Mid-section wheels balance aero shaping with sharp handling. We’ve tested, rated and reviewed 15 to find the best for you

Best Aero Wheels for triathlonAccording to the hype, 50mm-deep rims make for the ultimate all-round speed wheels – deep enough to be noticeably faster without making steering a fight, and light enough to still climb well. We’ve tested 15 top contenders, priced from £1,100 to £2,250, to find out the truth about how they really ride and how much you need to spend to get your ideal wheel.

There are tons of different aero wheel designs, most of which are backed up with a whole load of wind tunnel graphs and claims of seconds saved. For this test, though, we’ve concentrated on the tangible performance benefits of each set. What’s interesting is that technological adoption doesn’t seem to be linked to price. That makes some of the cheaper wheels here an absolute bargain.

Scroll down to see the winners and turn the page for the best of the rest. For more wheel reviews, head to our Bike Wheel Reviews page.


WINNER

Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon clinchers
£2,300
1,505g (689g front, 816g rear)
zipp.comfisheroutdoor.co.uk

Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon clinchers

Zipp’s distinctive Firecrests came into the test as the benchmark all-rounders and if you can afford them, they still hold that position despite strong opposition. The US-made rims use a unique bulged profile that’s fattest in the centre. This looks weird at first but it broadens the tyre base for a super-surefooted feel. The Firecrests have a distinctive floaty feel that takes some getting used to on fast descents but noticeably improves comfort and speed sustain on rough roads. Line adjustments are easy even at speed. Freehub engagement is quick, and super-light weight means they accelerate fast. Stopping is predictable too. The fat look and aero feel isn’t for everyone though, and several thinner, firmer wheelsets felt faster in calm conditions even if roll-down tests proved they weren’t.

Verdict Tough, lightweight and comfortable all-rounders with outstanding handling

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


RUNNER-UP

Syncros RR1.0 Carbon clinchers
£2,100
1,470g (669g front, 801g rear)
scott-sports.com

Syncros RR1.0 Carbon clinchers

The flat-sided RR1.0s look old-school at first and we were expecting stubborn handling at speed and in crosswinds, but the 22mm-wide rims actually steer remarkably well. The broader tyre base gives enhanced traction and a smoother ride than with standard-width wheels, and there’s no trace of warp or vagueness through corners or softness when you stand up and give them full gas. While the DT freehub can take a while to engage, very low weight means a serious leap in speed once they’re locked in and they flatter fitness even on seriously steep climbs. They can also ‘feel’ faster in calm conditions than the Zipps and other fatties. The Syncros wheels were the undeniable surprise performers of this test.

Verdict Efficient-feeling smooth-speed favourites that excel on the climbs

Performance 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


VALUE PRIZE

USE Road 4.5 clinchers
£1,375
1,633g (751g front, 882g rear)
use1.com

USE Road 4.5 clinchers

USE has no track record with wheels but these state-of-the-art yet surprisingly affordable clinchers get the UK company off to a flying start. The 45mm-deep rims get a contemporary rounded shape and broad brake track for plumper, better supported tyres without potential frame fit issues. A super-smooth, patent pending Nano Surface Finish helps them slip through wind and grime but braking is still predictable even on the steepest descents. The wide profile handles crosswinds well and doesn’t mind being chucked into chicanes at speed either. Initial wariness caused by the wheels’ unproven status soon gave way to full on, flat out descending. They’re light enough to breeze up the longest passes, and freehub pick-up is prompt. If they continue performing as well as they have done for the past few months, USE is onto a winner.

Verdict Efficiently fast, friendly-handling and eagerly responsive wheels at an excellent price

Performance 4/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5

4-STAR REVIEWS


Campagnolo Bullet Ultra CULT clinchers
£1,304
1,725g (758g front, 967g rear)
campagnolo.com / chickencycles.co.uk

Campagnolo Bullet Ultra CULT clinchers

Campagnolo’s top-of-the-line Bullets are a super-tight, smooth rolling bargain for powerful riders but they can feel harsh and gusty on rougher, windier days. Campag hubs have always been prized for their ultra-long-lived, smooth running bearings and the Ultra CULTs get upgraded to top-quality oiled ceramic bearings for £180 over the standard version. The distinctive rear spoke lacing gives a very stiff drive feel. These slim wheels cut easily through calm winds for efficient speed sustain and light weight means they accelerate well too. Add easily adjusted spokes and these are great for high-mileage riders. They need a firmer hand  in gustier conditions than fatter rims, though, and the harsh ride on rough roads can undermine the silky-smooth bearing feel.

Verdict Well priced, stiff and super-smooth wheels for powerful riders, but less gust-proof than some

Performance 3/5
Value 5/5
Overall 4/5


Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 C50 CL clinchers
£1,400
1,782g (804g front, 978g rear)
shimano.com / madison.co.uk

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 C50 CL clinchers

Shimano’s new 50mm-deep clincher set matches friendly fatter-rim handling with dependable alloy braking and cup-and-cone bearings. The alloy brake track seems at odds with the £1,400 price but weight is OK, if not outstanding for the money. The 22mm rounded-section rim and broad barrel hubs mean handling is accurate at all speeds and wind angles, and the C50s hold speed really well. The fatter tyre shape reduces rough-road rattle and the outstandingly smooth bearings have a silky on-road feel that makes them relaxing long-haul all-rounders. Hidden spokes make tuning a pain, but the sculpted QRs are gorgeous. Fully serviceable bearings potentially last for years too, boosting long-term value.

Verdict Luxuriously smooth-rolling, friendly-handling wheels with potentially outstanding longevity

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


Vision TriMax Carbon TC50 tubulars
£1,200
1,475g (663g front, 812g rear)
visiontechusa.com / windwave.co.uk

Vision TriMax Carbon TC50 tubulars

The TriMax TC50 was one of the earliest wider-rim runners and this well-priced tub wheelset has obvious handling benefits to make it a great all-rounder for glue-on tyre fans. The slightly rounded 23mm rim keeps weight reasonable for keen acceleration and altitude gain, and the hand-built construction is tight and true, with totally obedient, largely wind-ignorant handling at all speeds. FSA’s Vision hubs are well proven and smooth running too, and doubled-up driveside spoking means decent drive response. Carbon QRs, pads, valve extenders and carry bags are included in the bargain package, and 10/11-speed freehubs are on the way. If you want clinchers, Vision’s new CSIs are a proper bargain at £700.

Verdict Friendly-handling, reasonably light and responsive tub wheels in a great value package

Performance 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5


FFWD F6R-C clinchers
£1,060
1,874g (849g front, 1,025g rear)
ffwdwheels.com / paligap.cc

FFWD F6R-C clinchers

FFWD offers a massive hub and colour range to choose from with its aero wheels but this semi-alloy clincher set is the most versatile and cost effective. The use of own-brand hubs rather than DT Swiss or ceramic-bearing centres keeps the price low without losing smooth-spinning momentum, and the alloy braking surface keeps stopping predictable in all weathers. Hand-built construction with top-quality aero spokes keeps the wheels tight long-term. The thin rims with their 58mm-deep DARC figure-of-eight profile give a definite speed boost on flat, fast days but the F6R-Cs definitely aren’t ‘no hands’ wheels on windier days. The weight is noticeable on steeper climbs and sprints but they don’t flinch under serious wattage. Half-price crashed rim replacement boosts already good complete package value, too.

Verdict Gusty and heavy, but really well built, high- value speed sustain wheels for powerful riders

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 4/5

3-STAR REVIEWS


Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3 clinchers 
£2,000
1,642g (749g front, 893g rear)
bontrager.com

Bontrager Aeolus 5 D3 clinchers

Bontrager’s latest mid-section wheels get a fat, friendly-handling shape for easy speed but they’re slightly heavy and slow on climbs for the price. The new 27mm-wide full-carbon OCLV rim is US-made for consistent quality. Tyres blow up fat and comfy for obedient handling at all speeds and crosswind angles. Broad, white, DT-based, 11-speed-compatible hubs keep them tight through turns and they handle power well too. Speed sustain and smooth roll makes for efficient long-distance cruising but the slow-uptake freehub makes them feel slow on climbs and stop-start courses. The supplied cork brake pads aren’t as predictable as synthetics in mixed conditions.

Verdict Smooth, friendly-handling speed sustain wheels, but slightly slow on climbs

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5



Cole C50 Lite clinchers
£1,350
1,815g (822g front, 993g rear)
cole-products.com / evanscycles.com

Cole C50 Lite clinchers

Cole’s C50 Lites aren’t actually that ‘lite’ as full-carbon wheels go – though they’re not ‘hevy’ for their affordable price – but they are usefully stiff, hard working wheels, complete with a comprehensive accessory package. They feel decent but not super-dynamic on the road, where the simple rim shape can feel stubborn to turn at speed and gusty in crosswinds. The unique DSA2 barrel-mounted aero spokes create a super-tight wheel that high wattage testers and those with an aggressive riding style really appreciated. Braking with the distinctive pink pads (included) on the Heat Shield coated rims is fine in the dry and OK in the wet, and the super-loud freehub is great for psychological freewheel warfare. Padded wheelbags and skewers complete a well priced package, and Evans is discounting them heavily at the moment too.

Verdict Simple aerodynamics and not actually ‘lite’, but a stiff, good value package for power riders

Performance 3/5
Value 4/5
Overall 3/5


Enve Classic 45 clinchers
£1,700
1,600g (726g front, 874g rear)
enve.com / saddleback.co.uk

Enve Classic 45 clinchers

The company’s Smart System wheels may be grabbing the limelight but these new, more basic DT Swiss hubbed wheels make Enve rim quality more affordable than ever. Hand-built in Utah and rigorously tested for build quality and heat tolerance, these are some of the strongest and most reliable carbon hoops available. At 22mm wide and 45mm deep, they handle obediently in all wind and speed conditions. While the DT Swiss 350 hubs are fairly portly, the overall weight will still flatter your bike, and they accelerate and climb well for aero wheels. Braking with the supplied grey pads is reliable if not remarkable. Freehub engagement is relatively slow though, and the rims really deserve the extra investment in the silky, instant engagement Chris King hub option (£2,000).

Verdict Excellent quality, decent-handling lightweight rims on adequate, affordable hubs

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5



Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 C clinchers
£1,800
1,564g (683g front, 881g rear)
mavic.com

Mavic Cosmic Carbone 40 C clinchers

Mavic’s self-styled “first reliable carbon clincher” is actually a sharp feeling, responsive alloy hybrid. While it looks full-carbon, the CC 40 C uses an alloy tyre trough overlaid with a thin skin of carbon fibre for braking. Handling is immediately better than the old Cosmic Carbones in windy conditions, and they feel tight and precise, however hard you throw them through corners or stomp them up a hill. Brake-generated heat resistance is excellent. Weight is reasonable for the price, and you get tubes and tyres included. Freehub engagement is slow, though, and they’re not as surefooted as the latest fat rims. Brutally sharp braking makes subtlety essential to avoid slides in the wet.

Verdict Stiff, responsive and heat-proof new wheel/tyre combo

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5


Ritchey SuperLogic Carbon 46mm clinchers
£1,850
1,420g (617g front, 803g rear)
ritcheylogic.com / paligap.cc

Ritchey SuperLogic Carbon 46mm clinchers

Ritchey’s SuperLogics take Reynolds’ proven rim technology and lace it up super-light for climbers and subtle riders after simple, aero-efficient performance. The rims are Reynolds’ slim, V-section, lightweight and proven all-carbon DV46UL hoops. They’re laced to Ritchey’s ultra-narrow-bodied SuperLogic hubs with top-quality Sapim CX-Ray aero spokes. SKF bearings keep them spinning smoothly, freehub pick-up is quick and their impressively low weight means they spin up to speed with minimum effort. The rims feel fast in calmer conditions and don’t get stubborn at speed but they can get gusty in crosswinds. The SuperLogics are noticeably flexy when pushing hard through corners or grunting up hills, so they definitely suit skinny lightweight riders not power players.

Verdict Super-light and responsive all-rounders but twangy when cornered or cranked hard

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5



Fulcrum Racing Speed XLR tubulars
£2,250
1,389g (598g front, 791g rear)
fulcrumwheels.com / i-ride.co.uk

Fulcrum Racing Speed XLR tubulars

Fulcrum wheels have a great reputation for smooth-rolling performance and the top-of-the-range XLR tubs get ceramic bearings for even silkier performance than normal. They’re extremely expensive for only adequate weight and aerodynamics, though. The spin and glide of the oiled (rather than greased) CULT bearings is outstanding, and the double driveside spoking pattern and larger drive flange transfer power solidly through the carbon-bodied hubs from the fast reacting 10- or 11-speed freehub. The supplied pads give predictable braking in the dry and are OK in the wet, and they feel precise in mid-speed turns. The relatively simple, narrow-rim aerodynamics increase in steering stubbornness as speed increases, though, and they blow about in gusty conditions.

Verdict Tight, powerful and silky-smooth, but average handling and weight for a very high price

Performance 4/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5


DT Swiss RRC 46 Dicut C clinchers
£2,225
1,475g (671g front, 804g rear)
dtswiss.com / hotlines-uk.com

DT Swiss RRC 46 Dicut C clinchers

DT’s top-of-the-range wheels get fancy new pie-crust hubs, but the carbon rims feel old-school in handling terms and the braking dynamics don’t suit UK use. The unique straight-pull, nail-head spokes enable extremely high build tension and with tight RWS ratchet skewers, the RRCs feel pin-sharp. Pick-up from the rear hub is relatively slow but once engaged they’re super-stiff and accelerate and climb really quickly. In calm wind or straight-line situations the 46mm rims slice through the air well, but they’re noticeably more vulnerable to crosswind gusting and speed stubbornness than wider rims, and initially weak braking ramps up suddenly as heat builds. The precise feel can be punishing on rough roads, and the spokes are a potential spares problem.

Verdict Light and tight, but with a huge price, harsh feel, sub-par handling and unsettling braking

Performance 3/5
Value 2/5
Overall 3/5