Review: Tokyowheel Epic 38/50 Carbon Clinchers

Cost is half of what bigger brands charge, but do you get what you pay for

Wheels
We mounted these wheels on both a Scott Foil aero road test bike, and our personal Parlee Z5 rig.

We mounted these wheels on both a Scott Foil aero road test bike, and our personal Parlee Z5 rig (click to enlarge).

The Lowdown: Tokyowheel Epic 38/50 Carbon Clinchers

Positioned as the best all-around set-up in the Tokyowheel product line, the Epic 38mm front/50mm rear combination is designed to keep weight down, enhance aerodynamic performance, and maintain control in crosswind situations. Obviously the other big piece of this equation is price. By selling consumer-direct, this made-in-Taiwan wheelset costs just $1000, which is less than half of what you’d pay for similar offerings from bigger brands, such as Zipp, ENVE, Reynolds or Mavic. But while all those wheel makers have established reputations, large R&D budgets, and local dealer support, Tokyowheels are far lesser known — or proven. Read on to find out whether it’s a smoking deal or a case of getting what you pay for. (Also be sure to check out this lively forum debate.)

Stat Box
Actual wheelset weight: 1660 grams Front spoke lacing: Radial
Front wheel weight: 730 grams Rear spoke lacing: Diver side 2x, Non-drive radial
Rear wheel weight: 930 grams Depth: 38mm front, 50mm rear
Width: 26mm outer, 18mm inner Rider weight limit: 220 pounds
Hubs: Tokyo Vapor Warranty: 1 year and 2-year crash replacement
Skewers: Titanium QR (20g front, 30g rear) MSRP: $1,000
Spokes: Sapim CX-Ray 20f/24r Rating: 3.5 Stars 3.5 out of 5 stars

Pluses
Minuses
  • Light weight
  • Accelerated pad wear
  • Stiffness
  • Burning pad smell
  • Top-shelf spokes
  • Brake shrill
  • Quick acceleration
  • Brake pulse at lower speeds
  • Low price
  • Wind effected
  • Durable
  • Lack of local dealer support
  • Maintained trueness
  • Moderate aero gains
  • Hub upgrades available
  • Multiple color options
  • Free shipping
  • Responsive customer service

Full Review: Tokyowheel Epic 38/50 Carbon Clinchers

At 1660 grams for the set, our Tokyowheel test set-up was competitive with similar offerings of this size in the carbon clincher arena. They were also plenty stiff and quick, spinning up to speed with minimal input and never flexing even under the duress of hard out-of-the-saddle pedaling.

Wheelset weight came in at 1660 grams.

Wheelset weight came in at 1660 grams (click to enlarge).

They also stayed true and showed no signs of durability issues during our three-month Boulder, Colorado-area test session, which included everything from rambling around on rough dirt roads, to climbing extended 12-perecnt grades. Props to Tokyowheel for lacing up its rims with top-shelf Sapim CX-Ray spokes (20 front/24 rear).

Rim width is 18mm internal, which while not overly wide, is a solid number for this type of wheel. These aren’t for the gravel grinder crowd, but still provided an appropriate perch for our supple 25mm Zipp Tangente Speed tires. Overall ride quality was decent. You still felt the bumps, but it was never an overly harsh experience.

Our test wheels spun on house brand Vapor Ceramic hubs, which feature a 6-pawl freehub engagement and four sealed cartridge bearings in the rear hub and two in the front.

Our test wheels spun on house brand Vapor Ceramic hubs, which feature a 6-pawl freehub engagement and four sealed cartridge bearings in the rear hub and two in the front (click to enlarge).

Our test wheels spun on house brand Vapor Ceramic hubs, which feature a 6-pawl freehub engagement and four sealed cartridge bearings in the rear hub and two in the front. Skewers are made of titanium and have good but not great clamping power. Otherwise all worked as advertised during our test session, without need for any sort of maintenance or adjustment. Upgrades, including DT Swiss 240s hubs are available if you prefer a more well-known name. Tokyowheel also offers a disc version of these wheels — and you can get rim decals in a multitude of colors, including orange, yellow and pink.

Aero efficiency is a little tougher to evaluate. The blunt nose shaping follows the current trend in aero wheels, and the max external rim width is 26mm, which is designed to make the wheels cut cleanly through the wind and minimize the impact of crosswinds. Without wind tunnel testing it’s impossible to say just how efficient they are. What I can say is that compared to other carbon aero wheels I’ve ridden, this set of Tokyowheels felt middle of the road when mounted on both a Scott Foil test bike and our personal Parlee Z5 road rig. I know that’s a wholly unscientific assessment. But it’s my two cents and I’ll stand by it.

Rim depth was 38mm front, 50mm rear. We dressed them with a pair of supple 25mm Zipp Tangente tires.

Rim depth was 38mm front, 50mm rear. We dressed them with a pair of supple 25mm Zipp Tangente tires (click to enlarge).

As for crosswinds, again performance was good but not great. In light breezes, they did fine. But if the wind blew hard, I got pushed around a little. You could say the same for most wheels of this depth, though, so take it for what it is.

Braking was not as good, especially on long, steep descents. Instead of the smooth modulated feel you get from alloy wheels or top-tier carbon clinchers, the feel of the Tokyowheel was far more pulsy and grabby, especially at lower speeds on steep inclines when harder braking is required. The wheels also sometimes emitted a smell reminiscent of overheated automobile brakes. When I emailed Tokyowheel to express my concerns, the company suggested in part that I give the “braking surface a nice cleaning with alcohol every now and then, that will reduce any residues on the surface and most likely eliminate that smell.”

Pad wear was accelerated and we noticed blue residue from the pads on the rims.

Pad wear was accelerated and we noticed blue residue from the pads on the rims (click to enlarge).

This seemed to remedy the situation, but braking feel still occasionally had a pulsing sensation and emitted a shrill noise. I also observed accelerated brake pad wear and noticed blue residue from the pads on the rim itself.

Finally, I must mention one email I received from the company, which offered a $100 gift card to anyone who posted a review of their Tokyowheels on a public cycling forum or cycling review website. That number went up to $200 if you recorded a short video review of your Tokyowheels and loaded it on YouTube. “Don’t worry too much about quality,” said the email. “You can record it with a smartphone. Send us the link to the video and we will send you a $200 Gift Card.”

On the surface, there’s nothing malevolent going on here. But anyone visiting this page of customer video reviews on the Tokyowheel website should be aware of the potential transaction that’s taken place.

Rim width is 26mm outer, 18mm inner.

Rim width is 26mm outer, 18mm inner (click to enlarge).

Bottom line, while you’ll save money and shave weight with these wheels, there’s also a certain amount of get what you pay for. I found the aero performance to be just middle of the road, while braking feel was akin to the first generation of carbon wheels. Whether that’s something you think is worth the significant savings is up to you.

For more information visit www2.tokyowheel.com.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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Comments:

  • Will Coleman says:

    I have the 88 mm elite tubular front from TokyoWheel, paired with a Renn Disk in the rear for TT’s. Since I wanted to increase speed in TT without spending a ridiculous amount of money I sprung for the tokyowheel front. The resulting speed increases when mounted on my Cervelo P1 (with 38mm carbon tubular wheels from Neuvation installed previously) was 0.7-0.8 mph increases on local 10 mile TT’s. Pretty decent time savings without killing your bank account. The front does get pushed around if its really windy but that probably happens with any deep front wheel.

  • Kevin says:

    I have a pair of the 38mm wheels with the DT Swiss 240 disc brake hubs. I have about 1,500 miles on them and they are holding up very well. They are fast, solid and can take a beating based on my riding on very rough roads.

  • Lenny says:

    All wheels are bought from a Chinese source. Same with Boyd Cycling. Boyd just charges a lot more.

    • Juan says:

      Except that Boyd is upfront about having a Chinese factory producing the rims for them. And according to Boyd, their rims aren’t open mold. They designed the rim shape themselves, and let the experienced factory advise them on layups and resins and all that. That’s quite a bit different than buying rims out out of a catalog and slapping your sticker on them.

    • Dave says:

      Boyd’s are too much $$$ these days. He will price himself out of business. You can get Mavic or Reynolds (carbon) for the same price out of the U.K.

  • Howard Olsen says:

    I’ve got a set of the 38 / 50 Clinchers and absolutely love them. I can tell you that the modulation you feel in the braking surface is from the pads – I tossed the Blue Pads that came with the wheels and installed a set of Swisstop Black Prince Carbon Pads and the braking performance jumped leaps and bounds and felt every bit as confident as braking on an aluminum track.. These are awesome wheel and 2 years in are still completely true ….

  • Simon says:

    wheel blew up in the shop.

  • Alberto says:

    Spot on review. Got the Epic 38/50 in May 2016, when they were released. I was initially very happy because of the customer service, and because I could feel increase in my acceleration and top speed with these wheels. If I had the opportunity to buy wheels again, I would’ve spend more money to get a set of proven wheels.

    In 11 months and about 1500 kms, my opinion is changed. Breaking is noisy and not very good.The rear wheel got off center and started grinding the tyre against the frame, the mechanic could not bring the wheel back to center because the nipples are seized to the spokes. Regarding the front wheel, the pulsations when braking started almost from day one, and got worse with time. The braking surface is showing material imperfections (mechanic said it is bulging) hence the pulsation.

    I e-mailed TokyoWheels one week ago, asking how to apply my warranty. They have responded, albeit very slow compared with the quick response when buying the wheels. Today I am waiting for someone “operations” to assess the issue.

    Trust the TokyoWheels guys will take care of the warranty, however, in my opinion, the issues with the wheels were not worth the savings.

    • Fred Hams says:

      Sorry to say this….but It’s one guy… there is no “operations” guy. The guys office is a Day rental office. The company is basically a backyard sticker operation flogging the cheapest Taiwanese rims with a whole lot of marketing hype and shill reviews he’s written himself.
      Goodlike getting your money back. Shouldn’t you be getting 110% back anyway.

  • TR says:

    I agree with Alberto. I purchased a set of 50/60 Epics in September 2015. Initially, I was impressed. There was some brake noise but not too much of a problem; however, noises became more frequent. After 18 months, my mechanic showed me how the rims were beginning to fail as the bead was starting to separate. He suggested that I not ride them anymore. I sent an email to James and to customer service, even though I thought they might be one in the same, asking specific questions regarding the short life span my rims were experiencing. Its funny, post purchase, email responses came quickly; however, after a month, I have not heard anything back. It appears you do get what you pay for.

  • fred says:

    I’m waiting on an epic 3.4 front rim. I managed to fall, and have someone land on me. I cracked the Roval clx40 front rim.
    I bought the bike used for under 3k, I just couldn’t justify dropping 1/3 of the cost of the bike for just the front wheel.
    Since I’m in my mid 60’s, I’m not looking for a race wheel, so things like ceramic bearings are above my appreciation.
    On the other hand, even a duffer can feel lower rotational momentum on a hill, or a pass.

    • fred says:

      I got the front wheel, and it’s nice. With the wider rim, it’s not the perfect match for the Roval in the back, so, I ordered the matching rear wheel. Based on what I seen on Ebay, I can sell the Roval wheel for about the price of the front and rear wheel.
      The 3.4 does have a feature that the 2013 Roval wheel doesn’t, it can run tubeless. I’m over 200 lb, so, pinch flats are always on my mind.
      If I don’t like them, I can always switch to alloy,

  • fred says:

    So, I’ve got a couple hundred miles on the front/rear combo. The twitchiness of the Roval/Tokoyo mismatch is gone, so, it probably was the rim width.
    I’m running Black Prince pads, so, braking is pretty solid, and no signs of pulsing. On the hills, I do alternate front and rear brakes. I figure that way they have a chance to cool.
    A couple years ago, I had a blowout, and I was very happy it happened on an uphill. Up to that point, I was still sailing down hills at 40 mph.

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