The Airstreeem Aero 50 carbon tubular wheelset offers stiffness and stable aerodynamic performance in a lightweight package.
We’ve been running the Aero 50s in the trusty RCUK Kinesis Racelight TK3 test rig for six weeks and found their aerodynamic promise fulfilled in a real sense of momentum when brought up to speed.
At £1199, these hoops are far from cheap, however, and are likely to represent a serious investment for almost any rider.
Airstreeem’s carbon tubular rims are front and rear specific; the rear rim is asymmetric. The offset spoke bed is intended to assist with rear wheel stiffness and strength; a claim we can bear out, having found the wheels resistant to flex, even when subjected to sprinting or cornering forces. We have also been impressed by the lack of truing and tensioning required during our test period.
Airstreeem claim gains in braking performance from their “double thickness Nano-high-temperature coating”, and while braking was on a par with other good quality carbon offerings (the Bontrager Aeolus 3, currently under test, for example), we did not find modulation or ‘bite’ above average.
The performance of the rim’s aerodynamic profile, however, was immediately notable. Airstreeem claim a seven per cent reduction in wind resistance over their closest competitors from testing at the University of Graz, and while RCUK Towers lacks the facilities to validate or challenge this claim, the performance on the road was obvious. The Aero 50 is a wheel that wants to be pushed.
The hubs are an alloy affair, Airstreeem’s own, and equipped with a double helping of cartridge bearings in the front (four), and five in the rear. The hubs revolved freely enough and have not required any attention during the test. A longer trial would be necessary to judge their durability, but our six-week acquaintance suggests that they are of the ‘fit and forget’ variety.
The low flanges are arranged for straight pull spokes, which, in combination with the Sapim CX-Ray spars (more of which below) delivered a highly tensioned and, as a consequence, stiff construction. Power transfer was certainly unhindered.
The spokes are Sapim CX-Ray: straight pull, bladed affairs, laced 20 front and 24 rear. Airstreeem set much store by the stiffness with which the Aero 50 is laced, claiming equal spoke tension on drive and non-driveside.
As noted above, this wheelset’s willingness to gain momentum was its distinguishing feature in our eyes, and while its stiff construction certainly played a part, it was not to the detriment of ride quality. For a wheel so obviously targeted at performance, it was not uncomfortable. The CX-Rays can claim a share in any credit for attaining this difficult balance.
The spoke nipples are concealed within the rim (glued there by hand, according to Airstreeem), a feature we’ve seen on similarly high performance wheels from more established brands (Reynolds R32, for example). While any gains are likely to be confined to the aero performance of the rim, the aesthetic effect is pleasing, though perhaps not enough to offset the unsightly use of faux carbon tape on the front hub barrel, or the garish rim graphics.
The Airstreeem Aero 50s performed well during our test period, and if a £1200 investment in a wheelset can be described as good value, then this is. The weight is competitive with aero wheelsets costing considerably more and, putting aside the graphics and the aforementioned front hub decoration, they certainly look the part.
Longevity is a quality that can only be assessed with time and in this regard, Airstreeem must compete with more established brands. On the evidence of this test, however, they should not be overlooked.