Fair Wheel Bikes Kinlin/Tune Wheelset
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I was looking for a "weight weenie" wheelset that weighed less than 1400 grams. The criteria was: alloy (not carbon), clincher (not tubular), tubed (not tubeless), and, of course, at reasonable price. Unfortunately, consumers these days seem to be focused on carbon clinchers and, as a result, the mainstream companies like Shimano, Mavic, Reynolds, Enve, and Zipp have responded by focusing their efforts on carbon. I am not fully sold on carbon clinchers; I am a very tentative descender and continued reports about carbon clinchers failing under heavy braking have me worried about catastrophies while descending. Additionally, there really aren't that many carbon clinchers in the sub1400 gram category, if any.
So I set out on a search to find the lowest weight clincher wheelset -- at the lowest price.
Results? Have a look at the chart below:
You'll note that while the Fair Wheel wheelset wasn't the absolute lowest wegiht, it is by far the lowest cost per gram.
To this end, I decided to try out what Fair Wheel Bikes had to offer.
I ordered the wheelset in time for an annual benchmark; climbing the fabled Old La Honda road here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Old La Honda is a terrific climb that averages a 7.3% grade and is 3.35 miles long. There is no let up; it is always climbing. As such, it has been a durable challenge for me for many, many years. While my PR is 18:25, my best time for the year so far was 19:48. With the new wheelset, which dropped my bike weight to 14lbs even, I was hoping to set a new PR for this year.
Unfortunately, when the wheels arrived, UPS had driven a fork-lift in to the box. As a result, the rear rim was dinged and had a small but noticable chunk removed from it. You could feel it with your fingers and the brakes would pulse over it. I alerted Fair Wheel Bikes; they were busy at Interbike but told me to send the rear wheel back at my convenience so they could replace the rim. Meantime, they said, go ahead and ride on them. Wow, that was impressive customer service!
Regarding build quality, the hubs are stunning and minimalist. The seam of the Kinlin rim is barely perceptible, and the rim strip is elegantly translucent.
So how did they perform? Ding and all, I took the wheels out and was able to achieve a new time of 19:37 on Old La Honda- a new PR for this year! I returned the rear wheel after the ride then sent it back to Fair Wheel. They returned the wheel with a new rim in less than a week -- at no charge. Awesome customer service!
This wheelset has a very responsive ride; they are vertically stiff, the rear hub seems to engage instantly, and they accelerate quickly. They are excellent climbing wheels with a surprisingly lack of lateral flex. The light weight is noticable, particularly with the rear wheel. Of course, with the lighter weight and minimal flex, there is a trade off. You do notice road imperfections such as rocks and road imperfections more than a more forgiving wheel or wheel that has a very wide rim. I have been running 700x23 tires at 120 PSI; it would be interesting to use 700x25 tires at a lower inflation pressures or maybe I should just dial it down to 100 PSI. The only other complaint is the noise of the rear hub; it sings louder than a Chris King hub while coasting.
It's remarkable to me that the "big name" wheel makers don't really offer an alloy clincher in this weight class. I would venture they could charge a substantial premium for a sub-1400 gram offering. It is refreshing to see a bike shop such as Fair Wheel Bikes offering such a high quality and super-light wheelset that blows away the big guys with respect to price and weight. Additionally, the incredible customer service from Fair Wheel Bikes gives peace of mind that this was the right choice to make.