Do-it-all wheels. Sturdy enough to train on and fast enough to race on – can you truly have an ‘all rounder’ wheelset? We test four pairs of hoops claiming to be the kings of versatility
Mavic: Ksyrium Elite S
Mavic’s classy-looking rims lack the drag-reducing deeper-section profile found on some of the wheelsets here and feel (whether it’s psychological or not) a little less speedy as a result. They spin smoothly and at 1,620g are light enough to accelerate well, but being only 22mm front/25mm rear deep, they seem to have a harder time holding on to speed. But while they might not feel as rapid as the Fulcrums, they certainly feel as robust as they look. Rough roads, broken tarmac and potholes don’t faze the Ksyriums in the slightest. They bear the brunt of any impacts and seem to just shrug off the shock, remaining perfectly straight and smooth, rolling true throughout the testing period. Braking is brilliant thanks to Mavic’s ‘UB Control’ brake track, which provides all the stopping power you could ask for with none of the shuddering or uncertainty found on other wheels. They’re great all-rounders but could be outgunned by something deeper when it comes to fast, flat rides.
Verdict: Light, smooth and sturdy but lose out a little in the speed stakes. 85%
Easton: EA90 RT
At first glance, Easton’s EA90 RT wheelset looks pretty run of the mill. With a fairly standard rim depth of 24.5mm, 20 round radially laced spokes on the front wheel and 24 round spokes on the back, they hardly inspire. But what’s different about these wheels is that they don’t need inner tubes. ‘RT’ stands for Road Tubeless and means you have the convenience of clinchers with the greater feel and puncture resistance of tubular tyres. Rather than squeezing a tube under the tyre, with these the tyre holds the air, which stays put thanks to special rim tape, specially designed sidewalls, an airtight seal around the valve hole and special tyres that fit like clinchers but can be fiddlier. In use, the 1,660g EA90 wheels accelerate easily and brake well. They feel sturdy but are supple enough not to feel harsh. They offer a solid enough ride but without that feeling of prolonged momentum deeper wheels provide.
Verdict: Ride well, but not as fast as deeper rims. Tubeless tech can exasperate. 73%
Cole: Rollen Elite
With bladed spokes and an almost all-black colour scheme, Cole’s Rollen Elite wheelset has an air of purposeful menace. But these wheels aren’t just intended to look good – Cole has engineered them to combine performance with everyday practicality. Being aluminium clinchers keeps them practical but giving them a 27mm deeper section gives them a boost in the performance stakes. The previously mentioned bladed spokes also lend a hand when it comes to cutting through the air, with 20 of them radially laced on the front wheel and 24 of them crossover laced on the rear. It’s a smooth and swift rolling 1,733g wheelset that spins up easily and has no trouble holding on to any speed you generate. What they’re not so good at is scrubbing it off. The anodised black brake track looks good, but makes braking feel vague and sluggish. Worse still, it takes just one wet ride for it to start wearing off.
Verdict: Swift and smooth, but braking leaves a little to be desired. 71%
Fulcrum Racing: Quattro CX
Durable enough for high mileage, deep enough for high speeds and sturdy enough to cope with cyclo-cross, the Quattro CX is Fulcrum’s all-purpose wheelset. Double seals on the hub keep dirt and grime from attacking the bearings, while a 35mm deep (ish) aluminium rim keeps drag to a minimum. The most impressive aspect of these wheels is that they feel so light for something this deep. Their profile does an excellent job of maintaining your momentum, but their 1,970g weight certainly makes picking it up feel easier than most wheels, especially those in the same price range. Just as surprising as the weight is their ride quality. You’d expect wheels this deep to be harsh but the Quattro CXs offer an impressively civilised ride. And to top it all off, the braking capability they provide is second to none. They slow you down quickly and with full, judder-free control.
Verdict: Supple, swift and smooth under braking. All in all, sublime. 93%