The most notable difference between the two wheelsets was in the ‘feel’, by which we mean the ability of the wheel to absorb feedback from the road, its influence on the handling of the bike, and its stiffness.
The Aeolus 3 D3 was a clear winner in every regard.
A section of our test circuit was littered with ‘creases’, the result of piecemeal repairs, and while the jolt transferred from the Ksyrium Elite S rim was enough to loosen fillings, they were barely noticeable beneath the Aeolus 3 D3. Much of the carbon wheel’s superiority we’d ascribe to the difference in material (not all carbon wheels can be expected to be as absorbent, of course; as with a frameset, lay-up will have a considerable influence), but some is perhaps due to its wider profile (27mm for the Aeolus; 25mm rear and 23mm front for the Ksyrium Elite S) and its ability to place more of the same Schwalbe Ultremo ZX rubber on the road.
The Aeolus 3 ignited the Kinesis Racelight TK3 in a manner beyond the Ksyrium Elite S. What is in essence a crit bike, and a machine that had thus far performed in sprightly enough manner on aluminium hoops, showed its true colours with the Aeolus 3 D3. The Bonty hoop is quick to gather speed as we’ve observed elsewhere and the TK3’s excellent handling made sure none of it was lost, especially through corners. While the Ksyrium Elite S did nothing to blunt the TK3’s native instincts, it failed to highlight them in the manner of the Aeolus 3.
Out-of-the saddle climbing typically exposes flex in a wheelset where such exists, and in this regard the Ksyrium Elite S proved a match for the Aeolus 3 D3. We’ve never previously discerned flex in our Mavic hoops, and while we’d expect the construction of the Aeolus 3 D3 to deliver a stiffer hoop, they didn’t suffer by direct comparison with the more expensive wheel. This may have something to do with the low weight of your test pilot, and heavier riders might have an easier job in discerning flex in either wheel, but we can only call it as we find it, and in this regard the Ksyrium Elite S held its own.
The most significant advantage offered by aluminium hoops over carbon is their braking performance in the wet. The day of our test was that rarest of things, in the UK at least: dry. Our experience in the wet on other carbon rims required us to deploy a ‘pre-braking’ phase to scrub the water from the rim.