Of all upgrades, a new set of wheels offers the greatest potential for improving the performance, looks, or comfort levels of your bike. We'd normally suggest spending bigger to see a worthwhile improvement over an entry level set, but on paper these wheels from Superstar look like amazing value for money.
Superstar's Icon Ultra hubs now come as standard with an 11-speed freehub and they're well-made, if rather generic looking. What's not generic are the cartridge bearings from leading manufacturer SKF. They're decent sized, a plus for durability, and the hub design gives them an extra level of protection in addition to their rubber seals.
The Pacenti SL23 rim follows the trend for increased width, measuring 24mm across externally and 18mm internally. The rim bed is stepped for tubeless compatibility and with a blunt 26mm deep section, safe crosswind handling is a given. Despite their size, claimed average weight is under 450g, so these can be built into respectably light wheels. With Sapim Race spokes (20 front, 24 rear) and the brass nipples we requested (alloy would save about 40g at a small cost in durability), this Superstar build comes in at 685g for the front and 829g for the rear, making a total of 1514g, or 1560g after we installed the stock rim strips.
These strips immediately had us worried. They made tyre fitting a real struggle as they took up significant room in the rims' central channels, testing our thumb strength to the limit and, more importantly, there seemed to be little to prevent them from shifting sideways and exposing the spoke holes. We were right to be concerned as we suffered a puncture within days, caused by the inner tube finding its way past the strip, and inspection of the tubes showed further failures were imminent. We asked Superstar about this and they supplied a roll of their tubeless rim tape as a replacement (a saving of 38g in total). With a single layer in each rim, tyre fitting was now vastly easier, and testing resumed with no more problems.
On the road, the Superstars are stiff, lively and light feeling – exactly what you want from a wheel upgrade. The wide rims eke some extra volume from your tyres, and we found pressures 10-15psi lower than what we'd run on a narrow rim worked well, giving an instant improvement in comfort. The wheels required a tiny bit of truing in the first hundred miles or so, suggesting they need more stressing in the build process, but it was no more than any mainstream factory wheel requires. The spoke tensions were fairly even too, which bodes well for long term durability.
Leaving aside the easily resolved rim strip issue and some underwhelming stickers, there's a lot to like about the Superstars. They are half a kilo lighter than many entry level wheelsets, they perform well, and they're built using quality components.
Superstar sells direct to most parts of the world but not currently the USA, Russia or Ukraine. For more info see www.superstarcomponents.com