18 of 2012’s best aero wheels for triathlon tested, rated and reviewed to see which will make you faster in your next race

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.

American Classic 420 A3
£600
Weights (front/rear) 691+866=1,577g
www.eurobike.uk.com

American Classic’s Aero 3 420’s are weight savers for riders who want a slight drag reduction at a discount price. The super-light all-alloy clincher aero rim is combined with skinny hubs and Ti QR skewers for a very feathery wheelset that climbers will love. They accelerate quickly and are shallow enough not to blow about much in windy conditions or be stubborn when steering. They’re smooth over rough sections, and are available in other colours if you don’t like the pink. The shallower rim means less of an aero advantage though. They also snake noticeably when powering or cornering hard.

Verdict
Comfy and very light for the money but not particularly aero and soft in the corners.

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

Vision TriMax T42
£699.95
Weights (front/rear) 808+966=1,774g
www.windwave.co.uk

These mid-section wheels from FSA are a tight semi-aero set-up that handles well for the money. The 42mm section rim doesn’t carve the wind as well as deeper sets, but it’s noticeably less likely to be blown about in more gusty conditions. New lighter hubs mean weight is good for the price but they light up easily under power. They climb and change direction better than most wheels as well. The hand-built straight-pull bladed spoke build gives a tight and accurate feel and braking is consistent which makes them more versatile than most deeper section wheels.

Verdict
A really versatile, user-friendly, high quality semi-aero wheel at an excellent price.

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

Triathlon Plus Top Value Award, issue 43

Shimano WH-RS80
£849.98
Weights (front/rear) 812 + 1039 =1,851g
www.madison.co.uk

Shimano’s mid price RS80 aero wheels are tough, predictable, quiet and very good value. The 50mm lightweight, alloy edged rim is exactly the same as that on £1,200 Dura Ace wheels. It’s not the latest ‘fat rim’ shape, but it’s still controllable and predictable in corners and crosswinds. The broad hub and stiff exposed nipple build enables precise handling. Braking feels confident in all weathers. Lightweight rims and tight power transfer means they accelerate OK. The silent steel freehub is tough and the Shimano skewers are excellent. Overall stiffness means you feel the bumps. You’ll only get maximum life and value out of the adjustable bearings if you know how to service them, though.

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

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

Gipiemme Carbon H5.5 Speed Light
£865
Weights (front/rear) 815+977=1,792g
www.osporto.co.uk

The smooth rolling, predictable 5.5 wheels prove you don’t have to spend a fortune for decent aero performance. The structural 50mm carbon aero section and alloy outer edge is lighter than many more expensive full carbon wheels. Top quality Sapim CX Ray spokes mean road feel is accurate but not overly stiff. Fast freehub pick-up boosts acceleration and they roll well once up to speed. Simple shape means handling is average so they’re more gusty in crosswinds and stubborn turning into corners than a non-aero wheel. They stop well in all weather though. You’ll need to go careful on the soft Ergal alloy nipples and freehub to stop damage but otherwise they’re a bargain for £900.

Verdict
Simple but effective and well-built aero wheels at a cracking price.

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

SRAM S60
£1,100
Weights (front/rear) 840+1,030=1,870g
www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

SRAM’s chunky S60 wheels aren’t light but they handle superbly. The alloy rim bed is broader than average and blends into a swelling carbon body. The idea is to smooth airflow over a broader wind angle range and make the wheel more balanced when turning. There’s no tramlining coming into corners at high speeds, just a super sure-footed confidence. They stay stable in much gustier winds than most wheels do too. They brake well in all weathers as well. The weight is definitely noticeable when accelerating and climbing, but once you’ve got them up to speed they hold momentum superbly. The fatter tyre profile adds comfort for longer distances too.

Verdict
Not light, but fast with excellent handling, usable in a wide range of wind strengths.

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

Ritchey Apex WCS
£1,175
Weights (front/rear) 667+902=1,569g
www.paligap.cc

Ritchey’s new Apex wheelset is a super-light yet affordable aero all rounder, with Reynolds’ well-proven 46mm deep full-carbon rims. They handle well even when things start to get gusty or twisty. The included Cryo Blue brake pads perform really well even in the wet too. Pick-up is fast and Sapim CX Ray spokes mean decent power transmission, which combines with the low weight for a very responsive on-road feel that makes the Apex wheelset a genuine all-round performance enhancer. While aggressive cornering riders won’t like the wayward tendencies of the skinny front hub and titanium skewers, the flex makes them more forgiving over rough surfaces.

Verdict
Predictable braking and super-light all-round responsiveness at an affordable price.

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

Profile Altair 52
£1,200
Weights (front/rear) 782+952=1,738g
www.madison.co.uk

Well-known aero brand Profile joined the wheel war last year, but their Altair 52s are below par. The carbon rims are built into a wheelset that is 100g lighter than some price peers, although still not as light as others, but the shape of the 52mm-deep rim means they blow around a lot in crosswinds and need a good shove to push them into corners. Braking performance is also below par, particularly in wet conditions. This all makes them a nervous package overall. The bearings have survived well on our long-term set, but the freehub gouges very easily and hidden nipples are hard to get to for trueing. Wheelbags and spare spokes provide some compensation, but they’re still not great value.

Verdict
Decent bearings, but poor braking and handling makes them nervous in use.

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

Giant P-SLR1 Aero
£1,250
Weights (front/rear) 762+851=1,613g
www.giant-bicycles.com

These are an excellent combination of agile handling, aerodynamic gain, low weight and a bargain price. The combination of a Scandium alloy brake track and composite lower builds a very light and seriously stiff rim. While the freehub was the slowest to engage on test, it’s rarely noticeable on the road. Once locked in it picks up speed fast and climbs well. Going down the other side it feels very precise and agile. The fat-bodied rim profiling minimises gusting even in blowy conditions and it turns in with sure-footed confidence. Alloy rims give predictable braking, DT Swiss hub internals are smooth and the RWS camlock skewers add more precision and security. The price is excellent for the performance on offer.

Verdict
Precise, fast, light and friendly handling aero all-rounders at a proper bargain price.

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

Triathlon Plus Gold Award, issue 43

Cole C50 Lite
£1,350
Weights (front/rear) 822+993=1,815g
www.evanscycles.com

These wheels are tight, hard stopping and easy to find spares for – making them a useful mid-price contender. The conventional 50mm rim is unchanged. It’s still slightly gusty but turns into corners OK. The Pink Pads and Heat Shield braking surface give more powerful and consistent anchorage than most carbon wheels particularly in wet conditions. The DSA2 hubs use a wider track and conventional straight pull spokes for the unique rotating barrel anchored lacing pattern. This brings cornering accuracy in line with impressively stiff drive response. Larger front bearings bolster already good long-term reliability and a wheelbag is included. They’re no lighter than cheaper alloy-edged wheels though.

Verdict
Stiff, durable and good braking for a carbon wheel, but average weight and aerodynamics.

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

Prolite Gavia CC
£1,450
Weights (front/rear) 834+1047=1,881g
www.hotlines-uk.com

The distinctive looking Gavia wheelset is due an update but serious drive stiffness and hard braking performance still make this 2011 version worth a look. The big flange Bolzano hubs, combined with a distinctive two-cross-bladed spoke pattern means a very direct and powerful feel when stamping down the power. That means acceleration is good despite the relatively high weight for the price. The simple rim profile means noticeable tramlining into corners at speed and vulnerability to crosswinds. Lateral flex also makes them feel vague in corners and prone to speed wobble on descents. Spoke braces on 2012 sets should tighten things up dramatically though.

Verdict
Tight and responsive under power and braking but wayward when windy or cornering hard.

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

Fast Forward F6R-C
£1,590
Weights (front/rear) 844+1,000=1,844g
www.paligap.cc

FFWD’s deep section F6R’s aren’t light or gust-proof but they’re smooth, sturdy and available in a variety of hub options. The braking is predictable in all weather conditions. Aerodynamics, hefty weight and ceramic bearing hubs enable high speeds to be maintained in calmer, flatter conditions. They are hand-built in the Netherlands and various, faster engaging DT Swiss hub upgrades and heavy rider specific ‘Control’ options too. Acceleration is lacking at times and are sluggish when climbing. They also shunt around in side-winds and need more shove than most to send them into fast corners.

Verdict
Smooth sustained speed, but stubborn steering and sluggish climbing for the cost.

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

Easton EC90 Aero
£1,675
Weights (front/rear) 768+933=1,701g
www.extrauk.co.uk

These carbon clinchers are light and smooth but mixed braking reports undermine confidence. Easton has more experience in making carbon fibre cycling components than almost anyone else. No surprise then that these clincher rims are laterally stiff yet noticeably smoother than most over rough surfaces. They handle well, with predictable crosswind and cornering performance. The ThermaTec rim coating has been developed to keep the rims cool. While our long-term wheels have shown no braking issues, feedback from other users is less complimentary. We also had consistent hub wobble and freehub dragging and loosening problems.

Verdict
Smooth and light performance but mixed braking reports and poor hub reliability.

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

Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLR
£1,700
Weights (front/rear) 737+891=1,628g
www.mavic.com

These wheels are lightweight and loaded with tech, but not easy to live with. By keeping an alloy outer rim Mavic can add their unique Exalith coating for huge amounts of braking power and control even when in the wet. The flat R2R carbon spokes run continuously from Rim2Rim for phenomenal cornering stiffness and power delivery. According to Mavic, the ‘helicopter chop’ noise of spoke and rim insertion hole turbulence also smooths overall airflow. Add low weight and you’ve got a very sharp feeling and responsive, if sometimes harsh, ride. They are stubborn to turn and blow about a lot in crosswinds though. Our long-term set has also had both bearing and spoke loosening issues in the past year.

Verdict
Outstandingly sharp ride and braking feel at low weight, but handling and reliability issues.

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

Reynolds Forty Six/Sixty Six
£1,949
Weights (front/rear) 697+841=1,548g
www.upgradebikes.co.uk

Reynolds 46 and 66 wheels are available in paired sets, but this twinset is a great option for mixed conditions. There’s a bit of shunt and shimmy up front in crosswinds, but the deeper rear boosts overall bike stability. While the freehub is slightly slower to engage than most, very low weight means they fire up to speed nicely and they respond well on climbs. The braking from the Cryo Blue pads is excellent too. Ride feel is a decent compromise between comfort and crispness that longer distance riders will appreciate. Aggressive corner takers will find them approximate rather than accurate.

Verdict
Comfortable, very light and reasonably controlled combo, but flexy when pushed hard.

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

ENVE S45
£2,100
Weights (front/rear) 673+794=1,467g
www.saddleback.co.uk

Fantastic hubs and simple but superbly stiff and light rims make ENVE’s all-rounders feel luxurious despite average aerodynamics. These wheels are very light and very stiff; combine this with Sapim’s premium CX Ray bladed spokes and you’ve got an extremely precise feeling wheel. The super-light sub-1,500g total weight combines with the ultra-quick pick-up of the Chris King hubs for immediate acceleration that’ll flatter any bike. They glide beautifully between efforts with a distinctive fizz from the clutch. The aerodynamics were pretty average overall, but the precision feedback helps crosswind and descending control. The stiffness can make them feel harsh on rougher roads.

Verdict
Responsive and precise ultra-light all-rounders. Only average aerodynamics, though.

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

Xentis Squad 5.8
£2,186
Weights (front/rear) 676+884=1,560g
www.zyro.co.uk

The Xentis Squad 5.8 is super light and feels fast, but it’s massively expensive and super tight on tyres. Despite the sub-1,600g weight, the 58mm wheel still feels stiff and sharp when carving through the corners or stamping the pedals. The wavy ‘Turbulator’ pattern below the braking track is claimed to smooth overall airflow and it certainly feels fast in calmer straight-line conditions. The carbon braking surface works with conventional pads and braking is predictable, if not outstanding, in both wet and dry conditions. It’s available with black or white hubs and spokes with wheelbags and Ti skewers included.

Verdict
Very light, handles well and fast but super expensive and a tyre-fitting fight.

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

Rolf Prima Apex 4
£2,199
Weights (front/rear) 617+822=1,439g
www.chocolatedistribution.com

Rolf’s radical minimal spoke count wheels are super-light and impressively comfy as long as you’re not after stiffness. The new Ares family (there are 6 and 8 models too) introduces a new wider rim for a fatter tyre profile. The minimalist paired spoke count and the seriously smooth ride noticeably reduces fatigue on longer rides. The ultra-low weight means very little resistance to acceleration and if you spin seated rather than stamp stood up, they climb really well. Long-term bearing reliability feedback is excellent too. Despite high tension, the minimal spoke count is flexy when you’re cornering hard or out of the saddle. Braking is adequate. They also swerve and shimmy more than most fat wheels on blustery days.

Verdict
Noticeably soft when pushed hard, but feather light and very comfortable.

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

Zipp 404 Firecrest CCL
£2,300
Weights (front/rear) 719+838=1,557g
www.fisheroutdoor.co.uk

Zipp’s super-fast 404 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers set a new benchmark for deeper section aerodynamic control and speed. The unique 58mm Firecrest cigar-shaped profile centralises the aerodynamic balance of the wheel for superbly sure-footed cornering and much less gusty and more controllable handling than on most shallower rims in high winds. Despite an extremely low weight, making acceleration and climbing a breeze, it holds speed very well in mixed wind conditions. The big hollow rim and broader tyre bed give superb feedback clarity while muting the worst rough sections. New hub engagement is amongst the fastest on test, and braking is also confident and predictable.

Verdict
Super-light, responsive, well balanced and accurate. Excellent wheels but high price.

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

Triathlon Plus Peak Performer Award, issue 43

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