After spending many years as a carbon denier, I finally made the plunge into sourcing carbon rims for custom wheel-builds due to my best customers telling me to get over my arrogance. I’m glad I did, as I’ve sourced rims which I can say are stronger than any alloy rim I’ve ever used, and are very light to boot. I’ve got a range of rims on offer which are generally 24-25mm wide and have a smooth U-shaped profile and start at a mountain-goat 24mm deep and top out at TT specialist 88mm deep, which makes excellent full sets or front wheels with a rear disc. I’ve personally used the 35mm option and found with lower than usual tire pressure can be almost as comfortable as a low-profile alloy rims while offering aerodynamic speed and stiffness that offers sharp acceleration. In today’s racing environment of marginal gains, carbon wheels are a must and these are an excellent choice for competition.
The choice of rims for professional cyclists for many years during the 80s and 90s, Ambrosio’s Nemesis rims were the go-to rim of choice for the cobbled classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Now also offering the lightweight equivalent Crono F20 and clicher options Excursion, Excellence and Excellight, the Ambrosio range are old-school in their profile (ie. low profile and narrow), though are super strong and competitive in weight too, and have the added bonus of being easy to fit tyres to as they have a narrow 17-18mm width. As such they’re only suited to 22-25mm tyres. They make brilliant training rims if you don’t need wide tyres.
A new comer to the rims market, B.O.R. produce one simple rim for disc brake use that blows a lot of other manufacturers out the water. Pricey, but very strong and super light-weight. Recommended.
DT rims have both fans and critics, though their sometimes negative rep has come from building wheels with too high a tension, resulting in alloy material cracking. Perhaps the best way to view DT’s rims is to accept their low-tension spec and work with what they offer. With this in mind, they have improved the strength of rims by increasing the amount of material in their mid-weight rims and I offer this range specifically. Their R460 rims are low priced and offer a 23 x 23mm profile making them a popular choice. A step up and their RR440 asymmetric and symmetric rims offer an excellent way to offer stronger wheels while keeping within their tension tolerances.
H Plus Son
At 25mm deep and 23mm wide, the Archetype rim has been one of the most popular rims for custom built wheel in recent years. Long-term experience with them has proved that their QC is a tad lacking, with some examples turning out less than round… Their braking surfaces too are weaker than most and generally wear out at around the 5000km mark depending on the rider’s braking technique. We continue to offer the Archetype in custom builds reluctantly. Their TB14 low-profile rims, in contrast are excellent and make lovely retro-styling in a wide rim.
Another perennial favourite, Mavic rims are excellent. They advertise low tension tolerances, but in practice they handle more – enough to make a wheel that will stand. Open Pro’s are similar to the Ambrosio Excellight in weight and quality, though their braking surfaces might be below the level of Ambrosio. Their CXP range is fantastic – higher profiles resulting in stronger builds with a slight weight penalty.
On the cutting edge of rim technology, Pacenti’s SL23 rims have had a rocky start with various versions producing cracking under tension and requiring the use of nipple washers to prop up the rim material. Their current version is prone to welding slugs coming loose once built though can be retro-fixed by punching the rim bed to keep the slug from rattling or adding a bit of loctite to hold it fast inside the rim. Other than this they’re very light-weight with a 25mm wide x 26mm deep profile, making them the top of the heap in terms of speed among it’s alloy competitors.
Once known as Rigida, Ryde has a background in producing mountain bike and touring-specific rims with options for both disc and rim-brake. Now producing seriously competitive rims for both off road and road applications, Ryde is a sleeper rims manufacturer, especially with their Pulse and Sprint road options and Trace disc options, defying what is possible in terms of weight and offering asymmetric too. Drawing back from the wide-rims trend, Ryde’s top offerings are around the 21-22mm mark, which allows them to produce rims at and below 400g. Well worth checking out.
The most sought after rim for mountain biking and cyclocross, Stan’s spearheaded the tubeless rims revolution offering mostly disc-brake rims for this emerging market. Pricey, but very good quality rims at low weight – the go-to choice for tubeless and disc brake wheels with their Grail and Iron Cross rims the top choices.
The American manufacturer produces a diverse range of excellent rims – from the brilliant A23 wide profile road rim to their highly popular DP18 ‘deep V’ rim that’s been a massive hit with the fixed gear crowd. They also produce what is likely the biggest competitor to the Pacenti SL25 and Stan’s Grail disc rim with their brilliant Aileron offering. Highly recommend this brand.