Monday, July 1, 2013

What a difference a wheel makes - Airstreeem Carbon Aero 50s reviewed/tested

So, to torture myself, I decided to see what the Airstreeem Carbon Aero 50s rode like.
The Carbon Aero 50s make my bike look better too.
Now tubular tyres shouldn't really be ridden without a support car, as a puncture can't be fixed roadside, but there was no way I was going to have the Aero 50s sitting in my flat without putting them on the bike. And once they were on the bike, there was no way I wasn't going to ride them.

I mean, this was pro-level kit. Sitting in my flat. Not being used. Puncture risk be damned.

So a quick (well, 80km) spin later I thought I should write something up for those people thinking about a wheel upgrade.

After the frame and the rider (not necessarily in that order), the biggest factor in a bike's performance is the wheels. Or so we're told. These are good wheels. Really good.

According to Airstreeem these weigh in at 1,310 grams for the pair (580g front wheel + 730g back). They also have 50mm aero rims, double thick brake coating, and are "extra stiff".

The brake coating was immediately noticeable, I had to open my brakes all the way for the wheels to roll freely (as I was giving them back it didn't seem worth adjusting the cable length).

The free hub is also rather loud. Not that that's a bad thing, just worth noting. You're not going to sneak up on anyone though and coasting in someone's slipstream is going to be rather obvious too.

But that's all by the way. The real question is what do they ride like?
Very good wheels, that I can't take on the Etape due to stupid practicality.

I followed a route I've ridden a couple of dozen times before, doing a couple of laps in each direction round Richmond Park, with a recovery lap thrown in, so the comparison was fair, and, well, set 49 new PB times. Also taking me above Paul and Pez to the top time of our group of three on all the sections that mattered.

The most noticeable thing about the Airstreeems is how easy it is to hold your speed between 30 and 50kph (roughly 20-30mph). The aero design just means it's less effort to turn the pedals and you lose less momentum each wheel revolution.

It meant I was carrying more speed than I realised on several occasions - almost seeing me off the road on a couple of descents as I realised too late I was going too fast for a corner.

The lightness of the Aero 50s also meant they got up to speed noticeably faster than I'm used to and there was good power transmission to the rear wheel whenever I stood on the pedals to accelerate.

I was also being pushed further sideways with each gust of crosswind. Not dangerously, but noticeably.

The stopping performance was good, with nice control, power and not-too grabby. Handy when a car decided to turn right in front of me during a 55kph descent.

I mean, sure, I locked up, skidded and lurched sideways while trying to not hit them/pass them. But I stayed up and I'm not sure anything could have stopped me in time without having a lot more rubber on the road.
Aero rims, 50mm of them, and they have to go back
Overall - they made a clear impact on the speed I was riding at. How clear? Well I lapped Richmond Park at 29.2 and 29.1 kph in consecutive laps - while also suffering delays caught behind cars, caught behind cyclists.

My previous record was 29kph flat on a dream run (no wind, no cars). My next best time was at a 27kph average. So even with delays that's c2kph faster on a 10km loop. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Would I buy them? Well, not the tubular version. And I'm not even sure you even can in the UK and I have no idea on costs. However, Airstreeem were at the Bike Show at the Excel centre in January so I'd imagine they will be available soon.

But if not necessarily them, I'm definitely upgrading my wheels.

Update - According to the Airstreeems Carbon Aero 50s cost £1,399 and you can order them direct from the Airstreeem website


  1. So, are you saying the climb segements don't count:



    1. Um, I wasn't even hitting my own PBs on those because the gears were slipping (indexing off thanks to new wheels, not a wheel problem, a me not adjusting properly because I had to give the wheels back problem). Not sure that counts as much as the 10.7km full lap segments, where I'm top on all of them - despite not hitting PBs on the climbs.

    2. Sorry, I forgot only segments you are top of count

    3. The long ones? Don't worry, if you practice very, very hard one day you'll be almost as good as me.

  2. If I had a 4k biworth of bike I would be ashamed to lap in anything over 20 minutes to be honest

  3. Why don't you do what a lot of other people do, strap a spare tyre under yours and one under Pez's !!!

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