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With the Stiletto wheels, Spada's emphasis is on minimum weight, but not at the cost of strength or stiffness. Stilettos are surprisingly good all rounders, but we'd probably still reserve them for riding fast, smooth roads in decent weather.
In order to give them a thorough testing we've been running these on a winter training bike on a variety of fairly rough roads. They haven't flinched, and that says a lot for the invisible strength of their minimalist, lightweight construction. They're a massive 450g lighter than the wheels they replaced, and such a big saving in rolling heft is instantly noticeable in initial acceleration and climbing.
Spada the company is based in Tirano in the Italian Alps. It is named after the hub designer/maker Corrado Spada, and the Spada Crystal hubs are an obvious aesthetic, performance and weight highlight of the Stiletto wheels. They have ceramic bearings and use straight pull spokes with the ends hidden inside the aluminium bodies of the hubs.
This means you need to remove the axles, bearings and the freehub body for wheel building or spoke replacements, but it does result in wonderfully sleek clean lines with a minimum of stress points when the spokes are under pressure. The wheels are built 24 spoke radial at the front, 28 spoke radial/cross mix at the back. All spokes are flat bladed and the crossed spokes have rubber spacers to prevent creaking.
Despite the low weight, Spada markets the Stilettos as its 'regular use' wheel option. Their obvious strength during a few weeks of fairly hard use on rough roads would appear to bear this out but we'd still put them part way between regular use and 'special rides only' simply because they'll suffer if you don't treat them well. Aluminium spoke nipples need keeping clean, an aluminium cassette body soon starts burring on the splined edges under regular duress and ceramic bearings aren't exactly cheap to replace. That said, this wheelset had already had a fair amount of use when we started our test and both front and rear were still running true and the bearings were still perfect.
The Spada quick release skewers are included, and are excellent, very light and with a smooth, tight cam action. The rims have a 23mm profile, available in black or white. We had the clincher version but there are (slightly heavier) tubular versions too. The rim joins are almost invisible so braking was smooth and consistent.
Considering the mainly radial spoking, lateral stiffness in out of the saddle sprints and climbs was surprisingly good, with only a small amount of brake block rub at the rear when climbing with the brakes set very close. Fast acceleration and climbing are fairly predictable highlights of a light wheelset, but when you've lost as much as 450g in wheel weight, as we did, on a bike that's already pretty light, you can really notice the way it feels more sprightly when you start 'dancing' on the pedals.
On the negative side, being pedantic for a second, we actually quite like the way heavier rimmed wheels bowl along once they're up to speed. Wheels as light as these make the bike feel quite flighty on rough roads, with holes not pointed out by others in group rides causing nervousness.
The big deal here is low weight at a reasonable price. Okay, 'reasonable' is a relative word when it comes to price but £699 compares very favourably with a lot of 'designer' wheels that weigh a fair bit more. We'd say these would be close to the top of the options list if your big priority is low weight and you're not ready to get into the world of carbon rims.
It's hard to say how much real world difference the ceramic bearings make, but they're a good talking point if you spin the front wheel and watch is go on for many minutes. Also, stiffness is not something that can be assumed from such a light wheelset. The Spada Stilettos impress there too, to a point where we swapped to 25mm tyres half way through the test period because the ride over rough surfaces on 23s was initially a little too nervous for our liking.
Weights: Front 574g + QR Skewer 46g; Rear 720g + QR Skewer 48g
Low weight combined with excellent stiffness and strength makes these an excellent alternative to big brand name 'designer wheels' around this price.
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Make and model: Spada Wheels Stiletto wheels
Size tested: 700c Front 570g Rear 720g
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?
Spada describes these as their all-purpose wheels but we suspect most riders would prefer to reserve them for 'best bike' use. Their minimum weight certainly doesn't come at the expense of stiffness or durability but they deserve to be looked after
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Unique slimline hubs with hidden spoke heads, ceramic bearings, aluminium cassette body. 23mm rim width. Aluminium nipples. Straight pull spokes, radial 24 at the front, mix of radial and crossed 28 at the rear.
Superb build quality.
Far stiffer than we expect from a minimalist lightweight wheelset with mainly radial spoking.
So far so good, but aluminium spoke nipples will need keeping clean from road salts and spoke replacement means removing the axles/freehub.
For the price, wonderfully light.
Stiffness doesn't equate well to comfort. We used 25mm tyres to give comfort a boost.
Excellent value compared to other wheels weighing so little and built so well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Beautiful hub design and construction. Minimum rotational weight means noticeably rapid acceleration and climbing.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A great alternative to the better known big brand offerings at around this price.
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
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: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,