VO2 V:RACE:88 Carbon Clinchers – A triathletes view.
With eager anticipation, in truth, more like a 5 year old at Christmas, I unpacked the box sitting in my hallway. Looking at the resultant hoops of carbon delicately removed from the packaging I was struggling to understand how these wheels could be classed as ‘budget’. Yet in the price bracket these sit in, a carbon wheelset retailing at less than £1000 means exactly that, with triathlon already an expensive sport saving money in the current climate certainly helps.
Within the price tag VO2 will customize the colour graphics on the V:RACE:88 wheels to match either your bike or kit, the choice is yours. After putting the wheels on my bike and with the main test yet to come they had already ticked the box marked ‘head turner’.
The 88mm carbon clinchers weigh in around 1900g for the pair so not the lightest wheelset on the market but weight is not the whole story. In fact at only 300g over an equivalent set of deep section Zipps and less than half the price they would have to weigh a lot more for me to ignore the potential benefit they would make as an upgrade to my current set up.
VO2 have decided after market research to stick with clinchers for their wheels and this is where a smaller company can target the demands of savvy shoppers. Tubulars may still be the choice of the pro teams but in the amateur ranks they are starting to find their share of the market dwindling, with the tyre and inner tube being the norm, many racers are opting for what they know in case of race day emergencies. Having a clincher to race with and most likely train with gives confidence should something go wrong at a crucial moment.
My testing was during my build phase for an upcoming ironman so I had the opportunity to test them over plenty of long rides and then a few 2-3 hour sessions at pace.
The immediate concern for me was going to be comfort, I didn’t need to worry, the V shaped rim profile ate up the bumps and cracks in the Cheshire tarmac, there was minimal road shudder and after a number of 5 hours rides I still felt comfortable. This is certainly an important factor for an ironman triathlete. If there’s something I’ve learned over 15 years of racing long distance, there is only so much discomfort you can endure to find more speed and if the wheels you are riding don’t contribute to that, you are onto a winner.
Acceleration was crisp and swift, for deep section wheels this is an impressive quality, the stiff build of the wheels helping to transfer my effort to forward motion. The lack of flex and absence of rim rub when putting out serious effort was noticeable out of the saddle and whilst climbing some of Cheshire’s finest lumps.
An area that may concern lighter riders was in stronger side winds, the depth and profile means the front got a little twitchy in gustier weather and although didn’t cause too much concern for someone of my weight around 72kg it may feel a little harder to control for lighter riders.
With the choice limited to a carbon braking surface VO2 ensure the V:RACE:88 wheels are supplied with carbon brake pads. These are reliable if not remarkable, they did assist in increasing the braking performance in wet conditions but will still struggle against the consistency of aluminum rims.
Overall, with a fantastic price, VO2 have produced a wheelset that provides a mix of comfort and responsive handling that once up to speed ticks along nicely. They will certainly improve the look, feel and average speed of any bike looking to upgrade to carbon wheels from their standard training wheel.