We’ve reviewed 18 of 2011’s best carbon aero wheels for triathlon but which will give you the ultimate race-day advantage?

Check out our most up to date aero wheel reviews here. Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.

CLINCHER WHEELS go to TUBULAR WHEELS

Vision Trimax T42

£699.95

Weight 821g + 959g = 1,780g

www.windwave.co.uk

These mid-section wheels from FSA are a tight, tidy easy-handling semi-aero set-up for the money. The 42mm section rim doesn’t carve the wind as well as deeper sets, but it’s less likely to be blown about in more gusty  conditions. While weight is average, the fact that there’s less in the rims mean they light up easily under power and they climb better than most deeper wheels too. The hand-built straight-pull bladed spoke build gives a very tight and accurate feel overall, and braking is consistent. That makes them more versatile than most deeper section wheels in terms of course profile, wind conditions and bike suitability. FSA wheels have a good reputation for long-term smoothness, and these have spun sweetly throughout extended testing. Quick-release levers are good quality too, and you even get tyre covers.

Verdict

A really versatile, user friendly, high-quality semi-aero wheel at a very good price.

Performance 4/5

Value 4/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 30

Shimano WH-RS80

£849.98

Weight 812g + 1,039g = 1,851g

www.madison.co.uk

These new wheels from Shimano are tough, predictable, quiet and very good value if you look after the bearings. The 50mm alloy edged rim is exactly the same as the Dura-Ace wheels and while it’s not the latest fat shape, it’s rounded enough to be controllable and predictable in crosswinds and on more blustery days. The broad hub and stiff offset rim with spokes anchored into the inside edge makes them easy to true and gives very precise handling overall too. While they’re relatively heavy, tight power transfer means they feel okay when accelerating. The silent steel freehub is tough too. Overall stiffness means your palms and pants will know all about rougher road surfaces though. You’ll only get maximum life and value out of the old-skool adjustable bearings if you know how to service them too.

Verdict

Average weight and aerodynamics, but stiff,strong and great long-term value.

Performance 3/5

Value 4/5

Overall 4/5

American Classic Carbon 58

£879.99

Weight 818g + 1,021g = 1,839g

www.eurobike.uk.com

The Carbon 58 adds a little more aero advantage than average, without any obvious weight or handling penalties. While 8mm more rim depth doesn’t sound much, when combined with a slightly hourglass profile, these American Classic wheels are likely to gain you a few more seconds when the wind is against you. The profiling also makes them no more precarious in gusty conditions than most 50s. J-bend, bladed spokes are threaded into the rim edge to make truing easy if  necessary, and the white spoke aligned with the (included) no-leak valve extensions makes set-up and repair slightly easier. Other nice touches include steel inserts on the freehub splines and large flange rear hubs to handle drive torque. Despite the deeper depth, they’re a bearable overall weight, and the alloy rim keeps braking predictable. Frontwheel tracking can be slightly vague when pushed, though.

Verdict

Well-priced deep-section drag-reducers, without obvious weight or handling penalties.

Performance 3/5

Value 4/5

Overall 4/5

Fast Forward F6R-C

£1,014.99

Weight 862g + 1,032g = 1,894g

www.paligapltd.co.uk

Fast Forward’s aero F6R-C is a tight, fast-feeling and durable deeper section wheel – but you need to take care in blustery conditions. The 58mm rim uses Fast Forward’s trademarked ‘Darc’ (double arc) profile to smooth airflow over the wheel and lower drag. Sapim’s excellent CX Ray bladed spokes and brass DT nipples are hand-built into a very tight, quick-feeling wheel on flatter, faster courses. Good power transmission helps pull its average weight up to speed okay, and the alloy braking surface means confident, consistent stopping. Overall accuracy and a solidly surefooted cornering feel make them a good choice for powerful riders. Price is reasonable given the inclusion of a well-padded wheelbag. They do tug and twitch more in blustery conditions than toroidal rims though, so save them for more settled days.

Verdict

Deeper-section wheel that feels fast and built to last, but needs watching on windier days.

Performance 3/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

SRAM S60

£1,099.98

Weight 840g + 1,030g = 1,870g

www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Sram now own aero innovators Zipp, and their influence is obvious in these heavy but tightly controllable, dragreducing and momentum-increasing wheels. The 60mm deep Zipp-style fattened toroidal rim shape makes them aerodynamic in a wider range of wind angles than flat rims. It also makes them more controllable in gusty situations than most 50mm rims and they track tightly too. Braking is also more powerful and consistent, particularly in the wet, making these relatively easy wheels to adjust to, even for less experienced riders. They’re expensive for alloyrimmed rather than full-carbon wheels though, and at nearly 1,900g they’re not light either. They’re laced tightly enough to transfer power directly, so they will get up to speed if you put your shoulder behind them, but they’re definitely not a hilly-course candidate.

Verdict

Heavy for the price, but a tight, controlled and noticeably aero wheel for flat courses.

Performance 4/5

Value 4/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 30

Cole C58 Lite

£1,099.99

Weight 802g + 1,016g = 1,818g

www.evanscycles.com

Cole are new to the UK and this is the cheapest full-carbon clincher here. It’s impressively tight too, although weight is comparable to cheaper alloy wheels. The 58mm-deep rim gets a slight bell-shape profile below the carbon- clincher edge, and it’s similar in terms of gust control and aero feel to most 50mm rims. The straight-pull spokes anchor into wide brass barrels that secure the spokes in triple-rib flanges, and while there are only 16 front and 20 rear spokes, the overall feel is extremely tight and stiff. Not great for comfort, but certainly useful when climbing, cornering or sprinting. The supplied blue brake pads work reasonably well on the ‘Heat Shield’ braking surface, but they’re not as consistent as on similar weight, lower price alloy wheels, particularly in the wet. The very noisy freewheel might be an issue for some too, although the neat machined QR skewers and double padded wheel bag boost package value.

Verdict

Stiff, accurate full-carbon wheels, but less consistent brakes than cheaper alloy options.

Performance 3/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

HED Jet 6

£1,149

Weight 849g + 1,041g = 1,890g

www.hedwheels.com

This alloy-rimmed wheelset from aero originators HED is a beautiful handling, highly aero set up, if slightly on the lardy side. The wide alloy rim with bulged 60mm carbon-fibre fairing below uses the latest wind-tunnel research to produce a wheel that reduces drag in a wider wind arc than conventional rims. It’s also noticeably more controllable in gusty or fast, twisty descent conditions than most 50mm – let alone 60mm – rims. While lacing the spokes into the rim rather than the fairing makes it heavier and slightly less stiff than some competitors, it’s noticeably smoother on longer rides and copes with bad road surfaces better. While the weight makes it a struggle on steeper hills, as soon as the speed picks up you can notice the aero effect immediately compared with conventional wheels. The carbon centre front hub adds pimp appeal.

Verdict

Not light, but the easiest handling, big comfort, aero 60mm clincher wheels available.

Performance 4/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

Profile Design Altair 52

£1,199.99

Weight 786g + 952g = 1,738g

www.madison.co.uk

Profile have only just added wheels to their portfolio, but this reasonably light full-carbon clincher set make a decent, if not astonishing, first impression. Although they’re a brand new set-up, Profile have stuck to narrower, slightly elliptical rims for this 52mm-depth duo. The full-carbon build saves weight over carbon/alloy hybrid wheels but also adds cost, and braking isn’t as consistent, particularly in wet weather. They’re not as controllable in changeable wind conditions as the latest fatter shapes either, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the forecast rather than leave them on regardless. The hidden nipple build, with deeper-than-average hub flanges, is nice and tight, so they feel responsive on the road. Matching your wheels to the Profile aero bars and drink systems will appeal to the ‘collar and cuffs’ kit brigade too.

Verdict

Decent if draughty full-carbon wheelset that’ll appeal to existing Profile kit owners.

Performance 3/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

Reynolds Assault/Strike

£1,199.99

Weight 701g + 971g = 1,672g

www.upgradebikes.co.uk

This mix and match combo from Reynolds saves weight and improves handling for a responsive and versatile all-round pairing. The Assault front wheel has a 46mm wheel depth and, while it’s not as gust-safe as more rounded profiles, it’s definitely less stubborn in steering and snatch-prone than the 66mm Strike front. It’s also 80g lighter, which again helps front end responsiveness. Keeping the deeper wheel at the back means aero gains are still good though, and it’s relatively light for such a deep rim, which means reasonable acceleration. There’s a bit of brake rub if you really give them grief out of the saddle, but they’re comfortable on longer rides. Braking is very good for carbon, and conventional spokes means it’s easy to find spares. Long-term sets we’ve used have been flawless, and there’s a ‘spin up’ try-before-you-buy scheme available.

Verdict

Usefully light, fast and comfortable conventionally shaped front and rear combo.

Performance 4/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR

£1,699.99

Weight 737g + 891g = 1,628g

www.mavic.com

Mavic’s top clinchers look amazing and give outstanding precision, cornering and braking control, but cutting-edge performance doesn’t come cheap. Mavic have stayed with an alloy outer rim so they can use their unique new ‘Exalith’ roughened coating. This gives exceptional braking power once you’ve bedded them in, but that can take 500km of deafening braking squeal and a couple of sets of Exalith-specific pads. Flat carbon sheet Rim 2 Rim spokes give very tight tracking and power transfer and, as they’re fixed to the rim rather than the fairing, they can be straightened conventionally if necessary. The adjustable bearings are excellent and, despite the alloy rim, this is one of the lightest clincher wheelsets  available. The elliptical rim profile isn’t as gust resistant as full fat toroidal rims though, and they’re pricey.

Verdict

Outstanding braking precision and weight for an aero clincher wheel – but that costs.

Performance 5/5

Value 3/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 30

Ritchey Superlogic Carbon Clincher

£1,700

Weight 616g + 803g = 1,419g

www.paligapltd.co.uk

Ritchey’s latest clincher wheels are seriously featherweight, but very noticeable flex makes them best suited to light riders. The Superlogic rim is a conventional V-section 46mm piece with hidden nipples and super-thin bladed spokes, keeping aerodynamics clean. The outstandingly low weight rims, super-skinny WCS hubs and titanium skewers make them quick-reacting and responsive wheels when changing direction or accelerating. Sideways flex is obvious in terms of brake rub. There’s a weird dislocated feel, as both ends of the bike track independently in corners or across rough surfaces, and vague feedback undermines cornering confidence. They also wobble when you’re trying to fight the relatively gusty rims in crosswinds, and braking in the wet is poor, so they’re really for lighter riders in good weather.

Verdict

Outstandingly light carbon clinchers, but flexy bad performance in wind and wet.

Performance 3/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

TUBULAR WHEELS

Planet X R50 Team Edition

£599.99

Weight 542g + 731g = 1,273g

www.planet-x-bikes.co.uk

The South Yorkshire price-slashing specialists have come up trumps again with their well-proven, superlight Team Edition carbon wheels. The versions tested here are Guru special editions (£499.99 special offer), so don’t expect big flowers on the normal versions. The full-carbon, 50mm deep-tub rim with elliptical profile and inside edge anchored spokes is standard though. Despite a stout rim, with a wellproven track record from amateur to World Cup level, they’re extremely light wheels regardless of the price. This makes them impressively versatile for hillier courses, or tight stop/go short course events. The skinny, bladed spokes and ultra-narrow hubs that help lower mass do let some twang and flex into the wheels if you really work them hard, and aerodynamics and wind behaviour are only average. The R50s are relatively comfy though, and a total bargain at £600.

Verdict

Slightly flexy but smooth superlight aero wheels, at an outrageously good price.

Performance 3/5

Value 5/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 30

Hope Pro 3 RS SP Carbon

£995

Weight 678g + 819g = 1,473g

www.hopegb.com

All-weather warriors will love these super tough, mid-weight, high-value all-rounders. The rims themselves are a standard, slightly curved 50mm-deep full carbon set, with average braking and aerodynamics, rather than the latest chubby-style rims. They handle okay in light winds though and they’re strong enough for heavy riders or even winter cyclo-cross use. Hope’s Lancashire-made Pro 3 hubs use stainless steel bearings behind MTBdeveloped seals for a very long-lived smoothness. Top-quality Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes are hand-finished for a tight and reliably robust result. At under 1,500g they’re reasonably light and responsive for all-round use, and pricing is good for the quality. QR skewers cost extra though, and some testers found the loudly echoing freehub too much to bear.

Verdict

OK rims on excellent hubs and spokes create a loud, but super-tough, mid-weight package.

Performance 3/5

Value 4/5

Overall 3/5

Vision Trimax Carbon

£1,195.95

Weight 679g + 798g = 1,477g

www.windwave.co.uk

The all-carbon tub in FSA’s Vision aero range is a respectable if not outstanding all-rounder for the money. The 50mm tubular rim is a conventional, rather than state-of-the-art fat section, so you have to be more wary on gusty days or if you’re a less experienced rider. For the price you get fully CNC-machined braking surfaces for predictable, snatch-free stopping with the supplied brake pads. Tight, totally hand-built construction with 20 front and 24 rear Sapim aero spokes keep the wheels very rigid and tight-tracking on the road. They’re a reasonable weight too, so you’ll find their responsiveness is good when climbing or during fast-reaction short-course/paceline work. The white CNC-machined hubs run on sealed cartridge bearings for high-mileage, all-weather smoothness. Mercury QR skewers, valve extenders, a padded wheelbag and tyre covers are all included in the price.

Verdict

Responsive wheels, but conventional, not contemporary aerodynamics.

Performance 3/5

Value 3/5

Overall 3/5

HED Stinger S6

£1,500

Weight 626g + 803g = 1,429g

www.hedwheels.com

HED’s tub Stringer S6 is a top-quality, super-tight, sweet-handing aero wheel at a cracking price. HED’s latest wheel range has fully embraced the idea of fatter profile sections, with the Stinger rim bulging out below even 23c tubs. While aero gains are hard to quantify outside a wind tunnel, they certainly feel very quick in a wide range of conditions, and they handle extremely well in gusty weather too. The scooped profile makes accurate tyre seating easy, and the canted braking track stops really well once the pads have been adjusted properly. Bladed J-bend spokes join the inside of the rim section to the semi-carbon hubs for excellent tracking and power response, but the fatter profile soaks up road shock really smoothly to the point where we thought we had a slow puncture at first. Titanium skewers and anodised trim complete a top-value package.

Verdict

State-of-the-art minimum drag, user-friendly aerodynamics in a tightly responsive wheel.

Performance 5/5

Value 4/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 30

DT Swiss RRC 725R66

£1,798.99

Weight 586g + 763g = 1,349g

www.madison.co.uk

DT’s deep-section wheelset is extremely tight and usefully light, but the price is high and the aerodynamics feel slightly dated. The 66mm deep rims are monocoque flat-sided pieces rather than fatties, which keeps them very light for their depth and quick to accelerate. The white double-butted, bladed J-bend spokes are hand built into a very tight and relatively repairable set-up. The hubs are very smooth, easily serviced and long-lived too so in theory they’re a good longterm investment. The flat-rim profile is definitely more gust-vulnerable and less responsive to steering than the latest fat or toroidal wheels, and the DTs can be a proper handful on rough days or on flexy bikes. They’re harsh in feel too, so you’re definitely suffering in handling and comfort terms for the light weight and power transfer.

Verdict

Light and stiff for its depth and a top-quality build, but a handful in windy conditions.

Performance 3/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

Easton EC90 TT

£1,845

Weight 591g + 829g = 1,420g

www.extrauk.co.uk

Easton’s super-aggressive Time Trial combo is lightweight and loaded with top-quality features, but it’s a specialist set-up and our sample wasn’t without its problems. The deep, narrow 60mm front, 90mm rear rims are superb for calm days or slicing through head-on winds. The narrow flange spacing and sculpted hubs create a smaller drag profile for the 16 straight-pull spokes, and even the outer bearing covers are teardrop-shaped for minimum drag. The bearings they cover are hybrid ceramic units for minimum drag, and they also contribute towards an impressively low overall weight for wheels of this depth. The flat sides make them vulnerable to crosswinds though, and there’s a fair amount of flex from the narrow stance build, which means brake rub and slightly stubborn steering if you’re really pushing them. Our sample had severe freehub drag issues to start with, too.

Verdict

Light, ceramic-bearing straight performance, but gust prone and flexy when pushed.

Performance 3/5

Value 2/5

Overall 2/5

Zipp 303

£850/£1,050 = £1,900

Weight 556g + 664g = 1,220g

www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Zipp’s fat mid-section wheel isn’t cheap, but it’s the ultimate versatile and easy-to- ride aero wheel. It’s only 45mm deep, but the broad 27.5mm bulge sided ‘toroidal’ rim profile drags less than most deeper rims in wind tunnel or on-road comparisons, particularly in crosswind conditions. They’re remarkably controllable in blustery conditions and completely relaxed when riding no-handed or pinning down 70kph+ descents on calmer days. Ultra low weight keeps them immediately responsive and climb-eager, but their aero advantage is clear when you see the ease with which they carry on accelerating and hold speed past 40kph+. The deep-rim trough makes accurate tyre-fitting easy and they’re impressively comfortable, despite a very stiff and precise feeling under power or through corners. Braking is okay, and ti skewers are the ideal finish to the ultimate aero all-rounders.

Verdict

Not cheap, but the ultimate super-light, super aero, stiff yet comfortable all-rounder.

Performance 5/5

Value 3/5

Overall 4/5

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award

Find more group tests from Triathlon Plus in our other best triathlon gear reviews.