Review: BikeSmith Carbon 38mm Wheelset (Custom)

Review: The BikeSmith Custom (38mm) Carbon Wheelset – Clincher
WARNING: Don’t test ride this wheelset. If you do, you’ll be yearning to be riding it every single day and eventually be compelled to buy them.

The Hubs

Well, as for me I bought it even before testing it. Reason for doing so, the fact that the rare and Royce Hubs will be used and that I have faith in Gabriel of BikeSmith when he told me of his custom wheels.

The wait was long but I was never in a rush. I knew the fact that there must be a wait for good things to come.

Before the review of the wheelset, here’s the background to why Royce hubs was my choice and not any other for my custom wheelset.

Ever since I heard about Chris Boardman and his componentry that he deployed just for the hour record, I knew that the componentry he deployed must not only meet his demands (he wouldn’t be called the Professor for nothing) but also capable of setting the hour record. Of course the ones that he used are for track. I on the other hand will be getting the road series hubs. I knew these hubs are a gem and they are almost unheard of here in Singapore which makes it more of a rare gem and something which I have been yearning to own. When anyone mentions Royce, they would think of either Rolls Royce or Royce confectionery.

The hubs people usually go for are Chris King, White Industries, DT Swiss and now Industry Nine (which I swear by and am so fond of the engagement and the reactivity of the hubs). It’s not that the brands I mentioned are not any good, oh no, they are good. But I always like to be able to possess something different, something unique.

Royce are almost unheard of here. They are heavier than all the brands aforementioned. But if Sir Chris Boardman specifically “demanded” it, it wouldn’t be wrong or at least it won’t go far off by too much (I hope).

These beautiful Royce hubs are hand made in the United Kingdom and not mass produced, Cliff Polton (pioneer and owner of Royce) is meticulous about his work, and he would just thrash a piece if any piece doesn’t meet his quality controls so you can imagine how many pieces do actually get out into the market. Well, he manages to roll out something like 3 to 4 pairs of hubs a day, that is if they meet his strict quality control standards.

Another thing to note is the weight of the hubs, it’s heavy comparing it to the likes of DT Swiss 180 (290 grams a pair), Chris King R45 (325 grams a pair), Shimano Dura Ace (367 grams a pair). So how much does it weigh? The Royce hubs weigh in at approximately 432 grams for a pair. However, weight is not a factor which I will tell you more in the wheelset review.

Now before I go into my review on the BikeSmith Custom (38mm) wheelset, these are the wheels that I currently own and/or previously owned.

  1. Zipp 404 (tubulars)
  2. Bontrager Race Lite
  3. Fulcrum Racing 3
  4. Fulcrum Racing Zero
  5. Industry 9 i25 TL

And the wheels I have tested or rode on (not that none of them are good. They are great wheels)

  1. Enve 3.4
  2. Shimano Dura Ace C24
  3. Mavic Ksyrium
  4. Gokiso (briefing tested)

The Wheels

I was actually contemplating on building a pair of alloy clinchers to the Royce hubs, with the likes of HED Ardennes or H Plus & Son (Archetype), but Gabriel told me of his custom wheels which made me decided to give carbon wheels another chance. I was never too keen on owning another pair of carbon wheelset as my previous experience with my tubular 404s wasn’t the best, the constant rattling of the valve against the wheel which I had to use black tape to secure it so that it doesn’t rattle anymore and especially the braking in the wet.

The BikeSmith custom wheels are built with T700 carbon and Kevlar ballistic protection incorporated at the rim wall which gives the wheels the added strength, better braking capability and also helps prevent overheating from hard braking during descends.

Opted for 38 mm profile (38mm depth x 25 mm width) instead of 58mm profile as I wanted an all-rounder wheelset so that I can use on a daily basis and these should be more than capable of handling the rides and races I participate in. Did I mention that I enjoy climbing too, albeit not my forte nevertheless climbs are something which I am extremely fond of and I needed something that won’t be too difficult for me to climb with especially since I have gotten accustomed to low profile alloy clinchers.

The Build

38mm T700 carbon rims, laced to Pillar PSR TRA 1420 spokes (20 spokes front, 28 spokes rear), external Brass nipples, rim tape, Michelin 58mm tubes, 23mm Continental GP4000 SII, Royce Ultra light front hub and Venus Rear hub.

Total weight of the wheelset: 1.7 kg without skewers

The Ride
First time I saw the complete build, I was captivated especially by the beauty of the hubs against the wheels. They complement each other well.

Eager I was to put them on and ride, Gabriel helped hook up the wheelset onto my Boardman SLR 9.8, brake pads were replaced with ceramic brake pads and fine-tuned the brakes before I got to test ride.

The first pedal stroke… awed me. Can’t explain what I felt but the smoothness of the roll was remarkable and undeniably the smoothest I have ever ridden. It was euphoric…

Went for a longer test ride around the area and I couldn’t imagine how plush the ride was. Not only does it roll well, it was plush, extremely plush, the wheels absorb road imperfections like no other clinchers I have tested before. I only thought my tubulars (Zipp 404s paired with 23mm Vittoria Open Corsa CX 320 tpi) wheels were comfortable until this came along. Without a doubt, the BikeSmith Custom wheels are the most comfortable wheels I have ever ridden on.

My personal opinion, the BikeSmith custom wheels laced to Royce hubs have this appeal to it that no other wheels have. It seems to invite me to ride them daily and it never fails to put a smile on me whenever I do ride. I have ridden some good wheels before but they have never had that kind of appeal compared to this. Does sound wrong in some manner but it does constantly “invite” me to ride, and how I wish I could do so.

After the first week of riding, I decided to bring the wheels back to Gabriel to check on the trueness of the spokes. He obligingly put the wheels to the test on the ultimate detector, the PK & Lie Special 250 Truing Stand.

Test results, almost perfect. Extremely minimal deflection was noted from the PK & Lie Truing Stand which in turn means that the spokes are torqued and true (refer to the video that I have posted). The gauge doesn’t lie. What more can you ask for?

And more impressively is that this pair of wheels is literally perfectly balanced. Raise the bike up by the saddle and crank it up a bit, the wheels will just spin without any bobbing effect, unlike the other wheels I have and had, there will always be a minimal amount of bob when you spin the wheels.

These wheels are very stiff yet plush and they accelerate quickly. The hubs are very lively, push it and it goes immediately. On the flats, the aero benefits are definitely noticeable; they definitely feel faster and are indeed faster than any of my previous wheels. What about the climbs?

These wheels may not the lightest of the lot, but they are truly splendid in terms of climbing and descending. It feels just like I’m on a low profile clincher when I climbing plus the added “aero” benefits I get from descends. One might think that this is not possible but you may want to try it to believe it.

The braking prowess on the wheels is excellent, tremendous stopping capabilities especially with the ceramic brake pads (it bites down hard). Now this has given me the much needed confidence when riding in the wet with carbon wheels. When it comes to crosswind you can feel minimal deflection when you face strong crosswinds and it’s extremely easy to manage compared to deeper profiles.

After 3 weeks of riding and some 400 km on the wheelset, I am constantly looking forward to rides and that I have never grown such chemistry with any of my wheelsets before until this came along. These are the wheels that I have been truly waiting for.

Verdict Plush, unbelievable smoothness, and immediate accelerating, the BikeSmith custom wheelset is now my official weapon of choice. Price may be slightly steep for a custom wheelset but then again it’s laced to one of the best hubs in the world. Believe in this and you will be as impressed as I was and still am.

RRP: SGD2500 Rims come with lifetime truing and a one year local warranty. Contact: Gabriel (The BikeSmith) +6593844501



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