This Pacenti Picco 46mm Disc Clincher wheelset doesn't just focus on weight or aerodynamics – it delivers on those, but without sacrificing stiffness and, above all else, durability. These are proper all-rounders, quick on the flat, no slouch on the hills, and should you find yourself off the beaten track they'll take plenty of abuse.
Aerodynamics have long been a crucial element of wheel design, with early models like those from Mavic and others featuring carbon fibre fairings bonded to aluminium rims before becoming full carbon fibre constructions.
Tyres were narrow then, so a deep V-section fairing worked well enough, especially if you were time trialling or a triathlete, but with the adoption of disc brakes and the huge tyre clearances they have allowed, things have changed.
Wheel rims are getting wider to accommodate larger tyres, and now the focus has moved to how the tyre and rim work together. This is where Pacenti has gone with the Picco.
The 46mm-deep rounded profile rim has been optimised to work with 28mm road tyres, thanks to its 24mm internal width and the fact that it is 29.6mm at its widest external point – which is about a third of the way down the rim for better aerodynamics.
Out on the road there are some noticeable aero benefits – for a wheel that isn't massively deep it still flies along once you are travelling along in the low to mid-20s mph, a real sweet spot that you can find on the best wheels and frames, where you just don't feel as though you need to put in much more effort than you were at 17-18mph.
Being a touch shallower than some, the Piccos aren't affected by crosswinds or that turbulent air when you are being overtaking by an HGV or slipstreaming one.
It makes them impressively versatile because not only can you smash it on the flat, they behave well in the bends, allowing you to hang on to your speed as you enter a technical downhill or when hammering it through large roundabouts competing with motor traffic.
The build, which uses 24 Sapim CX-Ray spokes on the front and 24 D-Lights on the rear, is very tight; they feel absolutely nailed on when you really fling the bike into a tight bend, and resist heavy braking forces without fuss, especially on the front, with no flexing or twisting at the hub when you're braking hard into bends.
Each set is completely handbuilt, and that is noticeable. Spoke tension is bang on throughout the entire wheel and they feel completely balanced. Stiffness levels are high, and that has been achieved without creating a harsh feeling, even on rough road surfaces.
Another outcome of the build quality is that they'll take some abuse. Chucking a bit of byway riding into the test saw them take plenty of whacks from small rocks, and one evening when I got caught out with the earlier sunset and an inadequate light saw me smash through a pothole at 30mph. The noise of the impact made me cringe, but the front wheel shrugged it off without so much as a mark. It's no surprise that Pacenti offers a lifetime guarantee and hasn't felt the need to restrict rider weight.
With a claimed weight of 1,590g (we weighed them at 2,310g with tyres), the Piccos also make for a good set of climbing wheels, especially with the high stiffness levels.
The Picco 46mm uses a moulded uni-directional carbon fibre rim and the one thing you'll probably notice first is that it is hookless, as in you don't get the usual little 'hooks' that allow you to run a traditional clincher as well as tubeless-ready/tubeless tyres, by having the bead tuck up against it. Hookless rims have been used in the automotive sector for years, and the design has been steadily gaining traction in the cycling industry.
Our wheels came with a set of Schwalbe Pro One tyres fitted (an extra £64.99 per tyre), and once seated up against the inside of the rim there were no issues with them, even when I whacked that pothole.
These rims can only be used with tubeless/tubeless ready tyres that create a snug fit when first installed. If the tyres you are using have a bit of slop going on, there is a risk that they could blow off the rim, so you'll need to use something else.
The Pacenti hubs use TPI bearings and they have run smoothly from the outset, and that hasn't changed since the weather has become more inclement. Heavy rain, standing water and plenty of grit certainly hasn't resulted in any nasty noises or squeaks.
Pawl engagement in the freehub is rapid and it's good to see that Pacenti has included a 'bite guard', a strip of steel on one of the splines which stops the cassette digging into the alloy body under high pedalling loads.
The Piccos will set you back £1,199, which puts them in the same ballpark as the Hunt 48 Limitless Aeros, which cost £1,289. The Pacentis aren't as outright fast as the Hunts, but they aren't that far off, and are maybe a touch easier to live with in windy conditions.
Jack was impressed with the Parcours Strade wheelset for £999; those are a similar weight to the Pacentis, so there is tough competition out there.
That said, from the sheer quality and solid feel of the Pacentis you can tell that this really is a top notch wheelset, where no corners have been cut. They aren't going to let you down – definitely a long-term investment for all types of rider and riding styles.
Excellent build quality and stunning performance from a wheelset that can cope with a bit of everything
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pacenti Picco 46mm Disc Clincher Wheels 700C
Size tested: 700C, 46mm 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?
With our eyes on the future, these rims are the result of a clean-sheet design that brings our best thinking to the table on what a rim should be.
Optimal 46mm depth 24mm internal width 28mm minimum tyre size
Tubeless ready rim bed
No rider weight limit
24 & 28 hole drilling
Picco is wider:
@ 24mm internal width
Fits tyres from 28mm
Optimised tyre stability
High levels of comfort
Deeper rim well for easy tyre fitting
Picco is stronger:
Build & ride tested to the extreme
No rider weight limit
Hookless impact resistance
Ultra durable surface finish
Minimised resin content
Reinforced nipple bed
Picco is faster:
Deep aerodynamic profile
Aerodynamics optimised for 28mm road tyres
Minimised rotational mass
Great cornering feel
Build specification delivers ultimate power transfer
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the wheel?
TIRE TYPE Hookless Clincher
TIRE SIZE 700c
TUBELESS READY Yes
RIM CONSTRUCTION Molded carbon
MATERIAL UD Carbon Fiber
WEIGHT 1590g +/- 10g
INTERNAL RIM WIDTH 24mm
EXTERNAL RIM WIDTH 29.6mm
RIM HEIGHT 46mm
MAX TIRE PRESSURE Refer to tire pressure guide
FREEHUB BODY Shimano/Sram/Campagnolo
HUB BEARINGS TPI
SPOKES FRONT Sapim CX-Ray
SPOKES REAR Sapim D-Light
SPOKE DRILLING FRONT 24h
SPOKE DRILLING REAR 24h
LACING PATTERN FRONT 2 cross
LACING PATTERN REAR 2 cross
Did the wheels stay true? Any issues with spoke tension?
The wheels arrived straight and that stayed the same throughout testing.
How easy did you find it to fit tyres?
Removing and refitting the included tyres was a pretty easy experience.
How did the wheel extras (eg skewers and rim tape) perform?
The included parts like valves and tape all worked absolutely fine.
Tell us how the wheel performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent degrees of stiffness and aerodynamics mean the Piccos deliver on all types of roads.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the wheel
They deliver high levels of performance pretty much everywhere.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the wheel
The hookless rim design means you're limited to tubeless or tubeless-ready tyres.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are some very good wheels around the same price as the Pacentis, like the Parcours I mention in the review which compete on weight and performance according to Jack's review, and are £999. The Hunt 48 Limitless are another £90 and are a similar kind of wheel, although they focus even more on aerodynamics and speed, so the Pacentis are a touch more versatile.
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
There really is very little to fault here. The build quality is excellent and that comes through not only in their durability but also the performance thanks to excellent levels of stiffness, all at a competitive 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!