The AERA AR55 wheelset is from the company's new range of carbon fibre wheels, available in a range of depths to suit all conditions and terrains. The wheels on test are one of the top-level builds, and they are very light and very fast, the only downside being that I could get massive levels of flex when I really went for it.
- Pros: Strong, durable build; a definite aero advantage above 25mph
- Cons: Lateral flex means I could get the rims to touch the brake blocks; pricey against some very good competition
The AR55s are from Aera's rim-brake range (we looked at the disc models here) and, as the name suggests, have a rim depth of 55mm; they're also available in 35mm (AR35) and 45mm (AR45) depths.
The AR part of the name stands for All Road, as Aera has designed its wheels with a balance of lightness and durability should you stray from the tarmac – cyclo-cross, for instance, or maybe your riding takes in cobbles or rough sections of road.
We have our fair share of poor road surfaces around here, with broken tarmac and large potholes, and while I didn't smash the wheels through everything I could find, they did see a fair bit of abuse and stood up to it well, remaining true throughout.
However, with a 55mm-deep rim these wheels are more likely to be used for road racing or time trialling than exploring off the beaten track, so they spent most of their time on my race bike with 25mm tyres on (AERA says its rim brake wheels work with tyres from 23-32mm).
The internal width is 18mm and the external one across the brake tracks is 25mm. This means it will expand the nominal width of your tyre by a few millimetres – my 25s were measuring a smidge over 27mm. It's worth bearing in mind if you're planning on using these wheels on a bike that has tight clearances.
Fitting the 25mm tyres to these wider rims wasn't the easiest I've ever dealt with, but I got them on just using my thumbs with a little bit of swearing chucked in for good measure. Swapping to 28mm tyres was noticeably easier, and with these bigger tyres being set up tubeless they popped onto the AERA rims without much fuss.
One thing I was impressed with was the braking surface when paired with my usual SwissStop Yellow pads. The wheels slowed quickly without any grabbing as the rims got hot.
The AERAs are available in a range of builds and you can mix and match rim depths front and rear to suit the type of riding you'll be doing.
This set is the top end build, using the 55m carbon rims with 24 Sapim CX-Ray spokes laced to some very nice Tune hubs, the Mig70 front and Mag70 rear.
They run beautifully smoothly, and pickup from the freehub is instant. After 500 miles there are a few grooves from the cassette digging into the freehub body but I have seen a lot worse.
AERA uses brass nipples too, which I have always found better than alloy if you use your wheels year-round. Alloy nipples can corrode quickly, and I've had them fail completely in the past.
The aero advantage of these deep-section rims is easily noticeable once you get above 23-24mph. The bike felt as though it picked up speed without much extra effort needed. It's a bit subjective, but it felt faster than it did with 40mm-deep rims and the same tyres.
These deep-section rims do give quite a harsh ride, though, which is one trade-off, and they do catch the crosswinds quite a bit, not normally something I struggle with considering my size.
I also had an issue with flex when sprinting or climbing hard out of the saddle. Under these sort of efforts I could easily get the rims to touch the brake pads, even after backing them off by 3mm or 4mm, especially on the rear. It's not something I normally find an issue. Switching them to another bike saw the same problem.
When it comes to money, £1,825 is up there with some of the more expensive models we've tested, although AERA offers a range of build options. There are three rim depths to choose from, plus you can have either a 24 or 28 spoking pattern.
Hub choices are the Tune we have here, Hope HS4 which AERA recommends for the best durability for off-road use, or a Chris King option. There is also a Son Schmidt dynamo. This 55mm wheelset built with Hope hubs would be £1,650.
As they are, weight is impressive at 1,270g on our scales.
They do face plenty of competition, though, and my first stop would be the Hunt Carbon Wide Aero road wheelset, which I absolutely loved because they ticked all the boxes and only cost £979.
Then there are the Fast Forward F4C FCC wheels which got a glowing review from Liam. Priced at £1,250 and weighing 1,450g, they too are a good buy.
In terms of aero performance and straight line speed the AERAs are very impressive, but I just couldn't live with that lateral movement every time I sprinted out of the saddle. I'd expect near-perfection at this money, and they miss the mark.
Very fast wheels in a straight line, but lateral flex is an issue for strong riders
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road.cc test report
Make and model: AERA AR 55 Tubeless Wheelset
Size tested: 55mm 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?
AERA says, "Our most versatile and capable All Road carbon rims are designed to tackle everything from fast-paced road rides on ribbon smooth asphalt to adventures on cobbled pavé, forest fire trails an gritty gravel tracks"
I think they are strong, fast wheels let down by some lateral flex.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Rim Depth 55mm
Rim Weight 515g
Internal Width 18mm
External Width 25mm
Spoke Holes 24 or 28
Nipples Sapim Black Brass Nipples
Spokes Sapim CX-Ray, black
Tyre Width 23mm – 32mm
Tyre Type Clincher or Tubeless
Max Rider Weight 115kg
A lot of lateral flex when sprinting out of the saddle.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
Yes, they stayed true and they took quite a bit of abuse.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
The 25mm were a bit of a squeeze but it got easier with wider tyres.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Our wheels were some of the first models available so didn't turn up with any accessories, but each set will come with Schwalbe rim tape fitted and tubeless valves.
An upgrade to titanium quick release skewers will be an option for Tune hubs plus you will soon be able to buy wheel/tyre combos.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As far as speed and durability goes they are very good, but lateral flex rules out hard efforts.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
The free speed above 23mph.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Compared to the likes of Hunt's Carbon Aero deep sections, the AERAs are nearly double the price.
Did you enjoy using the wheel? Under some situations.
Would you consider buying the wheel? No, too flexible for me.
Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? A very light one who doesn't put out much power...
Use this box to explain your overall score
A nicely built set of wheels with some top end components but let down by that lateral flex. For the price against the opposition I'd be expecting near-perfection but these have a way to go.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
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: 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!