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Verdict: 
Initial truing issues aside, the CC35s make a very competent set of carbon wheels
Weight: 
1,510g

On the whole the RSP Calavera CC35 Carbon wheelset has plenty of things going for it. The wheels are a decent weight, offer a comfortable ride and their price makes them accessible to plenty of riders, but the build quality was a bit disappointing – something that needs addressing before they are shipped.

  • Pros: Smooth ride quality, great braking surface
  • Cons: Irritating freehub buzz, out of true straight out of the box

Let's kick off with the positives. Priced at £809 for the pair, they are some of the cheapest carbon fibre wheels we've tested and they come with a weight of just 1,510g. As a result they're responsive, especially with the rear freehub having a 150 point mechanism – which means that the pawls can engage drive in just 2.4 degrees of rotation.

> Find your nearest dealer here

Climbing is taken care of efficiently thanks to plenty of lateral stiffness in the rims, and I had no issues with brake rub or anything when really pushing hard up the hills or under heavy acceleration, which I was pleasantly surprised with. They're way stiffer than the AERA AR55 wheels I tested previously.

The braking surface was very good in the dry, offering plenty of stopping power when paired with a set of carbon-specific pads, and I didn't get any squeal either. Braking in the wet is always a bit of a lottery, but I wouldn't say that the Calaveras struggled any more than most alloy sets I've been riding lately.

Calavera Carbon Road Wheels - decal 2.jpg

As you can probably guess by their name, the rims are 35mm deep and use a wide, U-shaped profile. You get a little bit of an aero advantage over a box section rim once the speeds increase above about 23mph, but not by a massive amount. It's a good compromise, though, for speed versus handling in crosswinds.

Calavera Carbon Road Wheels - decal.jpg

On the whole, out on the road they feel pretty efficient and durable enough for a bit of cyclo-cross and light gravel riding.

Calavera Carbon Road Wheels - rim bed.jpg

The downsides, though.

I'd be a little bit miffed if I'd just blown 800 quid on some shiny new wheels and as soon as I put them on the bike realised that both the front and rear were at least a millimetre out of true; it's just not something I'm used to seeing when test wheels turn up.

After fitting the tyres (which was simple and easy) and heading out for a quick shakedown ride, I was met with about half a kilometre of pinging coming from the spokes as they settled. This left the rear around 2mm out of true and I'd barely left the estate.

Since that settling in period they haven't got any worse, so if you are a confident home mechanic then a quick fettle and they should remain good and straight.

The wheels are tubeless-ready: I used them with Panaracer Race C Evo Classics in a tubed setup, and I fitted the Pirelli Cinturatos as tubeless. Both went on fine and I could fit them with just thumb pressure.

Another thing I learnt on that shakedown ride was that the freehub could/will drive you insane every time you stop pedalling. All of those engagement points mean that freewheeling sounds like a bluebottle trapped in a jam jar, especially when the speed increases.

Calavera Carbon Road Wheels - rear hub.jpg

The actual components used in the build seem to be decent quality.

The Chosen hubs use sealed bearings and seem to spin without much in the way of resistance.

Calavera Carbon Road Wheels - front hub.jpg

Spoking-wise, RSP has gone with 20 double-butted stainless steel ones laced in a radial pattern up front, with the rear using 24, radial on the non-drive side and two-cross on the drive to cope with the loads. They are attached to the rim via brass nipples.

As standard the CC35s come with a Shimano/SRAM freehub, although you can get hold of a Campagnolo option if you need it and swap them over.

The body itself is anodised aluminium and removing the cassette after 500 miles sees a little indentation from the cassette biting in but nothing that would worry me; I've seen much softer in my time.

> The pros and cons of carbon fibre wheels

Value-wise, they stand up well against the likes of the BORG50C carbon clinchers, which are available without the tubeless tyres for £800. Their weight is a claimed 1,670g bare, which is a fair bit heavier than the CC35s.

Liam really liked the Prime BlackEdition 50 carbon wheels when he tested them, and the RSPs do pretty well here too: slightly lighter but nearly £300 cheaper.

> Buyer's Guide: 34 of the best road bike wheels

Overall, if it wasn't for the trueness issues straight out of the box, these wheels could have scored higher as their performance is promising.

Verdict

Initial truing issues aside, the CC35s make a very competent set of carbon wheels

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road.cc test report

Make and model: RSP Calavera Carbon CC35 Wheelset

Size tested: 700C, 35mm depth

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?

RSP says, "Lightweight Road/CX/Gravel wheel built using an RSP Calavera Carbon CC35 rim, Quick release sealed bearing hub and lightweight Mach1 double butted spokes."

I think they are versatile wheels that were just let down by their final quality control.

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

RSP lists:

Front:

Our new Tubeless ready Carbon Road/CX/Gravel wheels are designed to offer increased stiffness, reduced weight & more speed

Built using the RSP Calavera Carbon 17.9mm internal profile rim, this added width will offer reduced rolling resistance, better handling & better aerodynamic properties

35mm Deep section for increased stiffness

Chosen 20h quick release hub with 2 sealed cartridge bearings

Mach1 double butted black racing spokes. Strong yet light, stainless steel spokes with brass nipples

Radial lacing for reduced weight

Individual wheel weight 641g

1 Year warranty & 2 year crash replacement scheme

Rear:

Our new Tubeless ready Carbon Road/CX/Gravel wheels are designed to offer increased stiffness, reduced weight & more speed

Built using the RSP Calavera Carbon 17.9mm internal profile rim, this added width will offer reduced rolling resistance, better handling & better aerodynamic properties

35mm Deep section for increased stiffness

Chosen 24h 130mm Q/R hub, 11 speed Shimano freehub with 10 speed spacer, 4 sealed cartridge bearings

New 150 point freehub mechanism that produces an unbeatable 2.4 degree engagment

Campag freehubs available- Part no. SJFHBCAMP1

Mach1 double butted black racing spokes. Strong yet light, stainless steel spokes with brass nipples

Radial & 2 cross lacing pattern for increased durability

Individual wheel weight 821g

1 Year warranty & 2 year crash replacement scheme

Rate the wheel for quality of construction:
 
6/10
Rate the wheel for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheel for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the wheel for weight
 
7/10
Rate the wheel for value:
 
6/10

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

They arrived out of true and got worse during a short settling in process.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

No major issues stretching 25mm or 28mm tyres over the rim.

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

The skewers held the wheels firm and the rim tape was a good fit.

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

They roll well on the flat and their low weight means they are fun to ride in the hills.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

A very versatile wheelset for many types of riding.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

Very noisy freehub.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

They sit nicely alongside some very well reviewed wheels for the same money and are cheaper than some others.

Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes

Would you consider buying the wheel? On performance versus price alone then yes.

Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

If the CC35s came out of the box set up perfectly then we would be looking at four stars here as they are a decent wheelset at a good price. The wheels arriving quite a bit out of true suggests that quality control could be improved though.

Overall rating: 7/10

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.

6 comments

Avatar
Simmo72 [713 posts] 4 weeks ago
2 likes

My campag scirroco alloys weight 1750, with 17mmm interal width and 35mm section.  they cost me £220. 

£600 extra is a lot to pay for 200g.  I'm 6foot 4, 98kg....thankfully i can just run cheaper wheels without worrying about any significant disadvantage.

Avatar
Simmo72 [713 posts] 4 weeks ago
0 likes

My campag scirroco alloys weight 1750, with 17mmm interal width and 35mm section.  they cost me £220. 

£600 extra is a lot to pay for 200g.  I'm 6foot 4, 98kg....thankfully i can just run cheaper wheels without worrying about any significant disadvantage.

Avatar
Simmo72 [713 posts] 4 weeks ago
0 likes

My campag scirroco alloys weight 1750, with 17mmm interal width and 35mm section.  they cost me £220. 

£600 extra is a lot to pay for 200g.  I'm 6foot 4, 98kg....thankfully i can just run cheaper wheels without worrying about any significant disadvantage.

Avatar
Simon E [3738 posts] 4 weeks ago
1 like
Simmo72 wrote:

£600 extra is a lot to pay for 200g.  I'm 6foot 4, 98kg....thankfully i can just run cheaper wheels without worrying about any significant disadvantage.

In the real world there probably wouldn't be a measurable difference (but they'd still have a significant negative effect on your bank balance).

Avatar
matthewn5 [1341 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

So, not very true, the cheapest hubs money can buy, and generic rims? Why are these better than Carbonzone or Light Bicycle or one of the other big Chinese online sellers, for half the price?

Avatar
Grahamd [1030 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

So a quick fettle is required on £800 pair of wheels to true them up. Doesn’t inspire me and don’t recall reading any other wheel reviews with such comments.