Carbon wheelsets that suck?

In a world where carbon wheelsets sell between $/€/£1000 to 3000+, how big of a margin is there in performance between the high end and low end? I’m assuming weight and warranty are primary factors in pricing.

But are there any carbon wheelsets from a brand with decent name recognition, regardless of country of origin, that suck and should be avoided?

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I’ve owned Zipp NSWs, ENVEs, Zipp Firecrests, and Roval’s. I’ve also owned Light Bicycle and Winspace Lún wheels. I’m 180lbs at race weight with a 344 watt FTP and race at a Cat 3 level mostly doing TTs and occasionally road racing where I try my hardest to get in a thin breakaway and make it a TTT. For my skill level, power, and races I do I cannot fathom buying the big name brands any more at a premium price and if I did it would basically be because Zipp and Enve manufacture their high end wheels in the US. These D2C wheels have held up beautifully, no marked differences in performance, built just as well, and were a fraction of the cost with a lot of customization available. 5-10 years ago I would have given a very different answer.

Reynolds sucks. I bought their shit wheels in 2015 against the advice of a shop sponsor who sold Reynolds. Brake track separated, they made me use my crash insurance that I bought from them to fix it, took three months to “fix” wheel, then sent back a wheel with cracks in the spoke holes (internal spokes) so they would randomly lose tension and tried to blame FedEx for damaging them when the box they arrived in was pristine. Fuck those guys.

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Have yet to run into a set of carbon wheels (road, gravel, mtb) that “suck”

I almost ride exclusively in Chinese wheels at this point because as Alfred pointed out, why not?

I will say that I have Reynolds’s wheels and have had some before and the have been great. I have the 58/62 AR and they handle the wind as good if not better than a lot of 50mm deep wheels. Hayes/Reynolds’s has also always been super helpful when I have needed something. So opposite if above post.

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Just ordered some carbon wheels from Sigma Sports’ in house brand Vel for £600 which have DT Swiss 240 hubs. Plus unlike the Chinese or D2C brands I’ll get great local customer support.

It appears that carbon wheels are the only bike component which hasn’t been experiencing price rises, if anything the cheaper options have got better and there’s now barely any performance difference between them and the offerings from the premium brands.

Back in the rim brake days a key difference was brake track performance, the more premium brands such as Campag were much better than some cheap wheels in that regard. I’ve shifted to disc brakes so it’s no longer a concern for me.

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I currently have Bora WTOs (disc) on the ‘good’ bike, and they are superb wheels; fast, great quality, easy tubeless and (imo) great looking. It may not tell you much, but they spin forever in the stand, too. They’ve been trouble free (over 6 months only, mind you).

I had Roval CL50s on the previous rim brake bike, and they were as quick as anything I’ve used, but the brake track wore quite quickly and they weren’t great stopping in the wet.

I’ve also used Hunt 50 aero carbon disc and found them almost unrideable in windy conditions, as well as awfully noisy.

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I have a set of Light Bicycle wheels for rim brakes. I saw one other mention of those here. For a modestly priced (relatively speaking) carbon wheelset, they’ve served me well. It just didn’t make sense to buy extravagantly for rim brake wheels, and these seem a good option. Of course, you need to plan in advance when you brake in the wet. They are rather horrible in this environment. Otherwise the stopping power is good. Also, there is some bounce to them. When I corner hard or hit big bumps, you’ll know they’re flexing by the sound of them rubbing against the pads. Tension has been checked. So I wouldn’t say they suck. Just adequately adequate.

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I have a set of LB wheels, which are perfectly fine (I crashed them once and had to replace the rim, which I managed to do myself), rolling on Italian Carbon-Ti hubs which are great. Currently they’re on my gravel bike.

For the price they are very good. I’d rather buy something made in Europe now for a host of reasons, so I’ve got a pair of Mavic SLR45 and a pair of Mavic SLR65 in the mail, which at 1550 Eur weren’t at a big premium compared to the LBs plus delivery. The rims and the way the wheel is put together is a bit above the LB rims, although the hubs probably aren’t.

Bad ones? I don’t have any which are bad, but riding with a mate of mine who has Reynolds, once we got caught by rain while doing hill repeats and it was lucky it didn’t end in blood and tears. Works fine in the dry.

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I’ve got 2 sets of Farsports, one rim and one disc with DT350’s. Both have been faultless, and the disc version has been used on my gravel bike through some pretty rough terrain.

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I think the development (and popularity) of disc brakes has definitely closed the divide, unbranded wheels didn’t have the R&D that Zipp etc had so some were dangerous to ride. Appreciate you could also de-laminate Zipps etc. but in my experience, their tolerance to heat build was / is a lot higher.

Agree on Reynolds rim-braking being terrible, that said their Aero range is the most stable wheels Ive ever ridden (I race with an 80 on my TT bike). The most recent Enve, Zipp etc have all ‘borrowed’ the wide pointy rim shape that Paul Lew developed for Reynolds.

I’ve had a set of Hunt, they felt bang average to me but that’s ok at their price point. My Bontrager RSL wheels are on a whole other level, appreciate it’s hard to quantify why but I feel very happy with that purchase and would buy them again.

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Just to reply to my own question I’ve got two sets of Hunts, one midrange and one of their higher tier models, and agree that for the price, they are quite satisfactory. Recently picked up the 32 UD wheels with carbon spokes for my Aethos and with rim tape they weighed 1221g for the pair and feel great when climbing.

I’ve also got a set of Light Bicycle wheels and have been absolutely impressed with them. They’ve been in three different builds I’ve done, two road and one gravel. They’ve survived big crashes, including one where I over cooked a mountain descent, hit the front wheel directly into a guardrail and had the bike fly overhead and tumble down a ravine 40 feet below. Had the wheels inspected afterwards and no damage could be found and the wheels were still true. While I’m sure the blingy brands of wheels are also nice, like the Campagnolos featured on CT now, I’m not sure I could ever spend more than $1500 with what’s available nowadays.

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As others have stated, really depends on whether you’re on rm or disc brakes.
For rim brake, to repeat it’s all about the brake track. The last-gen of big-name, big-dollar carbon clinchers with serious R&D all had excellent brake tracks. Enve, Zipp, Campy, Bontrager had molded or laser-etched tracks which were the equal of any alloy rim. Nowadays other than new old stock the only place you can get said style of rims is from the Chinese manufacturers.

For disc brake it’s all about the hubs. Power transfer, braking efficiency, spoke tension, build geometry, bearing reliability/serviceability and freehub quality all comes from the hubs. As long as the hubs are OK then the wheel will be, generally. And it’s not that hard to find good hubs for little money - Bitex hubs are excellent for example.

Unless you’re willing to pay extra purely based on emotion there’s no reason to go over $1750 USD for a quality set of disc brake wheels with a lifetime warranty. Campy being the exception, as the combination of fit, finish and finesse is still unparalleled, and the hubs are so, so smooth.

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FYI that Campy still offers the Bora WTO wheels in rim brake. REALLY considering getting a set, although I like the smooth/quiet/pad-friendly aluminum brake track of my Hed Jets - just don’t like the extra 250 grams. My last set of Hed Jets lasted for well over 20,000 miles, so it wouldn’t make sense financially, but…

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I went with a pair of Bora WTO’s with rim break on a custom build earlier this year. I can’t tell a difference in braking performance between them and the previous Campag aluminum rim brakes I was on prior. Sometimes, I am surprised by how well they work. And they look so damn good. I love the shape of the hubs on them.

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I personally always preferred Shimano wheels when it came to rim brake carbon wheels.

IMO the best carbon brake tracks were never as good as a quality metal one but of course there was the weight penalty. The Dura ace hubs are some of the best around.

However the rims were narrow meaning that you had to use a 23mm tyre for peak aero.

Got to say that I’m also enjoying that disc brakes mean you can go as wide as you want with wheels.

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Whilst I believe that the top name carbon wheelset manufacturer deserve high praise for their designs and innovations, I also appreciate the value and quality that is possible with the high quality Asian manufacturers. For my disc wheelset, I purchased a set of C40/C50 carbon fibre wheelset from Yoeleo. It was easy to include a choice of hubs. I included DT Swiss 240 hubs. Sapiem CX bladed straight spokes. As tubeless a wheelset they also do not include any spoke holes in the rims. Total weight was 667g (front) & 776g (rear). Internal rim width 21mm, external 28mm suitable for 28-30c tyres. They are tight and excellent to ride in descent, even against cross-wind yaw. At a price of USD961 delivered, they were excellent value.

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I’ll second the Yoeleo comment (running the C38 with 240 hub) although I believe you could put just about any round object with spokes on a DT Swiss 240 and be mostly pleased with the result. Anyway, coming from a Mavic setup, I’m happy with the weight savings and quality.

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I do not have personal experience with Fast Forward wheels but I have seen 3 broken wheels of that brand 2-3 years ago.
I was out riding with another cyclist (63kg) who had just bought a set of FF carbon wheels around 30mm profile and he fell into a small hole in the road and the rim cracked. FF customer service was a pain in the butt and he had to send quite many e-mails in order to get a positive reply about replacement. In the end he got a new wheel after around 2 months…
The other 2 occasions were quite similar, the wheels just were not brand new.

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Looks like the latest offering from Yoeleo with a DT Swiss 240 hubset is up to $1300, not including tax and shipping (which is a hefty addition). Ahh, goodbye arbitrage.

Getting a competitively priced budget carbon wheelset from a company based this side of the Pacific is becoming more an option nowadays. I’d have to guess the industry knows what’s happening.

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I have a couple sets of the FFWD carbon wheelsets, and they have been excellent. They’re a great value with their coupons and DT swiss options.

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I have two sets from Lightbicycle (and I am still in a banner photo on their website), and now one Princeton Carbonworks set. The LB are perfectly fine wheels, take a lot of abuse, are lightweight and customisable. The PCW are still faster, but for 5 times the price they’d better be :slight_smile:

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