Affordable, aerodynamic wheelset designed around 28mm tyres
- Stealth aesthetics
- Contrasting front/rear rim profiling for improved aerodynamics and performance
- Affordable pricing
- Decals prone to scratching
- Can only accommodate tyre sizes of 25c and up
British firm, Parcours has spent the better part of 12 months working closely with the sports engineering department at Nottingham Trent University to develop its latest wheelset - the Strade.
While the priority was to create an affordable carbon wheelset, the design properties naturally hinge around performance, a notion highlighted by the inclusion of specifically developed front/rear rim profiles optimised for 28mm tyres. The wheels are manufactured by a dedicated production line in Shenzhen, China and represent the company's first fully in-house-developed wheelset.
After spending a month putting them to the sword in two different hemispheres - Cape Town, South Africa and here in the UK, we also lit them up at a track session held at Thruxton Motorsport Centre in Hampshire as part of the official launch proceedings.
Design and aesthetics
The Strade wheels are a thing of beauty. The performance-honed unidirectional carbon fibre aesthetic is offset exquisitely by the gloss-black decals and hubs - it's all very stealth. However, if it's a little more bling that you're after, Parcours offers a high level of customisation where prospective buyers can personalise the decals and anodise the hubs for colour-matching purposes.
In terms of design, there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. Not too long ago 23c tyres were considered de rigueur among both the amateur and pro peloton but with every passing year, tyres have gotten wider. It seems as though even 25c rubber is now bordering on obsolete with contemporary road bike geometries punting clearances for wider rims and even fatter 28c tyres. Not only do wider tyres roll better, but they also supply heaps more traction and comfort thanks to a larger contact patch and the ability to employ lower pressures.
While the Strade wheels have been aerodynamically optimised for 28mm tyres, the 22.5mm internal rim width is still safe enough to play nicely with 25c rubber - external rims widths are rated at a respective 32/30.5mm front/rear. Rim depth, however, is always going to be a contentious point but, after collecting yaw angle data using custom skewer-mounted Calypso Marine ultrasonic anemometer wind sensors and validating prototypes at the A2 Wind Tunnel in North Carolina, the results showed that a shallower U-shaped front and deeper V-shaped rear rim profile were best suited to recapture airflow at both ends.
Specification and build
A complete Strade wheelset tips the scales at the 1,520g (690g front, 830g rear), which is a fairly competitive number for a wheelset with such aggressive rim profiling. Its relatively low weight, however, has done little to affect its durability: especially in the stiffness department where sudden changes in direction deliver little in the way of flex.
The wheels use machined Parcours-branded alloy hubs laced in a 24 front/rear, two-cross pattern with Sapim CX-Ray aero spokes - the freehub body comprises a four-pawl, three-degree engagement system. Both hubs employ EZO cartridge bearings and centerlock disc threading and have been optimised for 12mm thru-axles front/rear (adapter kits are available for other axle standards). The hubs can be optioned with ceramic Kogel bearings on request. The wheels come ready-to-ride as a tubeless application out of the box with pre-installed rim tape and valves, and freehub spacers for 8/9/10-speed cassettes.
And what of the fitting procedure? Well, fitting tubeless tyres - especially on wider rims - is always a frustratingly tough exercise, but we were able to fit a brace of Hutchinson Fusion 5 Performance 28c tyres by hand, not to mention seat them instantly using a regular track pump. No profanities were spewed out during the entire process!
Performance, ride and handling
It's hard to dispute the aerodynamic properties of the Strade wheels. As a result, they're as good on the climbs as they are powering along the flats - they're pretty solid all-rounders if I'm honest. Power transfer is immediate, especially when accelerating hard out of the saddle and, despite the rigidity, compliance can be dialled in by manipulating tyre pressure.
The wheels only truly come alive at speeds of 40kph or more, where their wind-cheating superpowers make a mockery of rolling topography. This sensation of speed is further bolstered by the whooshing and hissing sound they make when cutting through the air. It's all very intoxicating and makes you feel like you're going a lot faster than the figure your cycling computer is displaying.
And now for the million-dollar question: how do they deal with crosswinds? Well, no wheels - regardless of depth - are immune to gusting side winds but the Strade wheels are pretty stable performers, even when negotiating the slopes of Chapman's Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa in a 45km/h howling south-easterly. This comes as a result of varying the rim profiling between the front and rear wheels - which measure a respective 49 and 54mm deep. The logic behind this stems from the fact that the average yaw angle at the front wheel is consistently higher than at the rear - crosswind handling performance at the rear wheel is significantly less important since the wheel is on a fixed axis.
As a system optimised for 28mm rubber, handling is arguably right up there with the very best in class. At 62kg, I ran the pressures at 52 psi (front and rear) which proved to deliver a good balance between traction, handling and outright speed (in South Africa) but back on the slow and abrasive road surfaces around the UK's Surrey Hills, I had to drop them a little more to soften the ride.
That said the entire experience is tactile, rich in feel and feedback. This can be taken to the next level by further tweaking the pressures - allowing you to tap into your bike's central nervous system, which instils a greater sense of trust as far as lean angles, grip and ride-feel are concerned.
With the Strade, Parcours has managed to create one of the best-performing wheelsets we've tested to date. Not only is the ride quality up there with the segment's best, but the outright speed and crosswind stability will add confidence to your riding.
As a robust, disc-equipped option, the Strade wheelset is versatile in that it can be used for both training and racing, and can be run using traditional tubes or tubeless tyres, the latter will, of course, provide a far more engaging and granular riding experience.
What will appeal most to cyclists, however, apart from the performance gains and standard two-year warranty, is the sub-£1,000 asking price.
Tech Spec: Parcours Strade disc wheelset
- Price: £999
- Material: Carbon
- Depth: 49mm front/54mm rear
- Brake: Disc
- Tyre format: Tubeless and clincher (optimised for 28mm tyres)
- Rim width (internal): 22.5mm front/rear
- Spoke count: 24 front/rear
- Weight: 1,520g (690g front, 830g rear)