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Carbon wheels are creeping down in price, but are they worth the outlay? David Hayward and the team have been testing six sets under £1500 to see how they compare.


It’s often said that wheels are the best place on a bike to shed weight, so we picked six sub-£1,500 carbon fibre, Boost-spaced wheelsets to put to the test. Some of them are quite far under that budget, with a couple just below £900. The lightweight wheels in this test are (for most people) arguably on their way toward diminishing returns, but there’s more to a wheel than weight. Other factors bring significant differences to bear, and we’ve worked on eking them out.

Reviewing high-end bike components can be rife with subjectivity. There were a few things I was initially wrong about during the test, such as how quickly a particular freehub picked up, or how compliant a given wheel was. Sometimes my first impressions were corrected later by a look at cold hard numbers, sometimes by a bit more riding, but mostly by back-to-back testing.

Most riders, me included, could put a wheelset on and ride it one day, then another the next, and not properly feel the difference. Varying trail conditions, weather, sleep patterns, diet, moods and energy levels are all factors that can scrub out perceptible differences between similar bits of kit, or cause us to misattribute them.

There were differences in the feel of these wheelsets that I’d normally chalk up to having a good or bad riding day. Run the same wheelsets back-to-back in one session on the same bike though, and those differences are shown plainly. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing, with several riders recording impressions.

We subjected all of these wheels to the same bikes, the same tyres, same air pressures, riders, trails, weather conditions and abuse, all the while keeping and comparing notes. It’s given us an insight into wheel performance that you just don’t get from testing a new wheelset in isolation.

We settled on three category winners. In selecting the easiest wheels to live with, the main factors we’ve considered are serviceability, warranty support, and lack of proprietary or obscure standards. The most comfortable wheelset was selected by assessing ride quality in back-to-back comparative testing. Best value was selected on the basis of not just price, but ride quality, set-up, durability and servicing set against that.

None of these are bad wheelsets to ride, and none are particularly cheap. If you’re a recreational mountain biker and have this kind of cash to put down on wheels, you’re probably not going to have a terrible time on any of them. However these reviews should help you find the best possible wheels for your particular kind of riding.

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About Singletrack

Don’t Look Down! – Pete Scullion takes a precarious trip across the lesser-ridden ridges of the Alps. Trail Hunter: Tom Fenton tells you why Cross Fell and High Cup Nick need to be on your must-ride list. Just bring sandwiches. Lots of them. Bike Test: Full suspension XC bikes. – Three long-legged ride/race bikes from Giant, Specialized and Scott Group Test – David Hayward tests sub-£1500 carbon wheelsets. At this price, they’re still a major investment, so we’ve done our best to thrash them all. Editor’s Choice – We pick the products, places and events that have left an impression on us this year. From bike races to gears and gadgets. This is the stuff we really rate! Room 101 – Charlie takes a look at your complaints and throws them into Room 101 if there’s due cause. And if there isn’t, he throws you in instead. Column – Our award winning columnist Jason Miles brings us more pearls of wisdom and wit. Porage People – Bike race meets survival challenge meets Scrabble and It’s a Knockout! Welcome to the weird world of the invitational (Wo)Man of Porage bike race. Classic Ride: The Purbeck Hills – Tom Hutton shows us that south coast riding is far from flat. It’s not always sunny there either. Trickstuff: Singletrack travelled to Germany to see the surprisingly low-key, family-like atmosphere at Trickstuff, producers of some of the world’s most precisely engineered brakes and components. Column – Lifecycle of a Riding Spot: a tragedy told in 11 chapters. Antony de Heveningham charts the rise and fall, rise and fall of your local woods.