One-of-a-kind construction seats an aluminum tubeless clincher tire bed within a carbon rim and brake track.
It has carbon spokes. It has a carbon hub body. It’s a clincher wheelset. It weighs less than many tubulars (<1250g). It’s tubeless compatible. It has an aluminum tire bed. It has a carbon brake surface. It has a deep rim.
The Madfiber Clincher is many things all at once, and it’s anything but ordinary. Madfiber launched as a company last year with their first wheelset, a tubular wheel with a very narrow carbon rim culminating with a razor-sharp inner edge, tensioned carbon spokes and a carbon hub shell. Although this wheelset is not the first constructed almost entirely of carbon, it was the first to sell for less than $3,000. Reynolds and Lightweight both have wheels that replace metal spokes and hubs with composite components, but they cost upwards of $5,000. In their second year, Madfiber has released a tubeless clincher version of the same wheel. Not only is the Madfiber Clincher one of only a few all-carbon wheels, it also has the rare combination of a tubeless tire bed and deep rim and a truly one-of-a-kind brake surface.
The Madfiber Clincher has the same exact rim shape and hub body as the tubular. The rear wheel’s drive-side “spokes” are now a single tensioned unit instead of independent pieces. This single large piece that replaces the spokes is tensioned to give the wheel strength and stiffness. The tire bed is the other major difference between the tubular and the clincher.
The carbon tubular tire bed has been replaced with a tubeless clincher aluminum tire bed sunken into the carbon brake track. Madfiber’s three-piece rim construction allows this metal piece to be dropped into the rim without many other changes to the wheel or the dramatic increase in weight most wheels experience to add a clincher tire interface. Although there are many wheels with a deep carbon rim and an aluminum brake track, but this is the only one we are aware of that has the aluminum tire bed sunken within the carbon brake track. The tire bed is tubeless-specific, allowing the tires to be run at a lower tire pressure than standard clinchers and resist flats more effectively. The increase in weight from the tubular model to the clincher is very small, approximately 150 grams, but they forgo one of the primary benefits of an aluminum tire bed, which is the aluminum braking surface. Although carbon rim braking performance has improved dramatically in the past several years, an aluminum brake track still provides substantially better stopping power and feel.
The carbon wrapped aluminum brake track also introduces other questions, mainly relating to braking. Aluminum dissipates the heat generated by braking friction faster than carbon, and if carbon gets hot enough the resin holding the structural carbon fibers together can melt, causing the rim to warp and break. Madfiber says the aluminum segment on the interior of the brake track “acts as a heat sink,” drawing the heat away from the potentially vulnerable carbon brake track and into the center of the rim. As a result, Madfiber says they think this unique construction method “makes us the safest wheel on the market.” This one-of-a-kind construction method does, however, introduce questions about whether or not this brake track sheds heat effectively as Madfiber asserts or concentrates it into the thin segment of carbon. Madfiber says they have found the design not only meets but exceeds standards. “What we’ve done is test it, heated with normal brake pads and tires and the total package can far exceed any condition it will find in use.” The carbon brake track is very thin and will have to robustly resist brake wear for the Madfiber Clinchers to stand up to everyday riding.
As a result of their testing, the Madfiber Clinchers have no weight or tire pressure restriction. Clearly, the Seattle-based start-up is more than confident in the strength and durability of these flyweight wheels.
Written by Aaron Hersh. Follow him @triathletetech.
Photos by Nils Nilsen. Follow him @triathletephoto.