Ritchey's new WCS Zeta II wheels ultimately go about their business in a rather quietly competent manner – and we mean that in a good way. They ride well and feel competitively quick, plus they're reasonably light and have proven to be exceptionally durable. But for globetrotters that regularly fly with dedicated travel bikes, they also have a seriously awesome feature that makes packing a breeze.
The rims are relatively shallow but they're reasonably wide at 17mm in between the bead hooks and also tubeless compatible
While they look impressively sleek and modern with their sleekly profiled hubs and subtly V-shaped rims, what lies beneath is quite straightforward. Fully standard DT Swiss bladed J-bend spokes and durable brass nipples are used throughout, and we can confirm that Ritchey's wheelbuilders are doing a great job putting it all together. After 10 months of testing and several trips abroad – not to mention plenty of abuse by baggage handlers inside an S&S travel case – we haven't had to lift a spoke wrench once.
Although heavier than claimed by about 50g, the wheels are still reasonably light with an actual weight of 1,499g for the pair (652g front, 847g rear, plus 91g for skewers). And despite our predictions of a spindly-feeling ride, given the minimal 20/24-hole front/rear spoke layout, the WCS Zeta IIs actually feel quite solid rolling down the road, with little noticeable flex, even when pushed hard through corners. Even better, the rims' slightly wider-than-usual 17mm internal width mates well with more forgiving 25mm boots and should you prefer to go that route, the outer wall features a true tubeless-compatible profile with no rim strip or tape required.
The Phantom Flange hub design looks to use straight-pull spokes but actually uses wholly standard J-bend ones
Oh, and about that trick: cyclists who frequently have to stuff their Break-Away, S&S, or other dedicated travel bike into an airline-legal case understand better than most the value of space. Thanks to a slick rear hub design, riders can simply yank off the freehub body and axle with no tools required and without worrying about the pawls flying off into parts unknown. This of course eases maintenance but it also means the width of the rear wheel is effectively cut in half.
We initially had fears that such a slip-fit design would be prone to creaking but our testers have thankfully stayed quiet since their arrival in February. That said, the supplemental seals could stand some beefing-up as they're not as protective as we'd prefer, nor does the one on the rear hub stay put very well when the axle is removed.
The rear hub comes apart with no tools required, which eases maintenance and also makes these wheels a dream for travel bikes
While we're at it, we're happy that the included quick-release skewers feature such unusually long levers, but would rather see a more effective internal-cam design instead for better clamping power.
When all is said and done, prospective wheel buyers looking for the absolute latest and greatest rightfully might not be drawn to the WCS Zeta II. But riders with less extravagant budgets who want modern aesthetics without sacrificing build quality should find plenty to like here.
For manufacturer information, visit www.ritcheylogic.com.