Historic German carbon wheel maker Lightweight catches up to modern aerodynamic rim shapes with Fernweg.
This article was originally published in the Sep./Oct. 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.
Brand name says a lot about this German wheel manufacturer: Lightweight has built its company on nearly all-carbon wheels that are just that—light. Despite using deep rims since the mid-1990s, not a single Lightweight wheel was designed primarily for aerodynamic performance until Fernweg. In addition to the extreme depth, this rim shape is a complete departure from the narrow V-shaped rims used in every other Lightweight wheel. It is broad from the brake track to the spoke bed. The rim sidewalls are parallel to each other, and the spoke bed is a simple arch connecting the two sides of the rim—its shape isn’t as intricate as the leading aero rims, but it clearly takes cues from other fast wheels.
Similarities between Lightweight Fernweg wheels and more common carbon wheels end there. Fernweg’s carbon spokes are bonded to the carbon rim and carbon hub shell. It’s a fantasy for any lover of composites. The stiff construction and low weight help create a lively ride feel. These wheels are simply a ton of fun to ride. They beg to accelerate and feel more like a climbing wheel than an ultra-deep aero weapon. Cross-wind influence is noticeable, although not overwhelming. Its price, however, demands attention. The cost is almost comical. And if a spoke breaks or anything else goes wrong with the wheel, it must be sent back to Lightweight for repair.
While the price difference between these wheels and a more typical race wheel is enough to fund a trip to the wind tunnel and pay a coach for a year, their exotic appeal is undeniable. Just don’t expect a commensurate dollar-for-dollar speed boost.
Tipping the Scales
At 1,355 grams, this wheelset is almost half a pound (just more than 200 grams) lighter than a pair of Zipp 808 tubulars. Swapping a Sram Rival GXP crank and bottom bracket set for the company’s top-tier Red BB30 setup saves roughly the same tonnage from a bike.
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