The Bend, Oregon area provided plenty of challenging testing terrain.

The Bend, Oregon area provided plenty of challenging testing terrain.​

Lowdown: Knight Composites 35 and 65 Carbon Wheels

Formed in 2013, Knight Composites is still a relative newcomer to the carbon wheels game. But the experience Knight's leadership brings to the table has made for a product that stands years beyond the company's young age. So for those unfamiliar, here is an introduction to two of the company's most versatile road wheels, the 35 and 65.

Material: Carbon rim and brake trackSize: 35mm depth, 25.5mm internal width
Wheelset weight: 1404 gramsBase price: $2199
Hub: DT Swiss 240sPrice as tested: $2299
Tires: Continental Grand Prix 4000s II 25cRating:
4.5 Stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Stat Box: Knight Composites 35


Pluses

Minuses
  • Fast, clean look
  • Not as aero as big brother
  • Damped carbon ride feel
  • Versatile wheel option
  • Aerodynamic in most conditions
  • Low weight
  • Little crosswind drift
  • Smooth ride
  • Good overall value

Material: Carbon rim and brake trackSize: 65mm depth, 28mm internal width
Wheelset weight: 1604 gramsBase price: $2199
Hub: DT Swiss 240sPrice as tested: $2299
Tires: Continental Grand Prix 4000s II 25cRating:
4.5 Stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Stat Box: Knight Composites 65


Pluses

Minuses
  • Fast, clean look
  • A lot of material to get to speed
  • Damped carbon ride feel
  • Drift in significant crosswinds
  • Versatile wheel option
  • Very aerodynamic
  • Low weight
  • Smooth ride
  • Good overall value

Review: Knight Composites 35 and 65 Carbon Wheels

Based in the small but rapidly expanding city of Bend, Oregon, Knight Composites fits right in. The brainchild of industry veterans Jim Pfeil (co-founder of Reynolds Wheels and a former executive at ENVE), CEO Beverly Lucas (former executive at Felt and ENVE), and chief engineer Kevin Quan (formerly of Cervélo), Knight Composites was a natural product of years of unique insights and experience from the trade. So, while young in spirit, it perhaps comes at no surprise that they're progressing rapidly in a field that so many others have taken so much time to master. And what a time to be at the forefront in this arena.

Technological innovation in the cycling world is at an all-time high, including wheel technology. Between ever-increasing access to wind tunnel technology and the current state of carbon fiber production, this essential component is really hitting its stride. Knight's first and primary product is the carbon clincher wheel, and for this test they provided RoadBikeReview two options for comparison: the 35mm all-arounder and the 65mm speedster.

The Knight 65s can make just about any bike faster.

The Knight 65s can make just about any bike faster.​

Background

This review must be prefaced by the understanding that there are currently two primary types of road bike wheels. The first is the fabled tubular variety, in which the exterior of the rim features a small U-shape for the tire to sit in, but wherein the bulk of the adhesion between the tire and the rim itself is by means of glue or tape.

This variety has long stood as the pinnacle of wheel/tire technology, providing an unrivaled suppleness and thus speed to the sole contact points between the bicycle and the road surface (in most instances).

The second variety, which most of us are more familiar with, is the clincher where the rim features a hooked edge on either side that catches the bead of the tire upon inflation to form a temporarily closed fixture around an inner tube. This variation is far easier to manipulate, requiring nothing but a variation in air for adhesion or deflation (which comes in quite handy in case of a flat). What's more, tubular tires are far more expensive and to deal with - unless you're a pro racer being followed by a team car topped with spare wheels.

All of that maintenance and cost discussion aside, the allure of pure speed is too great for many riders who compete at higher levels to let such trivial matters stand in the way of the never ending pursuit of glory. But all this is changing. At the World Championships in Doha earlier this fall, the cycling community watched in awe as Tony Martin took men's time trial victory on clincher technology. This performance stands as validation for many in the anti-tubular camp of the idea that modern tire and wheel technology has come such a long way in the past few years that these two varieties have now caught up in terms of speed and suppleness.

Continue to page 2 for more of our Knight Composites wheelsets review »


The 35s aren't quite as fast, but pack a more utilitarian punch.

The 35s aren't quite as fast, but pack a more utilitarian punch.​

Ride Feel and Performance

With all that in mind, we set off to test two of Knight's top carbon clincher options. We were immediately impressed by the smoothness of the wheel. The DT Swiss 240 hubs helped turn the ride quality up to an exceptional level in which we could focus on the more minute qualities of the wheels.

Next on the checklist for a race-quality carbon fiber wheelset was the braking surface. Sure, these wheels are fast. But how do they perform under hard braking pressure? This is often a separator of good and exceptional carbon wheels in this price range. The carbon fiber braking surface was solid in testing. Under ideal conditions, when used with Knight's own pads, these wheels show plenty of smoothness in braking surface and braking power. In wet conditions, things changed for the worse. As with most caliper brake/carbon brake track combinations you definitely needed to start braking earlier than when riding in the dry.

On the scale, the rolling resistance of the 35s is obviously less. The total system weight of the 35s as tested was just over 1400 grams. The 65s pushed the scale upwards of 1600 grams. As such, this smaller profile model gets our vote for the rider who spends a lot of time climbing or at lower speeds for longer periods of time.

On the aerodynamic front, Knight touts their wheel's superiority based on years of R&D in the University of Toronto and the Faster wind tunnels. Interestingly, the 65s and the 35s we tested were of considerably different widths. This isn't by chance. Knight says it found the wider profile of the 65s to hold better aerodynamics under all conditions. The 35s feature a slightly narrower body.

Our test wheels arrived in these protective black sleeves. Nice touch.

Our test wheels arrived in these protective black sleeves. Nice touch.​

Real World Testing

Wheel testing occurred in Knight's hometown of Bend, Oregon, where there's a weekly group ride called, The Hammerfest. Between a handful of professional triathletes (including Knight staffer Heather Jackson), and a group of equally talented cyclists (including former pro Chris Horner), there's plenty of firepower.

The typical route features exposed sections that prone to high afternoon winds, some small but relatively steep rollers, and a few high-speed descents. During multiple rides, we were able to get a good feel for each wheelset in a handful of conditions.

More than anything, we were impressed by the smoothness of both wheelsets. Also notable was the aerodynamic advantage of the 65s. The deeper profile rims deliver free watts at high speed. And even at low speed, these wheels lent a similar sensation to drafting. Stiffness was also highly impressive, offering the ability to accelerate rapidly and corner predictably.

The 65s handled slightly better than their little brothers at speed, but not so much in tight corners. The lighter weight 35s were more nimble. These factors combined to offer a sensation a bit like being on a rail. Turning, accelerating, and gliding felt so smooth and effortless compared to standard box section clincher wheels that we're used to training on.

But then came the crosswinds. In high crosswinds, the deeper rims did feel a bit unstable at times. Compared to other rims of similar depth, the Knight 65s didn't perform poorly, but they did perform poorly when compared to the 35s. It's really just a trade off inherent in the deep section, lightweight wheel. The 35s didn't offer the sensation of pulling the front wheel out from beneath the bike. Crosswinds were noticeable, of course, but less of a challenge. As such, in spite of all the aforementioned advantages of the 65s at speed, the 35s are far more practical for most riders.

Last Word

Overall, both wheels are a great option for riders who want a super fast, clean looking, reliable carbon clincher. The versatility of this platform is far superior to the racer's standard tubular wheels of yesterday, but each offers different benefits. The 35s are more versatile, providing exceptional responsiveness and handling in any wind conditions. But they are not quite as slippery as the 65.

For more information visit knightcomposites.com.