US company Core started out producing mountain bike components, but they've been slowly expanding their range to include more road components. New for 2010, the Gradient SL wheelset sits at the top of the company’s tarmac range.
Coming in at 758g for the front wheel and 960g for the rear (with rim tape, but without skewers), this wheelset compares favourably with others in this price bracket. No eyelets on the rim and Sandvik double butted spokes help to keep the overall weight down and allow these wheels to spin up to speed quickly – they felt noticeably faster on our commute.
The striking white spokes are plastic coated – only you can decide whether the looks are worth the extra £50 compared to the silver rim/black spoke combination and an additional (minor) weight penalty. On that note, be aware that the coating was very easily damaged by a cycle computer magnet and there was some staining from the general black gunk that seems to ﬁnd its way onto every bit of a bike.
Despite the front wheel being slightly out of true from the off, the back remained true and the front didn’t get any worse throughout our testing. It’s good to see brass nipples because they’re less likely to corrode than alloy ones, allowing the wheel to be ‘tweaked’ up throughout the life of the rim. With a moderate spoke count (24 up front, 28 rear) and distinctive ‘skipped spoke’ lacing pattern, there was no apparent ﬂex even under hard cornering and out-of-the-saddle gurning – these are nice stiff wheels.
Coming with ﬁxed cartridge bearings the hubs appear to have good sealing, but given the lovely spell of weather we’ve been having, we were hard pushed to create the kind of conditions that will really put them through their paces. The freewheel quietly purred as we rode, a real change from the loud clicking of Chris King or Hope freewheels. The Gradient SLs are available in nine- and 10-speed Shimano-compatible versions.