Swiss Side, the brainchild of former F1 engineer Jean-Paul Ballard and industrial designer George Cant, is a new player in the already very crowded wheel game. The part Swiss, part Australian owned company is using a consumer-direct business model, and claims its wheels offer the same quality and performance as the big brands, at 40 percent of the cost. Against the likes of Zipp, Easton and Mavic – among many others that are producing top notch hoops – how does Swiss Side measure up?
The Gothard wheels are Swiss Side’s flagship aluminium clincher. At 27mm deep, the rims are low-profile and are also quite narrow, measuring just 19mm outside the bead and 13.85mm inside.
Measuring 13.85mm between the bead, the Gotthard wheelset's narrow footprint is behind the latest trends
A wider rim, an idea pioneered by HED, spreads the tyre flatter. This increases air volume for better comfort and road feel, a larger contact patch for improved traction, better support of the sidewall under cornering pressure, and in some cases creates a more aerodynamic tyre profile. The idea of ‘wider is better’ has proven to be more than just a fad, and narrow rim profiles are quickly becoming an outdated standard.
The skinny 13.85mm inner profile of the Gothard makes a 23mm tyre bulge, and a 25mm one look like a hot air balloon. Especially with the 25mm rubber, the lack of rim bed width required a higher air pressure than we would have liked because of the increased likelihood of pinch flats and the lack of sidewall support – negating some of the benefits of a wider tyre.
Out of the box the Gotthard wheelset is surprisingly well built
There's better news in terms of the Gotthards' build quality – it's on par with what we expect from the big name brands. Out of the box the rims were perfectly true, and spoke tension was uniform throughout. However, the included external cam skewers (which we are not a fan of to begin with) came out of the box squeaky, and generate a lot of friction rather than clamping force.
As expected, the CNC machined brake track provides plenty of power without feeling grabby and there is no strange brake shudder or vibration that would signal an uneven surface.
The high quality CNC machine aluminium brake track offers a reliable braking surface
Keeping things rolling are Swiss Side’s own proprietary hubs – they are quite simple, but spin smooth, and add to the clean aesthetic of the wheel. Opening the hubs only requires two 5mm allen keys, and the sealed cartridge bearings keep maintenance simple.
Both wheels are strung with 24 Sapim CX Delta straight pull bladed spokes and use external brass nipples for durability. The front spokes are arranged radially, while the rear uses 2:1 2-cross pattern.
The front wheel is laced radially with 24 spokes
Our sample wheelset came equipped with a SRAM/Shimano 11-speed red anodised freehub body (9/10-speed with an included spacer), and featured Swiss Side’s patented Micro Shuffle pawl technology. This simple three pawl system is similar to what is seen in Bontrager and Powertap freehubs, and makes for fast and nearly seamless engagement. Campagnolo freehub bodies are also available at no extra charge.
Out on the road the Gotthards are lively and quite stiff, but also somewhat unforgiving due to the aero-profiled rim and high spoke tension. They aren't sprightly enough to serve as all-out racing wheels, but will make a good upgrade for those after a set of low maintenance, do-it-all training wheels.
During our test period we put these hoops through the wringer, spending quite a bit time riding in the rain and on questionable paths. Despite this rough and tumble test period, the Swiss Side hubs remain silky smooth and the rims surprisingly true.
Swiss Side's proprietary hubs are quite simple but roll smoothly
It’s surprising how much the Gothard wheels are affected by cross winds for only being 27mm deep. The rather pointed rim profile causes for a more rapid pressure change than more snub nosed profiles when hit with off angle winds, translating into noticeable buffeting.
Weighing in at 1520g per set (including rim tape), the Gotthards slot into roughly the same range as a Fulcrum Racing 3 (1550g) or a Mavic Ksyrium Elite (1540g) which each cost noticeably more.
Price is a big factor – especially when it comes to wheels, because they can be a big investment and drastically affect ride characteristics. We can confidently say this wheelset is punching above its weight when it comes to performance, but a wider rim profile would make the Gotthards truly special.
Note: Swiss Side is sold in and then globally distributed from Europe. The price for these wheels is €529 (including VAT), other prices given are from a currency conversion at the time of publishing the review, Australian and US prices are excluded from VAT.