These Sixth Element Cross Wheels are a solidly built carbon fibre set ideal for adventure riding as well as cyclo-cross, at a price that is well below the majority of carbon fibre clincher wheelsets.
The Manchester-based company has a range of mountain bike and 'cross/gravel wheels; the rims are sourced from the Far East and made to various specifications in the UK. With the Cross wheels you have a choice of disc or rim brake versions, with a basalt braking surface used for the latter, but a wheelset without a brake track is the standard option (our test pair featured said brake track but it wasn't used during testing).
The rim is made from Toray T700 unidirectional carbon fibre, with a 3K weave used in key places (around the internal spoke bead), and they measure 25mm wide externally and 18mm internally. The rims are tubeless-ready, using a hookless design, and come with rim tape and tubeless valves installed – but you can remove these and use them with tubes if you prefer.
I tested the 55mm-deep version (a 35mm is also available) with Hope Pro2 Evo disc hubs, but future wheels will get the newer Pro4 hubs, which come with an 11-speed compatible freehub body. You can upgrade to Chris King hubs for £1,249. The hubs and rims are laced together with double-butted black spokes.
Setting the wheels up was easy. I tried several sets of tyres with tubes and they went on without much hassle. Tubeless was similarly painless, with a pair of cyclo-cross tyres popping up with ease. I mostly tested the wheels on an adventure bike, taking in laps of my local woods and lots of bridleways and byways to test the durability and ruggedness of the wheels.
Performance is good. The wheels are evidently stiff but there's just a bit of give that prevents the ride from being overly harsh. They're strong and tough wheels, handling all sorts of punishing gravel tracks and rooty singletrack, with the tyre pressure low enough to bash the rim into hard rocks on several occasions. The wheels are at their best on smooth terrain and rolling roads and tracks; at slower speeds you do notice the weight start to impinge slightly on the performance.
At 1,950g they are on the heavy side. A pair of similarly priced Easton EA90 clincher disc wheels come in at 1,654g, so obviously the 55mm-deep carbon rim produces a bit of a weight penalty. For the stop-and-start nature of cyclo-cross, the shallower rims would probably be a better match, but if you're adventure cycling with a focus on maintaining high average speeds, the 55mm rims do feel very fast.
There is the aerodynamic argument to the deeper rims, of course, and the Sixth Element rims do have the modern rounded rim shape that ensures good aero performance in a range of wind directions. If you're worried about weight, and primarily using the wheels for adventure and cyclo-cross riding, the shallower rims would be a better choice. No need for valve extenders would make them easier to live with too.
Hope hubs are very nicely machined, with smooth-rolling bearings, and sealing is excellent – they've withstood nasty mud and rain conditions and being jet washed afterwards. You'll either love or hate the very noisy freehub; people certainly hear you approaching. Hope uses interchangeable end caps so it's easy to fit them to most bikes; I used them on a bike with front and rear thru-axles. The 6-bolt disc rotor is standard fare and easy to use, with no special tools required to fit a disc rotor.
As for value – yes, £899 is definitely a lot of money, but for a carbon fibre wheelset it's at the affordable end. If you think nearly a grand is a bit rich, you only need to go back 10 years and it would be impossible to get a carbon wheelset anywhere near this price, and certainly not reliable and easy-to-use carbon clinchers. Progress has been swift.
The company also throws in a two-year no-quibble guarantee, and offers 0% finance on all wheels, with free delivery in the UK and mainland Europe.
Solidly built carbon clincher wheels that are more affordable than most
road.cc test report
Make and model: Sixth Element Cross Wheelset
Size tested: 55mm deep
Tell us what the wheel 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?
Sixth Element says: "Sixth Element is run by riders, for riders - we know what works. Our key motivation is building quality kit to give a quality ride.
"Our best selling wheels have Hope or Chris King hubs, laced to carbon rims 3 cross with 32 spokes but if you want something else just contact us. We use 'hookless' UD / 3K carbon rims with one piece construction for extra strength. Our wheels come ready for tubeless installation with rim tape and tubeless valve installed (although you can run tubes instead of course, just take out our installed valve).
"We build all our wheels to order at our service centre in Manchester, UK, so we typically operate on a 7 working day supply time from date of order."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
From Sixth Element:
Our Cross/Gravel wheels are hand built with love and understanding using:
* Unidirectional weave Toray T700 Carbon Rims, enhanced with 3K weave around the internal spoke bead
* Hope Pro4 Hubs (all six colours are available)
* Black Double Butted Spokes (Sapim / DT)
Two choices of rim depth are available: 35mm and 55mm deep, both with a 25mm external width (18mm internal)
Wheel-sets are supplied ready to set up tubeless (can also be run with tubes of course)
Default option is without basalt braking surface, assuming you run discs, but braking surface option is also available
From £899 per pair, including Post & Packing in UK and Europe
Two year, no quibble guarantee
Solid construction, no issues with rugged off-road riding at all.
Very good, with a good level of stiffness evident.
No problems at all during my time with them.
There are lighter wheels available.
There aren't many carbon wheelsets cheaper than this.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
They stayed true throughout the test period.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Very easy; no tyre levers needed with some brand of tyres I tested, and tubeless wasn't a problem.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Used with thru-axles so no skewers were needed.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For the adventure and cyclo-cross riding they're billed for, they performed faultlessly. They're good as a road wheelset too with slicks fitted.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Good price, good looks and easy installation.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
A bit on the heavy side.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Maybe
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Probably
Use this box to explain your score
A really good value carbon fibre clincher wheelset with a solid build and easy installation.
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, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.