At $875 per set, Fairwheel offers a competitively priced lightweight wheelset option.
I was looking for a "weight weenie" wheelset that weighed less than 1400 grams. The criteria was: alloy (not carbon), clincher (not tubular), tubed (not tubeless), and, of course, reasonably priced. Unfortunately, consumers these days seem to be focused on carbon clinchers and, as a result, the mainstream companies like Shimano, Mavic, Reynolds, ENVE, and Zipp have responded by focusing their efforts on carbon.
Personally, I am not fully sold on carbon clinchers. I am a very tentative descender and continued reports about carbon clinchers failing under heavy braking have me worried about catastrophes while descending. Additionally, there aren't that many carbon clinchers in the sub-1400-gram category. So I set out on a search to find the lowest weight clincher wheelset at the lowest price. I spent some time surfing the Internet and came up with the chart below. Obviously, as the chart illustrates, the Fairwheel offering isn't the lightest wheelset, but it is very competitively priced and that's why I decided to give them a try.
I ordered the wheelset in time for one of my annual benchmarks: climbing the fabled Old La Honda road here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Old La Honda is a terrific climb that has a 7.3-percent average gradient over its 3.35-mile distance. There is no let up. It's always going up.
That's why it been a durable challenge for me for many years. My personal record is 18:25, and my best time for the year thus far was 19:48. With the new wheelset, which put my bike weight at an even 14 pounds, I was hoping to set a new PR for the year.
Unfortunately, UPS had driven a forklift into the box during transit, so when the wheels arrived the rear rim was dinged and had a small but noticeable chunk removed from it. You could feel it with your fingers and the brakes would pulse over it.
Each wheelset comes with a proverbial certificate of authenticity.
I alerted Fairwheel Bikes who asked me to send the rear wheel back at my convenience so they could replace the rim. In the meantime, they said, go ahead and ride on them. It was impressive customer service. Regarding build quality, the hubs are minimalist, the seam of the Kinlin rim is barely perceptible, and the rim strip is translucent.
So how did they perform? Ding and all, I rode a 19:37 on Old La Honda, which was a new PR for 2013. Afterwards, I returned the rear wheel to Fairwheel and they returned the wheel with a new rim in less than a week for no charge. Impressive customer service to say the least.
Rim tape is all but translucent and the joining point of the rim is barley noticeable.
This wheelset has a very responsive ride. They are vertically very stiff and respond instantly to pedal input, while also lacking any noticeable vertical flex, making them great for out-of-the-saddle climbing. Of course, lighter weight and minimal flex comes with a price. Indeed, you definitely notice road imperfections more so than on more forgiving wheels or wheels with wider rims. I have been running 700x23 tires at 120 PSI. It would be interesting to use 700x25 tires and/or lower inflation pressures. The only other complaint is the noise of the rear hub, which is louder than I'd prefer.
Actual weight is 1334 grams with rim tape, with the front at 612 grams and the rear at 722 grams.
- MSRP: $875/Shimano; $885/Campagnolo
- Weight: Claimed weight 1325 grams (without rim strips). Actual weight 1334 grams with rim strips. Front: 612 grams. Rear: 722 grams
- Rim width: 20mm
- Rim Depth: 21mm
- Spoke Count: 24 front; 28 rear
- Rim Strips: Rox Ultralite
It's remarkable to me that the big name wheel makers don't really offer an alloy clincher in this weight class. I would venture a guess that they could charge a substantial premium for a sub-1400 gram offering.
That's why it's so refreshing to see a bike shop such as Fairwheel offering such a high quality, lightweight wheelset. Additionally, Fairwheel's customer service provides peace of mind that this was the right choice for me.
For more information visit fairwheelbikes.com.