Best bits : Carbon wheels

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to ride numerous carbon wheels from various brands. Zipp, Pro-lite, Reynolds, Bontrager + more. Some good, some bad but the wheels that have stood out were the unbranded carbon wheels I used to sell in my shop. I lost count a long time ago how many pairs I sold but I still ride a pair now on my Cube. Still true, still work, still lightweight.

Winning the Wyre Forest CRC Hilly TT on Bontragers back in the day

I can’t remember when I started to the sell them or how I got talking to ‘Jerry’ my chinese contact. In all the years I dealt with him, I never met him, saw him or spoke to him. Our conversations were all exclusively by email.

I could have been dealing with the Chinese Mafia for all I know.

The deal was simple. I would email him what I wanted – there were lots of options, he quoted a price. I paid by PayPal, upfront and  in good faith and I’d wait a couple of weeks for them to be air-freighted over to me. The first order was a leap of faith to be honest as I didn’t know if I was going to be scammed but it turned out to be quite a profitable partnership for both of us in the end. Shame it ended.

I remember I had ordered that first pair in and decided it could work in the shop selling them as upgrades to the wheels on bikes which quite often were a compromise to get them to a price point. I needed to know they weren’t going to just fall apart so I sponsored a local lad to race a couple of pairs through a cross-season. If they could do a cross season, they would be fine for the road. They came out fine. Just the occasional true and bearing change and they were good to go, so I embarked on selling them in the shop the following summer.

I raced a couple of pairs in cross and they were fantastic for the price I paid for them. A fraction of what branded wheels would cost.

The options available were great. They were built to order which was quite unique back then

  • 3 finishes – gloss, matt or UD (no weave)
  • 5 rim depths – 20mm, 38mm, 50mm, 60mm, 88mm
  • 2 rim types – clincher or tubular
  • 2 spoke types – flat aero or round
  • 2 spoke colours – white or black
  • 3 hub colours – black, white, red

All rims were 20/24 hole but I could get custom drillings too. Hubs were Novatec, light and easy to maintain.

I once ordered a pair of 88mm 36h drilled rims to be custom built for a racing tandem

They proved very popular upgrades. I’d retail them out around £500-600 but offer them at half price as an upgrade. I’d make a bit of money on the wheels, full price on the bike and have set of wheels to sell separately too. It worked well and the customers were happy.

still going strong

Pound for pound they have been the best wheels I’ve had for years. In no way am I saying that the branded wheels out there are no good. They are brilliant but for an extra £1000+ why would I pay that to shave a few grams or save an extra watt or two at my age?

They are still great fun to ride and it’ll be a shame when they get retired

Zwift only allows me Zipp wheels though lol

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