Pro-Lite Gavia wheelset  £899.99

6/10

Very light, very strong but with some more fundamental issues to consider

Weight 1400g   Contact  www.pro-lite.net

by Andy Howe   September 14, 2010  

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?

Verdict

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.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Front wheel doesn't fit all forks, rear went out of true in under 100 miles.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Immediate acceleration felt.

Rate the product for durability:
 
6/10

Truing issues and braking surfaces prone to wear.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
10/10

Amongst the lightest.

Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
 
10/10

I like a hard ride.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Available quite competitively on the net.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Disappointingly.

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.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 46  Height: 6\\\' 2\\  Weight: 80 kg

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

 

9 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Funny report, this wheel has not only sold by the thousands but also fit thousands of forks, is it Pro-Lite's problem you choose to ride a Betamax fork. For a so called expert then you would know that if you choose to ride carbon then you must use specific pads from the wheel supplier and the comment about rim cement pouring into the void ? I take it that you were having a slow news day ? The wheel's leave our factory within 0.01 of a mm true. The samples you have ridden have been passed to dozens of cyclists and travelled thousands of miles yet you make out these are brand new out of the box.Do you honestly think we would make claims about our quality if they were not true, becoming the biggest hand built wheel company in the world does not happen overnight and would never happen if we turned out wheels that were about as straight as Tony Blairs life story. My point is that you knew these samples have been hammered and a little trueing would certainly not be unexpected after been past from pillar to post for the last 7 months. My final point is that did you use the technical data in our wheel service guide available on the website to true the wheel ? I guess not hence the wheel went out of true again. Bear in mind that PL spokes are 30% stronger than Sapim, DT and ACI and have around 200KG of load in them to assist with power transfer. If you dont follow our guide then you will have problems, but then again I guess the age old saying " if all else fails read the instructions" might be applicable in this case.

posted by proliteguy [8 posts]
16th September 2010 - 8:18

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Right, lets's go through your points.

Is it Pro-Lite's problem the front wheel wouldn't fit through the tester's fork… because that fork is older? Well, you obviously think it isn't - we think it is. He doesn't seem to have problems fitting other high end wheels to it.

Brake pads - carbon specific pads were used

Samples ridden thousands of miles before they got to us. Well, there's been a misunderstanding there. We tested them as new because that's how they were given to us + new or not we'd expect a test sample to have been checked over and trued up at the very least before it was sent in. It's the first thing any reviewer is going to check. We review new wheels cos that's how most of the people reading the review buy them if we'd known these wheels had done that many miles we probably wouldn't have tested them - because we wouldn't be able to form a proper impression of their performance and durability having no idea of the type of punishment they might have been through before they got to us.

Rim cement melting - we checked, rim cement does melt possibly the reason Continental brought out their carbon specific cement? [Edit] Okay, after our discussion offline I understand that you guys do a lot of testing on the heat dissipating properties of your carbon rims - but I think it is a valid point to raise in the review.

As to the technical data on your website - we would expect all our testers to read the spec on the manufacturers website - hence the box in the test report about what the manufacturer says about their product.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4131 posts]
16th September 2010 - 9:42

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Geez, assuming that the guy really is from Pro-Lite, that's not the way to go about promoting your product! It's not as if you haven't been complimentary about the Pro-Lite Bracciano wheels, which I have seen recommended more often than any others on this site.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
16th September 2010 - 10:48

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To be fair cat1 I've just spoken to proliteguy off-line, and I don't think he meant his comments to sound as harsh as they might appear on the page… he's a very passionate man about his wheels though, which is probably why we like the Braccianos so much.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4131 posts]
16th September 2010 - 12:53

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Nothing old about Onda forks, I've just seen enough of them whizz by on the tele. Not the testers fault, just the way it is, and a really good point to think about before spending your hard earned on a set of round things.

Well done Mr Tester I loved it!!!!!

posted by wallywingnut [7 posts]
16th September 2010 - 22:48

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Hi.

I thought I would add a few of my thoughts.

1. Including extra spokes is standard practice by companies that aren't cheap. Personally, I've never needed to replace single spoke, always just rebuilt with all new spokes if one broke, but having a few extra in the box is hardly a bad thing. I don't complain when I buy a new computer and there's a little baggie of extra assorted screws and connectors, even though I seldom need all of them. Not sure why it would even come up into a person's mind that this would be a negative thing...

2. I've got nothing to say about the wheel being out of true. I wasn't part of this, so I don't know the conditions of the wheel.

3. "brake blocks changed for blocks of fudge"... I don't really know what this means. Maybe this is a UK expression?

I know that we have tried to make it quite clear that carbon brake surfaces should only use our own brake pads. I wrote the stuff on the website and helped design the warning labels that are attached to the wheels myself. The reason for this is SPECIFICALLY to do with the way the pads handle heat compared with the way other brands' pads handle heat.

Also, there is a special strip along the side of the rim that is actually not just carbon fiber. It is designed for high heat tolerance and at the same time indicates the correct place to align the brake pads to. If you align the brake pads elsewhere, you will have problems.

One problem that can result is that it can cause the wheel to warp.

I can't know for sure because I wasn't there, but it could easily be the reason that the wheel went out of true after 70km, rather than a problem with the spokes.

The summary of the review seems good, but I'm a little confused about the 'fundamental issues'. From what I can read in the review:

Issue #1: They look too good. (?)
Issue #2: Rim not true out of box (no response from me)
Issue #3: Wheel is supplied with tools and some extra spokes (?)
Issue #4: No compatibility with a specific fork
Issue #5: Performance is good, but not *dramatically* better than other high end wheels
Issue #6: High range of movement in rear hub
Issue #7: Tub cement can enter holes in rim.

I can see that Issues #2, #4 and #7 could be legitimate concerns, but I don't really get the others.

Issue #5 is kind of a no-brainer. Most high end wheels are going to be pretty good. At this level of the game, people are looking to gain _seconds_ with things like wearing shoe covers, shaving their legs and saving 8 grams by using a lighter water bottle cage. Minor differences are a big deal.
Issue #6 confuses me too. I've never found low engagement points in a hub to be a problem anywhere except in Freeride or trials. If I'm having trouble with that when crawling up a hill, I've got a problem with my cadence... not my wheel.

Anyhow, I'm glad you liked them for the most part. I'm going to bring up an idea for solving #7 this week.

posted by ProLiteNews [2 posts]
20th September 2010 - 11:40

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ProLiteNews wrote:

3. "brake blocks changed for blocks of fudge"... I don't really know what this means. Maybe this is a UK expression?

I imagine that all the reviewer meant was that the special brake blocks supplied are the same colour as fudge (ie: toffee coloured), so they look like sweets. He says later on that the braking performance was very good.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1321 posts]
20th September 2010 - 15:48

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Yes, that's what I thought too, except the pads we provide are typically light blue and the blocks themselves are carbon. Not exactly the colors I associate with 'fudge'.

Hence the confusion.

posted by ProLiteNews [2 posts]
24th September 2010 - 7:34

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Having read all of the comments I am now very confused!

I am trying to scrape a budget together to put a nice set of Aero Carbon wheels on my Pro-Lite Galileo framed tt bike.

The money is hard enough to find, but the decision on what to buy seems even harder! I am aiming for a budget of around £700 - £900, They need to be Campag compatible and would prefer a set of Clinchers which could also be used on a road bike for Sportives etc. Purchasing from a company on a finance deal would be ideal.

I f anyone has got any thoughts or experience in this area please let me know.

P.s. I really like the look of Pro-Lites Gavia, they would look really nice on my bike Smile

Cyclists do it on their bikes!!

stevevfr's picture

posted by stevevfr [52 posts]
29th September 2010 - 10:37

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