The Lark Light Road wheels from UK brand JRA (Just Riding Along) certainly live up to their name, weighing just 1,460g for the set. They're very responsive and JRA hasn't sacrificed durability to save the grams either. It's the perfect package for the rider who wants a classically styled, lightweight set of wheels for racing or training.
- Pros: Top quality components for a durable build, sensible price
- Cons: A tiny hint of flex when really going for it
I was massively impressed with JRA's Gecko Carbon wheels when I tested them back in the summer. They offered a solid build while being extremely lightweight and that theme is followed here with the Lark Lights.
Losing 250g from a wheelset always seems, to me anyway, to make much more of a difference to how the weight of the bike feels compared with dropping the same amount elsewhere, so swapping to the Larks from a set of winter rims made impressive differences to acceleration and climbing.
The JRA Light Road hubs run very, very smoothly on their stainless bearings and the pick-up on the freewheel is fast and precise, which all adds to effortless rolling whether on the flat or rolling terrain.
I carried the Vittoria Corsa Control G+ Isotech tyres over from the other wheels (Mavic Ksyrium Elites) I had been using on the test bike, and the ride quality of the Larks was beautifully comfortable, though to be fair it's not like the Mavics are exactly harsh either.
The Larks feel as though they take the sting and buzz out of the road surface even with the pressures pumped up high as I like them. Pair this with their ability to roll smoothly and the ride feels very efficient and really changes the way the bike feels.
When it comes to out-of-the-saddle efforts, stiffness is pretty good. When really, really going for it under hard acceleration I could get them to flex sideways a little but nowhere near the level that I would say is unacceptable; I didn't need to back the brake blocks off at all like I did with the Aera AR55 carbon wheels.
I'm a pretty powerful rider mind, and I'm not exactly light either... so most won't have an issue.
The Larks are based around the Lark20 aluminium alloy rim which is 25mm deep and 25mm wide across the braking tracks. The '20' part of the name comes from the internal rim width of 20mm.
Both the 25mm Vittorias and a pair of 28mm Pirellis I'm testing fitted with ease, with no need to use anything other than thumbs. The Larks will also take tubeless tyres and fitting those wasn't an issue either.
The braking surface of the rims is machined and even straight out of the box they worked well with the standard Shimano cartridge pads fitted to the bike. Braking was consistent all the way round the rim and there was no judder or squealing.
Linking the rims to those Light Road hubs are 20 spokes on the front wheel laced radially and 24 spokes on the rear. Here you get 16 spokes on the drive side with 8 on the non-drive.
Spokes are one of the many ways that you can customise the Larks. As standard you get Sapim Laser black spokes (D-Light on the drive side) in either straight pull or J-bend design, but if you want to save more weight then you can upgrade to CX-Ray spokes which we have here; it adds £1.45 per spoke to the overall cost.
Colour coding components has always been popular with many riders and JRA has got you covered here, especially when it comes to the logos and stickers. You can choose various options or go without altogether, it's up to you.
You also get the option of brass or aluminium nipples. The brass come in black or silver but the alloy is available in as many colour options as the stickers. As you can see on our set we've gone for the blue option.
Freehub choices are Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM XD.
When it comes to cost, the Lark Lights offer a very good package for a decent price. If you have a set of wheels with the standard Sapim Laser spokes, the whole setup will set you back just £340; go for the upgrade like we have here and it is still just £414.80 (with tubeless valves; £403.80 without).
That compares well with other wheels we've tested like the Ritchey Classic Zetas at 1,491g and £569.
The shallow alloy Zero2s from Deda cost £539.99 and weigh 1,620g.
It's not all about the fact that the Lark Lights are, well, light because the build quality really sets them apart too. I didn't necessarily go out of my way to wreck them but I didn't shy away from small potholes and broken road surfaces as much as I would if they were my own wheels, and in just over 600 miles they haven't missed a beat. They are still as true as when they left the box and spoke tension hasn't been an issue.
Neat touches like the steel insert on the alloy freehub to stop the cassette biting in under load should add to the longevity of the wheelset too.
On the whole, I reckon the Lark Lights offer a really solid package in both durability and performance for the money. As long as aerodynamics aren't high on your list, they'll cover everything else you need.
Excellent performance and weight from a well-built, classic looking wheelset
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Just Riding Along Lark Light Road wheelset with CX-Ray spokes
Size tested: 700C
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?
Just Riding Along says, "Lightweight, dependable wheelset for fast road riding with traditional rim brakes – we would like to introduce the Lark Light wheelset.
The next generation of our high performance lightweight road wheelset. Based around our lightest hubs including stainless bearings laced to our 25mm wide (20mm internal), tubeless compatible road rim.
Another evolution of our Lark wheelset, the Lark20 rim as its name suggests features a 20mm internal width to support tyres of any width and improve handling and air flow over the rim for faster riding. The rear wheel is built with a 2:1 lacing pattern with 16 spokes on the drive side and 8 on the non-drive-side for maximum strength and even spoke tensions."
I think it's a very good set of wheels that delivers exactly what it's designed for.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
Weight 1500 g
wheel size 700c
20 hole, 24 hole
internal rim width
external rim width
front axle options
rear axle options
front lacing pattern
rear lacing pattern
triplet laced 2:1
A hint of flex under extreme loads.
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The wheels stayed true and tight throughout the test period.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Very easy over a range of sizes.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
Yes all worked fine with no issues.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Across the majority of road riding disciplines they deliver what you need.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
Beautiful ride quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
I'm really being picky here to find something wrong, but as I said in the review, I could get a small amount of flex from the rims when absolutely flooring it.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Similar alloy rimmed wheels of this weight are often more expensive than the JRAs.
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
A pair of wheels that are really hard to fault: a great marriage of weight, durability, performance and price.
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!