Watch Paris-Roubaix this weekend and you'll see all the bikes are rolling on deep section carbon fibre wheels, but it wasn't always this way. The first time I spectated at the Hell of the North was to witness a peloton of bikes fitted with box-section aluminium rims, such was the general mistrust of the then new-fangled carbon fibre wheels that were gradually being introduced.
Undeterred, the wheel manufacturers continued developing the carbon wheels, committed as they were to developing wheels that could stand up to the toughest and most brutal test a bike faces on the pro cycling calendar. In truth, those early carbon wheels simply weren't up to the job; the failure rate was high and it took Zipp, one company that really pushed carbon wheel tech, many years before it was able to overcome the strength and durability issues.
The perseverance paid off, and eventually, carbon fibre wheels were manufactured that were able to withstand the harsh punishment the uneven pavé of the race route serves up every year.
Eventually, Zipp was able to produce a carbon fibre wheelset that could survive the cobbled roads. In 2009 Fabian Cancellara rode a set of Zipp 303 wheels to victory at Paris-Roubaix, following a win in Flanders the previous weekend. This sealed the fate of those box section aluminium wheels I had witnessed first hand a few years previously, and carbon would go on to become the de facto choice.
Other wheel brands were forced to up their ante and the pace of development and widening of choice stepped up a gear. Today there are lots of very good carbon fibre wheels that have benefited directly from being developed for this single one-day race, and the motto "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" has never been truer than in this case.
All this development has been huge for the consumer, with wheels that are not only light and aerodynamic, but also tough enough to withstand being ridden on the poorly surfaced and potholed roads of the UK. Ideal for training and racing, carbon wheels can now be considered an everyday choice, leaving aluminium wheels a footnote in the cycling history book.
Here are some of the best carbon wheels as raced at Paris-Roubaix this year, and available to buy direct from Bespoke Cycling:
Favoured by the likes of Quick-Step and Peter Sagan, the Roval CLX 50 wheel has quickly become a common sight at the front of race-winning breaks and solo attacks in the Spring Classics. And there's lots to like, from the aerodynamic 50mm rim profile that is stable in crosswinds, superb toughness, and silky smooth CeramicSpeed bearings paired with reliable DT Swiss spokes and freehub mechanism.
Bontrager launched its brand new trio of Aeolus XXX wheels at the Tour of Flanders, and they'll be used in anger at Paris-Roubaix. With three new rim depths and profiles designed to provide superior aerodynamics with enhanced stability in crosswinds, they look like being a really good choice for racing and training.
Choice is key with these new wheels, with rim, disc brake, clincher and tubular combinations to choose from to suit all requirements.
Learn more about these new wheels in our blog post here
ENVE have built an enviable reputation for solidly dependable wheels that are built to last, look fantastic and are incredibly fast. Pairing a shallower front rim with a deeper rear rim provides improved aerodynamic performance, and the wide rim shape works well with the new trend for wider tyres for greater speed and control.
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