What's the Skinny on Wide?

If you’ve taken a look around the road aftermarket wheel landscape recently, you have probably noticed a trend toward wider rims. HED calls it C2 rim profile (available on their Jet carbon clincher wheels, Stinger carbon tubular wheels, and Belgian series aluminum clinchers). Zipp rolled out their new wide 303 carbon tubular and have now introduced the 101 – an alloy clincher with the wider profile. Velocity has also jumped on board with their A23 alloy clincher. I decided to give the Velocity A23’s a try, replacing my failing Ambrosio Balance rims.

The Rim
The new Velocity A23 rims weighed in at 440 grams. A bit heavier than the claimed 426 grams, but most claimed weights are a little on the light side. The weight is around that of the Mavic Open Pro (a rim I considered to be a standard all around rim).

The depth of the rim is a good 20 mm. They measure up a little shallower than the HED Belgian series rim (24 mm) and a good bit shallower than the Zipp 101 (30 mm).

The width is what all the hubbub is about. The Velocity is a solid 23 mm wide, as are the HED’s. The Zipp is listed at 24.5 mm, but has a slight bulge below the brake track (what they call “toroidal” shape) so it is closer to 23 mm across the tire bed. For comparison, most road rims are around 19 mm wide.

The Build
I built these up somewhat old school (if you know me, than you know that is my style). DT Swiss Competition spokes and brass nipples (both in black) bridged the distance between my DT Swiss 340 hubs and the Velocity A23 rims in a 3 cross pattern – nothing crazy here. I like classic looks and durability. As has been my experience with most Velocity rims, the A23’s built up round and true quite easily.

The Ride
Mount a 23c tire to any of these rims and it pumps up slightly larger than on a standard rim. I got about 1.5 to 2 mm more tire width. The same was true when I mounted a 35c ‘cross tire. The increased width isn’t the only factor to the ride. The profile becomes rounder as the sidewall of the tire straightens out a bit. Instead of looking like a light bulb, the cross section is more like a U. This gives a more consistent contact patch when cornering. Rolling resistance is reduced as well. Also, with the increased volume of the tire you can run lower air pressure. Instead of the normal 110 (there is really no need to go above that, even with regular width rims), you can run pressures around 90. I am still experimenting to find the sweet spot, but think it probably lies in the 70 – 80 psi range for me.

The ride of the wheels can be described in one word – smooth. Whether it’s the lower air pressure, the more consistent contact patch, or something else, these wheels just feel good. I have not had the opportunity to really push these in a corner to see if they stick better. As for wheel durability, ask me after ‘cross season as these wheels will probably see some time under the ‘cross bike later in the year. Prior experience with Velocity products would indicate that they will hold up well. I do not have enough miles on them to see how the rim width will impact tire wear.

These wheels definitely have a good ride to them. I would say that the ride approaches that of a good tubular, even with a bomb-proof, heavy-duty training tire mounted up. Did I notice a sudden increase in speed? No. But these wheels did have a noticeably smoother feel. Would I ride wide rims in the future? Definitely. As a matter of fact, these may have spoiled me. I hope to get my hands on a set of the HED wheels to ride on the road.

As a side note – If you frequently change wheel sets, wide rims may not be for you (unless all your wheels have them) as changing the brake set up might be somewhat of a hassle.

Just for reference – Theses wheels are under my Ridley Damocles with Maxxis Re-Fuse tires.

If the wide rim revolution has you interested, come by the shop. If I’m there, my bike probably is as well. You can check the wheels out and take them for a quick spin if you like.

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