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review

Black Inc Thirty wheelset

8
£1,876.85

VERDICT:

8
10
Stiff, quick and light while still being strong enough for gravel racing
Stiff
Very smooth and quiet
Good freehub pickup
Can handle gravel
Buzzy on rough surfaces
Weight: 
1,550g
Contact: 

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The Black Inc Thirty Wheelset has been around for a fair few years now, and in this latest form – with wider rims and disc brake hubs – it's still a compellingly light, stiff and fast set of wheels for climbing, racing and general riding on almost any surface.

For more options, check out our guide to the best road bike wheelsets and the best gravel wheelsets.

> Buy now: Black Inc Thirty Wheelset for £1,876.85 from Black Inc

These are obviously named for the 30mm depth of the carbon rims, but now the outer width matches at 30mm, which technically makes these square. Square wheels... I approve.

The inner diameter is 21mm, the better to support today's wider rubber; in fact, Black Inc recommends 25mm tyres as a minimum, and 28mm (or higher) as the ideal. I duly tested them with 28mm tyres, and the result was a lovely smooth, almost straight transition from sidewall to rim, and a very stable carcass that's ideal for low-pressure use.

2023 Black Inc Thirty wheelset - valve hole.jpg

You may well be running particularly low pressures (and larger volume tyres than this), as these rims are also rated for gravel. I didn't officially test that myself, though many of my local roads feature serious amounts of gravel, more bombholes than a Ukrainian runway and ice damage that looks like an angry yeti did it – they're never salted or gritted. Winter shatters them. The Thirties took quite a pounding over the test period and, even between 75-85psi on road tyres, never flinched, flexed or twanged. I did, but they didn't.

At 70-75psi with tubed tyres they're still quite vibey over poor tarmac, but tubeless tyres at the same pressures noticeably damp that high-frequency buzz. They're not the most compliant carbon wheels I've used, though they're certainly not harsh, and they take the sharpness out of bigger impacts reasonably well. Still, if you're planning multi-surface or gravel use (or just have roads as terrible as mine), a tubeless setup is definitely the way to go.

Black Inc uses two types of straight-pull spokes to maximise strength to weight – Sapim CX-Sprints on the drive side and CX-Ray Aero Butted spokes on the other. Though you really can't tell from looking, the CX-Sprints are thicker. The build of our wheels was tight and evenly tensioned, and stayed that way throughout the test.

2023 Black Inc Thirty wheelset - front hub 2.jpg

That was a relief, as the spoke nipples are internal in the name of weight saving, so they're not the easiest things to adjust.

2023 Black Inc Thirty wheelset - spoke nipple.jpg

These wheels stayed spinning very freely on their custom CeramicSpeed bearings (like the rims, they seem unfazed by repeated impacts on bad tarmac) and that, in concert with a low overall weight and quick freehub pickup, means they feel very nippy. Stand up and sprint and they respond easily, and without any sense of flex dissipating your energy... certainly I don't have enough power to trouble these.

2023 Black Inc Thirty wheelset - rear hub 2.jpg

We measured them at 1,550g while the claimed weight is 1,490g, but our number is with rim tape installed, as that's how they arrive. If you're looking at pure road use and the lowest possible weight you can do better – it's not hard to find options around 300g lighter – but these offer a good blend of performance and real-world usability that extends right onto the gravel.

They also arrive with a nice long set of tubeless valves, a valve core remover, an extra roll of rim tape (perhaps in case you need to get in and adjust spokes), a spacer for 12-speed Shimano cassettes, and some stickers. Oh, and there's a rim brake version available for around £40 less if you still enjoy not stopping the traditional way. Pretty much everything is covered.

The tyres I tried went on in average fashion – pretty easily, with a plastic lever only necessary for the last little bit – and sealed up tubelessly without fuss. I particularly like the valves, which look and feel very neat while sealing up in the rim very easily.

Value

These were £1,881.55 at the time of writing, and £1876.85 just before publishing… the price constantly fluctuating with, presumably, the exchange rate against the US dollar. Up there near the 2K mark they face competition from the likes of Fulcrum's Speed 25 wheels at £1,999.99, which Aaron tested in March, and while those are slightly shallower at 26mm they're also 21mm internally and considerably lighter – just 1,292g. They're disc only, though, and not intended for gravel use.

Alternatively, the Hunt 32 Aerodynamicist UD Carbon Spoke Wheelset is a smidge lighter again at 1,240g (including valves and rim tape), 2mm deeper than the Black Incs at 32mm, and has the same 21mm inner diameter for 28mm-plus tyres. They're a big chunk cheaper at £1,249, but again are not rated for going off-road.

Conclusion

Overall, these are great: they're light, stiff, quick to accelerate and very smooth-rolling on their custom bearings. They're best on large-volume tubeless tyres if you want to avoid finger-tingling amounts of high-frequency buzz on poor surfaces, but as that's just the kind of rubber they're designed for, it'll only be an issue for the most committed skinny tyre/inner tube lovers anyway.

Verdict

Stiff, quick and light while still being strong enough for gravel racing

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Black Inc Thirty wheelset

Size tested: 700C, 30mm rim

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?

Black Inc says: "The Black Inc THIRTY wheelset is the embodiment of an ideal lightweight climbing wheel. With a low rotating mass, it provides immediate acceleration as the grade points skyward, and a broader rim profile increases stability to carve through descents."

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

Black Inc lists:

Proprietary CNC machined alloy hub shell

Tubeless Compatible

Oversized hub axle

Custom CeramicSpeed bearings

Option to run low tire pressures in conjunction with tubeless tires

Minimum recommended tire size: 700 x 25c

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

Very stiff and smooth.

Rate the wheel for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheel for weight
 
8/10
Rate the wheel for value:
 
5/10

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

Zero issues. These have a very robust feel.

How easy did you find it to fit tyres?

Normal plastic levers were all I needed. Tubeless setup was easy.

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

You get another roll of rim tape, and what's installed works just fine. The valves also work perfectly.

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

Very well – they're stiff, strong and accelerate well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel

Their strength, low weight and looks.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel

They're not the most compliant over buzzy, high-frequency bumps.

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

They compare well to similar wheelsets, though there are cheaper options too.

Did you enjoy using the wheel? Yes

Would you consider buying the wheel? I'd consider it, yes...

Would you recommend the wheel to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

These are stiff, strong, usefully light and robust enough to take off-road too. They spin very smoothly and pickup is fast. They could be a little more compliant over chattery bumps, but other than that they're great.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 183cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,

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11 comments

Avatar
carbonboywonder | 8 months ago
1 like

Black Inc is the in-house brand of Factor. I don't think Factor are really expecting to sell the wheels at this price. They simply make the wheels available at a high price in order to make the Factor bikes that come with the wheels look like better value for money

Avatar
stickybidon74 | 8 months ago
0 likes

My lastest Farsports wheelset are 35 deep, 26 internal / 32 external at 1330g and cost me $1200 AUD / £650 delivered...buy 3 pairs!

Avatar
Pot00000000 | 8 months ago
2 likes

I have a set of the original Reynolds ATR which use an mtb rim and are lighter than these. They've been beaten up for over 6 years and are still going strong, so where is the progress?

The ATRs are deeper, wider, and stronger than these. I can't compare price but even the new version are less expensive than these so I think they're a pretty mediocre product. 

not sure what they do to warrant the cost. A big - Meh 🫤

Avatar
KoenM | 8 months ago
1 like

1550gr for 30mm carbon wheels AND £1876? Did they put extra expensive lead in it to make it this heavy and expensive?
Sorry but WHY would anyone buy these, Scribe or Hunt have cheaper, lighter and more aerowheels. They are also not the best known name like Zipp or Roval that they can get away with that price. 

Avatar
Destroyer666 replied to KoenM | 8 months ago
0 likes

Well, just by looking at the review, the fairly obvious reasons are durability, as these ok for gravel racing, and more expensive bearings, which should lead to better rolling. And the ability ride with a tube setup. Then there's at least the fact that these are made in-house, so you get at least a more niche product, and perhaps better quality control, etc.

All in all, the "weight, price, aero" mantra is a very narrow focus when reviewing e.g. wheels. Maybe that's enough for you, but there's clearly much more involved and therefore that can be considered for/against buying something.

Avatar
KoenM replied to Destroyer666 | 8 months ago
1 like

No I'm not only about weight but Scribe wheels also has Gravelwheels that are wider, more durable AND lighter and they cost about HALF adn they aren't the only company. Also Scribe get good reviews everywhere. 
"And the ability ride with a tube setup." most wheels still do.

"All in all, the "weight, price, aero" mantra is a very narrow focus when reviewing e.g. wheels." Except for durability (very hard to test) they are very important in wheels and please don't forget that these are €1900 wheels, that's just to expensive anyway you look at it. Also I don't care AT ALL if things are in house made, quality is a lot more important than that, a bad wheelbuilder is still a bad wheelbuilder if he lives in china or the US. 

Avatar
Joe Totale | 8 months ago
1 like

Not deep enough to be aero and not light enough for weight weenies. Despite that these wheels are crazy expensive.

What exactly do these wheels do that a £300-400 set of alloy wheels with similar specs don't?

Avatar
Simon E replied to Joe Totale | 8 months ago
1 like

I'd take the £650 Roval Alpinist over these any day - and deep rims are really not much quicker anyway:

https://road.cc/content/feature/deep-vs-shallow-wheels-testing-301283

Avatar
Joe Totale replied to Simon E | 8 months ago
1 like

Agreed. A wheel with a DT Swiss 350 hub and external nipples will be much easier to maintain than this one.

Avatar
Off the back replied to Simon E | 8 months ago
1 like

I have the Roval Alpinist CL II on my Emonda and they are exceptional. Same rims as the CLX just different hubs and spokes but there is very little between them in real work performance. Bargain for the price. 

Avatar
Secret_squirrel | 8 months ago
1 like

Very pricey since you can get Hunt 40 gravel discs at £949 and 1383g.  Cheaper, lighter and more "aero".  The Blacks are smigde off double the price, so for the same money you. can have a Gravel set with gravel tyres and a road set with road tyres.

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