Vuelta WR Carbon Pro wheelset - Road Cycling UK

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Vuelta WR Carbon Pro wheelset


The world’s fastest wheelset?

New hub design for straight-pull spokes

Spoke paint marked by contact with hub

Old-style hub houses cranked spoke ends

12 spokes enough for front wheel

Machined slot may improve spoke aerodynamics

Vuelta WR Carbon Pro clincher wheelset £999.99

Since Francesco Moser became the first cyclist to ride more than 50km in one hour in 1984, wheels have been widely considered the most important part of a bicycle in terms of creating air drag. Moser’s bike had double disc wheels, and although a front disc is today only used on indoor velodromes on account of its susceptibility to crosswinds, a rear disc is almost de riguer for top-level time trialling and track racing.

More recently, there have been indications that a disc rear wheel is not invariably faster through the air than a well-designed multi-spoked wheel. German cycling magazine Tour found that several all-spoked wheel pairings beat an aero spoked front wheel with disc rear, using a test protocol that comprised riding on an indoor velodrome and measuring, using SRM Powercranks, the power output required to maintain a specified speed with various wheel sets. The best, i.e. fastest, wheels in the test were a then-new design from Vuelta, an Italian wheel manufacturer that had acquired some kudos by supplying the wheels used by Andrei Sosenka to break Chris Boardman’s Athlete’s Hour record. Sosenka’s wheels were not the WR Carbon Pros tested, since the rules of the Athlete’s Hour record require non-aero wheels of specified dimensions.

Vuelta WR Carbon Pros have a 60mm-deep bulging rim profile borrowed from aero wheel specialists Zipp. The shape and variations on it are covered by a joint Zipp-HED patent. The rim’s shape is designed to ‘recapture’ airflow that has detached from the surface and left a low-pressure turbulent wake. So effective is this that the rim also shows greatly-reduced air drag over a range of yaw angles, i.e. where the airflow comes from one side rather than directly ahead.
Vuelta’s wheels have another distinctive feature; the spokes are an Alpina-patented design, and have a fat, oval Avional aluminium middle alloy section with a steel tip threaded into each end. Their cross-section is designed to optimise air penetration, while the tips permit the use of a conventional threaded nipple and hub location.

In fact, the first generation of Vuelta wheels employed a cranked spoke end of a type long discarded by most wheel manufacturers because it makes secure spoke location problematic. The aim was to allow the use of a conventional drilled hub flange; of course, the fat spoke could not pass through the hole. By cranking the end, it was possible to pass only the tip of the spoke through the flange. Since such a design is prone to allowing the spoke to ‘unbend’ and pull through the flange under high spoke tension, Vuelta left the spokes softly tensioned. This meant that the early wheels were both soggy and prone to fatigue-related spoke breakage.

On test here, we have the second generation Vuelta WR Carbon Pro wheelset, which shares the aerodynamic properties of the original but has a far superior spoke location. In line with much current thinking, the hub has petals or fingers that locate the ends of straight-pull spokes. This design not only allows far higher spoke tension, but removes the bend in the spoke caused by the need to lace the old-style spokes. The result is immediately noticeable on the road; instant response, no sign of lateral rim flex indicated by brake pad rub while riding out of the saddle, and a firm, efficient ride over rough Tarmac. Thanks to the inherent flexibility of the curved carbon-fibre rim walls, there is also a good degree of shock absorption.

Given the evidence from aerodynamic tests, including those carried out by Zipp, it is fair to assume that these wheels are fast. They feel fast, especially into a stiff headwind, which they slice through almost effortlessly. The spokes have a machined slot on each flank. Although this looks at first glance to be purely cosmetic, the slot may have the same effect as dimples on a golf ball, improving airflow around the trailing edge of the spoke. If so, this would go some way to explain how these wheels beat other similar designs in tests.

The WR Carbon Pros have 12 radial spokes in the front wheel and 16 tangent at the rear. There is a choice of all-black or silver finishes, tubular or clincher rim (the latter with aluminium braking surface) and an interchangeable Campagnolo or Shimano pattern freehub body. Wheel weights are a quoted 630g/750g front/rear for the tubular rim and 830g/980g for the clincher model, which has a bonded aluminium rim section. The paint on our test pair was scuffed in several places where it had been scraped by the hub flange. Both wheels were built to a high level of accuracy for both radial and axial truth, but the rear was 1mm off-centre. The graphics of the silver model will match more colour schemes than the predominantly red design of the black wheels.

Vuelta WR Carbon Pro wheels boast proven aerodynamic efficiency and in second generation guise are stiff, well-built and nicely finished. Only the out-of-dish of our back wheel detracts from the excellence of the whole package.

Verdict

Fast, great looking, turn you into a Road God


goodAerodynamics, sturdy build

badOff-centre rear, high cost

performance 9

value 7

overall 8

  • www.vuelta.it
  • email michaelelson@btconnect.com
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