While there is no shortage of high-end aero wheels, finding the ones that perform well for the right price can be a challenge. Although this fact is hard to comprehend, the truth is that a “budget” set of race wheels is still pretty spendy. We compare six sets that can double as high-performance training wheels and race day wheels. They cover a range of features and all cost $2,200 or less.
Before we start in on the wheels, here are some points that cover the entire selection. Clinchers with wide rims (broader than 23mm) add more comfort than a standard width rim. Second, wider rims work best with wider tires. Whether it’s an aluminum brake track or carbon, if the width is over 24mm use a wide tire to match; at least 23c. Additionally, putting a wider tire 25c or broader on a standard rim can improve the ride and cornering. Finally, an aluminum brake surface provides the best braking performance. Many of the carbon clincher wheels are improving their braking ability and much of that is also in re-designed brake pads. Still, for consistency and power, especially in the wet, aluminum is the clear winner. Disc brakes are starting to capture tech headlines in the cycling world, but triathlon bikes haven’t yet adopted the technology and options are still limited for road riding as well. This review is limited to standard rim-brake road wheels.
Zipp 60 – MSRP $1,500
What’s old is new again with the Zipp 60. Looking to be the “budget” race wheel in the line, the 60 takes some older rim design elements mixed with new components to create a new take on a familiar backbone. The rim is 58mm deep and has the hybrid toroidal rim shape that debuted in 2005, not the uniformly wide Firecrest shape. Zipp mates this rim to their new 122 and 249 hubs with Sapim CX spokes, 18 front and 20 rear. The rim measures only 18.7mm at the brake track, narrow when compared to most of the others in this review. The carbon rim is bonded to an aluminum brake track and the set come in at 1,820g. They come in white decals only, with removable valve core tubes, skewers, rim tape and are 10/11 speed compatible for Shimano,SRAM or Campagnolo.
Even without the new Firecrest shape, this is still a fast rim. Normann Stadler was on a pair of tubular hybrid toroidal Zipps when he set the Kona bike course record in 2006. Zipp sent a pair of their Tangente tires with the wheels so I put those on for the test. The weight of the 60’s is apparent when trying to get to speed. The sluggish feel is noticeable, especially at lower speeds. However, once up to speed the 58mm rim cuts through the wind nicely. They don’t feel as fast as Zipp’s top end wheels for sure, but the savings is substantial—about $1,000. When compared to the wider rimmed wheels the 60’s have a bit of a harsh ride. With the narrower rim and tires, I could definitely feel the bumps and cracks in the road more. The aluminum braking surface gives you the best stopping power possible. Zipp.com