Chinese revolutions

Sam Shaw takes a look at Far Sports carbon clincher wheels, will they stand up to Scottish roads?

by SamShaw   February 2, 2014  

I've read about Chinese manufactured carbon wheels on other forums and this sparked interest into what these companies have to offer, can their wheels stand up to UK roads?  What's the quality like?  They generally get a good response from forum posters who have bought them, but are they as good as they seem on paper?  So I set about looking for a set to try out as a comparison with a traditional set of lightweight(ish) aluminium wheels, the type that most of us ride in the UK.  Carbon clincher’s were the choice, tubulars didn’t appeal as I’ve never owned a set but mostly because I want to do a direct comparison with a comparable alu set of wheels.

So where do you start?  First stop was eBay, and the choice there is vast.  Most seem priced around the £250-£350 mark, depending from whom you’re buying and what spec you choose.  This didn’t really appeal though, mainly because there was no clear link to any ‘manufacturer’ as such.  A bit more research required…  forums provided the most information on where to buy from with posters keen to provide information on their purchases and those companies that were reputable.  There were a couple of companies that kept cropping up, but the one that seemed to get the most mentions was Far Sports, based in Xiamen, China.

A look at their website sees that they offer carbon wheels of various types, along with frames, bars, hubs, saddles, spokes etc.  The wheels come in various depths and widths, the wider rims seen on established branded wheels have filtered into Far Sports’ range, with 23 and 25mm widths available.  My first step was to contact Far Sports and tell them what kind of riding I do, my weight, what the roads are like and what their advice would be.  The email response was within 24 hours and the recommendation came back that suitable wheels would be 24h front, 28h rear 38mm deep, 20.5mm wide carbon clinchers.  They would be built with a Bitex hub (which would appear to be the RAR12/RAF12 combo) and Sapim CX Ray spokes laced radial front, radial rear non drive side and 2x drive side.  This lacing seemed odd at first, but a couple of recent wheelsets reviewed on road.cc have this pattern (the Amp 50mm carbon clinchers and the Spada Stiletto’s)  I also asked for UD Matte (assumed unidirectional carbon) finish on the wheel section (other options were 3k and 12k weave), with Far Sports graphics.

The spec was duly agreed and the order made, with delivery from China to Scotland being predicted to be within two weeks.  Far Sports informed me that they would send me images before they were shipped and also provide a tracking reference, which would let me know where the wheels were at every point between the factory and my doorstep.  Being honest, I was skeptical whether the images would arrive and if the tracking would be of any use.  Sure enough though, the pre-packing images came through and shortly afterwards a tracking number was emailed.

I’ve not purchased many items from China before, and they’ve always been sent via a fairly slow untracked courier, so it was encouraging when after a day or two the wheels had arrived in the UK and were in the hands of UK customs.  This delay was short and the wheels were released for delivery a few hours later, off they went into Parcelforce’s tracking system (with the same tracking reference) and delivery was made the following day.  All in, it was 4 days from China to my door, not too shabby at all.

The wheels were well packaged in a reinforced wheel-specific box, the hubs were protected with plastic packers and everything was in bubblewrap bags.  The ‘extras’ in the box included two svelte (44g combined) skewers, two pairs of brake pads and an instruction leaflet. 

The Far Sports graphics were a bit of a disappointment, they’re well made and neatly applied but the material itself is reflective red and white stickers, and the design isn’t really that appealing.  Branding is very much an area that Far Sports can look to improve.  The UD matte finish seems to be a painted matte black, which looks smart and feels robust.  The rims are a “U” shape, more akin with modern wheels made to handle cross-winds more effectively than the V-shaped rims of the past.  The Sapim CX-Ray J-bend spokes all have a brass washer at the hub end (where laced radially) and there’s also a small Sapim sticker on the inside of the rim.

The wheels weighed in on my own (not road.cc’s!) scales of truth (ok, the digital kitchen scales) 598g front and 754g rear, giving a combined weight of 1,352g.  This is a bare weight and doesn’t include rim tape or skewers… speaking of which, there were a few things I needed to buy.

If you’re going to swap new wheels about a lot, you need the sundries… new tyres, a cassette, tubes (these needed 60mm length valves) and in this case, rim tape.  The bits were duly procured and fitted to the wheels.  It’s quite an extra expense, so bear that in mind if you’re making a similar purchase.

So that’s where I am with these wheels at the moment.  They’ve not been ridden or fitted to the bike yet, I’m still rolling on my winter aluminium bike and don’t envisage riding the wheels until spring starts to blush, and the temperature goes up.  Call me old fashioned, but you don’t ride carbon hoops in winter!  This year, I’ll be blogging quarterly on how I’m getting on with these wheels, how they’re bearing up on Scotland’s roads and what the differences/similarities are between these and my usual aluminium Pro-Lite Bracciano wheels.  I’ll check back in April once I’ve put some miles on them, until then, it’s still winter miles for me!

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Nope. I was expecting it but they were in and out of customs in a couple of hours.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
5th February 2014 - 11:00

245 Likes

All points that I'm interested in writing about, including lolol's original comment.

The reason I wanted to look at these is that there seems to be a fair bit of talk about them (mostly good from those who own them, as the first reply states), but do they offer anything a similar alu clincher doesn't? Does the average UK rider get any benefit from them? What is the performance like in comparison? There should be some answers in a few months!

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
5th February 2014 - 11:03

236 Likes

I'm very much looking forward to reading your findings.
Someone in my club rides on some mavic carbon wheels. He's a big sprinty type, and they arent particularly well looked after, so they rub on the brake blocks a lot when he's out the saddle etc, I always think even a cheap set of stiffer alu rims would be working so much better.

posted by lolol [130 posts]
5th February 2014 - 11:12

240 Likes

I once had a set of Aksiums and they rubbed a heck of a lot when out of the saddle. Ok, I was between 13 and 14 stone at that time so no lightweight, but the flex was more than I would expect.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
5th February 2014 - 11:36

233 Likes

SamShaw wrote:
I once had a set of Aksiums and they rubbed a heck of a lot when out of the saddle. Ok, I was between 13 and 14 stone at that time so no lightweight, but the flex was more than I would expect.

Do you mind me asking what you weigh now? I'm just under 90kg, and have always shied away from this option for that reason. Will be interested to see how you get on, as would be a good way of getting some aero wheels for triathlon.

posted by nellybuck@msn.com [156 posts]
5th February 2014 - 14:36

233 Likes

Erm... still carrying some Xmas timber so 80kg... will be down to usual 75-76kg shortly!

These are a 24/28h lacing, rather than the usual 20/24h, I mainly wanted something more robust due to the road conditions where I live. And the fact that I'm no lightweight!

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
5th February 2014 - 15:01

238 Likes

I'll watch this thread/blog eagerly. When a mate was talking about Chinese carbon wheels, I talked him out of it, more alu wheels that'll give the same performance and are more proven; perhaps I was wrong Thinking

Howl Like a Bianchi

HLaB's picture

posted by HLaB [55 posts]
6th February 2014 - 21:33

217 Likes

Owned for almost 18 months now, a couple of farsports wheelsets, a pair of 38mms, a 60mm front and 50mm rear paired to a power tap.

I am 80kg, and use them to train and race on, and the racing is usually over pretty rough roads.

Built up a 50mm on a G3 powertap. Ridden under to 10,000km on that rim and probably 6000km on each of the 38mm & 60mm front.

Problem is all (except the 38mm rear) pulse badly under braking. The issue is the rim width at the braking surface varies. On the 50mm rear it varies from 19mm (what it should be) to 21.7mm. In other words the rims have become deformed, becoming wider in some sections.

Why carbon, light, deep and it makes a big difference, particularly if you are TTing or off the front. Plus a 2kg carbon wheelset (incl tyres, tubes, cassette, skewers) is so much faster to get up to speed than my 3kg alloy training wheelset. So sticking with carbon, just not chinese right now.

I am currently replacing the rims with Taiwanese 55mm carbon.

posted by nickobec [261 posts]
7th February 2014 - 4:49

224 Likes

nickobec wrote:
Owned for almost 18 months now, a couple of farsports wheelsets, a pair of 38mms, a 60mm front and 50mm rear paired to a power tap. I am 80kg, and use them to train and race on, and the racing is usually over pretty rough roads.

Thank you for answering the question posed by the writer, nickobec!

harman_mogul's picture

posted by harman_mogul [155 posts]
8th February 2014 - 18:41

210 Likes

I'm about 85kg and have a set of carbon clinchers, gigantex 24mm rims, 20/24h 50mm deep built by Wheelsmith. Paid a bit extra for the handbuild but there's no flex on them at all. Weigh 1555g the pair (according to the kitchen scales) including skewers and rim tape.
Done about 350 dry-ish miles now and so far so good, got the hack bike out now though as the weather and roads have both gone to sh...

posted by blinddrew [21 posts]
8th February 2014 - 18:59

216 Likes

blinddrew wrote:
I'm about 85kg and have a set of carbon clinchers, gigantex 24mm rims, 20/24h 50mm deep built by Wheelsmith. Paid a bit extra for the handbuild but there's no flex on them at all. Weigh 1555g the pair (according to the kitchen scales) including skewers and rim tape.
Done about 350 dry-ish miles now and so far so good, got the hack bike out now though as the weather and roads have both gone to sh...

How is this relevant to a blog about a pair of Chinese Carbon wheels that cost about £300?, since wheelsmith are in Scotland. I am sure your wheels are the best thing since sliced bread, I just cannot for the life of me work out why you posted that as your wheels cost twice the amount around the £750 mark except to brag. If so can I I say I have a set of hand built carbon and titanium wheels built by Amazonian Valkyries in Papua New Guinea and they are awesome?

posted by cavmem1 [44 posts]
11th February 2014 - 17:58

180 Likes

cavmem1 wrote:
..... How is this relevant to a blog about a pair of Chinese Carbon wheels that cost about £300? ......

Aah Cav, what would life be if we all stuck to the script?

Mike

mike the bike's picture

posted by mike the bike [188 posts]
11th February 2014 - 18:16

181 Likes

cavmem1 wrote:

How is this relevant to a blog about a pair of Chinese Carbon wheels that cost about £300?, since wheelsmith are in Scotland. I am sure your wheels are the best thing since sliced bread, I just cannot for the life of me work out why you posted that as your wheels cost twice the amount

well, I found it an interesting contribution. If you didn't, why not simply skip and move on to something that you enjoy reading?

posted by Metjas [313 posts]
11th February 2014 - 19:31

186 Likes

I recently bought some 45mm Deep, 23mm wide (aero profile) carbon clinchers from light-bicycle in China.

Good price, prompt delivery and they have handled nearly 2k of winter (dry) miles since they've arrived and are still perfectly true.

They look awesome to boot too!!

Neil Pryde Bura SL - Ultegra Di2

posted by Pinaman [9 posts]
11th February 2014 - 20:40

170 Likes

Far too relevant for my tastes, Pinaman...

BTW cavmem1, looking forward to your long term review of those fantasy wheels from Papua New Guinea.

posted by Ad Hynkel [52 posts]
11th February 2014 - 21:16

181 Likes

So I got my farsports 50mm clinchers today. I'm not an expert, but they look flawless. Unfortunately we are having a blizzard tomorrow and it will probably be a month before I get to try them. But so far so good. It took about a week from china to mn, USA.

posted by MNgraveur [40 posts]
20th February 2014 - 3:10

101 Likes

A month on how are you feeling about the wheels Sam ?

Howl Like a Bianchi

HLaB's picture

posted by HLaB [55 posts]
4th March 2014 - 23:40

49 Likes

I'm keen to know your month in verdict too. I'm on the fence as to whether there will be a birthday present to myself.

jon_boi's picture

posted by jon_boi [5 posts]
5th March 2014 - 16:19

56 Likes

Only been out once on them so far for a short spin. As said in the blog, the next instalment will be mid-April when I've had chance to put some decent miles on them - the weather's been rubbish in Scotland and I'm yet to fully test them, I'm still riding my winter bike!

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
5th March 2014 - 16:59

49 Likes

Just by way of update on the build of the 50mm clinchers I bought from FarSports (it's still too crappy here to have ridden them), here are the comments of the local wheel builder I brought them to, to check them out:

Me: How do the wheels look?

Wheel guy: The spoke tension was close, less than 20% variance, but not as close as I like. The dish was off by probably 2-3mm in the back, which isn't a huge deal, but again not as good as a like. The dish has been corrected and the tension is more balanced, I still need to do a bit more truing and stress relieving and then verify everything is where I want it. Impressively the pull force is spec'd at 90-100 Kgf in the front and 120-135 Kgf for the drive rear. Zipp specs 100 Kgf. I feel like 135 Kgf would probably cause a Zipp rim to fail. The higher the spoke tension, the stronger the wheel.

Me: So not bad for $600?

Wheel guy: Quite nice actually. Far sports is considered to be one of the better Far East suppliers. I need to buy or build some disc brake wheels for my CX bike and am strongly considering something from them now.

Anyway- thought you might find this interesting. I'm really looking forward to getting out on them!!

posted by MNgraveur [40 posts]
12th March 2014 - 14:30

48 Likes

posted by Jeemahn [10 posts]
17th March 2014 - 11:46

42 Likes

Sam, just out of interest, did you order your wheels without disclosing they were going to be the subject of a thorough road.cc review? Just wonder in the light of MNgraveur's experience whether FarSports do not always spend as much time truing wheels as carefully as they could/should.

posted by Metjas [313 posts]
18th March 2014 - 10:01

43 Likes

Hi all,

I just received the exact same wheel set, only I got a nice £32.00 charge from Her Majesty.

On opening the sturdy wheel box I was pleased to see that they ran true, had 2 pairs of brake pads and skewers.
I asked for their FSE trade stickers on the wheels instead of their Far sport ones.
When I've saved the pictures I`ll post them as well as an honest review, just like I did on my "look what I've done" Chinarillo.

Wheelz

wheelz

wheelz's picture

posted by wheelz [68 posts]
26th March 2014 - 13:57

38 Likes

The terrible weather looks to be at an end, as do the continual social functions that have been sapping up valuable cycling time, so I'm fitting the wheels tonight (once they've been de-stickered).

Just googled the FSE graphics and they're much nicer than the Far Sports ones.

Yes, Far Sports did know that these would be subject to a long term test over the course of the year.

Look forward to hearing how you get on with them wheelz.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
26th March 2014 - 15:42

41 Likes

Any update on these wheels Sam?

posted by mtbtomo [132 posts]
21st April 2014 - 19:51

33 Likes

Also interested in an update Sam.

I ordered mine (the 38mm 23mm wide ones) on the 8th and should get them tomorrow. They were in this country on the17th but it has taken this long for customs to sort out how much they want to charge me! £32 as it happens, same as the poster above. Something to bear in mind if ordering. It seems the days of things slipping through without charge may be numbered.

posted by Camcycle1974 [9 posts]
28th April 2014 - 12:15

31 Likes

The next instalment will be posted up this week!

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
28th April 2014 - 12:57

41 Likes

Cheers Sam. Not that we're an impatient bunch or anything!

posted by Camcycle1974 [9 posts]
28th April 2014 - 13:42

32 Likes

I bought carbon clinchers from www.light-bicycle.com and the rear developed a fold/crack along a section of one braking surface on the second ride out. I am 70kg, and was riding using careful brake modulation, down a 300ft hill https://plus.google.com/photos/108365899306903135741/albums/601583831286...

B

posted by birzzles [30 posts]
30th May 2014 - 8:48

23 Likes

I bought a pair of 24mm clincher rims from light-bicycle.com in china. The rear failed during a descent under light braking of a 300ft hill in Devon. This was on second outing, never taken out in wet.

https://plus.google.com/photos/108365899306903135741/albums/601583831286...

B

posted by birzzles [30 posts]
30th May 2014 - 14:23

26 Likes