When we tasked ourselves in late 2010 with the task of building upon the fabulously light Levitator wheelset, our goal was clear: to preserve as best we could the light weight of the original Levitator while adding a deep aerodynamic rim to improve that wheelset's utility in a greater variety of situations. At the risk of sounding dramatic, what we ended up with was the paragon of wheels, the quintessence of the drive toward excellence. At a weight penalty of only 100g over the 2010 Levitator wheelset, the 2011 Excellence is a full 50mm deep aerodynamic wheelset built around the same Teutonic precision that made the original such a fine piece of equipment. At only 1070g, it is among the lightest aerodynamic sets yet made, and with a rim made of Toray T1000 carbon fiber, among the stiffest, too. This, combined with a ceramic ablative coating designed to remove excess heat from the braking surface, has something to offer riders of any specialty, from climbing to crits, from sprinting to time-trialling.
Available now at a dealer near you.
Strengths: light, beautifully constructed, gorgeous hubs with characteristic freewheel sound, ride is sublime
Weaknesses: not as stiff as anticipated
I waited for these to go on sale at WESTERN bike works, down from 1800$ to 1200$. Not cheap but on paper they looked like competition for ZIPP 303's, EASTON, REYNOLDS, so OK, they're pretty cheap. Suddenly, they sold out, and I thought I'd missed my chance! A week later I checked again and sure enough they had one pair left, with campy hubs too! I can't say enough good things about these wheels. They are just beautifully made. No glue where the brake track meets the rim (are you listening HED, SPINERGY and ZIPP?) perfect carbon layup at the spoke nipples (that's for you SRAM, MAVIC and BONTRAGER). I mounted a pair of TUFO 25mm elite tires, and put them on my 2008 ISAAC SONIC, one of the stiffest bikes ever made (to my experience). I use that bike for CRIT racing with some SRAM S80's on them there is no flex whatsoever, but the bike is nearly unrideable on anything longer than 30 miles, it's so stiff. With the addition of the HERMES Excellence wheels the bike has been transformed. It's about 2 pounds lighter, and literally floats over the road. Mash the peddles (I weigh about 190 lbs) and of course there's some flex. This frame can flex almost any wheels. Part of this has to do with the wheel design- which is a little old-school, with "narrow" rim beds, low spoke counts, narrow hubs and of course the light weight, which are just going to give some side-to-side flex, no matter what carbon layup you use (the one exception may be proprietary ENVE carbon). But boy unless youre racing a super fast crit, with the constant accelerations, and sharp turns, for anything else these wheels are the bomb. Gey a pair if you can!