The Parcours Grimpeur wheels are stiff and light with subtle decals. They pick up speed quickly and remain calm in crosswinds, but could do with better skewers.
When buying aftermarket wheels, if you know that £2000 for a carbon set will result in disharmony at home, you might want to consider these new wheels from Parcours. The British based company is aiming to bring high-performance hoops to the everyday cyclist. The range spans from £700 to £800, with depths of 38, 56 and 86mm to suit climbers, sprinters and time triallists.
The Grimpeurs have a 38mm-deep carbon rim laced to a CNC machined aluminium hub with Sapim CX Ray spokes. There are 24 spokes in the rear, laced 2-cross on the drive side and radial on the non-drive side, and 20 spokes up front laced radially. The nipples are external, for easy maintenance, and the rims are finished with discreet graphics. At first glance I thought they looked smart and gimmick-free.
Out of the box, the wheels felt pleasingly light at 1500g on our scales, and when spun, looked perfectly true.
Mounting the tyres gave me the first positive. The rims are designed for modern trends and rolling resistance data. As a result, the 25mm Continental Gatorskins I mounted looked huge. The large profile is created by the 25.5mm rim width and 18.2mm internal width. For ride quality this is a big bonus. The larger volume soaks up more road buzz by allowing lower pressures to be used. Out on the road, this not only made my contact points a lot happier, but also helped the bike to track superbly through rough corners. Once in a straight line and sprinting, the wheels felt quick to accelerate and remained planted on the road.
My next euphoric moment came in a crosswind. My race wheels are V-shaped. Add this to my light body weight and I get blown around like a sailing boat. So when I realised these wheels behave themselves, to the point that they are completely unfazed by huge gusts, I was very happy. Most of this calmness is due to the wide U-shape of the rim.
Parcours makes no aerodynamic claims about this wheelset. The company has figures to suggest its 56mm Passista wheelset is very close to Zipp's 404 Firecrest clincher, and it certainly feels like some of those aero benefits have been replicated in the Grimpeur.
Robustness can be the downfall of cheap carbon wheels. Everyone's heard the horror stories of carbon failure. So off I set, intent on abusing them to their breaking point. I commuted on these, hit countless potholes and used them for a cyclo-cross training session where I was practising hopping barriers. The rims didn't budge. They are still perfectly true. If you do manage to break your wheels, the benefit of having a British company to return them to is, to my mind, worth the extra cost over buying direct from China. The rims are showing little signs of wear, especially considering the muddy grit-paste they were subjected to during my CX sessions.
The braking is similar to many other carbon wheels. There is a slight inconsistency in the power around the rim, with small slips. The majority of this problem can be solved with a higher quality brake pad; the supplied pads aren't soft enough, resulting in a ‘wooden’ feel at the lever. The remainder of the problem is simply inconsistencies in the rim surface. The good thing here is that the basalt surface really helped in the wet.
I wasn't impressed with the skewers or rim tape. The skewers have been designed to bring the weight down, but in my mind, the component that secures the wheel to the frame isn't the place to save weight. The skewer had no real feel when closing and also hurt my hand from the small surface area. I would be quick to swap these out for a flatter Shimano skewer that has a definite closed position. The rim tape is from Lifeline. While the thin construction keeps rotational weight down, I'd be quick to swap if for a more robust tape, especially for heavier riders or those running pressures over 100psi.
Being able to service these hubs is brilliant. The simple construction means the sealed bearings can be replaced easily with quick reassembly. The freehub body is aluminium and will eventually suffer from bite marks – it's common where the cassette is harder than the freehub – but the simplicity of the hub means replacement parts are cheap and easily accessible.
Pointing these wheels uphill, I instantly reaped the benefits of the low rim weight and lateral stiffness. They are a significant upgrade over my aluminium wheels in all but braking performance. My only reservations were the skewers and rim tape, but these are a simple and cheap fix. As a full package these really are very good wheels for the money and worth the extra cost over buying direct from China, I'd say.
Light, stiff, stable and excellent value, but better skewers are needed
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Parcours Grimpeur wheelset
Size tested: 38mm deep
Tell us what the wheel 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?
Parcours' aim is to bring after-market carbon wheels down to a price that doesn't bring you out in a cold sweat.
Parcours says: "The Grimpeur is our lightest, shallowest wheel. The 38mm rim is ideal for when the road starts to head for the clouds. But of course, what goes up must come down so the Grimpeur also has the aerodynamic benefit of a U-shaped rim and Sapim CX-Ray spokes."
The Grimpeur is the climbing wheelset and the cheapest in the range. At £700, some might gasp. But for anyone who has been looking at going carbon, this represents a large saving over the likes of Zipp. The UK quality control and customer service mean these might be a lot more attractive than buying from China.
I found them stiff enough for sprinting with only the tiniest hint of brake rub when wrenching the bike up the steepest grades.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
I'll list what Parcours says below, but bear in mind that according to Parcours its 56mm-deep Passista wheels perform almost identically to the rim shape of the Zipp Firecrest 404 clincher.
For the Grimpeur set, the focus is on weight, which, for a 38mm carbon clincher, is on par with Zipp's 202.
Max rim width 26.0mm
Brake track width 25.5mm
Internal width 18.2mm
Model Sapim CX-Ray
Count 20 (front) / 24 (rear)
Lacing pattern Radial (front, rear non-drive)
2 Cross (rear drive)
The hubs are CNC machined and the same across the range. That keeps costs down primarily, but also leads to a well made, if slightly common looking, hub. Cartridge bearings will take a beating and should require less attention than a loose ball system. Sapim spokes are excellet quality and should be stocked by your local bike shop.
If you've been looking at carbon rims but are concerned by crosswinds, shallow but wide rims seem to be the answer. These were happy to roll along at a fast pace yet never gave me even the slightest concern when the wind started gusting. Stiffness is really rather good for the money. My Supersix frame is so stiff that a poor set of wheels get shown up quickly. Here, however, I had to heave the bike up a 20% hill to get any brake rub. The acceleration benefits from the low rotating weight.
Acceleration isn't as quick as my tubulars, but that's going to be an issue for any clincher. There's just that little bit more rotational weight. It was still way faster than my standard aluminium rims, though.
I've cracked these into a few potholes, put them on my cyclo-cross bike for some bunnyhopping practice and used them for commuting for a month. I popped them in the truing stand, expecting a wobble, but they're running perfectly true. The hubs still spin freely and there's no sign of brake track wear.
Sure, you can buy lighter wheels. But they'll cost new bike money. These sit just between the weight of a Zipp 202 and a 303. At less than half the price, that's very good indeed.
They are slightly more expensive than wheels from China, but you get UK support for your money, and that can't be underrated.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
No issues to speak of. Genuinely surprising given the beating they took.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Nice and simple. A pair of Continental Gatorskins went on without hassle.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
I'm not a fan of companies who save weight at the skewer. I would switch to a skewer with a positive closing action over these. They just never felt secure. I din't have an issue with them, but the weight that you save, it's not worth it. The rim tape is from Lifeline. It's a little thin for me. I'd be switching it out for a hardier tape, just for peace of mind.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Going uphill will be transformed if you are switching from stock rims. The stiffness is perfectly adequate for all but the strongest of sprinters and the shape of the rims cancels out any crosswind problems.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The stability of the rim in high wind. The wheels also pick up speed very well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The skewers are an unnecessary sacrifice. Put in a good Shimano skewer and you'll have more peace of mind.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Very good wheels that are surprisingly robust. They gained points for their low weight which really benefited accelerations uphill. The biggest asset to these wheels is their stability in crosswinds. The braking isn't the best and I'd have to change the rim tape and skewers. For this money, though, you can't go wrong.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rose Xeon RS My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. Liam spends his time plodding his way through cyclocross races, very busy not winning. As an advocate for perfectly clean chains, he can be found cleaning his bike instead of training. A shop mechanic, Liam has many helpful skills, such as being able to identify 'cross tubs by the tread pattern alone. If you bump into him, he'll probably be eating.