Campagnolo Bullet 50 Clincher Wheelset: A carbon wheel with all the benefits of an aluminum braking track and Campagnolo wheel technology. Top quality stainless bearings can be upgraded to USB (Ultra Smooth Bearings) ceramic bearings...
Strengths: Pros: fast given the right conditions, hold their speed very well, solidly constructed, these are wheels I'd even feel fairly safe in loaning to a buddy (under 230 lbs) without them getting wrecked. Normal braking parameters, no need to swap brake pads between different wheels. Upgrade to USB bearings is possible (standard Bullet wheels do not have the correct races for CULT bearings). I'd chose something else for a ride with lots of long ascents, though I'd have no problems descending a few kms at high speed with them. Being able to brake hard and fast with confidence in any conditions is always a plus. Free bags, decent skewers included.
Weaknesses: Cons: a little sluggish uphill. Slightly susceptible to crosswinds but not severely. Requires a firm hand on the bars like any deep rim wheel. Riding recovery-pace (slow) on these could seem embarrassing. Campagnolo state a weight limit of 110 kg/240 lbs for these.
Note that Campagnolo's stated weights are always for the lightest bearings available, so other options are always a few grams extra.
Bottom line: lighter aero wheels are available, but these should make up in strength and reliability what a lighter or more minimally constructed wheel will sacrifice in the long run. Riding these in the wind can make you feel a bit more like a wrestler, and less like a dancer. But for performance-oriented wheels like these, it's got to be about aggressive riding.
I have only put 150km on these wheels, on two rides, both with varying wind conditions. First on a coastal circuit with rolling hills, with fairly strong wind gusts up to 50km/h. With the 50mm profile, sidewinds require a bit of force to correct for wheel drift, although this is comparable to the Mavic Cosmic wheels I rode for many years (38mm and considerably heavier even in the tubular version). Lately I usually ride the shallower Campagnolo Zonda wheels, compared to those you have to steer the front in the wind more than just shift your balance for cornering. However, this was not a challenge and for a rider of my weight (currently 185 lbs) these handling characteristics are easily managed. The second ride took a longer out-and-back route with headwind out, tailwind return. This was a better chance to 'pedal in anger', and see what these wheels give. They are fast as can be expected for a course where steady speed is the rule. These are best considered fair weather wheels, but the aerodynamic advantage is obviously there. The rounded inner edge of the carbon rim is supposed to be a bit better than the sharper profile of earlier aero wheels, for directing airflow through the different angles of side-winds.
The Bullets perform according to my expectations, fast on the flats and descents, if not especially quick for climbing or accelerating off a full stop. They hold their speed for a bit longer than shallower wheels, and with the right gear and cadence for the conditions, it is not too much of a stretch to power over the shorter climbs just fine. Irregularities in the road surface make themselves felt more than the (tubeless, much comfier) Zonda wheels I ride more often. I noticed no flex whatsoever, nor brake rub while climbing out of the saddle.
Most of the roads out of the city where I live, involve climbing out and descending back into town, on winding roads shared with moderate to heavy traffic. The reason I opted for alloy-rimmed carbon wheels is confirmed in these real-world conditions, and braking performance from a high speed descent to standstill (red lights, or a busy roundabout) was reassuring compared to the carbon Zipp tubulars I was familiar with in the 1990s. The extra grams are worth the safety margins for my purposes.
These are the entry-level wheel in Campagnolo's Bullet range, but mechanically, the same as the higher-spec models. I looked carefully at the weight specifications from Campagnolo's website, and noted the difference between the standard and Ultra versions of the Bullet 50, and Bullet 80, were the same (nominally 165 grams in each case). The rims are structurally identical for each depth across the range (although apparently a two way fit type is sometimes available), so the weight difference is mainly in the hub, which has a steel rather than alloy axle in the basic models; in the bearings; and nickel-brass rather than alloy nipples. None of which adds up to much difference in rotational mass.
The steel spokes on the Bullet are very thin, with an aero profile similar to Sapim's CX-Rays. I measured them as about 2mm across compared to the 2.5mm profile of the steel spokes on the 2012 Zonda, or the fatter alloy spokes of the Eurus and Shamals. This should help marginally with stability in crosswinds, and with lighter spokes across most of the wheels' diameter, the greater inertia of the heavier rims is also slightly compensated, in the speed-bands across the middle radius.
The stated weight at 1755 grams Campagnolo claims for these wheels would probably be correct for the (ceramic) USB version, but mine with standard steel bearings weigh slightly more at 1795 grams (800g front, 995g rear). This is comparable to the equivalent wheels from Mavic (Cosmic Carbone 52 SL), FFWD (F6R), Shimano (RS80) and Profile (Altair 52), and lighter than others. Of course by throwing more money at your bike, a lighter hub is part of the deal. Having broken a couple of Mavic alloy axles in the past I am OK with a more durable steel support there. Needless to say more expensive clincher offerings from Zipp, ENVE and high-end Reynolds hoops will weigh less still, but at a diminishing rate of returns for every extra $1000 invested.
It is worth noting that Campagnolo's stated weights for all the Bullet wheels are for the lightest specification available, that is, for the Bullet Ultra (1590 grams, with CULT bearings) it will be somewhat more for USB, and even more for steel bearing models (I have read reports of as much as 1660 g for the cheapest Ultra 50 with standard bearings). Campagnolo also state that some additional weight may be due to the “considerable amounts of grease required in assembly” which would not be present in the oil-lubricated CULT bearings. If balancing your bike on a scale is a priority.
Are the Campy Bullets the best value aero clincher? Perhaps. They are sometimes available on sale for under a grand ($) and that seems very reasonable. They look durable anyway.
Similar Products Used: Mavic Cosmic Pro (tubular), Zipp 330 (tubular), Roval, Campagnolo Zonda, many hand built wheels I've lost count.
Bike Setup: EPX 303 (oddly enough, also named after a calibre of bullet), carbon monocoque frame, carbon bar/stem combo, Campagnolo Chorus/Athena bits (11 speed). Yellow Vredestein Fortezza Tricomps. Everybody knows, yellow is the most aerodynamic colour, of course.