26 April 2014

Review of wide rims to come ... Velocity A23, HED Belgium/HED Jet, Sun XCD, TNI, H Plus Son, GS Astuto Continental

As a heavier cyclist (around 95kg), I was an obvious target for the marketing buzz some years back when HED came out with its wider 23mm "Belgium" series of rims for aluminum (Ardennes, Bastogne, etc.) and carbon-faired (JET) clincher wheels.

At the time, I was still focused on SPEED more than DISTANCE, and the marketing/technical theory was that a wider rim formed a smoother transition to a 700x23 tire, resulting in better aerodynamics.  I loved the counterintuitive idea -- a fatter wheel equals a more aerodynamic wheel.

Also, of course, with a wider clincher rim, a wider surface of tire is actually touching the road.  But this, I was told, also helps the tire to roll more efficiently AND improves stability/cornering, etc.
HED Jet 6 wheels -- look fast even at rest with a fully loaded bike!

In 2010, I purchased online a set of HED Jet 6 wheels, and have enjoyed them since.  They "woosh" as you ride, and they are very fast even in crosswinds.  They look fast.  After the initial break-in period, I have tried to save them mostly for events when I will really benefit from their aerodynamic advantages.  But even so, after a few years wear on the braking surfaces is very noticeable, the carbon fairing around one valve hole is torn, and there is serious scoring on soft, lightweight aluminum of the rear cassette body -- to the point where I struggle to get a cassette on or off, and strongly favor using the outrageously expensive, very nice SRAM one-piece 1090 Powerdome cassette now with this cassette body.
Velocity A23/White Industries hubs ... on Norikura
Velocity A23/White Industries hubs -- on the Cervelo
After getting the Jet 6 wheels, in summer of 2011 I ordered a pair of aluminum clincher wheels with Velocity A23 rims (23mm wide, White Industries' beautiful polished hubs, 36 spoke rear and 28 spoke front).

At 2011 PBP I had made the mistake of riding on a pair of standard Mavic Open Pro rims, with 700x23 tires at "normal" road bike pressure of around 100psi.  The chip sealed portions of the road were punishing on my hands, feet and butt.  I learned that many randonneurs, especially the Americans I met at PBP, scoffed at the idea of riding "normal" 700x23 road tires at 100psi.  They were riding 700x25mm, or 700x28mm tires, or even 650B wheels with 30mm or fatter tires, at lower pressures.  Somehow, they could zoom along at very high cruising speeds despite these fatter tires and lower air pressure, and without the punishment I had suffered.

I was hooked on the idea of at least a slightly wider rim and tire.  Wide enough for improved aerodynamics with a 700x23 or 700x24 (Open Pave!) tire, or that would work well with a 700x25 or 700x27~28 tire.  But not so wide that my bike would no longer look like a road bike, or slow noticeably.

The Velocity A23/White Industries wheels I got worked well.  I built up a second pair of Velocity A23-based wheels with Chris King classic hubs (32/32 spokes) I got deeply discounted at the end of my framebuilding class at UBI.  And I added 2 more A23-based front wheels with Shutter Precision SV-8/PV-8 dynamo hubs and CX-Ray spokes for randonneuring.   These Velocity A-23 based wheels have served me very well over the past 2-plus years, including a host of 400, 600, 1200km and longer randonneuring events.  They are comfortable, and with an adequate number of spokes they are sturdy, and when an occasional spoke does break, the wheel is still rideable.  The front wheels have been essentially trouble-free.  Especially the wheels with dynamo hubs and CX Ray spokes.

36 spoke A23/White Industries rear -- rebuilt 4-cross pattern.  Bombproof. 

As for the 2 rear wheels, after a few broken spokes in succession, earlier this year I rebuilt the 36 spoke White Industries hubbed wheel to switch from DT Revolution (2.0/1.5mm)/3-cross to a 4-cross/DT Competition (2.0/1.8mm) drive side/DT Revolution non-drive side.

The wheel with Chris King hub was already built with DT Competition drive side/DT Revolution non-drive side (32 spoke/3 cross) and worked great ... until the recent spoke pull through sent the rim to the garbage bin.  So all of a sudden, I needed a new rear rim to rebuild around the Chris King hub.
Oops.  Spoke nipple pulls through my A23 rear rim, after 2+ years and 10,000+kms of service.
The most likely candidates being the Velocity A23 and the HED Belgium C2 rims, I searched online.  Neither was in stock and available from the likely candidates WITHIN Japan, nor from the sites I usually use in Europe (Wiggle, Bike 24, CRC, etc.).  I could find them in the U.S., or on Ebay, but the HED rim is very expensive (well over $100, with another $50 or more for shipping).  And the Velocity A23 also is quite expensive when you add international shipping charges from the U.S.  Not practical for a single rim order, best to wait and order a set of wheelgoods and other items.

So I looked for wide-rim alternatives, and found a few.

Mirror mirror on the wall ...
Very shiny
An obvious choice is the H Plus Son Archetype.  These came out a few years ago, from China, and have been well received.  They look great.  They are a slightly higher rim, at 25mm.  470g.  MOB last year built up a pair of the black Archetypes.  I ordered a set of the high polish version.  $75 each, plus $40 shipping for the pair.  A bit expensive, but looking nice enough for a show bike.  These I will set aside until I get the right hub/spoke combination.

Within Japan, I found 2 others that I could buy online at Worldcycle.  First, a Sun XCD (model SXR702) 32 hole rim targeted at the randonneur market.  The rim is 22mm wide, and has eyelets -- no rim pull-through likely.  The rim is a bit heavier than the Velocity A23, at 490g, but still well within the range of road (as opposed to "touring") rims.
SunXCD -- with eyelets for a change
I also ordered a TNI CX28 rim (32 holes).  Hiroshi had recommended this rim to me a few months back.  It is another 23mm wide rim, slightly deeper (28mm high), also 490g.  And at 4000 yen (under $40) it is the least expensive of the bunch.

Comparison by ERD, outside width, height, weight:

Velocity A23 -- 601mm, 23mm, 19.5mm, 451g
HED Belgium C2 -- 594mm, 23mm, 24mm, 462g
H Plus Son Archetype -- 595mm, 23mm, 25mm, 470g
TNI CX28 -- 582.5mm, 23mm, 28mm, 490g
Sun XCD -- 599mm, 22mm, 19.5mm, 490g

With all the rims weighing between 450 and 500 grams, and 22-23mm wide, and 19.5-28mm high, I will be surprised if I notice any difference as I build and use them over coming months and years.

In a year or two, I should be able to do a good comparison of the A23, Archetype, TNI and SunXCD rims.  Stay tuned ...

HUB UPDATE May 3, 2014:  I will build up one of the rims with my Chris King Classic rear hub, which was on the A23 rim that went to the garbage bin.  I will build another with a Sun XCD high flange rear hub, and the third with an Ultegra 6800 rear hub.  The Chris King Classic is back from a complete maintenance/overhaul, and the other 2 hubs arrived this morning.
--The Chris King has only tiny scoring on the cassette body after 2 years of intense use, and is a great hub - spins like new.
-- The Ultegra 6800 feels, well, soft, in comparison.  At least it will work with 10 or 11 speed cassettes.  It together with the Fulcrum 3 2-way wheels I got last month start me toward a transition to potentially getting a bike with an 11 speed groupset, next year.
-- The Sun XCD looks nice and I am looking forward to trying it.

I am planning to use the Chris King Classic with the H Plus Son Archetype rear rim (and a dynamo hub for the front wheel), build the Sun XCD with the Sun XCD rim -- for randonneuring -- and the Ultegra hub with the TNI rim.


As you can see in some later wheel-related posts, the H Plus Son rims built up beautifully. They are very solid, the spoke nipples somehow slot in perfectly and adjust perfectly.  The only downside I can see is that it is a bit harder to fit new tires onto these rims than some others.

The Sun XCD rims -- are "produced by Alex Rims".  I was shocked to see that the valve hole is not directly opposite the label / joint in the rim, but 1 spoke off!  Is there any impact in practice?  I expect not.  But this seems a basic QC miss.

Finally, I have noticed that the A23 rims I have used over the past 3 years have taken considerable, visible punishment.  Not just the spoke pull through, but various minor dings and deformations.  These are not going to last forever.

I found a great online summary of wide-rim options at Fairwheel bikes forum site, dating from early 2013.   These folks are much more knowledgeable than I am, and so I commend it to you.  At the Fairwheel site they suggest the A23 rims are "soft" compared with some of the others and do better with higher spoke counts.  I would tend to agree, especially based on the wear I can now see on mine.  I wish I could find/try the Pacenti SL23 rim in Japan ...  have not seen it (it does look similar to the TNI CX-28, but is a bit lighter, "tubeless friendly" ... and costs more than 2x).

FURTHER RIM UPDATE (December 2014):

I ordered some more H Plus Son rims -- black version.  They have been available on Wiggle in recent months at around $60 per rim (Wiggle "platinum" price).  I have just built up a set of wheels and will post about them in due course, and I have 2 more black H Plus Son rims to build up this winter.

Lots more to come about those rims ... and some other hubs ... and another set of wheels with wide rim carbon clinchers I will discuss in coming weeks!!!

WHEEL UPDATE:  I now have over 800 kms on a new pair of wide rim Gokiso carbon clinchers.  A completely different category than what is presented above.  Love at first spin.  See The Gokiso Story / Gokiso Monogatari.

GS ASTUTO - Continental:  Tim Smith at GS Astuto is now selling a wide rim clincher, the GS Astuto Continental.  Hiroshi is using these and is very happy with them.  I have seen them at C Speed and they look very nice!

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