Rolf's Prima P-Towns are a high performance wheelset that perform as good as they look…and they really look good. A lightweight set of hoops for your fixie or single speed that are aerodynamic and stiff enough to take to the track and shiny enough to take to the streets of Kensington.
It's that shininess that's the first thing you notice about the P-Towns – the spangly polished finish draws your eyes, like a magpie's. The other thing you notice is the fact they look so lovely, The next thing you notice is how few spokes are holding them together, a measly 14 on the front and just 16 on the rear, less than half of what most normal bike wheels have.
With so few spokes you may think that these shiny rims are going to fold just looking at a bit of uneven tarmac. But no, there's a reason you might pay £695 for a light weight set of hoops designed for your pimped up town ride and one of them is because they are not going to disintegrate over anything rougher than polished tarmac. No sir, these beautifully crafted 34mm tall deep-section, single cavity rims offer incredible lateral and torsional stiffness which help you get to speed within literally a few revolutions of your cranks.
Weighing a total of 1675 grams for the pair, less tires and tubes,(795g front, 880g rear) their light mass means they get rolling quickly, in fact the extra 400 grams saving over my normal set of wheels made it feel like I had fitted a nitros oxide kit to my legs. These wheels are fun, shedding a couple of hundred grams off each wheel transforms your bike into what feels like a hot rod. I can easily go up another cog size at the back and convert it to extra speed and acceleration or keep the same gearing and develop my cadence.
The deep aero section of the rim and the sparse bladed spokes make for a very aerodynamic set of wheels which would be competitive on the track or time trialing and they are remarkably well behaved at speed and don’t suffer too much from side winds as long as you keep your speed up. The rim sidewalls are CNC machined for smooth and consistent braking – when you've got your brakes on. The wheels are laced using paired spokes where the left and the right meet at the rim which allows the spokes to “neutralize the lateral force of the opposed spoke” which is kind of like what I thought a normal spoked wheel did anyway? What can be achieved is exceptionally high spoke tension creating a very strong wheel indeed with less spokes and less material in the rim and therefore less weight.
The internal alloy nipples with nylon inserts contribute to clean aerodynamic performance and superior, long-term durability but forget being able to just tighten up a spoke if it was to come loose without having to remove the wheel and tire! Patented, Jacketed Nipple Design™ and Dish Reducing design™ reduce spoke bending loads and rear wheel dish to increase spoke fatigue life. During the few months and several hundred miles of testing them they are still tight and true although I am 8kg lighter than the recommended maximum rider weight which is well below the design parameters. The down side of having such few spokes at very high tension is when one breaks because it is likely to fail catastrophically but we haven’t heard of any reports of this happening.
The hubs are made in the US by White Industries and the cartridge bearings and axles are interchangeable with the excellent ENO hub which means you can fit the rear hub with an eccentric axle bolt and attach this wheel to any bike including frames with vertical dropouts. This is a very easy procedure and takes only a few minutes, this hub is can be fully dismantled and serviced with no special tools. Being able to swap the axles allows you to transplant these wheels to other frames with different dropout widths or to convert an old frame with vertical dropouts to a single speed. We did have an issue with getting hold of the White Industries ENO sprocket but Chocolate Distribution are now holding stock of them so the gear ratio hunt is now over.
The P-Diddy bling bling wheelset that would pimp up anybody's single speed or fixie but stopping people from leaving your bike on bricks might be a challenge. Not to mention affording them.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rolf Prima P-Town wheelset
Size tested: NA
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?
Rolf say "Named after our neighboring city, Portland, Oregon, the P-town is the wheel we all wanted and couldn't wait to build".
Not really giving too much away in that statement. Basically they are an indulgent town wheelset that are built to look good and perform well. I think they have done that admirably.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Paired Radial/Paired 1-Cross
interchangeable axles with White industries ENO hub
Very well put together. Super tight and finished off to a very high standard. The mirror polish stays bright for a long time and there is no sign of any corrosion.
Stiff, fast and remarkably strong.
They are still true after a few hundred miles of fixed gear riding across London.
These are as light as a good set of race wheels.
I didn't notice any harshness
This is such a tough question. Yes they tick all the boxes for durability and performance but having to lug about an extra few kilograms for a lock to secure the wheels kind of defeats the object.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Shedding half a kilograms from your wheelset will transform you bike and make it dance and put a stupid grin on your face.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The high price tag doesn't just make them difficult to afford but difficult to stop the interest from unsavoury bike meddlers.
Did you enjoy using the product? Loved it.
Would you consider buying the product? yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? only to the well heeled
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
I wish wheels costing half the price could be this good.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 180 Weight: 80
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Giant CFR pro. Old school carbon converted to fixed. Kinesis Convert 2.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back