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You normally don't see much change from a grand after purchasing a set of carbon fibre wheels, so CES Sport has priced its RC50s very competitively at just £600. Value isn't the only quality either, it's a solid set of wheels that'll stand up to daily riding in a range of terrains.
Value is the main driving force behind the CES Sport RC range, with the company "on a quest to bring to market a product for the 'Joe Bloggs' of the triathlon and cycling world, whilst maintaining high quality and without cutting corners".
It's done a very good job delivering a set of wheels that are just as at home on the club run or recovery bimble as they are in the middle of the peloton. They aren't quite the best performing, the fastest or the lightest, but when you looking at the complete package there is little to dislike.
At 1,580g (without rim tape and quick releases) they aren't the lightest, matching that of alloy rims of around £250 to £500, but obviously here you are getting the slight aerodynamic advantage of the 50mm rim depths without the added weight. They also tip the scales at exactly the same place as the very good Deda Elementi SL38s which are more than double the price at £1,444.99.
Like most other wheels on the market currently, CES Sport has chosen to go with a wider rim width than we used to see three or four seasons ago. Across the brake tracks the RC50s measure 25.71mm according to the digital verniers, which stretches out the 25mm Continental GP4000 tyres used for testing to 26.8mm.
I've ridden a lot of carbon fibre wheels both through testing and racing on my own over the last 10 or so years and just like bike frames they all feel different with their own characteristics.
The aforementioned Deda Elementis, for instance, had a lovely shock-absorbing feel to the carbon that seemed to take out the tiny road vibrations. The Cole C40 Lites were very stiff and buzzy over tarmac surfaces and it's worth bearing in mind that all of these wheels were ridden on the same bike with the same tyres at the same pressures.
In comparison, the RC50s don't really offer any feedback; just like some carbon fibre frames, they have a 'dead' feel. It's not a deal breaker, because it takes very little away from the ride – and nothing from the performance – but it was noticeable by its absence. This is my only real criticism of them.
That aside, the way they deal with everything else is very good for the money. The hubs run very smoothly and have stood up to the snow and wet roads we've experienced recently.
The rear engages quickly enough from a standing start, and if you like a noisy freehub then you won't be disappointed with the RC50s.
The front wheel uses a 20 aero spoke setup laced radially and the rear has 24 in a radial pattern on the non-drive side and crossed on the opposite side.
This, along with the rims, has created a strong and stiff wheel build, great for sprinting and climbing. I never really noticed any flex at the brake blocks.
At this weight the acceleration doesn't feel quite as quick as the lighter and sprightly Hunt 3650 Aero Wide wheelset or the 1,430g Cole C40 Lites I mentioned above, but it is still well within what I'd expect for a wheel of this type.
Speed is what 50mm-deep rims are all about, though, and the u-shaped rim feels fast on the flats, especially once the speed starts to increase above 25mph or so. At 76kg I noticed a bit of buffeting from a keen crosswind, but not to the point that I found the bike difficult to handle.
One thing that is very impressive is the braking performance in the wet and dry. The brake tracks have basalt added to the mix, which is used to help resist the high temperatures caused by continuous or persistent braking, like when you're in a race or descending.
Braking was very progressive right from the start, both with the included pads and my favourite Swissstop Yellows. Wet or dry, the rims braked very much like an alloy rim, with a really good bite between the surfaces of wheel and pad.
Plus, there was no squealing and no grabbing from the pads as the temperatures increased, something that can be a big problem on some carbon rims.
When it comes to value we already know that the RC50s are impressive. They are cheaper than virtually any other carbon fibre wheelset we've tested to date but are no way the worst.
All three wheelsets I've mentioned above are more expensive and not much lighter, and even though the Hunts are some of my favourites thanks to their ride and build quality, they are still almost £400 more expensive. The Coles are £1,700 and I'd say the CES Sports offer a very similar ride.
If you shop around on the likes of eBay there are various options direct from the Far East, but never having physically seen or ridden them it's hard for me to offer a comparison.
CES hasn't scrimped on the quality to hit the price point, with decent components and a solid feel to them straight out of the box. They come with UCI approval to be used in the pro races, plus the build will take a rider of up to 120kg.
When it comes to finishing, the decals could be seen as a bit cheap looking, but that's a personal thing. Red is the standard, but you can have them customised from a selection of colours from the website, though it'll cost you an extra 25 quid.
On the whole I'd say that the RC50s are a decent package for the amateur racer and rider, doing pretty much everything you'd want for the majority of riding. If you want something lighter or with a bit more zing, you might want to spend a little bit more, but for the money these are very good.
Decent quality wheelset that offers impressive value for money and all-round performance
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road.cc test report
Make and model: CES Sport RC50 Clincher Wheelset
Size tested: 700C, 50mm deep
Tell us what the wheel is for
CES Sport says, "Our range of carbon wheels are manufactured using the same rim moulds as some leading bicycle manufacturers, using Toray T700 carbon fibre sheets through a process of resin permeating. The one piece moulding process ensures a stabilised and strong structure for a better finish.
"The specially developed basalt brake edge offers a high temperature resistance and a better brake force, which is both quieter and more durable than most common carbon fibre weaved edges.
"Finally, all our wheels are built with Taiwanese precision CNC machined hubs, reinforced spokes which are four times stronger than standard spokes, and are hand built by a team of skill technicians."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
From CES Sport:
Material - Toray T700 Full Carbon
Red Decals (Other colours are available for an additional £25)
UD Matte Finish
Width - 25mm
Depth - 50 mm
Wheelset Weight - 1655 +/- 30g
Lightweight Aluminum Road Hubs (CNC Manufactuered with sealed bearings) - 9,10 and 11 speed compatible
Aero bladed Spokes - Pillar PSR1423 with alloy nipple
Spoke holes - Front 20, Rear 24
Quick release skewers
Free brake blocks (4) - Shimano compatible
Free Rim Tape
Warranty - 1 year
Max weight limit 120kg
Max Tyre Pressure 130psi
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The front went out of true by about 1mm during testing, though the rear remained pretty spot on. Spoke tension was fine throughout.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
No issues at all. Thumbs only.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Everything worked fine and as expected.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The RC50s are promising all-rounders.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Their braking performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
Not a lot of road feel feedback.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes
Would you consider buying the wheel? Yes, they offer good value.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They aren't the best carbon wheels out there from a performance point of view, or the lightest, but considering the price they are solid performers for just about everyone.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Kinesis Aithein
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
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!