Carbon fibre wheels reign supreme at the Tour de France. Here's a roundup of some of the wheels being raced around France.
There are quite a few different wheel brands involved with the 22 teams competing in the race, but without exception, they are all using deep-section carbon fibre tubular rims.
Tubular wheels, where the tyre is glued to the rim, is still the preferred choice in the pro peloton. That's simply because they're lighter than a carbon clincher, but it's also to do with safety, you can keep riding a punctured tub until the team car pulls up alongside to do a wheel swap.
Shimano Dura-Ace C50 and C35
The ubiquitous Shimano Dura-Ace C50 wheelset. With Shimano sponsoring or supplying the majority of the World Tour teams, many also opt for Shimano's wheel. The Japanese company offers a choice of rim depths but the C50 is the most popular for all but the big mountain stages, where the lighter C35 will come out to play.
Here's a photo of the Dura-Ace C35 rim in question.
Fulcrum Speed 55T
Fulcrum is the brand used by Campagnolo to appeal to people who might want to fit its wheels to a bike with Shimano or SRAM and avoid mixing up component brands.
At the Tour de France, the company unveiled this brand new 55T wheelset (there’s also a 40T version) which uses a 55mm deep carbon rim and weighs a claimed 1,280g. There’s a 3Diamant braking surface which is said to improve braking performance, aluminium hubs with oversize flanges and 18/21 spokes, using radial lacing pattern in the front wheel and two-to-one in the rear wheel (14 on the drive side, 7 on the non-drive side).
American Classic Carbon 58
Not a familiar brand in the pro peloton, this US company is supplying wheels for Bretagne Seche Environment team, with the wheels fitted to Look bikes
It’s a wheelset that American Classic doesn’t seem to list on its website anymore, we can only find the Carbon 46 Tubular. Whatever the reason, the Carbon 58 wheels, as the name suggests, have a 58mm deep rim, made from carbon fibre and laced to the company’s own hubs with bladed spokes.
Vision is a component brand owned by FSA and it’s reserved mainly for parts like wheels and time trial extensions, and it offers a choice of rim depths depending on the preference of the rider or the demands of a particular stage.
The Metron 81 is actually a time trial wheelset but some racers prefer to go deep, and it has a 24mm wide rim with direct pull spokes and ceramic bearings.
A more common selection with the Bora-Argon 18 team that is supplied by FSA and Vision is the Metron 55. It’s a 55mm deep rim with a 24mm wide profile, as is common with wheels these days, and weighs a claimed 1,520g.
Roval CLX 40 and CLX 64
Roval is a Specialized brand and it supplies wheels for Etixx-Quick Step and Tinkoff. It offers two main wheels, the CLX 40 and CLX 64, the latter is pictured here on Peter Sagan’s Venge, complete with some world championship stripes.
The CLX 64 have been developed in Specialized’s own wind tunnel and features a 29.9mm external width with a 64mm depth. The rims are laced to Roval hubs with DT Swiss 240 internals and CeramicSpeed bearings.
The CLX 40 is a more common sight with the 40mm depth providing suitable performance for flat and mountainous stages. These have a rim that is 23mm wide and the hubs also packed high-quality DT Swiss internals with CeramicSpeed bearings.
Corima MMV S+
Corima is a French bicycle wheel manufacturer that you might not have heard of unless you’ve been in cycling for a good few years. It supplies the Astana team with a choice of wheels.
Nibali’s bike here is fitted with the company’s MM S+ wheelset with a 32mm deep rim made from 3K carbon and 18 spokes front and 20 rear wheel spokes, to produce a complete weight of just 1,130g. That’ll certainly help on the climbs.
DT Swiss RC55T Spline and RC38T Spline
DT Swiss supplies the hub internals for a lot of wheels in the professional peloton, but it also provides complete wheelsets for the IAM Cycling squad. We spotted both the RC55T and RC38T being used. The number refers to the rim depth in millimetres, the T refers to the fact it’s a tubular rim. The Spline, we’ll get onto that in a moment.
The RC55T Spline weighs 1,405g a pair, the RC38T Spline is 1,310, so you can see the former is probably ideal for flat stages and sprints, the latter better when the road points up. A few bikes, however, had the shallower wheel on the front, and the deeper section rim on the back.
Spline refers to the company’s specially positioned straight pull spokes and machined hub flanges that it claims provides a lighter, stiffer and stronger wheel.
Bontrager Aeolus 5
The Trek-Segafredo team, naturally, uses Bontrager wheels, as the once-pioneering brand was snapped up by Trek many years ago and is used for all accessories like handlebars and key components such as wheels.
Aeolus is the umbrella name for the Bontrager range of wheels, with a wide selection of rim depths, depending on the nature of the stage, available to the team. Fabian Cancellara’s Trek Madone is running a pair of 50mm deep Aeolus 5, which have a 27mm wide profile made from OCLV carbon in the US and spin on hubs packing DT Swiss internals.
Zipp 404 and 303
Zipp’s wheels are highly respected inside and outside of the professional peloton, and Katusha and AG2R make use of the 303 and 404 wheelsets from the company’s wide range.
The latest 404 Firestrike has a 58mm deep rim and was released just last year, an update on the previous 404 Firecrest with the key change a wider (26.5mm) rim profile. The 404 Firestrike also uses a new carbon fibre layup that is claimed to make the wheels much more durable and impact-resistant than before. There are new ImPress direct-print graphics as well, which saves some weight, and the hubs are fitted with CeramicSpeed bearings.
With a shallower rim profile measuring 45m deep, you could say the Zipp 303 is a better all-round option and it’s a good choice for an undulating stage, but we’ll see some riders using it in the mountains as well, because at 1,390g it’s hardly a heavy wheelset. Zipp has been at the forefront of wheel aerodynamics, it’s rim profiles are much copied, and the303 has a wide and rounded profile compared to the old V-shaped rim profiles of early carbon wheelsets.
Mavic may have recently launched some new carbon fibre wheels recently, but the Cannondale-Drapac team is still using the same CXR Ultimate 60 T carbon tubular wheels it was racing last season. It’s a 60mm deep rim shaped using a NACA profile and a 1,590g complete weight. The team will also have the shallower and lighter 40 T tubular wheel available for hillier stages.
Enve SES 7.8
Enve has been enjoying a good showing in the Tour so far, with Mark Cavendish using its wheels to win three stages. His Cervelo S5 is rolling on Enve’s SES 7.8 carbon fibre wheels.
Rather uniquely, Enve pairs a 80mm rear rim with a 71mm front rim, but that’s not all; the front rim has a wider 29mm profile while the rear is narrower at 27.5mm. The shape of the rims is also subtly difference, all in the pursuit of improved aerodynamics. The rims are this wide because they’re optimised, in Enve’s own words, to “perform best when used with a modern aero frame and large 25mm tyres.” Complete wheelset weight is 1,442g.
More tech from the Tour de France soon...
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.