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Verdict: 
Fast, well-built wheels suitable for a wide variety of different terrains and conditions
Weight: 
1,650g
Contact: 
www.stradawheels.co.uk
Strada Rail 52 carbon clincher wheels
8 10

The Strada Rail 52 carbon clinchers are fast, well-built wheels that handle well in a whole variety of conditions.

Strada import the Rail 52 rims from November Bicycles in the US www.novemberbicycles.com and build them up to order at their workshop in Lancing, West Sussex. Our review wheels were built on Chris King's superb R45 hubs  with Sapim's equally good CX-Ray bladed spokes. We have 20 radial spokes at the front, and 24 2-cross at the rear (12 on either side).

The official rim weight is 480g (we didn't take them apart to confirm that) and our built up wheels weigh 755g (f) and 895g (r) including rim tape but not including skewers. That's a total weight of 1,650g.

I won't go into depth on the hubs here for two reasons. First, we've already reviewed them separately. Second, you can get the Rail 52s built with different hubs if you prefer (see below). They are excellent hubs, though.

The unidirectional carbon rims are a proprietary design from November Bicycles; the 52 in the name refers to the rim depth in millimetres. They're 25mm wide across the brake track with an internal width of 18mm. The brake track is angled to smooth the airflow over the tyre.

The rims actually get a touch wider below the brake track (in the same way that Zipp's Firecrest profiles do, for example), bulging out to a maximum of 27.1mm across. The overall shape certainly follows the trend towards staying wider for longer – it's closer to a U shape than to a V, if that information is of any use to you.

November Cycles say that the rim shape is based on NACA airfoils and that, "Despite being 6mm shallower than the Zipp [404], the Rail prototype gave up only 2 seconds over a 40K time trial at 30mph and performed better than the Zipp at low AOAs (below 7.5 degrees) more common at the high speeds experienced in sprinting, attacks and descents.' (AOA here stands for 'angle of attack' – the yaw angle.)

Obviously, if both wheels were doing exactly 30mph they'd cover 25 miles in precisely the same time, so we suggest you pop over to November's website to see how they derive their figures.

The Strada Rail 52s perform really well in a wide range of different circumstances. They feel stable even in strong crosswinds and in blustery conditions when some wheels of a similar depth can really throw off the handling and force you to correct your steering constantly.

They're a good, lively weight too. They can't compete with shallow section rims on the scales, of course, but for their depth they're competitive.

Strada have built the wheels up beautifully with remarkably even spoke tension throughout. They feel flex-free even during your most hot headed sprinting moments, and after a month of use our review set are as round and true as they were when they arrived (which we'd expect, to be fair).

Strada offer a free truing for life policy along with a two-year warranty, so even if you do have any problems on that front, they'll put it right.

As for the braking performance, November say that these rims are capable of withstanding up to 350°F (177°C) temperatures without warping, delaminating, or doing anything else that might scare you, thanks to the use of new resins.

The Rails ship with SwissStop's Black Prince brake pads that are made with a proprietary compound that is designed to reduce heat buildup during braking too. We have nothing around these parts that's going to challenge any wheels on that front, so we're reporting this rather than commenting on it.

All this makes the Strada Rail 52s an excellent wheel choice if you want something adaptable that you can use for road racing or time trialling/triathlon, on flat or hilly courses, and even in pretty windy conditions.

If you can't run to £1,575, Strada build up these rims with several other hub options, the cheapest being Novatech Superlight. Those wheels cost £1,095 including quick release skewers, Swissstop Black Prince pads, valve extenders, rim tape and UK delivery via FedEx. None of the other hub options include quick releases.

Verdict

Fast, well-built wheels suitable for a wide variety of different terrains and conditions.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Strada Rail Carbon Clincher wheels

Size tested: 700c

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?

Strava Wheels say: "With the latest toroidal aerodynamic shape, competitively priced and hand built to order, the 52mm Rail carbon clincher wheelset will work in all situations - race, time trial, sportive, triathlon. A wide choice of hubs available. Price is for a PAIR inc rim tape, valve extenders and 4x Swissstop Black Prince brake pads."

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

Sending them back to be re-trued might be an inconvenience but the free truing for life policy has to be good news.

The rims are very light (according to the manufacturers figures). Built up with Chris King hubs, the complete wheels are a competitive weight for carbon clinchers of this depth.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Looking at prices of comparable wheels from brands like Reynolds and Zipp, this is a decent price.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The build quality and their suitability for a variety of terrains and conditions.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 190cm  Weight: 75kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

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: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,

 

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

10 comments

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Leviathan [1988 posts] 2 years ago
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HiViz too, they must be very safe.

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DeanF316 [135 posts] 2 years ago
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So these are heavier and more expensive than Mavic Comics which have exalith braking service with the option of the excellent Mavic extended warranty. Once again what is the point of carbon clinchers? Oh I know the pose value.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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DeanF316 wrote:

So these are heavier and more expensive than Mavic Comics

Those wheels are just Dandy....

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Roberj4 [218 posts] 2 years ago
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Hand built wheels have always been the only option for price and aftersales service but these are to rich for my blood when Wheelsmith.co.uk offer a similar build with Sapim spokes/KC hubs/carbon rims for £1118 if that's what 'floats your boat'. I was curious for a rear wheel rebuild quote from Strada and surprised they replied back (for only one rear wheel) but the price was double what Paul Hewitt had quoted and ended up building me.

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Jon_D [11 posts] 2 years ago
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Hello - this is Jonathan from Strada. Thanks for the comments on our new wheelset. We wanted to build a wheel that could be put on your bike in April and left there for the whole season and used for all types of events.

Decals - these are optional, you can have fluoro, stealth or none at all!

Hand built - the benefit to the J Bend spoke system we use is that if / when the rim needs replacing we can re-spoke the Chris King hubs easily with a rim of your choice. Experience has shown us that once the full built wheel "system" fails / expires a replacement rim is often really expensive and it is not replaced but left at the local refuse disposal facility.

Price - we selected a rim which we know has definitely been designed by an expert who has an aerodynamic pedigree, has been tested properly in a wind tunnel experienced in dealing with bike product and built to a high standard with quality materials by experienced staff. Some rims cannot claim the same testing procedure. We can supply a pair from £1100 as the Mat the tester pointed out.

We have a demo pair if anyone wants to test ride them too.

Thanks for reading, Jonathan

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ajmarshal1 [411 posts] 2 years ago
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I have a real issue with the pricing of these. The rail 52, why can you get these from November cycles in the US with White Industry T11 (Which are only £100 odd pound cheaper than R45s), DT aerolite, tyres, extra pads and valve extenders for under £1000? Also, Wheel works NZ who will do them the same with titanium skewers. Again for under £1000?

Both are very well respected wheel builders, so why the enormous price hike here? Granted the Chris King R45s are more expensive than White Industries T11 but they're certainly not £600 more.

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Jon_D [11 posts] 2 years ago
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Hello AJ - I can understand your frustration and question. We are subject to import duty and VAT on the rims we import. This adds 25% to the cost before we have got them to our workshop door. I cost all wheel builds to cover all the costs of operating a business which has to pay rent, insurance, wages, National Insurance, boxes, phone, web, the list goes on. We don't make a huge profit but we markup in line with typical bike industry guides.

However, quality wheel building costs and we work from a well lit and warm workshop, use the best materials and the best equipment available to build our wheels. We don't rush the build physically working the wheel to de-stress and settle giving you really even spoke tension all the way round the wheel. We work to higher than normal tolerances - this takes skill and time. We give a 2 year warranty on this rim and a true for life policy on the build. We want to build the best wheel we can for our customers by a skilled builder whose name you know, can speak to on the phone and who rides their bike home at the end of the day with pride and a decent wage.

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ajmarshal1 [411 posts] 2 years ago
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Hi Jon. Thanks for the reply and clarifying the cost difference. I know people who have used Strada for builds and are very, very happy so I am certainly not questioning the brilliant service you provide nor your need to make a profit. It is very frustrating when the disparity in cost is that wide though.

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russyparkin [570 posts] 2 years ago
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hmmm my wheels are built by velo-smith, royce hubs, cx ray, and the tub version of these rims i believe and they were well under £1000 with a pair of vitorria corsa cx tubs.

fair play to you if you can justify such enormous margins and more importantly if you can convince people to pay it.

i say go for it

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Jon_D [11 posts] 2 years ago
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Russ Parkin - I can assure you 100% you are not riding the tub version of THIS specific rim. The RAIL 52 (and now RAIL 34) rim moulds are owned by November Bicycles in the USA and they do not have a tub version.

Regarding the margins - if you run a small business you may be aware of the operating costs? Profit margins are not high in the bike trade! We offer a good warranty (True For Life) and back up service to our customers, support a local rider or two and have enough left to house and feed our families. We enjoy building quality wheels up to a high standard not down to a price point.

Best wishes, Jonathan (Strada)