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.)

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


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.