Mad Fiber's mad-looking wheels

...they look nuts but sound well thought out and weigh very little

by Mat Brett   September 28, 2012  

These wheels from Mad Fiber are some of the most distinctive we’ve seen in a long time… and that’s saying something because loads of new carbon wheels have been released lately.

Mad Fiber is a specialist wheel brand from Seattle in the US and they make their own wheels in the US rather than out-sourcing production abroad.

The idea behind the design was to forget about substituting metal parts for carbon, and instead produce wheels that are designed around carbon as a material. There’s so much technology going on here that you really need to visit the Mad Fiber website to check it all out. These wheels are designed to be lightweight, aerodynamically efficient and very strong.

To talk you through a few key features, the rims (60mm front, 66mm rear) aren’t produced in a normal way, they’re made up from three separate parts: the two sidewalls and the tyre seat. Mad Fibre says this allows them to make the rims much more precisely than if they used a bladder mould inside the rim.

The spokes are bonded to the rim sidewalls, dispersed the load across a large area of the tyre seat. Those spokes are just 0.7mm thick and, although the outer layers you can see are a 12k carbon-fibre weave, the inner layers are unidirectional carbon. If you’re worried about the carbon snapping, Mad Fiber reckon they can handle 40 times the load they’re ever going to need to and can twist up to 90 degrees if anything gets caught in your wheel.

The hubs are interesting too. Rather than coming out perpendicular to the hub body, the flanges are aimed towards the anchor point on the sidewall to keep the load path straight. 

And your final tech fact for the day is that the wheels aren’t constructed, as you might think, as rims, hubs and spokes and then the three elements all put together. Instead, the spokes are first bonded to the relevant sidewall and hub flange without any tension. Only once everything else is assembled are the flanges drawn from the centre of the hub to the edges, thereby applying the tension. It’s all very impressive stuff. 

You might think those hubs look unfinished. Mad Fiber could easily have added another layer of carbon there to neaten things up, but it would have been purely cosmetic so they’ve opted to leave them as is.

The wheels are available in both tubular and clincher versions, with Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo compatibility and, as you might have guessed by now, they’re not cheap – £2,500.

According to Mad Fiber, the tubular model is 1,085g a pair and the clincher version - which has an alloy tyre seat rather than carbon - just 1,300g, and there’s no rider weight limit. Titanium skewers and proprietary brake pads come as part of the package. You get a four-year warranty and there’s a crash replacement policy – which might come in useful because you’re not going to be finding the right spokes down at your local bike shop.

In terms of aerodynamic performance, Mad Fiber don’t give the usual statistics in terms of grams of drag, time saved over 40km or anything like that. What they say is, “Mad Fiber wheels are well within the norm for aerodynamic drag with aero wheels, and can be exceptional in high yaw situations. Given the significant weight advantage Mad Fibers enjoy over other aero wheels, there’s no doubt Mad Fibers would prove advantageous in the real world, where climbing performance and acceleration start to be factors.”

Sounds a bit woolly, doesn’t it? We’ll see if we can get any more concrete info. In the meantime, visit madfiber.com or see the wheels at this weekend’s Cycle Show at Birmingham NEC.

14 user comments

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There was a recent episode of one of those manufacturing TV shows (How It's Made, How Do They Do It?, etc.) that featured these Mad Fiber wheels being made. The whole process was... weird. The whole time I was watching it I was thinking they were just making cheap "poseur" wheels with that blingy carbon look. It almost looked like they were just slapping a bunch of carbon stickers together to make something that loosely resembled a wheel. I had to go googling to see if they were any good, and to my surprise the reviews are quite overwhelmingly positive. Who'd have thunk it?

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
28th September 2012 - 15:45

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A few guys around here race them. There was a guy trying to sell a set for a rather steep discount, but it didn't seem that anyone was biting. I had no interest b/c it's an unproven technology, and I need reliable race wheels.

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posted by pedalpowerDC [216 posts]
28th September 2012 - 16:11

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“Mad Fiber wheels are well within the norm for aerodynamic drag with aero wheels, and can be exceptional in high yaw situations. Given the significant weight advantage Mad Fibers enjoy over other aero wheels, there’s no doubt Mad Fibers would prove advantageous in the real world, where climbing performance and acceleration start to be factors.”

Woolly? I can think of another commonly available agricultural product that it sounds like, but bovine, not ovine, in origin.

The idea that light wheels are important in acceleration or in climbing has been shown to be one of those old cycling wives tales, so to use the same claims to sell stuff is unoriginal.

Untruable, and what happens when the rim wears?

The cycling equivalent of 'No user serviceable parts inside', and don't get me started on the price...

posted by crikey [106 posts]
28th September 2012 - 17:17

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Actually I take my hat off to these guys - if you are going to drop a load of cash on carbon wheels, why not have something a bit unique?? I don't believe for a moment any of the claims from other carbon wheels makers, so I appreciate the honesty from these guys as regards making outlandish claims. Personally you will never catch me on carbon wheels, as I have no need fo rthem, but for those who have nothing better to do with their cash...

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posted by theclaw [75 posts]
28th September 2012 - 17:37

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yeah but they look great.......and thats all a lot of riders will worry about,and damn the cost! Big Grin

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posted by keith roberts [179 posts]
28th September 2012 - 18:01

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since when has light wheels been proved as an old wives tale? It's a fact, ride up a hill with 2kg wheels or 1kg wheels you will go faster with the lighter ones. End of.

Still not being able to replace the spokes doesn't really make for a race friendly wheel when someone breaks a spoke in them with their derailleur or something.

posted by trtimothy [4 posts]
28th September 2012 - 19:42

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Light wheels were always supposed to be better because of the idea that rotating weight is somehow more important than weight elsewhere. 'Easier to accelerate' is a commonly used term.

Rotating weight is no more important than any other weight on a bicycle, and the 'accelerations' are so small that wheel weight is unimportant, especially in the context of chubby middle aged riders.

Overall weight of rider and bike = 100 kg.

Change in weight by buying lighter wheels = -2 kg.

New overall weight of rider and bike = 98 kg.

How much quicker are you going to go exactly?

If you lose 2kg, you'll be approximately 4 seconds faster. But these wheels will save you about 800 grammes, so you'll be less than 2 seconds quicker but £2500 poorer.

...and that's why the claims are woollier than a sheep in a jumper.

posted by crikey [106 posts]
28th September 2012 - 20:32

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I'd like to know if they are laterally stiff and vertically compliant?

posted by Glossies [29 posts]
28th September 2012 - 20:41

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Clearly these wheels need to be tested over the course of some long, hard Devon audaxes and I am obviously the short, fat middle-aged man for the job. Thinking

Hand 'em over Mr Brett. Waiting

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posted by Rob Simmonds [251 posts]
28th September 2012 - 21:43

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all that integration makes them look like the Apple of wheel companies

posted by jamjam [61 posts]
29th September 2012 - 14:35

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Answer dependant on the terrain. On the flat the weight wont matter a jot really you are better off with aero dynamic wheels which give a much more noticable boost...however going uphill they will make it harder to climb and a really lighweight type without the aero frills and you will rocket up compared to heavier wheels as the benefit is magnafied greatly on hilly terrain.

posted by noddy69 [79 posts]
29th September 2012 - 16:52

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gais, what is up in here? Surprise

Don't turn this into BR - these wheel have been around for a while and their design is awesome. What be the hate for ya'll?

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posted by koko56 [317 posts]
29th September 2012 - 18:09

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crikey wrote:
Light wheels were always supposed to be better because of the idea that rotating weight is somehow more important than weight elsewhere. 'Easier to accelerate' is a commonly used term.

Rotating weight is no more important than any other weight on a bicycle, and the 'accelerations' are so small that wheel weight is unimportant, especially in the context of chubby middle aged riders.

Overall weight of rider and bike = 100 kg.

Change in weight by buying lighter wheels = -2 kg.

New overall weight of rider and bike = 98 kg.

How much quicker are you going to go exactly?

If you lose 2kg, you'll be approximately 4 seconds faster. But these wheels will save you about 800 grammes, so you'll be less than 2 seconds quicker but £2500 poorer.

...and that's why the claims are woollier than a sheep in a jumper.

1+

I haven't come across a single test, calculation or simulation demonstrating that lighter wheels make a meaningful performance difference comparing to a static weight.

In fact a even basic number crunching show that the effect of rotating mass is effectively a fart in a tornado.

Strong beliefs based on subjective impression of speed and acceleration can't change the laws of physics.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [178 posts]
1st October 2012 - 0:05

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I am quicker up almost all climbs I have on strava with my cosmics than on my R-Sys wheelsets? Cosmic is 400g+ heavier, so how does that work out?

Most of the climbs are 10-12mph averages, I imagine on lots of steep climbs I would prefere the lighter wheel, but for most stuff I question why I have the lighter option!

posted by charlierevell [34 posts]
1st October 2012 - 10:48

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