set to officially launch this January), Campagnolo displayed their long-overdue updates to its aero offerings with new alloy and carbon bar-end shifters in both 10-speed or 11-speed formats with configurable back-to-zero (similar to SRAM's R2C setup) positioning, multi-shift capability (up to three gears in either direction), and handy external ports for the cables.
Campagnolo's new bar-end shifters feature position-adjustable levers and back-to-zero internal mechanisms
Those shifters will be accompanied by new bar-end brake levers with either carbon fiber or aluminum lever blades and tidy quick-release mechanisms for use with Campagnolo's own QR-free brake calipers and upsized 55/42T or 54/42T chainring combinations for Super Record, Record, or Chorus cranksets.
Finally, there's a subset of Campagnolo components designed specifically for cyclo-cross with heavier-duty seals including four Power Torque cranksets – two with carbon arms, two with alloy ones – for 10-speed and 11-speed drivetrains, some simple forged aluminum wide-profile cantilever brakes, and five wheelsets from basic alloy clinchers to deep-section carbon tubulars.
Campagnolo's 'cross-specific cranks are built around the Power Torque spline system and feature specific chainring combinations
Rolf Prima lightens up, dips its toes into the wide-rim pool
The new Rolf Prima Vigor Alpha wheels feature an all-new rim extrusion measuring 23mm wide
Rolf Prima adds a new top-end 'Alpha' variant to their Vigor family of 33mm-deep alloy road clinchers for 2012, boasting a fresh 22mm-wide rim extrusion for a better match with more common 23mm- and 25mm-wide tires but extra machining on the front hub to keep the overall weight in check. Total claimed weight is 1,480g with just 14 front and 16 rear bladed stainless steel spokes and White Industries rear hub internals. Retail price is US$1,250 and Rolf Prima estimates the wheels to be in stock at retailers beginning in November.
Rolf Prima's lighter Elan family carries on with the same narrow rim extrusion as before but a new Alpha flagship version trims a few grams by way of Sapim CX-Ray spokes and a little extra hub machining. Total claimed weight is now 1,335g for the set while pricing is still relatively reasonable at US$1,149.
All new for 2012 is the Ares line of all-carbon clinchers, which will include the 46mm-deep Ares 4 (1,435g, US$2,499), the 66mm-deep Ares 6 (1,590g, US$2,499), and the 80mm-deep Ares 8 (1,790g, US$2,599). Common features 21mm external rim widths, titanium freehub bodies and internals made by White Industries, titanium quick-release skewers, and bladed stainless steel spokes.
Finally on the road side, the long-running TDF 58 SL has been replaced by the new TDF 60, which uses a new 60mm-deep tubular rim profile measuring 23mm at the tire bed but 25mm at its widest point. According to Rolf Prima, this new shape tests even faster than their own 85mm-deep wheels while still being light at 1,395g per pair in the lightest SL version. Suggested retail price is US$2,299.
Rather than develop another custom extrusion, Rolf has instead chosen to use a custom drilled Stan's NoTubes Arch rim for its long-awaited Ralos 6 and Ralos 9 mountain bike wheels. Naturally, Rolf Prima will again use its trademark paired spoking pattern that reportedly allows for higher tensions and straighter builds and White Industries rear hub internals with stainless steel freehub bodies.
Claimed weights are 1,495g for the 26" version and 1,655g for the 29" hoops, both with convertible front and rear hubs and retail prices of US$899.
A closer look at 3T's intriguing Mercurio
Rather than drill or mold holes in the rim, 3T instead molds T-slots into the sides of the rim
In fairness, 3T's new Mercurio carbon road tubular wheels are neither unusually wide nor – obviously – tubeless compatible but their novel configuration warrants a mention nonetheless. Rather than anchor the spokes in the rim via conventionally drilled or molded holes, 3T instead seat each straight-pull spoke head in T-slots that are molded into the side of the rim.
According to 3T, the advantages include a more continuous fiber structure for improved strength, lower wheel inertia since the nipples are relocated to the hub flange, easier wheel truing since the tire doesn't have to be removed, and greater surface area for safer tire gluing. Despite appearances, 3T claims the exposed spoke pockets don't affect aerodynamic performance, either.
Claimed weight is competitive at sub-1,400g for the top-end Mercurio LTD 60 and a "surfacing veil" on the brake track (technology supposedly derived from 3T technical director Richard McAinsh's experience in Formula 1) is said to yield nearly identical stopping performance in both wet and dry conditions.
One undersung feature, however, is the universal freehub body design borrowed from Swiss wheel company Edco. The clever dual-spline pattern will readily accept both Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo cassettes with no other modifications required aside from adding or removing some spacers.
Reynolds Cycling ready for discs
Reynolds' new Assault disc-compatible wheels can be used with either disc brakes or rim brakes - as long as your frame is spaced for 135mm rear hubs
Last but not least is the disc-ready version of Reynolds Cycling's Assault carbon road/cyclo-cross wheels, built with the same rim as the other Assault wheels but new six-bolt hubs in preparation for the coming crop of road and 'cross framesets.
Spacing on the rear hub is set at 135mm and claimed weights are 1,496g for the tubulars and 1,716g for the clinchers.