Knight Composites - a brand new name in the bike wheels market - has just launched with a range of three highly developed full carbon clincher aero wheels that it promises will rattle the established market leaders by being faster, lighter and less expensive. Based in Bend, Oregon, in the US, Knight will debut its 35, 65 and 95 wheelsets at the Eurobike show in Germany next week, though BikeRadar was able to get an exclusive early look.
The wheels will be available from October and Knight's prices of $2,899 for the 95 and $2,599 for the 65 and 35 (UK / AUS prices TBC) are designed to undercut the likes of Zipp and Enve in all markets. DT Swiss hubs and Sapim spokes are used, with options to upgrade to exotic hubs from Chris King or Tune.
The 95 is the flagship model and Knight claims that it’s the outright fastest wheelset you can buy, outperforming ‘existing market leaders’ in their wind tunnel tests conducted at the Faster facility in Arizona. At 15 degrees wind yaw angle in a wheel-only test the 95 is said to have 45g less drag than its nearest rival and that it resists stalling (air separation that causes an increase in drag) up to 18 degrees. Knight claim a potential time saving of 22.5 seconds over 25 miles (40km). The rim is, of course, 95mm deep and also a huge 28.25mm across its widest point. Claimed weight is 1,824/1,793g with DT 240 and 180 hubs respectively. For comparison, the 88mm Zipp 808 Firecrest Carbon Clincher weighs a claimed 1,840g. The 95 will retail at $2,899 (UK / AUS prices TBC).
The profile of the Knight 65 is closely based on that of its deeper stablemate, helping it to produce drag figures that are 20 percent lower than its nearest rival in wheel-only tests and 10 percent lower when mounted in a bike. It’s 28mm wide, uses a 20/24 spoke arrangement and weighs 1,604/1,573g with DT 240 and 180 hubs respectively. Zipp’s new 404 Firestrike CC is claimed to weigh 1,620g.
The 35 is Knight’s do-it-all wheel for ultimate crosswind stability and low weight for climbing while maintaining a significant aerodynamic advantage over a shallow alloy rim. The claimed weight is 1,404g/1,373g with DT 240 and 180 hubs respectively. Both the Knight 65 and 35 wheels will retail for $2,599.
As well as working on the speed, stability and weight, Knight says they have ensured their new wheels have excellent heat dissipation by using brake tracks that are thicker than those of most carbon clinchers.
We’ve had an early test ride on the 35 and came away impressed. It’s very stiff under power yet also light, so it’s really responsive. It wasn’t windy enough to judge the stability but it certainly seems fast, based on how easily we averaged 21mph for 30 miles. We’ll be testing the full range thoroughly very soon.
Knight Composites is a small team of just three people: Beverly Lucas, Jim Pfeil and Kevin Quan. However, between them they have over 50 years experience in the high-end bike industry. CEO Beverly Lucas previously worked at Felt and more recently Enve, where she initiated the collaboration with Simon Smart that led to the SES wheel range that made Enve a big player in the aero market overnight.
Jim Pfeil was one of the founders of Reynolds Composites where he produced the game-changing Ouzo full carbon fork. He later worked at Edge (later Enve) Composites from their launch and more recently NeilPryde.
Engineer Kevin Quan designed the iconic Cervélo P3C time trial bike. In 2007 he launched Kevin Quan Studios where he and his team specialise in aerodynamic carbon fibre bike frame design.
Knight formed just a year ago and immediately launched into an intensive R&D process, initially using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), then the mini wind tunnel at the University of Toronto. By the end of January this year they were already testing full-size prototypes at the bike-specific Faster wind tunnel in Arizona.
“We knew from the start that we wanted to create the next level of wheel,” Lucas told BikeRadar. “It had to be the fastest. We have the experience to do it right and we wouldn't accept less than spectacular.”
The October issue of Procycling magazine, on sale 12 September, has an in-depth feature charting the rapid and advanced R&D process behind Knight Composites.