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A wheelist
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Recently I was approached by Roland of Zen Cyclery (Wheels forum poster and wheel builder) and was asked to do some testing of a set of their wheels. I guess he asked me because I'm a passionate wheel person, RBR Wheels forum regular, a home builder of wheels (for 5 decades), always willing to pass on whatever wheel knowledge I have (most of which is on my wheelbuilding page) plus I'm an all-round nice guy. Ok I lied about the last part.

Of course I was honored by his request and very surprised as I'd never spoken to him before, even on this forum, probably because most of Zen's wheelsets are way above my needs - the needs of an older, hard-riding recreational cyclist who is long past his racing days. $2500 wheels, as nice as they might be, would be wasted on me. Plus the cake-topper was this - "If you like the wheels, you can keep them". As if I was going to refuse eh?

After I'd picked myself up off the floor and blurted out an e-mail acceptance, Roland asked for my weight so that he could spec a set of wheels for me. His suggestion was, for my ancient 170lbs body -
Kinlin XR300 rims. Silver.
White Industries H2 & H3 hubs. Silver. Actually they shine like they're chrome plated.
Sapim CX-Ray spokes. Silver. 24/28. Front - x1, elbows out. Rear - x3. Brass nipples.

They sounded like a nice sensible set of wheels, with slightly-below-average weight, built from quality parts. Zen sells this great looking wheelset for $696 with shipping included.

This wheelset was going to be interesting as I've never even laid my hands on a set of Kinlin rims or White Industries hubs before. I'm very familiar with CX-Ray spokes but I haven't ridden with brass nipples in about 15 years. The all silver color combo would be interesting in this age of a plethora of black components. Maybe silver is the new black?

The wheels arrived in two separate boxes. The boxes were so separate that they arrived two days apart! Trembling hands unpacked them. The wheels were beautiful with not a speck of black anywhere and the first all silver wheels I've had in decades. I checked out their parts -

White Industries H2 & H3 hubs. These are nice looking "made in the USA" hubs with replaceable sealed cartridge bearings (5 in the rear hub) and a titanium cassette carrier for both lightness and to prevent sprockets digging in. Compared to some of the best road hubs out there - DT240, DuraAce 7900, Chris King R45 - they're the least expensive of the group ($395) and the 2nd heaviest (349g. CK is the lightest at 317g). I'll guarantee they're the shiniest as they're mirror polished. The great thing about them, apart from their looks, is that they are serviceable and rebuildable without any special tools. They seem to me to be on the quality level of Shimano DuraAce hubs; both have titanium cassette carriers. If you prefer loose ball-bearing, adjustable cone hubs, consider DuraAce. If you'd rather have the easy servicing of almost maintenance-free cartridge bearings then White Industries should be on your list.

Kinlin XR300 rims. These rims are 30mm deep which I guess puts them somewhat into the aero category. Their width is 19mm and advertised weight is 465g. They have a very nice clear anodized finish with a pinned (not welded) joint and a machined brake track. I've never been a great fan of pinned joints as the joint tends to be heavy (and the Kinlins were no exception here) and uneven pinned joints have plagued me in past years. I'll reserve my judgement for the longevity of the Kinlin pinned joint for the future. They look great though and they have a good following on this forum.
I found it somewhat difficult to mount my tires and as I haven't used a tire lever in many years, I'll deduce that Kinlin's rim diameters are slightly bigger than Mavic's. It's no big deal. I just had to remember to pack a tire lever. I always thought people who needed tire levers were weenies. All my tires go on & off all my other wheels by hand.

Sapim CX-Ray spokes. These aero spokes are my favorites and I've used them for about 15 years in both road and mountain bike wheels with zero problems. They're easy to build with due to the fact that any twist can be easily seen, not just assumed; plus they're one of the lightest spokes on the market and well known as being durable.

The wheelset build. Roland at Zen Cyclery built the wheels with 24/28 spokes (exactly what I would have speced for myself) and laced them x1 for the front with heads-in (both a first for me) and the standard x3 at the rear. Perfect. As an obsessed passionate wheelbuilder I check wheels built by others with a fine-toothed comb. The first thing I noticed was a very subtle detail - the hub logos (beautiful deep stampings in this case) were perfectly aligned with the valve hole. This doesn't happen by accident on two wheels. Someone was thinking here. If you peer through the valve hole you can read the hub name. Obsessive, yes. Nice, definitely. Mike T. noticed. The rims were shod with nice looking red FSA rim tapes too.
Then I give them a stress-relieving. Pings and pops here will tell me that the wheelbuilding job wasn't finished. I heard nothing only silence. I plucked the spokes to check for even tension (verrrry important for long wheel life) and I found a great job had been done. Then I placed them on my wheel stand to be judged by the dreaded dial indicator for trueness and dish. Woops! The front wheel wobbled more than I'll settle for and the rear wheel was out of dish. A few minutes with the ol' spoke wrench had those issues cleared up. Hopefully Zen will re-think QC. On went the tires and cassette and the wheels went into the Argon 18 for a photo-op.

This wheelset seems perfectly suited as a mid to high end quality & priced wheelset for training or sporty riding. Its total weight of 1594 grams is mid-way between my benchmark training wheelset of 32 spoke OpenPro rims with DuraAce hubs at 1762 grams (or 1852g with Ultegra hubs) and light clincher wheelsets which are, to me, sub 1450 grams.

The Zen wheels came without any decals on the rims - no Kinlin decals, no Zen Cyclery decals. Nothing. I'm not a fan of flashy decals meant to impress the coffee shop crowd but I'd like to see a tasteful decal of some kind.

I've now done a few rides on the wheels and they have stood up well - as I expected. Any comments that I may have about their performance are purely subjective and anecdotal but they feel laterally stiff as my 170lbs can't flex them, hard as I might try and their 30mm depth didn't provide a harsh ride, which I was expecting. They give me great peace of mind, which I demand from all my wheels especially when I'm miles from home. I'm not interested in wheels with low spoke numbers that make me wonder if I break a spoke whether I might have to phone for a ride home, or worse. My longest ride so far was a 51-miler which happened to take me exactly the same time as the same ride two weeks earlier which was done on shallower 23mm rims and 24/28 CX-Ray spokes, so the extra aero benefit of the deeper XR300 rims was subtle at best. I'm sure other variables make bigger differences.

Nice wheels Zen!
 

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Cpark
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Mike T

That is one sweet looking wheelsets/bike!!

Impressed with Roland's work as well, except I went with exactly opposite of what you got, all black hubs, spokes and CF rims.

After a numerous emails/calls, I decided to get a set of CF wheels.
I ordered a set of Edge 45 Clinchers w/Alchemy hubs and CX-Rays spokes, and not only they were a beauty, it weighed less than 1300 grams! I couldn't believe how light they were. It felt almost as light as my old Reynold DV-UL tublars that had DT hubs and 16/20 spokes. That's where the similarity ends. Unlikely the whippy 16/20 combo DV-UL, mine was laced with 20/24 - 1X front and 2X rear, and it was one of the most laterally stout wheelset I have owned.
I tried to flex these wheels (purposely narrowed the brake calipers), but I couldn't make it to rub at all. Or, and it rides beautifully.

I was so impressed with his work, I ordered another set of wheelset, XR 270/Alchemy hubs/CX-Rays with 24/28, all black again.....:D :D :D
 

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Mike T. - those wheels are beautiful indeed and look great on the bike. Excellent work Roland of Zen Cyclery! That price is competitive as well.
 

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Hucken The Fard Up !
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your wheels look like the ones on my touring bike.

$700 ? you can get a set of Dura Ace 7850-C24-CL for that price.
 

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Mike T. The thing that stands out from your review :

"Then I placed them on my wheel stand to be judged by the dreaded dial indicator for trueness and dish. Woops! The front wheel wobbled more than I'll settle for and the rear wheel was out of dish. A few minutes with the ol' spoke wrench had those issues cleared up. "

Uhh, how much are we talking here? 1/2mm? 3mm?
 

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170 lbs and you think you need 24/28 spokes? 16/20 would have sufficed and surely 20/24 would have been more than robust don't you think?
 

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natedg200202 said:
Mike T. The thing that stands out from your review :

"Then I placed them on my wheel stand to be judged by the dreaded dial indicator for trueness and dish. Woops! The front wheel wobbled more than I'll settle for and the rear wheel was out of dish. A few minutes with the ol' spoke wrench had those issues cleared up. "

Uhh, how much are we talking here? 1/2mm? 3mm?
glad someone pointed that out - while it might be nice that the hub logos match up with the tube valve, I'd rather have trued and dished wheels out of the box...
 

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My thoughts too, but some are more comfortable with higher counts. I weigh 175 +/- 5 and have been running two wheelsets that are the same as those with respect to hubs, rims, spokes and nipples, for three years with the only difference being that the spoke count on mine are 20/24 and 18/24......haven't touched them with a spoke wrench and they both have many 1,000s of miles. Lacing on mine are Radial Front and 2X in the rear, but that shouldn't make a big difference in performance. 24/28 should go forever.

I do like the look of White Indurstries polished hubs. If they get dirty, just hit them with some Semichrome polish on a soft rag and they look brand new.
 

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A wheelist
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
MCF said:
170 lbs and you think you need 24/28 spokes? 16/20 would have sufficed and surely 20/24 would have been more than robust don't you think?
MCF, when it comes to numbers of spokes I'm on the conservative side as I won't risk a potential long walk carrying my bike for the sake of a few grams that won't make me go any faster. I'm no faster this year than I was last year on 32/32 spoke wheels. I've talked to guys on the net who not only couldn't ride their wheel when a spoke broke, they couldn't even wheel the bike either.

When one full small waterbottle weighs 648 grams, the weight savings of approx 85 grams from 16 ~ 18 less spokes borders on meaningless. To me anyway.

If I was out & out racing and I weighed 135 - 150lbs (which is the correct race weigh for my height) and these weren't more "general purpose" wheels I might be thinking about that. I'm not into wondering how few spokes I can get away with.
 

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A wheelist
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
natedg200202 said:
Mike T. The thing that stands out from your review :
"Then I placed them on my wheel stand to be judged by the dreaded dial indicator for trueness and dish. Woops! The front wheel wobbled more than I'll settle for and the rear wheel was out of dish. A few minutes with the ol' spoke wrench had those issues cleared up. "
Uhh, how much are we talking here? 1/2mm? 3mm?
The front wheel lateral was 0.024" (my standards are a max of 0.010") and the rear dish was out about 3mm.
 

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Glad you like them and I'm happy with mine, but odd that they needed to be slightly adjusted. Mine arrived ready to go, minus having to glue the tubulars.
 

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You've all missed a very important point here. I am also available to test one of Zen's wheelsets and deliver an unbiased review <wink>. And since the H2/H3 - Kinlin combo has already been reviewed, I guess I can do a review on the Alchemy - Edge combo.
 

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I also found Roland great to work with!

I love the silver hubs look. Cadel Evans rocked a white rim in the Giro, which gave me the idea of white rim. I ended up with WI H2/H3, Kinlin 270 in white, 20/28 black spokes + one red one next to the valve stem, red nipples. Only 400 miles so far on them.
 

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SM-Rider said:
You've all missed a very important point here. I am also available to test one of Zen's wheelsets and deliver an unbiased review <wink>. And since the H2/H3 - Kinlin combo has already been reviewed, I guess I can do a review on the Alchemy - Edge combo.
Haha. Ohh boy this one almost made me drop a scaulding cup of coffee on myself.
 

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Mike T. said:
MCF, when it comes to numbers of spokes I'm on the conservative side as I won't risk a potential long walk carrying my bike for the sake of a few grams that won't make me go any faster. I'm no faster this year than I was last year on 32/32 spoke wheels. I've talked to guys on the net who not only couldn't ride their wheel when a spoke broke, they couldn't even wheel the bike either.
I have had a spoke break on my 30mm rim, 20 spoke front wheel, and only had to open my brakes slightly to be able to bike home approx 40 miles...
I guess every wheel is different as is every spoke failure. Mine however certainly wasn't much of an issue. I was still able to enjoy the rest of my ride, before replacing the broken spoke.
Joe
 

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Salsa_Lover said:
your wheels look like the ones on my touring bike.

$700 ? you can get a set of Dura Ace 7850-C24-CL for that price.
I couldn't find any place on the web within $200 of that price .... exactly where should I be looking at?
 
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