Rolf Prima wheels don’t land in the spotlight as often as Zipp, Hed, or Mavic, but their unique design doesn’t mean they should be relegated to the sidelines. Rolf Dietrich’s original paired spoke design is still valid and the company continues to refine and expand their range. Every Rolf wheel, from the most expensive to the most affordable, is laced by hand in Eugene, Oregon.
New for 2011 are a couple of deep-section carbon tubular wheels, the TT85 and the TdF85. As you’d imagine, they are built around 23mm wide, 85mm deep carbon rims. Rolf developed the shape and opened their own molds for the rims. The TdF85 wheels are laced with 12 spokes front and rear for stiff, wind cheating performance. The TT85 wheels are meant to be even more aerodynamic, with a 10-spoke front wheel and 12-spoke rear. Rolf says it’s the lowest spoke count ever in a wire spoked wheel. Both wheelsets are built on Rolf’s TdF4.4 hubset with a titanium freehub body and quick releases. For the pair, TT85s weigh 1685 grams, and the TdF85s weigh 1695 grams. Both of the deep-section wheelsets cost $2200 for the pair.
In other wheel news, Rolf added spokes to the TdF58 (they’re now 16 front/16 rear) to increase stiffness. Also for 2011, the company adds two new clincher options with the 1850-gram 58RSC and the 1745-gram 38RSC. Both wheels have aluminum clincher hoops bonded to deep carbon profiles for aerodynamics. They’re both laced 16 front/20 rear and if you hadn’t guessed, the 58RSC is 58mm deep and the 38RSC is 38mm deep. Finally, the 58CX wheels are similar to the TdF58s, but they’re made for cyclocross with reinforced brake tracks and a little sturdier rim layup.
The Tricon wheel platform from DT Swiss offers easy tubeless compatibility for both road and mountain bike wheels. For 2011, the line grows by one each road and mountain with the introduction of the R1700 and M1700 Tricon wheelsets. In keeping with DT’s model name nomenclature, they both weigh about 1700 grams per pair. But in contrast to the lighter R1450 and XM1550 Tricon wheels introduced last year, these new sets are quite a bit less expensive, at $900 per.
Instead of using the 3-piece hub shells with thread-on flanges, the newer Tricon hubs are machined from a single piece of aluminum. DT’s open crow’s foot lacing pattern is still used, as are the straight pull bladed spokes and locking torx head nipples. And in a nice development for both riders and mechanics, the company is making two versions of a service kit for shops. Going forward, dealer can true or rebuild the wheels on site without having to return them to DT Swiss USA’s service center as has been the case up until recently.
Also new to the DT Swiss lineup are some less-expensive options in road wheels. The new R1800 wheels retail for $400 and R1500 wheels cost $600. “We’ve never been close to that before,” said marketing manager Paul Guebara. “For us the push is to show the completeness of our line.” Guebara said the more affordable wheelsets are intended to offer DT Swiss quality to enthusiast level riders and more original equipment spec opportunities to bike manufacturers. The mountain line has corresponding models with similarly low prices.
A few weeks ago at Eurobike we stole an early look at Ritchey’s new Apex Carbon 88 tubulars, but didn’t get any tech specs. But last week in Las Vegas, marketing manager Sean Coffey filled us in on both the visible and invisible details.
From the outside, they look straightforward. They’re 88mm deep, laced with 16 front and 24 rear Sapim spokes. The hubs are Ritchey’s own cold-forged and CNC-machined WCS units. They use German SKF bearings which are sized differently depending on their placement in the hub. Ritchey says they ensure good strength and load-bearing ability where needed, while minimizing weight where possible. Finally, they’re laced with Ritchey’s “Trifecta” pattern. The combination of radial and 2-cross spokes intersects in a way similar to what’s known as crow’s foot lacing. Ritchey says that the pattern isolates radial, lateral, and torque forces and it adds some vertical give to wheels, which are typically quite rigid.
Most interesting is what you don’t see — the bladderless molding process that Ritchey’s carbon rim builder uses. Only one other company in the industry is privy to this company’s process. Instead of using an internal bladder to compress the carbon fiber from inside, the patented process involves some kind of solid, incompressible material that forms an inner mold for the rims. It’s then dissolved out, leaving the insides of the rim completely smooth and wrinkle free.
The Apex Carbon 88s cost $1,700 per set with titanium skewers included. You can also get Apex carbon wheels in shallower depths (38mm and 50mm) for $1,500 per set.
You don’t have to buy a ‘wheelset,’ of course. You can still get wheels that are built up from various components using standard spokes. One option is the Handspun line from the massive bike wholesaler, Quality Bicycle Products.
Handbuilt custom wheels are often surprisingly close in weight to the trendy wheel sets. The spokes are available at bike shops all over, and if you trash the rim, you can rebuild with a different model (good hubs last forever).
Handspun’s Pro Series offers a variety of stock handbuilt wheels. One great option is the ZTR wheels, built with Shimano hubs, DT spokes and Stan’sNo Tubes Alpha 340 rims, which can be used with tubeless or regular clinchers. These would be a great wheel if you want to try tubeless clinchers for cyclocross. With Ultegra hubs, the set retails for $599 and weighs in at 1,475 grams. With Dura-Ace hubs the price goes up to $799 and the weight goes down to 1,390 grams.
And if you want to get crazy, Handspun can do every variety of custom lacing and components. Alternating spoke and/or nipple color? They can do that. Crow’s foot lacing? Sure. Tied and soldered, or twisted? Can do. All for an additional charge, of course.