After some conversations, Karbon Speed was at the doorstep. An unassuming box with the 88/88 set was ready for the paces. After playing with these wheels in the Kansas City fall weather, jamming in rides after work, on weekends, after changing diapers and during a house move, here’s what you can take home from this EMT review.
One point Karbon Speed wants to drive home is the convenience factor of their wheels and getting them in your hands. Unlike other top tier wheels, they do not have vendor agreements with brick and mortar stores to sell their wheels.
You buy them directly from Karbon Speed, saving on markup and the cost of red tape. You buy, they ship from the factory. No, you will not have a chance to “kick the tires” before buying, but they also don’t charge you shipping. Being that they are a small startup, they are also very accessible and generally open to listening to requests and issues you might have after buying their wheels. They want you to be happy and save some money with shipping, but you won’t be able to sample before you buy it.
That allows you to save your good gear for races. One catch is you will need a rear cassette of you order a rear wheel. Be prepared to have a cassette and know how to install it, or time to stop by the shop to have them pop one on in 10 minutes or less. More than likely, most new aero wheels come without a cassette anyway, so no big difference there. Karbon Speed will also toss in tire levers and skewers included with the wheel price. Ever gone through the pain to steal skewers from other wheel sets or to find a new pair to use that is quality and not costly? No worries there.
When you do break into the box, you can’t help but be impressed with the packaging. It’s a nice presentation and well packed. Also notice on the boxes the John 3:16 reference. It’s a small thing, but a nice touch to connect with like minded individuals as the owners of Karbon Speed as they say, ”we're all Believers [At Karbon Speed] and we do what we can to spread the good word. I personally race for two Christian triathlon teams, FCA Endurance (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and Multisport Ministries.” So, if racing and your beliefs go hand-and-hand, they have that going for them.
From the pictures, you can see there were no issues with mounting onto a 2012 Specialized Transition Comp Tri bike. The wheels are skinnier than Zipp 808’s and slide ride in with no interference. It was just as natural as any other wheel set. The only nervous moments were hoping the air holds with the valve extenders included with the wheels. From days spent on the IM KS 70.3 road dealing with valve extenders, if it’s not screw in tufo valve extenders, it’s not 100%. The valves were open, the extenders were installed, and after two weeks of intermittent testing and a few weeks of sitting around the basement, the wheels held air with no problem. But, if you want that piece of mind, pop to get the tufo extenders.
Hubs and shape.
hose are the big two differences right of the bat any triathlete will look for in aero wheels. Some wheels go deep, but don’t take advantage of V-shapes. Some use V-shapes, but don’t account for crosswind performance issues. Karbon Speed uses a modified V-shape that captures the best front on aerodynamic characteristics while assuring a manageable ride in a cross wind. During test riding in Kansas, you will ride in wind. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. That’s the rub with the deeper wheels. You’re taking your life in your own hands on deep wheels in a crosswind. Honestly, the Karbon Speed wheels did not grab as much as other wheel sets in the same conditions. The 88’s are the deepest they have, and with a stiff 20 mph crosswind, a confident triathlete can control the rig and stay down in the bars with ease. Just pay attention and no day dreaming or you’re going to be in the ditch regardless of the wheels.
When you think about carbon aero wheels, you might also have visions of deflection. Carbon fiber while very strong, tend to flex easily for a slight distance and then tighten up in a more progressive manner. Aggressive climbers and sprinters like this feel. So, instead of your constant rate of flexure from steel or aluminum rims no matter the force you place on them, you get more reaction for more effort you put on carbon. This might not be the ride everyone wants, but once you go with deep aero wheels, you have no choice.
Did you just read that last paragraph and think, “blah blah, just get on with how Karbon Speed compares to other wheels!”? To you, I say, here are the results.
Ryan Falkenrath is a married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. He writes the blog f alkeetriathlon.blogspot.com , Endurance Sports Examiner and runs the Man Vs Triathlon project while participating in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans (soon to be Ironman distance in 2013). Contact Ryan at: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan .