There's no shortage of aftermarket carbon fibre clincher wheels these days, in fact there really has never been a better time to invest. The latest entrant into this burgeoning market is Carbon Lite Racing, hailing from California.
The company offers a range of rim depths, of which we're looking at the 38mm wheels here. That's a good thing because, if you weren't aware, 38mm is the new 50mm. Loads of riders, professional and amateur alike, have been switching to the shallower rims after 50mm rims were the only choice for so long.
A shallower rim brings about several benefits. They're lighter for a start, and that makes them a good all-round choice if you want a wheel that is as good on the climbs as they are on the flats. They're also better suited to a wider range of wind conditions, as the there is less rim surface to be blown around. That means more stable and predictable handling, which with the very unpredictable UK weather is a good thing.
The rims are constructed from 3K unidirectional carbon fibre and they use an open mould design. That lack of a hefty investment in their own moulds and research and development does help to keep the cost down, but you're certainly not buying state-of-the-art wheels. On the scales these wheels come in at 1,570g.
While the rim is fairly generic for this type of wheel, a V-shaped section with a rounded leading edge, they are wider than some comparable rims. Their external width is 23mm with a 19mm internal width. That has a positive effect when you fit a 23mm tyre. There isn't the mushroom effect you get when fitting a tyre of this size to a narrow rim, instead a nice smooth tyre to rim transition.
A tyre on a wider rim is good because it marginally increases the effective width of the tyre. It also creates a more stable platform for the tyre, and means less potential for the tyre to squirm and roll over like it can on a narrower rim. This is especially useful if you like to run lower pressures; I happily rode around with tyres as low as 80 psi with no adverse impact on the handling.
The rims are laced to CLR's own design hubs with 20 radial front spokes and 24 rear spokes in a three-cross pattern. The hubs feature the noisiest freehub I've ever tested. Seriously, it makes a Hope Pro2 seem peaceful in comparison. I quite like a lively sounding freehub however; it certainly announces your presence.
Engagement from the freehub is quick. Stamp on the pedals and there's little detectable lag in the pawls in the freehub engaging, so that's good. The freehub is 10- and 11-speed compatible, and they do a Campagnolo version too.
The test wheels didn't come supplied with brake blocks, so I used a set of SwissStop Yellow carbon-specific blocks, and braking performance was just fine. No better or worse than other carbon wheels, with the same dropoff in retardation in the wet.
An appreciable benefit of the shallower rim is how well they cope with strong winds and blustery weather. It's almost always windy where I cycle and I often have to deal with long stretches of crosswinds. The CLRs were rock solid in such situations. That makes them a really good all-round choice, whether you're racing or just a performance rider who never pins a number on. The last benefit, and why I prefer shallower rims, is you don't need crazy long valve extenders.That simplicity and ease of installation is for me a huge bonus of choosing a shallower rim.
Used in racing the wheels display a reasonable level of stiffness, but there was a bit of bagginess when pushed really hard. A closer look at the spokes reveal they maintained good tension throughout the test period, so it's not a case of loose spokes. The flex wasn't sufficient that I had to loosen off the brake calipers though, as can happen with some carbon wheels.
You don't buy carbon fibre wheels for comfort, but the Carbon Lite wheels did cope surprisingly well on some of my bumpier routes, making them a fine choice for longer jaunts in the countryside when you're not necessarily trying to ride as fast as possible, but just going the distance and taking in the views.
Aesthetics are a subjective matter, only you will know if you like the look of the simple font decal finish. It's a given that the main reason most people buy carbon rims is partly because they look so good on a bike, but these really dont look like a posh pair of wheels. I'd like to see a bit more investment in the appearance, but that's entirely personal, you may be very happy with the way they look.
What can't be faulted is the performance to price ratio. Undercutting most of the competition yet offering solid build quality, stiffness and decent weight, these are worthy of some serious consideration if you want carbon wheels without shelling out a small fortune. They may not look the best, but the price may be enough to offset that for you.
I was very impressed with the CLRs. For the price, the performance is very good. I rode them over several weeks, in which time I used them in a couple of road races and several evening chain gangs, and lots of lower speed rides in the hills. They measure up well against the competition, they're not the stiffest but they're competitively light and while they don't look amazing, the price is very compelling.
The wheels will be supplied with carbon-specific brake blocks, wheel bags, rim tape and skewers.
Very good for the price 38mm carbon fibre clincher wheelset
road.cc test report
Make and model: Carbon Lite Racing CLR-38mm Clincher Wheel Set
Size tested: 38mm Clinchers, Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
When riding a CARBON LITE RACING wheel set, you ride a product as advanced as you are. Installed on your bike is a wheel set not only built to exceed your training and racing demands''it is handcrafted for YOU. The wheels have helped athletes win cyclocross and track championships and are being used by two cyclists at the Commonwealth Games 2014
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
With uncompromising design and build characteristics, along with a price point that stands alone, the Vinnige wheel set is your answer for faster times and long lasting durability and performance. Use the Vinnige for all riding domains, including: training, all road events; road races, crits, triathlon and time trial and hill climbing
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The only slight area for concern with these wheels if the lack of a visible dealer and support network in the UK compared to the likes of mainstream offerings from Reynolds, Enve and Zipp, which might put some people off especially when making an expensive purchase like this. You certainly can't take them back to your local bike shop if you have any problems with them.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,