The draw: A low-priced, balanced ride
Don’t let the low price fool you; this is one of the most complete wheelsets we reviewed. The box comes with everything you need except tires and tubes: rim tape, valve extensions, brake pads, skewers and even precut spare spokes (your mechanic will thank you!). The deep rims are engineered to cut the wind at real-life angles, and on the road you’ll get balanced handling and lateral stiffness without a brutally bumpy ride. Paired with the included brake pads, these clinchers also provide one of the most effective braking performances of the wheels we tested.
The draw: Super light for light riders
With one of the lowest-profile rims in the testing pool at 42mm, it’s no surprise that the Ares4 is also one of the lightest of the group. The low spoke count also reduces weight, while providing an even lower side profile—ideal for super windy days or super light riders. Heavier riders putting out massive watts may find the Ares4 a bit on the softer side, but when the hills point skyward, the lightweight ceramic bearings will undoubtedly bring relief. Aesthetic bonus: Rolf offers a rainbow of decal and hub color options to fully pimp your ride.
The draw: A deep rim without deep drawbacks
Traditionally, deep-rimmed wheelsets boast incredible aero advantages (the Metron was tested in wind tunnels and with computational fluid dynamics) while succumbing to a harsh ride. Not the Metron. Featuring a very balanced ride quality coupled with a high level of responsiveness, this wheelset doesn’t feel cumbersome or unforgiving, despite being one of the heaviest tested. The P.R.A. hubs wrapped around ceramic bearings ensure that the rim’s extra weight translates into momentum over rolling hills while still responding quickly under power.
The draw: Super fat rim with all the bells and whistles
The Easton EC90 AERO55 is all about going big or going home. The engineers at Easton went to the wind tunnel and produced a 55mm wheel that feels much shallower than that in a crosswind thanks to the ultra-fat Fantom rim. Boasting a huge 28mm outer rim width that tests the limits of some brake calipers (ours worked fine), the AERO55 was one of the widest we tested and felt fast and incredibly stable on descents. Most importantly, for a tubeless-ready wheel, mounting a standard clincher on this rim was a breeze, unlike a few other tubeless models.
The draw: A deep rim with daily possibilities
While most of the rims in the 70mm depth range abuse the scales, Bontrager’s Aeolus 7 TLR bucks the trend with a relatively light set-up. The Aeolus 7 TLR is as lively and smooth as most 50mm rims. Quick acceleration, due to lateral stiffness and low weight penalties, and a lively attack make these wheels feel like a shallower rim while still producing the wind-cheating effects that their deep pedigree suggests. Combined with a tubeless-ready setup, the Aeolus 7 TLR is one of the rare deep wheelsets that would work as a daily rim. Aesthetic bonus: The Bontrager hubs are works of art.
*Best in Class*
The draw: A lightning-fast, all-around wheelset with tons of attention to detail
Upon opening the Enve SES 4.5 wheel box, you get the sense you’ve joined a special club: Inside are individually packaged skewers, pads, valve extenders and even a special hub lube all tucked within a fancy carrying case. The experience continues with the wheels themselves: A unique textured braking surface makes for some of the best braking in wet or dry conditions tested, and the lightning-fast ceramic bearings glide like butter. One of the most responsive rides of the group, the SES 4.5 finds the absolute sweet spot between aerodynamics, weight and feel.
The draw: Lots of science for very little loot
Despite boasting the lowest price tag of any wheels tested, the FLO 60/90 still performs admirably against wheels that cost three times as much. The 90mm rear rim provides a very stiff ride, but the depth and rim shape are wind tunnel and CFD tested to create a slippery profile. Though the wheelset costs about the same as other brands’ front or rear wheel alone, the FLO 60/90 is tubeless-ready and comes with many of the same extras. For anyone looking to upgrade to a race wheel and still have enough money for food, the FLO 60/90 combination is a great place to start.
The draw: Flat-out speed with a smooth ride
Most deep wheelsets are fast on flats and down hills, but rough on the behind. The Reynolds Aero 80 are different. Despite having a wind-cheating 80mm profile that works great in all but the wildest crosswinds, the Aero 80 doesn’t feel as unforgiving as many of the other extra deep rims. The smooth ride coupled with a still surprisingly responsive attack and top-notch braking make this wheelset the perfect choice for bigger riders who can hold down a deep front wheel but don’t want their bones shaken to bits.
The draw: Tool-free cassette changes
Vittoria only recently entered the wheel game in the past two years, but its new offerings are coupled perfectly with some of the historically best tires available. The Qurano 60 wrapped in the company’s Corso Speed tubeless tire proved to be the smoothest ride we tested. Despite such a comfortable ride, the Quranos still hold momentum and roll as fast, if not faster, than similar-depth rims. For long-course athletes looking for all-day comfort and constant, straight-line speed, this wheelset is for you. Added bonus: Vittoria’s very cool SwitchIT freewheel hub allows tool-free cassette changes.
The draw: High-end performance at half the price
Nestled deep into the economically priced sub-$2,000 category, the Boyd 44mm Carbon Clincher manages to tick off many of the same checkboxes as higher-end wheels: a brake caliper-maxing 27mm outer rim width for an excellent aero profile; a low weight comparable to wheels that cost twice as much; and an incredible braking surface that was on par with the best tested. The ride quality of this American handbuilt wheelset is well balanced—not the softest, but far from jarring, with adequate acceleration and response.
The draw: The holy grail of speed and comfort
The newest wheels from Zipp come at a hefty price but deliver on performance. The unique shape, inspired by the pectoral fins of humpback whales, was designed to gain more speed with better handling in all conditions. Paired with super efficient and smooth hubs, the 454 wheels spin up fast, hold speed like no other, and don’t get pushed around in gusty conditions. The 27.8mm wide rim offers a comfortable ride that will get you through the longest days. Not only about speed, braking is consistent and predictable. No matter what the course throws at you, the 454 NSW is up to the challenge.
The draw: Lively wheelset in an unconventional set-up
While most wheel companies have ditched their aluminum/carbon clincher models for an all-carbon rim, HED refined its alloy rim/carbon fairing system instead. Using an etched, black aluminum rim, the Jet Plus 6 Black achieves the carbon clincher look with all of the aluminum clincher advantages, including consistent braking with any pad in wet or dry conditions. This wheelset has incredible handling and a very lively attack. While the thin carbon “fairing” that gives this rim its depth may seem unusual to some, the end aero result is the same as wheels that cost twice as much.
The draw: Shallow rim performance on a deep rim
Though the Roval Rapide CLX 64 has a 64mm carbon rim, the weight and ride characteristics of this wheelset suggest something far shallower. Combined with a smooth, well-balanced ride and consistent braking, the Roval CLX 64’s low weight removes many of the downsides of running a deep rim in almost any course situation. Bonus: Unlike many of its peers, this tubeless-ready rim doesn’t require a team of strong-handed mechanics to mount the tire.
The draw: Comfort-driven disc wheel
With a supple ride quality, good aerodynamics and smooth-rolling hubs, this disc brake-ready wheel set covers all the key bases. The 27mm wide rim and tubeless tire compatibility (DT Swiss recommends 25–28mm tires) make for one of the more comfortable rides of any wheel tested. They also reduced the size of the hub for improved aerodynamics and worked with partner Swiss Side to optimize the speed and handling of the 47mm deep rim. Of course the disc brakes stopped us quickly and safely. If a disc brake bike is in your future, check these out for a great all-around wheel that emphasizes comfort.
– Wheel reviews by Chris Foster