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Verdict: 
Excellent performance and weight from a well-built, classic looking wheelset
Weight: 
1,460g

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.

> Buy these online here

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.

Just Riding Along Lark20 light road wheelset - rear hub.jpg

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.

Just Riding Along Lark20 light road wheelset - rim bed.jpg

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.

Just Riding Along Lark20 light road wheelset - spoke nipple.jpg

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.

Just Riding Along Lark20 light road wheelset - front hub.jpg

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.

Just Riding Along Lark20 light road wheelset - valve.jpg

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.

> Buyer's Guide: 33 of the best road bike wheelsets

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.

Verdict

Excellent performance and weight from a well-built, classic looking wheelset

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

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

braking options

rim brake

hole count

20 hole, 24 hole

rim depth

25mm

internal rim width

20mm

external rim width

25mm

front axle options

QR

rear axle options

QR

front lacing pattern

radial

rear lacing pattern

triplet laced 2:1

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for performance:
 
8/10

A hint of flex under extreme loads.

Rate the wheel for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for weight
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for value:
 
8/10

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.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

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

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.

9 comments

Avatar
kil0ran [1366 posts] 2 months ago
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Oh, cool - having been impressed with the write-up on the Geckos I was hoping for a set of rim brake wheels from JRA. Just gone to the top of the summer upgrade list smiley

Avatar
henryb [79 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
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Joe Totale [141 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

I'd grab the JRA's. 

Hunt use pretty cheap hubs in their wheels with shodding seals. I know of a couple of people who've already had to get the bearings replaced in them after only a few months of ownership.

Avatar
fukawitribe [2763 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Joe Totale wrote:

I'd grab the JRA's. 

Hunt use pretty cheap hubs in their wheels with shodding seals. I know of a couple of people who've already had to get the bearings replaced in them after only a few months of ownership.

Thought they used EZO (or sometimes S&S) for their bearings ?

Avatar
Joe Totale [141 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
fukawitribe wrote:
Joe Totale wrote:

I'd grab the JRA's. 

Hunt use pretty cheap hubs in their wheels with shodding seals. I know of a couple of people who've already had to get the bearings replaced in them after only a few months of ownership.

Thought they used EZO (or sometimes S&S) for their bearings ?

The issue is less with the bearings themselves but the inadequate seals that allow dirt and water to contaminate the bearings. 

Avatar
kil0ran [1366 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Joe Totale wrote:

I'd grab the JRA's. 

Hunt use pretty cheap hubs in their wheels with shodding seals. I know of a couple of people who've already had to get the bearings replaced in them after only a few months of ownership.

Is that still the case? I remember reading that they made a change to their bearing supplier due to faults with their early products but I'd assumed that it was sorted now?

Avatar
Joe Totale [141 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:
Joe Totale wrote:

I'd grab the JRA's. 

Hunt use pretty cheap hubs in their wheels with shodding seals. I know of a couple of people who've already had to get the bearings replaced in them after only a few months of ownership.

Is that still the case? I remember reading that they made a change to their bearing supplier due to faults with their early products but I'd assumed that it was sorted now?

A friend of mine got the Aero Light wide's 3-4 months ago and the bearings in both wheels had to be changed recently due to them making crunching sounds. 

Avatar
bobjones-syorks [3 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

There is more to wheels than just the bearings. The folk's I ride with have had mixed results with the Hunt wheels with one lasted OK and one with several problems. All I can say is that I ride a pair of the JRA wheels twice a week and in the last coupld of years, I've had no problems, the ride quality is impressive, fast and lively and the wheels still look like new (with a good clean of course). I'm not surprised they get a good writeup here.

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timbarnes [17 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

"There is more to wheels than just the bearings."

Exactly. Premature bearing wear is just as likely due to a hub alignment problem, if the bearings don't press in straight then they'll wear quickly.

Road CC really could help us all out by stating or finding out what hubs are actually being used. Hunt generally use Novatec hubs, and these one look like Bitex to me. Pretty much all the wheel assemblers use Novatec or Bitex branded as their own. Not necessarily a bad thing, as it means spares will be available long after the assembler has gone.

Equally the reviewing sites could do a better job by finding out what value add the assemblers give, as they all pretty much use the same components (Novatec, Bitex, Kinlin, Sapim, PIllar, other Chinese carbon rims) for their wheels. e.g. Hunt, although their wheel components are as generic as the rest, do seem to give excellent after sales service. (and have social media skills, so they'll probably be along in a minute).