- Gender Unisex
- MSRP $6,400.00
Nothing transforms a bike like a nimble set of carbon wheels, especially a swanky set of tubulars like Lightweight’s Gipfelsturm. While the German moniker sounds a bit chunky, these featherweight hoops are anything but dense at just 1,035 grams (465 grams for the front wheel and 570 grams for the rear). And while these wheels might help you float up climbs, the shocking price can quickly pull you back down to Earth.
At $6,400, these wheels are more expensive than many of the bikes we test here at VeloNews.com. So the question is, what exactly do you get for this jaw-dropping cost? And are they worth it?
Aerodynamic, Light, and Supple
With a rim depth of 27 millimeters, the Gipfelsturm wheels hypothetically offer an aerodynamic advantage (we did not test these in the wind tunnel); in our experience, the low rim profile is relatively unaffected by side winds. Billed as Lightweight’s all-around, versatile wheelset, the Gipfelsturms remained stable when big gusts came sweeping over the mountains. But these are not aero-specific wheels (look to Lightweight’s 47.5mm Meilenstein wheels if beating the wind is your first priority). These featherweights are made primarily for climbing.
If that’s the measuring stick, the Gipfelsturms stack up nicely: They’re responsive under heavy pedaling up steep climbs, and the carbon hubs (produced in-house with DT Swiss internals) seemed to complement the overall goal of light and laterally unyielding.
The Gipfelsturms felt surprisingly stiff despite the set’s featherweight build. Even with our biggest out of the saddle sprinting efforts we didn’t notice any wheel flex or brake rub. Lightweight’s one-piece construction method in which the carbon bladed spokes (20/24 spoke count front and rear) are bonded to both the rims and hub flanges likely contributed to that unyielding, stable ride quality. The spokes are tensioned before the bonding process, creating a laterally stiff and true wheel that theoretically cannot go out of true over time.
The spokes and bonding process means that damaged spokes are hard to repair or replace. If there is a complete break in the spoke or if a damaged spoke loses tension, Lightweight says the entire wheel needs to be replaced. That’s not wallet-friendly, but Lightweight softens the blow with a crash replacement program: 30 percent off replacement wheels if your registered Lightweight wheels are damaged in a crash.
We tested the wheels with Vredestein Fortezza Senso all-weather tires that measured 23mm, and together they helped make tricky descents and fast corners feel buttery smooth and stable. Braking on these descents was also quite impressive when using SwiftStop-produced, Lightweight-branded brake pads. The brakes offered some good bite even in damp conditions, and braking was reliable in dry conditions.
Are they worth it?
The Gipfelsturms tick all of the boxes when it comes to a versatile set of climbing and racing hoops: crazy light construction — they’re the lightest tubulars we’ve tested — a stiff and compliant ride quality, and impressive responsiveness out of the saddle. But for $6,400, they need to be more than just a great set of wheels considering Enve makes a similar set of tubulars, the SES 2.2 wheels with Enve carbon hubs, that weigh just 28 grams more than the Gipfelsturm and cost around half as much.
But Lightweight has built its reputation on exclusivity, opulence, and status. Like a sports car, you don’t buy Lightweight wheels just for the ride. You buy them because legends like Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich rode them to Tour de France victories. You ride them because unlike almost any other cycling product out there, top pros like Lance Armstrong actually bought these wheels when other companies were begging (and willing to pay) him to ride their wheels.
If your bike is your masterpiece, something you constantly work on refining and perfecting from ride quality to aesthetics, then the Gipfelsturm tubulars are most definitely worth it. But if you’re looking for top performers on a budget, keep shopping.