Normally aero-focused wheel outfit HED is putting a greater emphasis on the grittier segments of the sport with two new carbon and one new alloy model for 2011.
While still cutting a wide aerodynamic swath, the new Stinger 5's fat tubular tire bed and reinforced carbon fiber rim construction is primarily aimed at the cobbled classics and 'cross riders, both of whom need toughness above all else as well as additional rim support for bigger casing sizes.
Sprinters on the other hand can instead opt for the deeper Stinger 7 carbon tubular wheelset, which is specifically built with extra-stiff sidewalls for more responsiveness when it comes time to dash for the line.
New for HED's superb Ardennes wide-profile aluminum wheel family is a new lightweight tubular, again using a 23mm-wide cross-section that's ideally suited for either higher-volume road rubber or – cue the cowbells here, please – cyclo-cross tires that would benefit even greater from the additional casing support given their typically lower pressures. Moreover, the alloy rim is also easier to glue securely and offers more predictable braking performance in the wet. Unfortunately, though, consumers won't be able to get their hands on them until December.
2011 HED Flamme Rouge rear hubs also gain upgraded seals and grease ports and all rear wheels will now be built with stiffer two-cross/two-cross lacing.
American Classic has made some changes to its road lineup as well, making a move away from Zipp-sourced rims to Carbotec ones made in Asia for both its 58mm- and 38mm-deep models. Company founder Bill Shook says it's not a downgrade, though, nor are the new rims simply off-the-shelf items.
While he does readily admit the two outer molds are shared with Carbotec's other offerings, Shook says he designed his own inner mold with a separate pre-cured carbon fiber nipple bed. Ultimately, he claims this yields more consistent nipple seats, increases the pull-through strength, and also allows for a thinner spoke bed that lets the nipple flats poke out further for easier truing and building.
Even the alloy nipples themselves are trick, boasting a 2mm extension past the head and a matching 2mm-deeper counterbore where the spoke is inserted. When matched with a 2mm-longer spoke, this simple change ingeniously switches the nipple head loading from tension to shear and significantly reduces the likelihood that they'll pop off when stressed.
Some riders may notice the subtle reshaping of American Classic's feathery Micro 58 front hub shell and axle ends but the more significant improvements are hidden inside. Shook acknowledges that his Micro 58 hasn't always been the more reliable of his creations but says upgraded bearings and a much more precisely machined axle has alleviated the problem. We'll find out for ourselves, too, as we suffered issues with the Micro 58 hub on our Stan's NoTubes Alpha 340 Pro road wheels and will soon be installing the bits once we get back to the office.
On the off-road side, Shook also showed us a prototype of an upcoming all-mountain alloy rim design built with a generous 28mm external width and impressive 390g claimed weight. The special interior shape is designed to allow easy tubeless compatibility when paired with the dedicated rim tape, too, while pronounced ridges help lock the tire in place even when deflated.
Shook estimates complete 26" wheelsets will weigh 1,546g per pair while 29" versions will still be refreshingly light at 1,680g a set.
Rolf Prima, on the other hand, has decided to stick with Zipp as its carbon rim supplier for much of its range – including the new ultralight 1,105g TDF38 SL and 'cross-approved CX58 tubulars – but still struck out on its own for the new 85mm-deep TT85 and TDF85 models. Both feature an 85mm-deep carbon tubular rim with a wider 23mm tire bed, Rolf Prima's trademark paired-spoke lacing, and White Industries-built hubs with titanium freehub bodies.
The TT85 goes with a minimal 10/12 front/rear spoke count, though, while the TDF85 opts for a more versatile 12/12 setup. Claimed weight for both models is just under 1,700g for the pair.
Mountain bike equipment icon WTB will release a new Stryker TCS wheel range for 2011 in both standard cross-country and more supportive all-mountain rim widths. As part of a growing trend we noticed at both the Interbike and Eurobike trade shows, both of the rims sport a NoTubes-like inner profile that is intended to be run with sealant and designed to mate perfectly with WTB's tubeless-ready TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) tires.
The Stryker TCS Cross Country wheels will be offered in both 26" and 29" varieties with either 9mm quick-release or 15mm thru-axle non-interchangeable front hubs. The all-mountain version will be available in 26" only but with a broader collection of axle fitments: 15mm or 20mm thru-axle front, and 135x10mm quick-release or 142x12mm thru-axle.
Weights are appropriately light at just 1,467g for a pair of quick-release 26" Cross Country wheels, 1,578g for the 29ers, and 1,714g for the All Mountain set.
Tubeless conversion pioneer NoTubes offers mostly subtle revisions for 2011 after the debut of its new road wheelsets earlier this year. One key update is the new universal valve stem, which replaces the trio of variants with a single model that NoTubes says allows for easier tire mounting and is more resistant to pull-through than before. A fully threaded extender accommodates tubeless conversions on deep-section rims, too.
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SRAM's aluminum road wheel range is now topped by the S30AL Gold, which uses the same hybrid toroidal rim shape and hub components as last year's top S30 model but with trick CeramicSpeed hybrid ceramic cartridge bearings and a flashy gold anodized finish.
And finally, climbers have a new high-value ascending option with Cole's shallow-section Ventoux carbon tubulars (1,210g claimed weight, US$1,395 retail price) while cyclo-crossers can build up their own wheels with Velocity's broad Major Tom alloy tubular rim.