A great all-round choice if your riding tends to take in a little bit of everything

Some riders are specialists – climbers or time triallists, for instance – and base all of their kit on their specific needs, but what if you like a bit of everything and fancy a set of carbon clinchers? Well, the Deda Elementi SL38s should be up there for serious consideration as they do pretty much everything required for day to day riding. They may not be the lightest or the cheapest, but as a package they are really good.

  • Pros: Comfortable ride, smooth running ceramic bearings
  • Cons: Pawl engagement could be quicker, not the lightest

At 1,580g for the pair, the SL38s aren't much lighter than many aluminium wheels we've tested over the years, but these would all have much shallower rim depths. Here, as you've most likely guessed, you get carbon fibre rims 38mm deep, which offer a small bonus in terms of aerodynamics for riding on the flat or descents without costing you anything when it comes to climbing or acceleration.

Deda Elementi SL38 Carbon Clincher Team Wheels - decal 2.jpg

The overall weight isn't all that shabby anyway to be honest, and they certainly feel lighter than those figures suggest; I certainly couldn't detect the 130g excess over the Cole C40 Lite wheels I was testing alongside them.

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While I'm comparing them to the Coles, I have to say how much more comfortable the Dedas feel. They don't have the tightness or the harshness of the Coles, but don't really seem to lose anything in terms of stiffness. I could really hammer these from side to side when sprinting up climbs or accelerating hard on the flat and didn't notice any sideways flex, and there certainly wasn't any brake block rub on the rims.

Deda has gone with more spokes than the Coles, with 18 laced radially on the front and 24 on the rear, two-cross on the drive side and radial on the other, with what feels to be a little less tension in the build – which could be what is allowing the extra comfort.

Those spokes are connected to the rim with external alloy nipples which makes for easier truing than internal, and the fact that these wheels probably aren't going to see a whole lot of winter action means corrosion issues shouldn't be a major concern. I still prefer to see brass nipples, though, just to be on the safe side.

Deda Elementi SL38 Carbon Clincher Team Wheels - spoke nipple.jpg

The hubs are alloy bodied rather than carbon fibre, and you do get ceramic bearings which run very smoothly indeed.

When it comes to freehub options you can get this Shimano/SRAM setup or a Campagnolo splined version. The freehub body itself looks to be pretty hardy and has stood up well to the load from the cassette on the splines; there are a few marks but no serious grooving.

Deda Elementi SL38 Carbon Clincher Team Wheels - rear hub 2.jpg

The only thing I would say is that the pawl engagement isn't the quickest. It's not something you really notice when it comes to general riding but if you are track standing at the lights you can find yourself kind of floating about a bit before it locks in.

Deda has followed the current trend of wider rims to suit larger tyres. With a 26mm width between brake tracks these SL38s are recommended to be used with 25mm wide tyres and above, with the Schwalbe Duranos I fitted in that size stretching out to 26.9mm. The tyres were easy to fit and remove too. And you can go tubeless if you are willing to pay for the extra conversion kit.

Deda Elementi SL38 Carbon Clincher Team Wheels - rim bed.jpg

With that 26mm width and 38mm depth, the Dedas have quite a rounded profile rather than the more traditional 'V' shape you used to find on narrower deep sections. This gives them a very solid feel and the whole build stayed perfectly true throughout the test period, even when taking on sections of rough tarmac at a pace I wouldn't normally risk if the wheels were my own.

Braking-wise things were pretty good too. In the dry their performance matched that of alloy rims, with no 'grabbiness' from heat buildup; the braking was consistent. They were fine in wet weather too, especially as the pads bedded in. There were certainly no panic moments.

> The pros and cons of carbon wheels

Cost of carbon fibre wheels covers a broad spectrum, ranging from hundreds to many thousands, and I'd say the £1,319.99 asking price for these is a true reflection of their build and quality comparing them with others I've tested. They're £380 cheaper than the Coles mentioned earlier, and I'd say these are the better wheels. As I mentioned in that review, though, there is also competition from the likes of Hunt wheels with its 38 Carbon Aero Wide for £899 at 1,480g. I've also recently tested the 3650 versions from Hunt and they are very good indeed.

If I paid the full asking price for these Deda Elementi SL38s, though, I wouldn't be disappointed. They offer a very pleasant riding experience, no matter what the terrain.


A great all-round choice if your riding tends to take in a little bit of everything

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Deda Elementi SL38 Carbon Clincher Team Wheels

Size tested: Rims: 38mm rim depth

Tell us what the wheel is for

Deda says: "The new SL38 Carbon Clincher is the most dynamic clincher in the new Deda Wheel range thanks to the combination of lightness and rim design. The 38mm medium rim profile and a 26mm wide section combines with high precision cnc machined hubs. The new wider rim generation provides better support to the tyre and reduces rolling resistance, while still increasing wheel strength and providing enhanced aerodynamics.

"The rim is also built with tubeless-ready technology to be compatible with the new wave of clincher tyres. The 26mm rim width tmakes the wheel the perfect solution for any riding condition including gravel roads.

"The SL hubs are equipped with enduro ceramic bearings for super smooth-rolling and ultimate speed. Abec-5 tolerances and graphite nylon retainers are premium features ensuring long lasting and greater durability. The rear hub design and spoke count (2:1 pattern) results in lateral stiffness for any riding style."

The SL38s are a strong set of wheels that offer a very nice ride quality.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?

Deda lists:

Rims: 38mm rim depth; high modulus carbon fibre UD and 3K combined structure

Spokes: aero profile spokes, 18 Front spoke count / 24 Rear Spoke count; black

Nipples: self-locking ABS® nipples, aluminum, 15 mm, black

Hub: high precision 6061 aluminum body, 15mm axle, 3 pawls freehub mechanism (Leaf system)

Bearings: Enduro® Ceramic bearings

Compatibility: Available for Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo 11-speed cassette.

Quick Release: new integrated cam design; aluminum lever

Accessories: wheel bag, brakepads for carbon rim, extension valve, rim tape

Tire compatibility: clincher or tubeless tire; 25mm minimum recommended tire size.

Note (*): tubeless conversion kit not included

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
Rate the wheel for performance:
Rate the wheel for durability:
Rate the wheel for weight
Rate the wheel for value:

Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?

Yes, no issues with trueness from the moment they left the box.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

A little on the tight side with some 25mm Schwalbes, but I could still fit them with my thumbs.

How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?

The skewers have a solid locking motion plus the rim tapes were easy to fit and covered the rim bed from side to side. The brake blocks they come with look pretty generic, and performance was decent enough.

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

They aren't the lightest or the cheapest, but I really liked the way they rode in terms of both comfort and performance.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

The ride quality.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

The engagement of the pawls could do with being a little snappier.

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 overall score

The Dedas are a great set of all-rounder wheels; if I'd bought them I wouldn't be disappointed.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 38  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed

Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.


Chris Hayes [456 posts] 1 year ago

50g heavier and 600 quid more expensive than my Hed Belgium Chris King R45 wheelset that even stops in the rain....

naavt [1 post] 1 year ago

Something’s wrong with those numbers and I’m not saying that Stu’s fault.

Everybody knows how cycling manufacturers err on the lean side when making weight statements, and that’s why I was truly happily surprised when I weighted my SL38s at home, with a really trustworthy scale (the pics shows the rear wheel with a Campy fitted freehub).

FWIW, the front weighted 692g, the rear 784g, and the Campy freehub 63g, a total of 1539g, when Deda reclaims 1500g for the wheels alone, without freehub!

The above makes me wonder if the claimed 1580g by road.cc is the total weight accounting for freehub plus rim tapes, which makes sense since 20g for rim tape per wheel seems about right.

Being that way, I don’t feel these as a heavy wheelset. Zipp’s 303 have about the same width and profile and are about 150g heavier and nobody seems to complaint.

I recognize that I’ve bought my SL38 set to match my superleggero bars and stem, but all in all I’m very pleased with this wheelset and I can’t imagine a better one for the price I’ve paid (that was a bit cheaper than stated on this review).

@Chris Hayes: It seems to me that you are comparing apples to oranges here. Alloy and Carbon, both have their strengths and weaknesses.

I have one of the most raved alloy wheelsets (Mavic Ksyrium Pro SL), and I can vouch for their durability and stiffness. They are also supposedly lighter than Dedas but let me tell you, on the road they aren’t. I don’t feel any difference accelerating on both, nor do I see a difference on climbs, but let me tell you that once on going the Dedas are definitely waaay faster and probably most important, the comfort of those two wheel are not even in the same league (and confort plays a BIG part on your speed).

drosco [428 posts] 1 year ago

I'm not sure what to make of this sort of wheelset. I got myself a set of yishun 38mm sl rims with bitex hubs for a little over 400 quid. They're very light and have performed brilliantly in the months since I received them. They look pretty similar to the dedas.

What would be a really interesting feature would be a test of chinese wheels vs a branded wheel such as these, to see what difference, if any, buying a branded wheel makes. I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in the answer.