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Edco Optima Roches wheelset – review

If you've bought a bike off the shelf, one of the first upgrades you'll be thinking about is the wheels. And if you don't want to break the bank, around the £500-600 mark will give you something better than the stock rims on your bike and probably save you a few grams, too.

Edco is a Swiss firm and the wheels are new to the UK. The range extends from the hoops we have on test here, the £549.99 Roches, to the all-signing – and unfathomably light – Neggia tubulars, which weight just 999g, with a £2,249.99 price tag.

Spec-wise, the Roches are 22mm deep and 24mm wide, which makes them a good match for 25mm tyres. Speaking of which, because Edco wheels are distributed in the UK by Cambrian, who also deal with Continental, they come clad with a set of Conti’s Grand Sport Race 25mm tyres. They won’t set the world alight compared with the German firm’s flagship Grand Prix 4000S II race tyres, but they’re robust and adequately grippy, and are certainly a cut about many tyres specced on a bike, so fit the bill nicely as a more than capable set of training tyres. The wheels are also tubeless-ready should you wish to upgrade.

The wheels are built around Edco’s SuperG hubs and joined to the rims with Sapim Race db spokes – 20 front and 24 rear. But the smartest part of the setup is the freehub. It’s what Edco call MultiSys, which is a smart way of saying that it’ll accept both Campagnolo or Shimano/SRAM cassettes on the same hub body.

It’s a smart design although it’s not new, and I’m not sure why multiple compatibility hubs haven’t caught on, especially across cheaper wheelsets. As long as performance isn’t compromised then dual compatibility is only going to be an advantage for a wheelset in the long term. Having said that, with the proliferation of 11-speed a lot of the cross compatibility problems of the past have been confined to, er, the past, as either Campag or Shimano 11-speed cassettes will work with the other’s rear derailleur with little or no adjustment needed. However, it’s still adds to the versatility of the wheelset and also means that if you’re running a 10-speed setup (the Roches come with a freehub spacer so are also 10- and 11-speed compatible) and happen to have two bikes with different groupsets, you can use the wheels on your Shimano bike and your Campag bike.

I tried both Campagnolo and Shimano cassettes on the freehub and they went on without any problems. There’s even writing on the hub to show you where the unique parts of the two brands’ cassettes needs to go, making setup really simple. The one thing to keep in mind though is that the two different lock rings the wheels come with are important. When I installed a Shimano 105 11-speed cassette, the Shimano lock ring wasn’t long enough (it didn’t have a long enough threaded section) to lock in place. The one supplied by Edco is longer for that exact reason. But lose one of those and you’ll be in a bit of a predicament.

On the road, all these build details manifest themselves in a couple of ways. The first is that the wheels are solid. And by that I mean they can feel rather harsh when the road surface starts to deteriorate. It’s not that they’re noticeably less comfortable than other aluminium clinchers, more that you can tell these have been made with longevity as well as performance in mind. I’m not heading down that ‘bombproof’ route, as it’s one of my least favourite clichés, but they certainly lived up to their billed lateral stiffness. Climbing out of the saddle and sprinting didn’t elicit any brake rub, and despite barreling down some pretty shoddy roads, hitting potholes that might have been best avoided, they were still good to go next time out.

Braking, as with most alu clinchers, is spot on. Responsive, sharp and powerful without being overly harsh and you really have the confidence to leave braking late knowing that just a touch on the brake levers is enough to scrub off any speed you need to lose.

On the flip side, acceleration is okay. Weight-wise they’re competitive at their price range at 1,610g (actually lighter than the claimed 1,655g), but they won’t be making you double take in disbelief when you put your bike on the scales, as with tyres and tubes on they’re still up over two kilos. That said, they’re a good weight for what they are, and would still make a great upgrade over a set of bog standard wheels that were specced on a sub-£2,000 bike if you bought it new – just don’t buy them expecting performance miracles or half a kilo off your total bike weight

Conclusion

The Optima Roches is a solid wheelset and, at £550, priced exactly where it should be. The wheels fit the bill as a first set of upgrade hoops for an off-the-shelf bike, or a quality set of training wheels if you want to save your race wheels from everyday outings. The wide rim matches up well with the supplied 25mm tyres and they’re tubeless-ready, should you wish to match that switch in future. The dual compatibility of the freehub is a big bonus should you run two bikes with groupsets from Shimano and Campagnolo, especially if they’re not both 11-speed.

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