Vuelta Wheels
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Tested June 8th, 2009

Vuelta Corsa-Carbon 50 Clinchers

Vuelta Corsa-Carbon Clinchers

  • Full carbon clincher rim
  • 6mm "lowered" brake surface area to prevent heat build-up
  • 20 spoke front, 24 spoke rear with triple-butted aero and stainless steel spokes, sealed cartridge bearings and "lubeable" cassette body.
  • 50mm rim for aerodynamics
  • Claimed: weight -- Front: 903 grams, Rear: 1158 grams. Actual -- Front: 740 grams, Rear: 1730 grams. +69 grams.
  • $1500 msrp for the pair
  • Includes cork brake pads and brake pad holders

I'm not that familiar with the Vuelta brand, but their website explains that they've been around since 1992. Their site further claims "it is no wonder that Vuelta continues its reign as the current UCI world hour record holder, and owner of the coveted title of World’s Fastest Wheels." I didn't really have much opinion on the company, but I was excited to test full carbon clinchers, as it seems that carbon clinchers is where great strides are being made in innovation.

Design
In addition to the sheer challenge of creating a carbon clincher, four things struck me as "cool" about these wheels.

  • Lowered braking surface. Braking is a challenge with full carbon wheels. This is because the carbon surface is smoother and requires more friction to stop. More friction translates to heat build up--a lot of heat. I imagine this makes it difficult to create a safe wheel that won't blow a tire under severe/prolonged braking. Vuelta designed the rim to have it's braking surface 6mm lower than normal. It's odd when you first look at the rim because the upraised surface that doesn't start at the bead of the tire. But evidently, this design disperses heat more effectively. To accommodate this unusual design, Vuelta includes a set of proprietary brake pad holders and cork brake pads which grip the wheel 6mm lower.
  • Built in washer for presta valve. This is a minor though noticeable touch. The wheels came with plastic inserts that hold the presta valve in place. This is to prevent vibration and noise.
  • Greasable Cassette Body. The cassette body features a grease port that is accessible through a 1.5mm allen wrench. With this port, it should be extremely easy to purge the hub of contaminated grease with a fresh supply. Very slick.
  • Excellent quick releases. The quick releases have a marvelously designed lever arm that feels comfortable in your hand. They have a lot of leverage and are very easy to open and close. Nice touch.

These four design elements were impressive. The hubs were also well finished and the bearings were very smooth though "sticky" because of their newness. The rim seam was impossible to see on the side of the rim though barely visible inside the rim. The rims were slightly heavier at the seam and the rim would settle at this point opposite of the valve hole when turned. Installing the Vittoria Open Corsa Evo KS tires was typical for Vittorias-difficult and required a plastic tire iron.

In terms of "bling factor", these wheels look fantastic. The red decals over black complimented my R3 and they screamed speed.

Weight
As with most things bike-related, wheel weight is a primary concern, especially because unsprung weight is more easily felt. This set of wheels came in at 1,730 grams and the actual weights were about 4% higher than what was claimed.

While climbing, I thought the weight would be a penalty. But I climbed our local Old La Honda in 20:27 with these wheels which was only about 45 seconds off my PR. So the stiffness of the wheels must have made up for some of the weight penalty.

Further, at this price point, there isn't a lot of competition in aero wheels, especially those with full carbon construction. The Reynolds Assault is its closer competitor in design and weighs significantly less for the same price point.

Wheel F/R weight MSRP Features
Mavic Carbone SL-52mm 1740  $1,200 Alum braking surface
Vuelta Corsa Carbon-50mm 1730  $1,500 Full carbon
Hed Jet 4C2 1670  $1,500 Alum braking surface, non-structural carbon fairing
Reynolds Assault-46mm 1525  $1,500 Full carbon
Bontrager Aeolus 5.0 clincher 1610  $2,800 Carbon braking surface, non-structural carbon fairing

Considering it's competition, the Vuelta is a solid offering for the price.

Performance
These were cool wheels. Though they are a bit heavy--and when at first under way, you notice the sluggishness. But once at speed, the wheels felt great. They are very stiff but at the same time, smooth. They have remarkable dampening in that road vibrations are felt but they don't disrupt the ride.

The aerodynamics were also very noticeable; the bike maintained 24+ mph much easier than a standard spoke rim. And on a favorite nearby downhill, I typically go 31 mph. With these wheels, I was hitting 33 mph with the same effort. At the same time, the rim profile wasn't too affected by the wind. Yes, I felt a push from sidewinds but it wasn't disconcerting.

The braking was a mixed bag. They were at first mediocre; the cork pads took a while to bed in. But once they did, stops were remarkably quick and very powerful. I think the lowered brake pad location increases leverage. However, apparently one of the rear pads was misaligned. This eventually resulted in a horrific screeching noise and significant pad wear. These brake pads need to be continuously monitored which is endemic to high-performance carbon wheels.

Summary
This is an ambitious offering from Vuelta. They feature ingenious design touches (esp the lowered braking surface), a fair price, and excellent aerodynamics. They were impressive at high speeds and had a great ride quality. However, they face fierce competition from Reynolds and are a bit heavy. Competition truly does improve product development--and consumers get to benefit!

Value: 4.0 stars 
Overall: 3.75 stars


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