Wider rims are gaining in popularity among road riders. You can buy some good wide-section wheelsets off the shelf, but you can also have them made by hand on the south coast. These Velocity A23 wheels from Strada stack up well against wheels like the HED Ardennes: they're light, comfortable and not too expensive.
The wheels are exquisitely built; Strada's own hubs are simple and classy, with sealed bearings and a 6-pawl freehub. Sapim CX-Ray spokes are about as good as it gets for a standard wheel, light and strong. You get minimalist Titanium quick releases (I didn't use them as I prefer something a bit beefier) and rim tape as standard and, if you like, Strada will polish your spokes before building for an extra fee. They had some at the London Cycle show and they looked fantastic. The rim itself is fairly light, at 426g the same as a Mavic Open Pro. The wheels build up into a set that tips the scales at 1524g which is a good deal more than the 1450g that Strada claim on their website but light for a 24/28-spoke alloy wheelset. They were true when they arrived and they're true now. No issues there.
First off, then: why 23mm rims? Well, the wider profile of the rim gives the tyre a different shape; the sidewalls are flatter and more perpendicular and this, claim Strada (and not just them) makes for a tyre better able to deform giving lower rolling resistance. The flattened profile also means a slightly larger contact patch than a standard width rim.
And they're right. These wheels really do have a different feel to narrow road rims. They're not the only wide-profile rims I've tried, and without exception I'd say that a 23mm width can give a noticable improvement in ride quality over a 21mm rim. Strada say that "it has all the benefits of a tubular tyre (smooth ride quality, lower rolling resistance) with the convenience of a clincher tyre (ease of installation, easy to repair a flat)." They're over-egging the pudding a bit there; it clearly doesn't have all the benefits of a tubular tyre or you'd see the Pros on wide clincher rims. You still have to put more material in the rim to take the pressure of the tyre forcing the sidewalls out, and you're still in danger of pinch-flatting over the rough stuff. Possibly less so, though, as the tyre doesn't bulge out so much but has a flatter side profile.
I found they were best paired with a slightly wider folding tyre, I used 25mm Zaffiro Pros for much of the testing and got great performance from that combination. I swapped them in for some Shimano RS30s on a Stevens Xenon test bike and it was like having a whole new bike to play with. If you don't believe that wheels are the single most effective upgrade you can make to a bike then you need to try swapping out a sturdy, dependable wheelset like the RS30s with something hand built and half a kilo lighter. To make it fair I then swapped them out for a pair of RS80s which are lighter than the Stradas, but I definitely preferred the feel of the A23 wheels which seem to have a very supple ride while still managing to roll quickly and track well into corners under load. Side to side flex is pretty minimal and there were no brake rub issues either climbing out of the saddle or sprinting for signs.
Less than £500 doesn't seem like a lot of money to get a UK craftsman to make you a set of great quality wheels. The Strada A23s are a super all-round wheelset that are light enough for sportives and strong enough for year-round use.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Strada Velocity A23/Sapim CX-Ray 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?
The Velocity A23 is one of our favourite do it all wheelsets. I love the ride quality on these rims – it eliminates road buzz and reduces rider fatigue.
The Velocity A23 has been described as a 'Clinchular' because it has all the benefits of a tubular tyre (smooth ride quality, lower rolling resistance) with the convenience of a clincher tyre (ease of installation, easy to repair a flat). The added rim width (23mm) makes the tyre wall sit straighter on the rim providing a ride like a tubular with the convenience of a clincher. If you cover a lot of miles in a day the added comfort will definitely be appreciated. Darren says these are the best alloy rims he has ever worked with giving them a 10/10 for easy building and quality of finish. You will need to experiment with lower tyre pressures than normal for the best result. They can be built with a variety of spokes and hubs according to your requirements and physique. Rim available in Black, Silver or White, weight 426g rim only. Strada hubs (black or white) in Campagnolo or Shimano. Complete with Strada 43g Titianium quick releases and rim tape. Available in 700c, 20'� or 16'�.
Spokes – built with Sapim Race double butted silver spokes or the legendary Sapim CX Ray bladed aero spoke for reduced weight and ultimate durability. Both types available in black on request.
We can build these Velocity A23 rims with a wide selection of hubs from Tune, Chris King, PMP, Hope, Campagnolo or Shimano Dura Ace and spokes from Sapim to match your requirements. Darren will hand build these individually to match your physique and riding style to a 0.05mm tolerance. Free truing for life policy. 1 year warranty.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Weight:1450g (CX Ray spokes)
Spokes:Sapim CX Ray (bladed)
Hubs:Strada Black or White or your choice
Colours:Rim available in Black, Silver or White
Sizes:700c, 20'� or 16'�
Accessories:Ti Quick Releases + Rim Tape included
Hand made by:Darren
Tightly built from good quality components, strong and true
Great ride feel from the wider rim, especially in conjunction with a 25mm tyre
Freehub can mark if you don't tighten up the lockring enough, but that's true of all alloy units
1524g is light for a classically built wheelset
Nice and comfy over shoddy surfaces. Again, a bigger tyre suits the rim and helps with comfort
£500 for handbuilt wheels made in the UK? sounds like a deal
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Strong, light, true, comfortable
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Skewers are a bit weedy for my liking, but I'm a big lad
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with SRAM Apex
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track