Carbon wheelsets that suck?

I ride a pair of ICAN AERO 50’s (~$750), the specs are great for the price and the rims are really durable. The main issue I’ve had are crosswind stability. It seems this is where high end wheel brands are trying to distinguish themselves now.


The worst carbon wheel sets I’ve dealt with actually come from Bontrager. Their lower tier carbon mtb wheels shatter more readily than any other rim I’ve seen. Their higher end XXX stuff is fantastic, I’ve never even had to true my Kovee XXX wheels that are over 4 years old, but for whatever reason their cheaper carbon stuff is really bad.


Interesting experiences from folk. I’ve had carbon disc Zipp NSWs, Bontrager XXXs, Rovals, DT Swiss and Enves.

I’ve found my shop-built Enves to be the most comfortable carbon wheels I’ve ridden, despite being the mid-depth 4.5 ARs. I’d put that down to the wide internal width (25mm) and the hand building. I loved riding my Zipps as well - they just seem to ride really well.

I think it all boils down to what one values in a wheelset and what one’s willing to compromise on - most modern wheels are ‘good’ and some excel at certain things or in certain circumstances (be that speed, comfort, lateral stiffness, ease of tyre fitting/removal, value for money etc).


I was weak and ordered a pair of 60s yesterday :scream:

AC3 braking is excellent in the dry, but not as good as good aluminium with good wet weather brake pads IMHO.

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Braking is good but not as good as Campa / Fulcrum AC3. And major issue is that Shimano carbon rim brake was tubular only. I still have a pair of DA 7850 C24s tubulars, good as new, don’t use them anymore sadly.

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Yes I think I bought them when they had a special discount on the wheelset. I do notice that they have now developed their own hubs. They look to be good quality, similar to the DT Swiss design. They have 54T star ratchet and cartridge bearings and anti-bite guards on the freewheel. I like the DT Swiss 240 that I have, but they are noisy on descent.


Sadly this discussion probably needs to be broken down into rim brake vs disc carbon wheelsets. For rim brakes going higher end is almost a must in hilly areas or frequent inclement weather use. For disc brakes the performance difference between brands “seems” minimal when comparing similar weight and depths. Hub and bearing choice affect noise and prices the most. And then tubeless/clincher which also changes the comfort level felt. A good carbon wheelset can be found between 700 and 1700£. Anything more and you are paying for small savings in weight or that extra 1% of efficiency that average riders won’t feel as much. For deep section wheels stability is also affected for a few manufacturers.


For a modern disc brake tubeless wheelset, I really like to see a build without nipple holes and no rim tape - this was one of my selection criteria. It adds an extra dose of reliability to tubeless. It’s a slight bit extra work if you’re going to rebuild the wheel, but that’s hardly an everyday occurrence.


ENVE 3.4 DISC are really solid. I race on them because when I put my wheel into a hole entering a gravel section at 60KPH and hit a hole because I can’t see anything (I am short…) they are bombproof. I can also train and race on them all year and they stay true. The 3.4s are nice because they are not too deep and they are compliant. Tires seem to mount properly.

I also have two sets of the 3.4 RIM Brake wheels I use on the road on my travel/race bike and they have been remarkably durable despite my poor line choices at times. The brake track also works in the rain.

Not a fan of the Reynolds product. It seems like they can’s put a rim/spoke/hub combination together where al three work properly. That being said I stopped using their stuff 6-7 years ago.

Have not used the newer Zipp stuff.


Just to give an idea of how I think most wheels don’t suck, I bought these around 5-6 years ago and used them to train and race on. When I bought them they were $300. Zero issues with them.

That being said the wet braking wasn’t great, but carbon/rim rarely is.

I weigh 75kg too if that matters. Just had my brother get a pair and he is closer 87kg. No problems yet.

Superteam Carbon Fiber Road Bike Wheels 700C Clincher Wheelset 50mm Matte 23 Width

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I’ve had an assortment carbon wheels, but nothing high end, and all have been very trouble free. If I were on rim brakes I’d worry more about a proper braking surface and resin that will withstand braking heat safely. But disc brakes have negated all that. I’ve had zero issues with any of the rims below that are attributable to the rims. I would note that even as an amateur wheel builder, my own builds have been very trouble free and I’ve found it easier to true and tension carbon rims vs aluminum. Also November wheels are very well built.

All in all, I’d never pay Enve/Zipp prices, and will expect to keep buying D2C Chinese rims and building myself. D2C Chinese rims and DT350 hubs are the best bang for the buck wheel combo available IMO.

November Rail 52, built by November. Feel fast and have been trouble free.
Nox XC29, built by Nox. Broke a few spokes (may or may not have hit rocks)
Light Bicycle 27.5, built by me. No issues.
Derby 29, built by me. Most difficult rims I own to keep tubeless working on and least favorite for that reason.
Ibis 941, built by me. One rim had a minor defect where a spoke nipple wouldn’t fit through the hole. Ibis replaced the rim immediately. No issues since.
Nextie unknown model wide 29er, built by me. No issues.
BTLOS wide 29er built by them. Spoke nipples on one wheel corroded with tubeless use and I replaced them all. No other issues.


My 5 year old winter beater basic mavic wheels still spin forever in the stand. Seriously last time i had a flat i span the wheel to check it was not catching on the mudguard and put all my tools away washed my hands made a coffee and when i came back to my bike it was still spinning away after what must of been 4 or 5 mins.


I’ve had a Reynolds carbon MTB rim delaminate and violently blow out at 4 bars - my tubeless setting/test pressure.
I’ve had DT Swiss ARC wheels (240s hub) with shitty bearings from the factory.
The pendulum swings towards any Monday.

I’m glad I came across this as I’m in the market for a new wheelset and don’t really want to spend a fortune on them.

I had a set of Token C50 wheels (rim brake) that needed bearings replaced on a yearly basis (~4,000 miles a year) and last year ended with the brake track bubbling up on a descent, basically making the front wheel unusable. After that experience, it’s not something I want to experience again.

I now own a disc brake bike that I’m looking at upgrading the wheels, so my immediate thought was ZIPP or Enve but glad I came across this.

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My Campagnolo Bora wheels have been mostly good. The rear popped 2 spokes in 5 years. Put in new ones tightened and done. Agree with comments from others regarding brakes- these are really good.

Regarding no-name carbon rims, my buddy‘s Marmotte ride was ruined when his front brake track bubbled up. On my no-Name tri bike wheels, the rear rim surface started to flake off. Slightly unbelievable as that is the least used brake on my least ridden bike. In my view, if buying rim brakes only buy brand name wheels. The others aren’t worth it.

On the other hand I was disappointed by my Roval Rapide disc brake wheels. The rear spokes ping uphill as they touch just the right amount to rub and the front hub tolerances are wrong and need a shim on the spindle to avoid the bearings being crushed if you tighten the thru axle to spec. But otherwise very good to ride and really fast.


Do you consider the better-known mainland Chinese DTC manufacturers to be name brand? Personally, I would consider Light Bicycle and BTLOS rim brake rims based on others’ feedback. When people say “name brand” I tend to think the higher end names like Enve and Zipp, but I’m not sure how others interpret that term.

FYI, November uses Light Bicycle for at least some of their builds, e.g, the AR 50 and 38. I’m not sure about the Rail 52, though.

And I’m not sure if Boyd sells rims anymore, but I would consider them also. They’re not a high end brand, but they make good stuff, and they are US based.


4k miles a year is a lot for newer riders. Disc brake you can probably shop around and find reviews for power (watt) limits going uphill. There are a lot of good carbon sets that work well without being expensive. For rim brakes you really gotta find a good wheelset and the cost is usually up there if you want real all around performance.

I’ll chime in here. Have had several different wheels lately and overall I would agree that disc brake carbon wheels are mostly fine. I was a bit surprised how db wheels are still quite heavy (excluding lightweight exotica with papermache hubs (looking at you extralite)). A friend of mine blew up a MCFK wheel while setting it up tubeless, but I’ve personally had very little problems with db carbon wheels.

Roval C38 - bombproof but shallow (for road) and feels a bit slow.
Dt swiss ARC1400 50 - noticeably faster than the c38s, same weight, loud hubs!
China 50mm rim w/350 hubs (for cx) - absolute bomb proof. Ridden to hell and back.
Roval terra C - a bit sluggish. Feels “normal”.
Enve 3.4 (older gen.) - Felt nice, but heavy for the depth and price.
Dt swiss PRC1400 35 - felt light and lively, but slow on fast roads.
Zipp 303 firecrest - still in the post :sunglasses:

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