Ric Hjertberg explained the new Road Wheels when we visited Mad Fiber headquarters in Seattle.
So how did they ride?
I wanted to evaluate the Mad Fibers in both climbing and a time trial, so I mounted them (and the cork brake pads) on my Scott Plasma triathlon bike. Once up to speed, the wheels had a “disc-like” thrum when spun up to speed. I immediately noticed that maintaining speed was more effortless. In fact, compared to my old Easton Ascent II’s, the Mad Fibers seemed 10% faster. On roads where I’d typically go 20 mph, I was going 22. On descents where I’d average 28, I was going 31 mph. Accelerating from 24 to 28 mph was noticeably easier. However, at 35 mph, there was a new “hum” and vibration from the wheelset; this was slightly unnerving. I didn’t go faster than that though I wonder if that hum would go away at faster speeds. Regardless, the wheels were remarkably smooth as the carbon spokes seemed to mute road imperfections. They would be great in a long triathlon or century as the ride was incredibly smooth.
Remarkably, the braking performance was awesome. Of the carbon wheels I’ve tested, these were the most drama-free. There was no screeching or grabbiness. They felt like “normal” alloy rims. Impressive.
In any case, off to the climb, where I thought these wheels would shine. Despite weighing nearly 3/4 pound less, it wasn’t clear if the wheels improved my climb time. On the benchmark Old La Honda, my previous PR on the Scott Plasma was 19:14 (18:38 on my Cervelo R3 road bike). Though I gave it a solid effort, my time was a somewhat disappointing 20:07. Not sure if it was conditioning or something else, but I thought the 3/4 pound weight savings would have been more beneficial.
Later on, we motored over to do a the local time trial course on Canada Road. And this is where the wheels really shined. The course is 5.2 miles long with two rises in the middle; it’s difficult to maintain 20 miles an hour over these rises. My previous PR was 12:57, using an aero helmet and Jet 60/disc combo. Using the Mad Fibers, my time was an incredible 12:02, averaging 25.9mph, nearly a minute faster than my previous best effort. Considering that I’d done the hill climb previously, the results are truly remarkable
These wheels are remarkably different. They offer extremely low weight and are comparatively less expensive than other offerings in this weight range. They should be fantastic Ironman wheels and are a wonderful indulgence for those who have the means.
Many thanks to Gebhard Ebenhoech, manager of Veloro Bicycles, for providing these extremely rare wheels to test. Gebhard is a walking encyclopedia for bike weights and parts. He is the first distributor of Mad Fiber wheels and we thank him for giving us this set to demo.