With their 16/20 front/rear all-tangent spoke count, moderate rim depth and mostly black colouring, Cole’s CL24 Lite wheels look, from a distance, much like any number of standard-issue road wheels. Look closer and in particular at the hubs and their point of difference quickly becomes obvious; set in the hub flanges are small bronze-coloured (and doubtless bronze) barrels that locate the spoke heads.
The flanges themselves comprise two (front) or three (rear) ribs which sit so there’s one either side of the spoke, ensuring the barrel is supported on both sides. A slight slant to the inside gives the flanges alignment in one plane with the rim, the ability of the barrels to rotate in their holes accurately aligning the spokes on the other.
The main objective of the design is to permit very high spoke tension, which in turn increases wheel life by reducing the flex that causes spoke fatigue.
Ride the wheels and another effect becomes clear; despite having a fairly low spoke count, these are very stiff wheels indeed, both radially and axially. The rims surely pay a part in the latter, their on-trend 21mm width adding axial rigidity as well as tyre width. Sideways stiffness is a good thing, of course, as is radial rigidity – up to a point. But these are super-stiff over bumps, the notably high spoke tension doing just what it may be expected to given that it all-but eliminates spoke flex.
The answer is to lower tyre inflation pressure as far as possible, which meant 90psi in the 25c Continental Grand Prix 4000S rubber fitted. The result is just about acceptable ride comfort on cratered London roads, but narrower tyres would mean more road shock reaching the rider.
The wheels’ stiffness extends to torsion, or drive, as well. “Wind-up” is exceptional, with instant response to pedal input both on the flat and climbing. Steering inputs generate the same immediate response and the use of bladed spokes subtracts enough from air drag to make the Coles a fine choice for competition. Maybe less so for commuting, unless durability is a priority, but they sure do go along nicely.
Match the colours of our test IndyFab Club Racer to a nicety to boot.
Long term report to come.
Cole C24 Lite Shimano/SRAM Compatible Clincher Wheel Set £274.99 per pair