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Brands often state that each component of a bicycle works as a system. It stands to reason, then, that brands would want to control the manufacture of each component to make that system as efficient as possible. We’ve seen this happen with large brands like Trek (which owns Bontrager), Specialized (which owns Roval), and Scott (which owns Syncros). Now Wilier Triestina is in the game with its own wheels.
The lineup includes an endurance road set and two road racing sets. All three wheelsets feature carbon rims. The endurance road wheelset is called the NDR38 KC (rolls right off the tongue, right?) and focuses primarily on durability. The tubeless-ready rims feature a 17mm inner rim width and a 38mm depth. Wilier Triestina says the wheelset weighs 1,655 grams.
For racers, Wilier Triestina offers the AIR50 KC and the top of the line ULT38 KT. The AIR50 KC wheels feature a 50mm depth and 19mm inner rim width, and the set weighs 1,600 grams. They’re also tubeless-ready. The ULT38 KT wheels are tubular only and weigh in at 1,390 grams. These top of the line race wheels also feature CeramicSpeed bearings, and a 38mm rim depth.
Wilier says the carbon layup on the wheels varies throughout the wheel. The carbon is thicker where the spokes meet the rim, and thinner in other places, to reduce weight. This, according to Wilier, helps strike the best balance between strength and weight.
Wilier collaborated with Miche Wheels to create the new wheelsets. The two companies are headquartered near each other and have a long history of collaboration. Through that collaboration, Wilier determined its layup, and opted for round carbon fibers, which the company says is a better choice for wheels due to the forces a wheel is likely to encounter.
This all seems like pretty standard fare for high-end carbon wheels. The only surprise here seems to be the 17mm inner rim width on the endurance wheels, which is 2mm narrower than the AIR50 wheels. It’s a curious choice given endurance riders are more likely to run wider tires. Wilier did not give a specific reason for the choice and we have not had the opportunity to test these wheels yet. We’ll report back when we have more details.
I had the opportunity to test the AIR50 KC wheels on a recent trip to Wilier’s headquarters in northern Italy. My two rides on the wheels totaled about 55 miles, so it was difficult to make any comparisons to other wheels I’m currently testing. What I can say is that the AIR50 KC wheels didn’t stand out for any negative reasons, which in my mind means they fit well with the high-end spec on the bicycle I was riding on those two days.
The 50mm depth appeals to a wide swath of riders. The wheels felt light enough to tackle the long climbs of the day, and they also lent an aerodynamic touch on long stretches of straight, flat road. They matched the confidence and lateral stiffness of the bike during high-speed cornering. And Wilier wisely chose a 19mm inner rim width to play nice with modern tires that trend wider every year.
Interestingly, the 50mm depth didn’t seem to create an overly harsh ride. We talk a lot about stiffness when it comes to wheels, and we praise wheels that are laterally stiff yet vertically compliant (the holy grail of bike clichés). These wheels deserve praise if they are to be measured by that combo. Northern Italy’s roads take a beating in the winter months, and reveal deep cracks and uneven potholes in the spring and summer. These wheels felt stiff enough to track accurately, but forgiving enough to absorb the worst chatter and sharp hits. Of course, most of the real compliance is left to the frame from there.
In other words, these are very good wheels and Wilier Triestina has much to be proud of. It’s likely, however, that you won’t see many of these wheels in your local bike shop, unless that shop specifically carries Wilier bikes. That is, of course, the point: These wheels are made to be spec’d on Wilier’s high-end offerings. This essentially streamlines Wilier’s production and allows the company to have more control over the specifics of each wheel product. You’ll see Team Total Direct Energie riding these wheels this season.