We've been working hard and cracking our heads to put together a wheel combination that is super light weight, affordable as well as durable. In addition to reliability, we want a product with serviceability and compatibility - that means no proprietary hubs, spokes and rims.
To start, we picked out some of the wheelsets dominating the Alu-Clincher market.
From the chart below, we derived some goals for ourselves, to not only out perform existing wheelsets, but to distinguish it from with rest by a hefty margin.
|Fulcrum Zero Black
|Fulcrum Zero Nite
|Dura Ace C24
|Mavic Ksyrium SLS
|Reynolds Stratus Pro
|Zipp 30 Clincher
|Elite E22 Wheelsets
We're pretty satisfied with the results, and in search of the best Alu Climbing Clinchers, we created our own. To read more about the breakdown of components or our thought and development process, read below:
The Elite E22
Making a wheel light and cheap can be easy, but normally at the expense of other desirable characteristics. Every component has to chosen right, one bad component could jeopardise the project.
To save weight, many "boutique" hub manufacturers have shrunk the hub's bearing size, the hub flange and the axle diameter. This isn't uncommon, and it significantly reduces the weight of the hubset. By doing so, it loses durability, strength and stiffness of the overall wheelbuild and you'll hear the nightmare stories about crashes, breakage and the recall of certain hubs etc, even for some of the big names from the US, Italy and Germany. Recently, Asian OEM and ODM hub manufacturers have started following suit, creating hubs that are even worse.
After working on and testing hubs from more than a dozen American and Continental manufacturers, we've decided to settle on Carbon-Ti, the Italian manufacturer based in Brescia, Italy. These guys are the right company for the job, they have extensive R&D labs, manufacturing equipment and experience that cannot be bought. In fact, Carbon-Ti's parent company, LLS Titanium has been around for more than 2 and a half decades with an impressive clientele including Pagani, Porsche, Ducati and Aprilia.
We've been working with Carbon-Ti for a few years, and we first came across their Road SL hub prototypes at the Eurobike 2014 in Germany. These were launched earlier in 2015.
Their Front hub weighs in at only 58grams while remaining beefy - it features an oversized Al7075-T6, beautifully CNC-machined body and axle.
Polished and anodised - available in 8 Colours.
100% made in Italy.
The Rear weighs in at just 158grams. Like the front, it is made with an oversized Al7075-T6 CNC machined body and axle. It uses an external bearing preload system and can be easily upgraded with third-party ceramic bearings if necessary.
Despite its already impressive weight, it utilizes an impressive 4-paw simultaneous engagement system with 28 points engagement.
For comparison sake, this is how it compares with a Dura Ace 9000 hub.
|Carbon-Ti Road SL
|28 Points engagement
|Shimano Dura Ace 9000
|18 Points engagement
The rear is laced up in a unique snowflake pattern with straight pull spokes. In terms of tension, they can be pulled up to Front 120kgf and Rear 140kgf with no issues.
It was smart to go with the Carbon-Ti hubs because they utilize straight pull spokes. Straight pull spokes are stronger and lighter than their J-Bend cousins.
Another way to drastically reduce weight (and cost) would be to opt for Alu spokes however, this results in a very harsh riding wheelset. The idea of using carbon on spokes was also eliminated because it requires propietary hubs & rims to build. Also, Carbon is too brittle and cannot be easily replaced.
The Sapim CX Ray spokes would be the best spokes on the market (that are made from steel). While they are as light as other brands of Ti spokes, the Marwi Ti-Dye spokes weigh a whooping 80 grams less.
Up till today, Titanium has not been well received by the community for a few reasons. Ti spokes were first launched more than a decade ago. Back in those days, Titanium spokes were not significantly lighter than steel, and were very expensive, however Ti spokes have now come a long way.
I guess we should also clear the air on the horror stories that appear on forums about spokes breaking. There is a high chance that the wheelbuilder is inexperienced in building with titanium spokes or the rim / hub combination is not suitable to be built with Ti spokes.
- The spoke heads need to be seated nicely in the holes, sometimes they need to be punched in.
- Inadequate tension - Ti spokes should be built to a tension of at least 120kgf drive, 100kgf non-drive. This is way past the limit for many rims and hubs which therefore do not compliment a Ti spoke build.
- Rim is too flexible or soft, this could lead to breakage too.
Marwi is a reputable manufacturer of Ti spokes, and emerged strongest of all the Ti spokes we tested. This is not surprising as they have been around for more than 20 years. One of their secrets lie in their raw materials. Despite the cost, they ensure their quality of spokes by getting their raw titanium from a reliable supplier in the US. So much so, that the company is confident enough to offer a 2 year warranty on all their spokes.
Marwi's Ti-dye spokes are currently available in 7 colour options:
For the absolute weightweenies, the Black variant is not anodised. It is actually a custom ED layer that Marwi has created for us. It weights 0.2 grams heavier per spoke at 310mm but has incredible scratch resistance.
Colour aside, these spokes are the real deal. We've built wheelsets using more than 8,000 pcs for both mountain and road applications and have not seen a single breakage since.
As engineers, we were concerned about the glavanic corrosion that would occur (theoretically) between Alu and Ti, with Alu being the less noble of the two. As such, we would recommend Sapim's Brass Polyax nipples.
That said we do not condemn the use of Alloy nipples. Our inner weightweenies have got the better of us, and we've experimented with generous amounts of Ti-prep, Loctite 567 and Dura Ace grease which seem to be the solution to a problem we have not yet encountered. As such, we will offer Sapim Alu Polyax nipples to those who would like to shed the difference of 28grams on a 20/24H wheelset.
This was where most of our time was spent exploring, learning and creating.
The E22 rim is available in 3 variants.
Respectively, as in photo above:
- E22.A - Black Anodised Rim and Anodised CNC-ed Brake Track
- E22. - Black Anodised Rim and CNC-ed Brake Track
- E22.S - Black Anodised Sandblasted Rim and Hard-Anodised CNC-ed Brake Track to take a beating
The E22. is a classic rim with a shiny CNC brake track. It is designed with the road rider in mind.
The E22.A has a relatively smooth anodising on the rim, and on the CNC brake track which looks barely noticeable.
The E22.S has a sandblasted - rough finish that is perfect for bikes that need some texture. Surface is hard anodised to take a beating, perfect for cycle-cross.
Both the E22.A and E22.S are designed for Track and fixed gear riders with little or no intention of utilizing the brake track. It would also appeal to those who might want a light weight pair of road-disc or cross-disc clinchers. While these CNC-ed brake tracks are fully functional, the brake track is a wearable component on every rim, braking will remove material, and in this case, the anodisation layer.
Users are advised to use new brake pads as old brake pads would contain shards of metal that would wear the brake tracks a lot quicker. Hard braking in wet weather would also attribute to additional friction and accelerates wear-and-tear.
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