Pro-Lite are a name that have been around for a few years now associated with a top end range of frames, wheels and components to include bars, stems and chainsets, always lightweight, lots of carbon fibre composites, titanium and ultra lightweight alloys. Their Gavia wheels have 50mm deep section carbon fibre rims for tubular tyres and flat black blade type spokes with CNC machined Bolzano hubs designed so that the spokes enter the edge of a broad flange rather than the traditional hole in the side method. The nipples are neatly countersunk into this carbon flange for a neater smoother finish.
First appearances are quite an important factor, if your bike looks good, and it will when shod in Gavias, you will feel good and in theory you might perform better or maybe try harder so that you don't risk looking like an "all the gear but no idea" type cyclist. The Gavia wheels are fairly striking, you are going to stand out, so you probably are going to have to push the pedals fairly hard and quickly, beware, if you haven’t got the engine to spin these wheels with the speed that their looks command you are going to look like a chump.
The deep section rim has the manufacturers decals boldly emblazoned, the large flange hubs too will attract more than a quick glance from most people. Wheels are supplied with brake blocks, a pack of spare spokes, 3 sizes in fact front wheel, back wheel drive side and non-drive side and a spoke key to fit. I understand that they are normally supplied with a wheel bag and carbon and titanium skewers. Whether being supplied with spare spokes inspires confidence or doubts I have yet to decide.
I gave the wheels a quick spin, hubs are beautifully smooth, something that is not unusual across many brands and by eye they looked ‘true-ish’. I put the back wheel in my wheel jig in order to liberally apply some rim cement, another quick spin, not perfectly true, 1.5mm lateral deviation. I grabbed some tubs from the workshop and of course the valves were way too short, valve extensions are luckily supplied. Tubs on, plenty of rim cement required, I’m not a tub tape person, way too difficult to center the tub and rips to shreds leaving a horrible mess when you take the tub off; cassette on, brake blocks changed for blocks of fudge, job done. Remember that the wrong brake blocks will be as rewarding as cleaning your computer screen with wire wool, the results will be just a tad disappointing.
Horror! Big problem, the fancy front hub has a flange so thick at its outer edge that it won’t fit in my Pinarello Onda carbon forks. Alas this does not put me in the best of moods having stuck tubs on and changed brake blocks. What more can I say....... front wheel placed back in shed, abandoned. Hmmm.
Back to the techno stuff. 20 spokes in the front, 24 spokes in the rear, the cassette body is beautifully machined alloy, sealed EZO bearings two in the front and four in the rear. The tension of each spoke is then checked six times as these are meticulously hand built into a very stiff, virtually unyielding wheel. Despite all 6 checks the rear still wasn’t perfect.
As a pair these weigh in at positively anorexic 550grams front and 850 grams rear, amongst the lightest wheels around and without any obvious loss of material either. The appearance is strong and purposeful and more than adequate to convey my carcass around at speed.
Performance is the issue that really matters. I compared these with my best wheels a pair of Easton EA90s. I like the Eastons they have been rock solid beneath my 80kg hulk and they accelerate very quickly. The Pro-Lite rear compares well in terms of immediacy which I like, the rear wheel tested is noticeably unyielding but doesn’t stand out other than in terms appearance. I've ridden this as hard as I can and I have to say that it hasn’t stood out, perhaps my expectation is too high, but at this price I feel some justification. One thing that I particularly disliked was the ratchet and pawl system within the freehub, this had as much slack in it as an old Landrover rear differential and when winching my way up the final one mile of one in five hill on the way home, 27 sprocket, it sounded like someone climbing an aluminium ladder in a pair of ice skates and didn’t feel a lot better either, the ratchet take up slack was too much.
Without the often seen aluminium braking surface found on some carbon rims the Gavias are constructed with a barely visible fibre coating at the braking surface to protect the carbon strands from abrasion and brake heat damage. The braking was better than I expected, dare I say very good. I was a little concerned about heat dissipation from the rim in prolonged braking although this is much more of an issue with carbon clinchers wheels than those made for tube, the rim got very hot and retained the heat for some time, which raises the question of melting your rim cement, a frightening prospect on a long winding decent like for example the famed Giro D’Italia Gavia Pass after which these are named. On the plus side I think that you could hit a crater or two in these and not damage the rim.
In short a nice time-trialling wheel, although I’m not sure that I would want this in a criterium where you can find yourself on and off of the power constantly, or for very steep low geared out of the saddle climbs.
To sum up, I wasn’t suddenly the fastest man out there and I still had to try very hard when the hammer went down, annoyingly the front wheel didn’t fit my forks, the rear wheel went out of true after 70 miles, the freehub was in my view too free and the spoke hole drillings would over time allow oceans of rim cement to enter the void within the rim. You of course may choose tub tape. With all that said, these are an immensely strong set of wheels and good looking too; I certainly looked the part and that’s no bad thing, is it?
Very light, very strong but with some more fundamental issues to consider.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pro-Lite Gavia wheelset
Size tested: n/a
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?
Road racing, time trials and traithlons.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Tubular only deep section rim, unique hub design, silky smooth and very light.
Front wheel doesn't fit all forks, rear went out of true in under 100 miles.
Immediate acceleration felt.
Truing issues and braking surfaces prone to wear.
Amongst the lightest.
I like a hard ride.
Available quite competitively on the net.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
You certainly look the part.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Front hub did not fit forks and rear wheel went badly out of true.
Did you enjoy using the product? No.
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
I certainly looked the part but that alone was not enough.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Super Corsa Ultegra My best bike is: Pinarello Paris Dura Ace
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, Tandem